Fashion Black - the difference between who we are and what we do

Professional artists will often say something along the lines of "I am what I do." To a large extent that is true, as we immerse ourselves in our work, living, breathing and even dreaming what we do. But take a look at these photos of a few fashion icons, both photographers and designers from a variety of time periods:

Alexander McQueenCoco Chanel
Karl LagerfeldRichard Avedon
Annie LeibovitzSølve Sundsbø

In case you're not familiar with these faces, those are, in order, Alexander McQueen, Coco Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld, Richard Avedon, Annie Leibovitz and Sølve Sundsbø.

Notice anything consistent? They're all wearing black. And in truth, this is the case with most fashion designers, photographers and other industry professionals most of the time, as far as I have observed in person and in photos.

I was recently talking to a designer and laughed at how we were both wearing all black (and quite honestly we both usually do.) This triggered a conversation about how if we're all wearing all black all the time, why do we design and photograph other colors so often? Aren't we designing and photographing what we ourselves like? Well yes and no.

She related to me a story from when she was in fashion school at RISD and every member of the class designed collections with only black, white and beige. The teachers were furious, saying that it was going to be the most boring runway ever. But that's the thing about students - they do solely what they themselves want. As you get out into the real world you realize that you have to create a combination of what you want, what your client wants and what the end consumer wants. If that wasn't the case then there's a good chance you'd walk into stores and see almost all black.

So where does fashion come from if not from the designers and photographers?

In truth, everywhere. Sometimes it comes from the youth in the streets and catches on and grows from there. Punk and Grunge are two fairly recent examples of that. Others come from media, be it movies, music or in a more distant past Plays or Operas. Goth began almost entirely as a music scene and became a fashion, and the Fedora was made popular in its namesake opera (incidentally worn first by a woman, Princess Fedora). But most fashion comes from a combination of some or all of these things.

The digesting and regurgitation is at this point a somewhat fluid science with trend reports predicting next years' trends and color agencies like Pantone announcing the color of the year. These companies do wield quite a bit of power. Not only do they do a lot of research before making announcements, but a lot of fashion companies jump on board with whatever they say to be safe. On top of that fabric producers pay attention as well, producing large amounts of the predictions (for example Tangerine Orange, Pantone's prediction for 2012), making it more affordable to buy the color of the year than it is to buy other colors. Finally, the economy plays a part in it - designs have been decidedly more conservative in recent years than they were in 2008 and before - even the wealthy are toning it down so as not to appear too ostentatious. Those of us doing this professionally pay attention to all of the above and more, to keep up with what people will want by the time we get clothes and accessories to market.

In short, there's a lot more to fashion than what the people creating it like. So we'll keep on producing what we think you'll like (and ultimately buy so we can put food on our table). Meanwhile, we'll keep on wearing mostly black.