We celebrate the style icons who inspire us to break free from convention.
We have always relied on the rewards of the city. At some point in our lives, we will have upped sticks and headed to the bright lights of our perceived promised land to reinvent ourselves in what has become a very common modern pilgrimage. Tossing the past aside like a disposable camera, we swoon at the infinite possibilities a city presents, hungry for a reawakening and realisation of our true potential.
The eternal hopes and dreams cities hold can be as addictive as the hormonal headiness of a new romance – pursued with short-sighted gutsiness and grit, heart bursting at the seams, knowing that while we could fall to our emotional demise we still cling to the rushing feeling that we are on the cusp of greatness and anything can happen.
Choice is what lands us in the city – the choice to be and do as we like. Be the stock market mogul we always wanted to be, be a born-again dancer, be an Ayurvedic healer, work the ground up and be our own boss.
Where we once harbored eccentric tendencies that didn’t meet the stagnant standards of our past domain, the city, in all its beautiful human variegation, is a feast of wonderful weirdness, opening up our mind to a multiplicity of otherness, reframing the life we want to live, overturning internalised oppression, where we can learn to walk again to a new soundtrack called ‘marching to the beat of our own drum’.
We’re a mad bunch set free in the city. The current running through the veins of our crowded proximity is the electricity that lights our individuality and sparks a swagger of expression. Fashion, in the setting of a city, is an escapist fantasia. You see things that could be commissioned to take up residence in The Louvre, d3 or Tate Modern (if they weren’t worn by living and breathing people).
These visual disruptions are the hallmark traits of how in the city we can communicate our differences and wear our personality on an elaborately ruffled sleeve or a heavily appliqued top with feathers flinging at the hem or a no-nonsense pair of vinyl trousers in cobalt blue paired with an architecturally inclined shirt requiring adept depth perception to move around in without accident.
Fashion is without regulation in the New Yorks, Londons and Milans of the world. Such is the freedom of fashion that gives us the joy to choose for ourselves how we want to look and live. We are a canvas that we get to paint however we want.
At the top of the fashion hierarchy are the icons who are consistently zany and succeed in the ‘I don’t give two *%$#* about what they say’ mantra. The likes of Iris Apfel, Helena Bonham Carter, Tilda Swinton and Diane Pernet have all taken a path of wild and abundant individuality, clad in costumes that have been cited in fashion theory and critiqued for their questionable wearability and performance art.
With Iris wearing bangles and necklaces that weigh more than she does, Diane cloaked in her trademark mysterious mantilla headpiece, Helena in frocks as wacky as her ex-husband’s (director Tim Burton) electrocuted hair and Tilda’s circus take on styling, the pieces they wear get more attention than they do. Trying to unpack the brilliantly bizarre ensemble of these icons is like trying to land on the moon – near impossible.
You can try and deconstruct the thought process behind them but it’s something that they themselves don’t intellectualise – they do as they please, purposefully oblivious to what the fashion flock (read: police) have to say.
Cities have symbolic power for change. When you shift the context of your life to pastures new, it can inspire your inner kook to surface. The anonymous blend of a city’s people is what gives us the courage to stand out as us, for us.
Kaustav Dey, from Tommy Hilfiger in India, summed this up in his 2017 TED Talk about how fashion helps us express who we are — “sameness is safeness” — and in the city, everyone has a different story to tell.