Every child is an anthropological scholar. When the world is new and we’re forced to draw conclusions from visual patterns we learn more faster about the people and communities that submerge us. At the age of 7 I didn’t know that the color red represents anger and love and passion, but I knew that anyone that wore Nike Air Monarchs was my father or my football coach or my neighbor that mowed his lawn every Sunday at 6 pm. There was no textbook with a diagram that showed their faces adjacent on a chart to a pair of white sneakers with green stains up and down the sides. There was a 7 year old kid that pointed and yelled “you have the same shoes as my dad!!”
Before my brain was etched with sociological vocabulary it was flooded with serotonin from shitting on my engineer ex-boyfriend for wearing cargo shorts. A white background, filled with tattoos of equations, a bad high and tight, a screenshot of a text that says something like “I can’t I’m studying” next to “yes, do you have weed”, and of course beige shorts with too many pockets and a shapeless design. It was at the crest of the starter pack meme’s popularity that I started to question how an environment can exist within a void. My hardest artistic hurdle has always been placing my work; I know what I want to make and how I want it to manifest, but there’s always a variable of place that I can never quite agree with myself on. I thought about how my ex-boyfriend was forever memorialized on a white background, his previous surroundings a line in a game of Mad Libs with “(place)” under it.
Part of the popularity of the starter pack meme was the universality of it; everyone knows a STEM boy that wears cargo shorts. Nobody knew my ex, by writing his name on the “(person)” line I traded universality for niche humor. I pondered for a while which elements can be tinkered with before we stop mass-relating. Can you push the clothes in another direction? Can the included elements be minimally descriptive and sparse? Does the presence of a person nullify reliability? Do faces mean that much? Are these tangents too distracting or is viewer interaction still possible?
The role of the designer has always been to push lines of fashion and style. However, a role far less discussed is that of the artist who bridges gaps between their community and communities that are hard set on utility. Fast Fashion puts expertly made clothes of fragile resources in the hands of consumers at low cost. These pieces need to be well made or they’ll quickly fall victim to the snap of a single cotton-wrapped polyester stitch. Year after year artists stretch themselves thin trying to critique and satirize how capitalism has ruined fashion and artistry, but we rarely offer to bridge. Poorly made clothes of strong and durable resources never suffer the same pitfalls of their fast fashion counterparts, the ability to make something poorly is the ability to learn, improve, and fix. Designers that are interested in granting wider access to design and artistry understand that impressing laypeople should be done with the intention of inclusion. We should stand in direct opposition to anti-capitalist design that posits clothes as masterful and mystical feats of design genius.