Fashion is a way of showing the world who we are. But with the world’s current conscious awakening, should fashion still matter? Frances Corner, author of Why Fashion Matters, explains why it still does.

By Naomi Barling.

In your book Why Fashion Matters you talk about the intimate and personal importance of fashion. Did your feelings on this change during lockdown as the need to get dressed lessened?

I think that getting dressed is more important than ever. Our clothes impact how we feel, whether it’s picking a color that brings us joy or wearing a material that feels comfortable against our skin – all of these things make a difference to our day. And in these hugely challenging times, that matters.

There is also the psychological element to dressing for the day ahead and marking that transition between rest and work. What we pick out from our wardrobes may have changed – in the U.K. for example we’ve seen brands reporting huge demand for leisurewear items – but I think that process of getting dressed has taken on a new importance as we spend more time in our homes. We need that mental separation.

Dressing our bodies can also be a really positive way to bring variety and creativity into our lives at a time when our worlds have become much smaller.

How do we continue our love affair with fashion when we know the industry needs such radical change?

I think that as consumers, we can be part of driving the change that’s needed in the industry.

We can take action by lobbying the brands we buy from to do better for the people who make our clothes and for the environment. There are some great organizations like Fashion Revolution who are leading the way on this and have resources to help consumers to call for change.

Ultimately, we can also vote with our feet. If our favorite brands aren’t doing enough on these key issues, then we have the power to spend our money elsewhere.

With the creative industries and creative education being constantly disregarded, how do you see the future of fashion unfolding?

Here in the U.K. there is certainly a sense that the value of the creative industries and creative education is not being properly recognized. This is despite the huge contributions these sectors make – the creative industries are worth £100 billion to the U.K. economy.

Sectors like fashion rely on new designers and makers coming through, so it’s vital that these talent pipelines are protected. Fashion also depends on other creative disciplines to bring the technology, processes, and materials needed to adapt to new trends and demands.

I am hopeful for the future of fashion. There have been really positive developments in terms of diversity and inclusion – you only have to look at what Edward Enninful is doing at British Vogue to see that change is happening. And it’s clear we’ll need more creative jobs in the future, not less. We must keep making the case for these industries and lobbying for what they need to thrive.

What steps do you suggest we all take to ensure fashion starts to have a positive influence on the environment, society, and our mental health?

A good place to start is by slowing down and trying to make more conscious decisions about how we are consuming fashion. Considering what we buy, where we buy it from – and if we really need to buy it at all.

Support local and independent makers, who are often producing high-quality garments and doing sustainability really well. Rent clothes instead of buying new, fulfilling that desire for ‘newness’ without the huge environmental impact of fast fashion.

For clothes we don’t want any more, the clothes swap movement is a really positive trend, and there are a wide range of apps and websites for selling second-hand items and giving them a new home and saving them from landfill.

By making these slower decisions about fashion it’s likely we’ll end up with fewer options in our wardrobes – something that’s not only better for the environment but also quite liberating. Reducing the amount of choice we have makes daytoday life so much easier. We can focus our energy on other things and there is a calming impact to cutting down the clutter in our homes, which perform so many functions for us now.

Does fashion still matter?

Yes, fashion still matters. It’s easy to cast off as frivolous, especially in the context of the pandemic. But what we wear on our bodies tells our story. For many it is a source of joy and an outlet for creativity – and these are the things we must hold on to.

Image courtesy of Frances Corner