The fashion item that stood out to me the most on social media this past week wasn’t the croissant handbag taking over from the bread, or the Mary Janes platformer making a comeback as part of the Y2K revival, or even blues and yellow suits were part of Balenciaga’s show at Paris Fashion Week.
rather a pair of red stiletto heels.
Or to be precise, two pairs of red high heels. Each pair tells a different story.
On Saturday, while covering the Ukraine crisis from Poland, RTÉ reporter Emma O Kelly posted a tweet showing a pair of red suede heels arriving in a relief convoy.
“Who on earth would send red high heels to exhausted women running for their lives?” reporters asked.
Normally, my instinctive response would be similar. General advice from humanitarian organizations is to donate money first because it will reach those in need faster. Sorting clothes and other goods takes time and resources.
Using Ukraine’s appeal as a dumping ground for unwanted rags or as a way to deplete the closet of “nice stuff” to rid yourself of because overconsumption is not best approach.
Except, just a few days before Miss O Kelly’s tweet, I noticed a picture on Facebook of a young girl outside one of the reception centers in Przemysl, southeastern Poland.
She’s wrapped in warm winter clothes: a fleece tracksuit, a hoodie, a fur coat (slung over the shoulder like a feather boa) and a hat beanie wool. The surprise part of this outfit is a pair of red heels that are clearly a few sizes too big.
“This little girl seems so happy with the red shoes she found,” reads the accompanying caption.
These two “micro-moments” pretty much sum up the contradictions of fashion at a time of war. O Kelly’s view of practicality is well founded and carries an important subtext that waste and overconsumption cannot be trivialized.
However, there’s something about seeing the girl in high heels that reminds me of my childhood when wearing my parents’ clothes was one of the most enjoyable forms of play and the path to joy. joy and escapism.
I’m not saying we need to start sending sequined party dresses or designer handbags to refugee camps. Far away from it. But we should still acknowledge the useful and sometimes fickle role fashion can play in a time of crisis – something the industry itself has traditionally grappled with before finally taking off. grow up.
Remember when at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic that spread around the world, the fashion industry didn’t know what to do with itself. It has lost its voice and purpose. As it added staff and closed stores, it mobilized in other ways to use factories in its supply chain to manufacture PPE and hand sanitizers.
Likewise, when the fashion weeks took place recently in London, New York and Paris, it all felt out of place. But then, in true fashion, parts of the industry moved.
Ukrainian brands have recently redirected their factory operations and are producing clothes and shoes for the military. The list of fashion companies suspending operations in Russia grows longer: from Asos to Zara and luxury fashion heavyweights LVMH and Kering.
The publishing industry has also changed, with glossy magazines in Ukraine providing readers with information on how they can give birth in a war zone or more tips on how to get rid of acrylic nails to wield arms. better gas.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve talked to a bunch of Ukrainian women via video link – I did a TV documentary in Kharkiv, Odessa and Kyiv in 2011 and covered the 2014 Crimea crisis. so it’s not entirely new territory for me.
The women fled with their families to parts of Europe or decided to stay. When the topic of fashion or beauty came up, it did not need to be dismissed, they emphasized its importance in war.
A woman in Kyiv, a feminist writer, told me that her friends were still looking for hairdressers during the war and they still wanted to paint their nails so they could get along. “These simple things are what make us feel human,” she said.
“When I wash my hair, I am grateful to have hot water and can feel good for a moment.”
It’s about fashion. Talking about getting a manicure and learning how to use a gun is happening now in the same sentence.
Fashion is where function meets vanity. It can be practical, thoughtful, and full of depth while also appearing superficial. Like music, it can transport us to another place and change the way we feel.
People are quick to dismiss the role that industries like fashion and beauty play in helping us maintain our sense of self in times of crisis. But like most things in life, the key word is “shades”.
Fashion has a purpose even in these most extreme circumstances. It can adapt to change and reflect culture in a way that few other industries can.
Whether it is by wearing unique clothes to strengthen individualism out of totalitarian dictatorship or wearing uniforms to become part of a collective in the fight for democracy, or, dare I say that, wearing a pair of red high heels, the clothes mean something.
In the words of designer Demna Gvasalia, who fled Georgia as a refugee in the 1990s, “fashion loses its real relevance and right to exist” in times like these.
But withdrawing would allow oppression rather than freedom of speech to prevail.
Anne-Marie Tomchak is a journalist and entrepreneur. You can follow her on social media @amtomchak
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/how-much-does-fashion-matter-in-a-time-of-war-quite-a-lot-actually-41446920.html How important was fashion in times of war? Quite a lot actually