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What is Fashion Anyway?

Recently I was invited to participate in the RCA Vice-Chancellor’s Talks series. Maybe as a consequence of that I have found myself reflecting on what was understood by the word ‘fashion’ when I graduated in 1987, and what it means now. Back then, fashion was quite simply understood to be the application of design to clothing. And so fashion students produced collections of things to be worn, clothes and accessories, and that was that. I think it would be fair to say that not much thought was given to whether the subject might have intellectual possibilities, not at least until the late nineties when ‘fashion theory’ started to be a thing.

With its aim of a ‘disruptive critical approach’, the RCA fashion MA programme has taken a quantum leap in the understanding of the subject. Even in the distant days of the 80s, those of us who practised it knew there was a kind of magic fairy dust that elevated a well designed object to the status of fashion. We also had a hunch that it wasn’t restricted to clothes too, though it was hard to find an architect who would admit that buildings were subject to fashion. How gratifying it is then to read the words of this year’s graduate Dimitris Karagiannakis, ‘fashion can be found in any object, movement and feeling’.

We knew it all along, but here’s the confirmation; fashion is a fundamental aspect of human social behaviour. This year’s graduates give us a glimpse of fashion’s vast scope and scale. From a collection with an aesthetic that chimes perfectly with the zeitgeist, to a mind- blowing manifesto for human, and post-human life. Fashion is everywhere, and it’s everything.

Ian Griffiths

Ian studied in Manchester at the time of the new wave music scene, which has been a lifelong influence. He studied Architecture initially, then Fashion, and was encouraged by his tutor, the legendary Ossie Clark to apply to the Royal College of Art in 1985.

Of his design education, he says, ‘Manchester taught me about raw energy and
creativity, but the RCA taught me how to channel that energy into making something useful. It’s where I developed my commitment to good design.’
Ian jokes that his is the shortest CV in the business. One of his first projects at the RCA was a competition organized by Max Mara. As a result of that, he joined the company as a designer on graduating in 1987.

As Creative Director of Max Mara, he believes in fusing the brands luxurious appeal with a streetsmart sense of cool. He says, ‘over the thirty plus years I’ve been with the brand, I’ve got to know the Max Mara woman as if she were my best friend. I want the best for her.’

Ian divides his time between the company’s headquarters in Italy, London and
Suffolk. His interests include contemporary art, architecture, and gardening, and his most frequently used hashtag is #ilovemyjob.

Portrait Photo of Ian Griffiths