Textiles: Creative Self-expression or A Pointless Hobby?

I wanted to address something that I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. High Fashion is often seen as this other-worldly, incredible, and fascinating industry that is so well respected by society today. People worship Vogue, and lust after bodies like the models walking in The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. But when it comes to Textiles, and Fashion Design as a form of study, it’s often seen as ‘soft’, ‘not an academic subject’ or ‘not a real degree’. In Year 13 when it came to deciding which subject I wanted to continue at degree level, the answer wasn’t quite as clear as it was for other people. I thought and thought about the pros and cons of studying both English Literature and Fashion Design at University. In the end I decided on English Literature (and 100% do not regret my decision).

However, all I got from teachers upon even suggesting that I was considering Fashion Design was: ‘oooo wouldn’t do that, such a competitive industry’, ‘I can’t see you being ruthless enough for the Fashion Industry Jenna.’, ‘Is that something that is going to take you far in life?’ and the best one I heard: ‘It’s not really a subject as such is it? More of a hobby.’. If it wasn’t for my genuine love of literature that inspired my degree choice, I’d have picked Fashion simply out of stubborness and wanting to prove everyone wrong. Textiles is more than just ‘sewing’, it’s hours and hours of careful planning and skill. I can’t even begin to think about the hours I spent both in class time and after-school and at home on both GCSE and A Level Textlies coursework final pieces – it is dedication and hard work, whatever level it is being studied. I know that the fashion industry is problematic in so many ways (in terms of fast fashion/high street fashion and where/how these clothes are manufactured.) But it is high fashion and fashion culture that I have been thinking about a lot recently because it baffles me how everyone loves the idea of fashion, all the couture and runways – New York Fashion Week, London Fashion Week, and Paris Fashion Week (as well as many others) are as much a social symbol as they are about fashion design.

Although my point here is not to have a moan about the perception of creative subjects, I feel it often goes without saying that those working in creative fields are simultaneously condemned and well respected – but only if they make it to the top. I think people often find it hard to place fashion into an ‘academic’ box, as it is so heavily associated with the media and popular culture, but fashion does have a place in academia, it has history and a place in literature that deserves recognition. I think that fashion is so interesting, it changes with society and is a creative outlet for social change. Fashion mirrors history and I think that people forget that without these so called ‘soft’ subjects being taught in schools, the ‘fashion industry’ that we ‘love’ probably wouldn’t exist at all.

Thank you if you’re still reading this, it was something I needed to say!

Jenna xox

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