Does the Devil Wear Prada?

To be sure, there are many ways to use fabric in the search of artistic meaning. For me, it has been a lifetime journey, starting in my childhood. I was, so to speak, “born to the velvet.” By this I mean to say not that I was a rich kid, but that velvet was an intrinsic part of my life because my father was a velvet salesman. And frankly, when designers were creating velvet gowns, it was good news financially for our family. To us, we believed that velvet was a social fabric that possessed such grand qualities of lushness that it could be considered royalty.

My father was a master of French silk velvet; he knew the difference between what was ordinary and the exceptional. Thus, I got an early education in fabrics of all kinds. I learned that there is a hierarchy of fabric; some are soft and lush, and others are crushable. Fabric responds to the touch; you can drape it, and you can stitch it. It is no wonder that artists have found it to be a material worthy of creativity… After all, fabric is fashion.
Sadly, in recent times, fabric has gotten a bad rep due to its role in “fast fashion.” Depending on how you look at it, the fact that one can make a case for fast fashion making fabulous fashion available to people of every economic class speaks to our inner egalitarian conscience. There is a bit of irony in the story of fast fashion… It’s cheap, it’s disposable, and tends to be given away or trashed. Its final destination is usually a landfill in a poor country, where it has become a source of anguish for both governments and people. The irony is that the final resting place is where it all began. In a foreign country, where workers are poorly provided for and underpaid to produce garments made out of synthetic fibers that do not break down or decay and are now of epidemic proportions.

What can we do about it?

Many women are making a statement by buying secondhand clothes. Celebrities like Jane Fonda believe their embrace of repurposed clothing will lead to a fashion awakening. That may be wishful thinking, but at ArtsWestchester we are encouraging artists to use fabric to point out issues of social justice; one of them may be the environmental impact of fashion.
The Social Fabric is on view at ArtsWestchester from October 13 through January 22, 2023