Take a cup of coffee made of freshly grounded organic beans, inhale the velvet aroma, taste the smooth rich flavour, please your senses and let your mind drift away for a moment. Beautiful, isn’t it?
Would you still go to your favourite coffee shop if they served you Nescafe original? I doubt that you would come back for a top up. Actually I doubt you would even finish your first cup. In fact I think you will make an official complain about the quality of coffee you’ve just been served and had to paid for. Because there’s no instant variety that could make you feel the same way the real thing does.
And yet so many would happily wear clothes made, just like that cup of instant coffee, from something artificial without thinking twice.
Polyester. The word that can change my mind about making a purchase just like any E-number of a food label can, since I don’t do those either.
A few days ago I read an article that praised techno fabrics and highlighted their brilliance for the industry. Perhaps, polyester, nylon, neoprene and polyamide have their place in fashion as they allow designers to express their vision and shape the garments in every possible way. After all, some clothes are made for the show and the rest, preferably polyester-free – to be worn.
Although a good plan in theory, the reality of it is not quite as promising as the artificial materials now seem to be overtaking the natural materials, bolt after bolt after bolt.
Now finding a cotton summer dress, silk skirt or wool sweater can be practically a mission impossible, especially when shopping on high street.
What depresses me even more is that, despite the relatively inexpensive production process, the prices of clothes can be as high as if they were made from the natural fabrics – the latter especially noticeable when browsing designer labels.
Seeing a Lanvin dress made from 100% polyester kills me. Yes, the fabric may now be advanced and actually allow the wearer to live in the dress for a whole day without perspiring as if having a hot flash or producing odours that don’t just follow her as she enters the room but rather make everyone aware of her upcoming visit.
Everything is possible. And still, to me synthetics in fashion is a cheat.
I know that polyester is easier to shape into a dress than silk. I know that the acrylic sweater will last much longer than its wool cousin. And this is why I agree that those fabrics do have their place in fashion.
On the other hand, I know that it’s not just about the fabric, but the skill that shapes the dress. And perhaps, what designers need to think about isn’t constantly looking for the new materials, but preserving and honing the skills of the artisans who knew how to make a puffy skirt from silks and cottons and how to create the folds that will remain in place once finished.
I am not a cave woman and I understand the importance of progress, but I also know that there is no amount of polyester, acrylic or polyamide that will ever feel as scrumptious as cashmere, silk, cotton and wool do against my skin. It’s not just about luxury for anyone can find a cashmere jumper or silk shirt without paying a fortune. It’s more about love. The love of fashion, style, craftsmanship, beauty and, lets not forget, yourself.
There’s the only one exception I am prepared to make and it is for Azzedine Alaia and his viscose-based designs – he can’t do wrong, as far as I am concerned, he knows the magic.
What are your thoughts on techno fabrics? Do you wear them? Do you look at the care label to see what the garment is made of? Would you buy a designer dress made of polyester?
Photo source: Alberta Ferretti Spring/Summer 2010 campaign photographed by Steven Meisel