I’m no fashion expert. But Coco Chanel is one, and so is Yves Saint Laurent, and both of them have expressed the idea that “fashion passes, only style remains the same.

 

I’m no fashion expert, but my mum likes to think I am and always turns to me to ask if what she’s wearing is in style, or what the current fashion trends are. Maybe next time she asks me the same question, I’ll just pass on Coco Chanel’s immortal piece of advice.

 

After all, everyone’s got a different idea of what’s stylish, no matter what’s trending in the stores or in the media. Fashion means so many different things to different people. Even one person can approach it differently depending on what the occasion is or how they feel from day to day.

 

Coco Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent: "fashion passes, only style remains" quote

Left: Yves Saint Laurent at his debut fashion show in 1962. Right: Coco Chanel.

 

Here are 3 different things fashion means to me:

 1. an aesthetic.

I wear the outfits I wear because I like the way they look. Need I say more? We get style inspiration from the films and TV shows we watch, the bands we listen to, the celebrities we follow and naturally, our friends. An aesthetic is both a look and a membership pass into a certain style tribe and subculture.

 

 2. a journal.

We’re all storytellers, whether we think of ourselves that way or not. It’s why some songs can hold special meanings or remind us of someone, and why other songs can annoy the heck out of us. (Reminder to self: don’t set songs you like as your alarm or listen to it while studying.) Like the music we listen to, the clothes we wear can capture memories and feelings. When I look at my black culottes and my floral crop top, I think of the days after my exams, basking under the sun with my friends in the park, a book in one hand and a slice of pizza in the other. When I look at my tartan scarf, I laugh at how my friends and I severely underpacked for the weather in Scotland and had to get scarves out of desperation to shield ourselves from the rain and wind.

 

That’s why, while I do shop online and at the fashion outlets dotting the malls in Orchard Road, I also love shopping at secondhand or thrift stores. When I pick up something, I don’t know what its past is, but it’s nice thinking about how it’s had another life before reaching my hands, especially pieces that look like they came from another era. 

 

 3. a statement.

Fashion is also a way to make a statement. I don’t just mean wearing statement pieces, like a chunky necklace or a printed skirt. (That’s another story for another day.)

 

Sometimes these are statements of self-expression. Sharper eyeliner and leather jacket for fierce days. Soft, flowing shirts and dresses for carefree days.

 

Other times, these are statements of what I believe in and stand for. I believe the Earth we live on is worth saving, so I’m trying my best to do my part by supporting sustainable fashion. If I could, I’d buy from brands that have sustainable practices, where my heart says yes my bank account says no. (Honestly, my wallet feels the burn even when I buy from ‘cheaper’ fast fashion brands.) Alternatively, I buy secondhand whenever I can.

 

Iconic British fashion designers Katharine Hamnett and Vivienne Westwood take it to the next level and use their work to ignite conversations about political issues and champion various causes. I’m not sure I’m ready to blaze political statements in large black print across my chest yet, but maybe that’s the future of fashion.

 

 

Fashion means so many different things to different people.

 

Let’s spend less time chasing trends and more time thinking about how our style reflects what’s unique about us. What does fashion mean to you?