Feeling way too cold for the month of April, locked out of Greta’s room, we cuddled on the couch to exchange spring break tales, or rather, spring adventures. Greta traveled a grueling 20 hours to Hoi An, Vietnam; meanwhile, Eleni went without wifi (gasp!) for a week in Havana, Cuba. Of course, after a play-by-play about how much pho Greta consumed and Eleni’s evenings spent salsa dancing, we naturally shifted to a more serious discussion about fashion.
GO: I think people, myself included, forget that the fashion industry exists everywhere. Fashion and clothes are a part of every culture: it extends past the Core Four: New York City, London, Milan and Paris.
ET: Often I am more intrigued by what is worn outside fashion capitals. Fashion has always been a global business, but it is definitely more accessible in some places than others. I was really inspired by Cuban street style, aware that consumer culture doesn’t have much presence due to a lack of physical and financial resources. The Cubans still take pride in the way that they dress, standing out through bright color combinations or mixing styles from different decades.
GO: In Vietnam, it’s all about consumer culture – not theirs, but the rest of the world’s. The streets were lined with tailors, and each shop owner was quick to usher us in. Seriously, you can find dresses and suits in any style , not to mention the huge variety of handmade and dyed silks to choose from. Of course, I indulged in a thing or two.
ET: The Cuban design students had impeccable technical skills too. Everything is custom-made but in a different sense – I saw designs made from recycled car mats and Victoria’s Secret fashion show-worthy bathing suits. The students even designed the Cuban baseball team’s uniforms but there wasn’t much in terms of ready-to-wear.
GO: That’s so cool. I mean, why don’t we hear about these things?! I think that fashion education needs to start expanding. Our world is huge, and to limit ourselves to four cities is ridiculous. I actually spent my day of recovering from the jetlag watching Vice’s new TV show “States of Undress.” You would LOVE it. It’s a documentary series that “explores the fashion industry and issues that industry often ignores.” In the first two episodes, the host traveled to Pakistan and the Congo.
ET: Still unemployed, how do I get that job? My dream is to travel the world and learn about the different textile production methods and how they eventually develop into local fashion styles. From Kashmir’s cashmere to Peruvian weaving, I think it is all fascinating. I mean clothing has a basic survival aspect, but survival can be loosely defined. We always say fashion is a form of personal expression, but it is an industry that conforms to a need, demand or even a value system.
GO: I don’t think we are wrong to say fashion is about personal expression but I think we both maybe forgot that this personal expression is heavily influenced by the context of where you are born and raised. As two girls from western society our idea of self-expression has always been rooted in a privileged, media-centric world. Just as diet, religion, architecture and governments vary from place to place, so does fashion. Just because another culture’s fashion differs from ours does not mean it is non-existent.
ET: Oof. Every pocket, literally, of the world is unique. Travel is a great way to compare and contrast. I am so fortunate to not only have all of my eye-opening travel experiences, but also to be raised in an environment that allows me to express myself. I care about what people around the world are wearing, not necessarily because it is “fashionable,” but because it makes them feel beautiful…
GO & ET: and empowered!
We share a major, we share a house, we share clothes. So why not share a column? Eleni Toubanos and Greta Ohaus are both Fiber Science & Apparel Design majors in the College of Human Ecology. Their column is intended to be a conversation between their two unique perspectives as a designer and fiber scientist. They can be found lounging around campus, on their porch sharing a bottle of wine or at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Talk is Chic appears on alternate Tuesdays this semester.