By Gamal Hennessy
Long before Fashion’s Night Out, New York Fashion Week has had an intimate relationship with New York nightlife. The highlights of the week can often be found at the high profile parties. Every year, new venues time their grand openings to coincide with the runway shows. But the connection between the two doesn’t end with Fashion Week. Fashion itself is an integral part of nightlife culture long after the tents have come down. It is one of the few active art forms that we as patrons can take part in every time we go out.
Fashion as Art
In spite of all of the creative work that goes into fashion there are some who believe that it is a merely business and not an art form. This viewpoint fails to see the fundamental meaning of art and its relationship to clothing. Art is “the use of skill and imagination in the creation of aesthetic objects, environments, or experiences that can be shared with others.” Once you understand the definition, accepting fashion as art is simple. The dresses, suits, shoes and all the other elements of fashion are the artistic objects created with skill and imagination. We share them by using our bodies as canvases, displaying them and our own artistic tastes or pretentions every time we go out. Fashion is a multibillion dollar business, but like nightlife it is grounded in creative foundations.
Fashion as Personal Art
Keep in mind that there is a distinct difference between fashion and style. Longtime editor of Vogue Magazine Edna Woolman Chase said it best. “Fashion can be bought. Style one must possess.” Stated less eloquently, fashion exists in the material goods you can buy and wear. Style is your individual personality expressed by what you wear. Fashion is simply the raw materials. Your style is the finished product. Your style is your basic tool of communication. It can be used to identify you as part of a particular group or class. It can project a certain social status or level of wealth. It is a primary tool of seduction, used to attract, excite and tease. It can be used to influence people without you ever having to say a word. Every nightlife patron, consciously or unconsciously, expresses their style when they go out. They might conform or standout. They might be elegant or outrageous. They might do it well or poorly. But all of us are expressing ourselves through what we wear, even if we wear nothing at all.
Active Art and Passive Art
There are many aspects of nightlife culture that are beyond our control. Very few of us can create the music we hear, design the spaces we party in or craft consistently good cocktails. In spite of what many people think, most of us can’t be good DJ’s. These are the aspects of nightlife that we experience passively.
But there are elements of nightlife culture that we can fully engage in as natives. We can use our bodies to dance. We can use our wit and our charm to hustle and seduce. And we can use our style to enhance everything that we do. As nightlife natives, we have a playground of expression open to us that begins with our personal style. We can be an integral part of nightlife culture long after the tents come down.