Model ex Machina

Ever since Twiggy and Kate Moss graced the fashion world, there has been a shift in the mainstream definition of beauty. At first gradually, and then suddenly. It was like people realized that certain clothes looked better on tall thin, “waif-like” women. To be honest, this has always been true. Now, before you freak out, let me tell you about my mother: Her motto is “no one else deserves to see me looking like I just rolled out of bed.” She believes that looking nice is not only a requirement but that other people deserve to see nice things. I think this was her way of adding beauty and niceness to a world fraught with violence, dirt, poverty, and helplessness (I spent a large number of my childhood years in Karachi, a rather contentious city, to say the least). However, she never wanted us to follow trends or wear things that were en vogue. Instead, she always told us to wear classics, simple, good quality items, and to find sales in order to buy designer clothing and shoes at half price. Her one main concern was that we bought clothing that looked good on our different figures (I am 5’ and enjoy pizza whereas my sister is 5’5” and vegan–you can imagine the difference). She said that when we buy something, it should look good on us, fit right, and flatter our figures. She instilled in us the idea that everyone’s figure is different and that instead of fighting the truth, we should embrace it. In fact, it wasn’t even an idea–it was just a given. I knew that certain clothing items were just not going to look as good on me as on my sister. But at the same time I also knew that there were certain things I could wear she could not.

The idea of accepting different figures as the norm  appears to have confused the fashion industry. It appears to believe that the human figure can–and should be–standardized. This is where the problem begins: not everyone can be tall and thin. Some people are 5 feet tall and curvy, 5’10” and curvy, or 5’2” and thin. People are different. They will always remain different. And, most importantly, we should embrace and celebrate these differences!

So now I have probably confused you thoroughly, but hold on! This will all make sense soon. Once we start to embrace these differences, we can learn to look at beauty a bit differently: the 200 pound girl/guy and the 120 pound girl/guy are both equally attractive, but if, for example the 200 pound individual feels like their weight makes them unattractive or against the expected norm, they may not dress as well as the 120 pound individual (or vice versa), and thus put themselves at a disadvantage. Mind you, the disadvantage is not their weight, it is instead their choices in clothing, makeup, or hair.

This feeling, a feeling I have felt countless times over the years as the overweight sister of a beautiful tall, thin girl, is not entirely made up of my own insecurities. It is fostered by fashion runways, models, and magazines. Now, before you begin to blame the fashion industry for this misconception about ideal body types, wait a second. Listen, I don’t think this is completely their fault. Still with me? Okay, good. In order to show off clothes, one needs a medium–a hanger. For example, to show off expensive cars, we have revolving pedestals. These pedestals are made to sell the item. However, this does not mean these cars belong on this standardized pedestal. The pedestal is merely a marketing tool; this pedestal is a fancy hanger. The generic supermodel is the perfect human hanger, she is tall, thin and (occasionally) does not have many curves, thus making her a medium to showcase these clothes. She is not, however, a medium to showcase the expected way of wearing these clothes! She is a duct tape solution to a rather different problem: how to show off garments and sell them without drawing attention to the medium of advertisement. A problem which I think Betabrand’s Silicon Valley Fashion Week presentation may have begun to solve.

Silicon Valley Fashion Week (SVFW) encapsulates technology and fashion in one event. SVFW was a 3 day show that examines fashion and and technology in a fun and relaxed manner, as evidenced in the images and reviews written about the event. It appears to be the best of both worlds! In a world that is so entrenched in technology, it is about time the programmers, scientists, engineers, and silicon gods got their hands on some fabric and a sewing machine. The creations (check out these rad images of SVFW’s presentations) are amazing–perhaps not the most unique, but amazing nonetheless. The human mind made these. Can you fathom?  The human mind is capable of amazing creative feats, as shown in this event, but it is also capable of great innovation. Look at how these clothes are modeled. With drones!

A few months ago, my father–who is a computer engineer–decided to get a commercial drone to play with. A light went off in my head. Drones, which had before been associated with military organizations and violence in my mind, suddenly seemed to take on a new role in society. The possibilities seemed endless. Too endless, in fact. The light stayed on in a shady back room of my mind and remained there, constant but bereft of substance. That was until I saw images of SVFW. Suddenly everything clicked. Perhaps what the fashion industry needs is a new medium.

Human bodies cannot continue to be manipulated in order to show off fabric anymore. People will never be able to unanimously accept any one body type because there is no base body type. But you can make standardized drones and machines. SVFW has opened a gateway into a world where models can and ought to be replaced by mechanical creations. These creations can then be standardized in order to fully show off a garment’s angles, flares, and potentials without presenting one body type as superior to any other. By using drones, designers have found the perfect hanger. With this, society can begin to help people understand that the  hangers (humans bodies) being used before on runways were merely there to show off the garment to buyers and stockists. Society needs to make people understand that these mechanical devices are merely marketing pedestals wrapped in shiny paper. People need to accept and embrace the fact that human bodies are far more complex, diverse, and beautiful than anything that can be standardized. By attempting to standardize the human body, we are only harming ourselves and future generations of humanity. By entrusting the garments to drones, SVFW has made the clothing the main focus and forced us to disregard the medium it is portrayed through and that may be the most important facet of this endeavor.

Take a moment to think about this, ruminate on the idea. Should we continue allowing human bodies to be used as manipulated and standardized marketing tools? Or should we instead, like Silicon Valley Fashion Week, start to look at alternate resources in order to best show off clothing and accessories? Perhaps it is now time to look at other ways to solve a problem the fashion industry clearly cannot deal with, as evidenced by their proclivity for using underweight models and their apparent inability to accept other body forms as beautiful.

Personally, I think its time that we take back our own bodies and the meaning of the word “beautiful!”

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