Thoughts on having a love for fashion and the criticism that surrounded it.
Funnily enough, Posh Spice (ie: Victoria Beckham) hold a special place in my heart.
While she never had many singing parts in the Spice Girls, I always felt she stood out from the group. There was just something about her persona. Poised. Elegant. Secretly badass (or maybe that was because of the killer catsuit she wore in “Say You’ll Be There”).
But I promise this isn’t some creepy, obsessive ode to my child icon VB. Nor is it a confession that when I was a child, I watched their Wembley concert literally every day while I danced the choreography on the table.
If I were to pinpoint where my love for style began, it started with the Spice Girls and her as Posh Spice.
As I grew up, my love for fashion only flourished. It just fit me, no pun intended. The problem that I encountered was the criticism I received from family and sometimes, friends.
To provide context, as a Filipino I was raised in a typical Asiatic mindset. The vast majority of my family were in the medical field, so were most of my relatives. If it wasn’t a medical career, it was either something in engineering or business – jobs with big money and presumably, good reputation. A creative career – whether writing, acting or design – was practically unheard of.
Growing up in the household like that, it brought out a fighting spirit in me. I had to protect, defend and nurture my love for style, all at the same time. That can be overwhelming. As an adult, it can be doable. As a child, it’s a lot harder. I felt shame about it, even before I knew that word existed in the English dictionary.
It’s a fascinating dynamic, shame. Especially in the field of fashion and design, where a lot of us are part completely fixated on our world and ashamed to mention it at the same time. Coming from a conservative family, the criticism I received was that I shouldn’t be interested in that field as it was perceived to be a woman’s career.
This constant criticism and the shame accompanied me like a dark cloud. Admittedly, it’s something I still struggle with even today. While I often joke to others that I am the “black sheep” of the family because of this, it’s a joke with darker undertones beneath. Undertones of embarrassment and even guilt.
Guilt because while I love the fashion industry, I’m also aware that it is a consumer based business. Built through creativity and collaboration, the end goal is to make money. The difference between creating clothing, as opposed to say, saving someone’s life through heart surgery, is blatantly obvious in terms of what is more impactful. In the grandest scheme, the guilt stemmed from wondering if I should be doing something more, well, meaningful to society.
That’s not to say fashion isn’t meaningful in any way though. Historians often look to fashion during various eras as a means to understand cultural and societal evolutions at the time. Yet, I still felt that guilt.
That’s not to say fashion isn’t meaningful in any way though.
Meanwhile, the embarrassment came from the impressions and expressions I would receive whenever I told people I was a fashion writer. For some, their action was a simple nod and smile. For others, it was a glazed look or a judgemental side-eye. The latter often implied the following:
- That I was superficial.
- That I only cared about looks.
- “Oh, really now? How…interesting (not)”
I sometimes cut these people slack because what else did they know about the field? They had probably only seen what was strewn across glossy magazines and glamourous billboards.
The embarrassment also stemmed from the topics we’d talk about. Obviously, fashion is not just about clothes. It’s connected with our psychology, body, appearance, sexuality. The list goes on. Fashion is extremely transparent about these topics, which some can find is too personal. Talking about personal topics so nonchalantly to someone you barely know definitely gives way to embarrassment and discomfort.
The guilt, shame and embarrassment from immersing myself in the world of fashion are all still emotions I struggle with every day. But I like to think I’m getting better at managing it.
With the progress we’ve witnessed in fashion as of late, the industry is no longer the cesspool of vapid narcissism it was once perceived to be. That progression lights not only lights my fire, but brings about a sense of pride within me that wasn’t there before when I younger, less experienced and a bit naive.
I guess the lesson here is the importance of just going for it, regardless of what anyone says. While it may be struggletown for a bit, the universe has a way of shifting everything into a neatly packaged perspective where you come out stronger and wiser more than ever.
For me, the growth that came from that was the acceptance that not everybody needs to like or understand what I do. They can talk. They can whisper. They can giggle. That’s okay with me. When I re-entered the world of fashion and lifestyle on my own terms this time around, I wanted to bring back raw honesty to a creative medium in fashion that I felt was rapidly decreasing in quality due to technology. And that’s exactly what I plan on doing.
Their opinions of me, be damned.