Recently I discovered a website on the internet called The Selfpassage and lets just say I was impressed! So I decided to find out who created the website and that resulted in an interview with Otto -A man I am now referring to as the fashion oracle -no less!
Who is Otto?
The man behind Selfpassage is Otto Von Busch. He is assistant professor at Parsons School of Design in New York, where he teaches young design talents. To be honest I don´t know much about Otto, besides that he is from Sweden and lives in NY, but that is all. And I don´t need to know anything else because his wisdom impresses me and to me that’s all that matters.
I decided to give him a call and listen to some of his amazing theories and ideas. So todays blog post will be a sneak peak into Otto’s world of fashion. Maybe you will find Otto and his mind interesting as well.
What is Selfpassage?
The website Selfpassage is a place where you can find the most interesting fashion theories out there right now. The thing that made me want to read more was this text:
“Selfpassage explores how fashion can be used for empowerment, self-development and personal as well as collective growth, instead of being a phenomenon of decrees and coercive anxiety. By the means of engaged fashion practices, selfpassage tries to bend the powers of fashion to achieve a positive personal and social condition with which the Every person is free to grow to his/her full potential”.
A quote I have mentioned in my earlier blog post about “My favourite websites with fashion know-how”. In this short text above, Otto tells us that fashion should be much more about the positive than the negative. It should inspire us and lift us up, instead of filling the consumers with anxiety. And I agree.
Can fashion be inclusive?
To begin with Otto talked about whether or not fashion can be inclusive. Fashion is “by nature” exclusive and that is what makes the fashion-wheel go forward. A group of people (innovators) want to show the surroundings that they are not a group of early adapters, so they constantly make sure that they are dressed in something else than the group of early adaptors (that always find their inspiration within the group of innovators). This pattern of dynamics continues all the way down to the group of “laggards”, that is the final group that finds out that “now it is time to wear slim jeans” (4 years after everybody else). Otto’s answer to this “inclusion-challenge” can be found in building up courage, so that the consumers feel confident and strong enough to wear what they want (as I understood it)….
The demand for fashion
I was so happy to find out that Otto is a big thinker and he is capable of “seeing it all” so when the fashion industry keeps pushing new products out there to the consumers, Otto understands and recognizes that there also is a need. “The consumers wants fashion. They want constant change” says Otto. He explains that we have a visual market and the social media is playing a huge role in this, because it enables us to constantly update ourselves and our persona. That type of ecology is going towards fast fashion. But there will always be a response to a certain pattern, and we already see consumers who are fed up with social media and fast fashion, so the fashion brands should be ready to approach these consumers in a new way, Otto explains.
The fearful consumer
According to Otto we live in fearful times. Both on the jobmarket with less jobs and less income. That produces a fearful climate, where people are scared. People also gets scared by the surveillance of the social media, that keeps asking us “are you successful”? This fear and anxiety of not being enough, or not being what the society expects of us, makes us buy stuff that can make us look successful. So fashion actually feeds on this feeling of anxiety and social fear and Otto would like to change this.
Otto would love if things turned a little bit upside down, so that the fashion industry wasn’t about fear and anxiety, but more about courage and self-esteem. He wants to focus on how a fashion designer can work with design in order to build self-esteem, instead of making money on peoples low self-esteem. All in all Otto wants to build stronger people rather than thrive on their weakness -and again AMEN to that!
Fashion is more than design
Most of Otto’s students wants to end up like the big designers and participate in fashion week, drink champagne and get “out there”, but in Ottos opinion there is much more in fashion than the clothes. He told me about fashion-therapists and how they can help people with eating disorder, post traumatic stress or maybe public health care. This means that you can use your skills as a fashion designer in many different ways and diverse contexts. You can use the education as a kind of social use instead of serving the market, and by this you are using your skills for a social interest instead.
Why do the emerging things in fashion happen in New York?
After speaking with Otto I found out lots of new and exiting things about fashion, but I also understood why all the new ideas and innovative concepts often takes place in New York. Otto explained to me that in New York fashion is big business and that they take fashion very seriously. And what is even more important is that they prioritise room and time for experiments and more untraditional ways of approaching fashion. For instance Otto mentioned a new angle of fashion where they focus on how fashion is used as a part of bullying. They are now “investigating” how fashion and bullying are interconnected. “Earlier we have investigated fashion as seduction and sexuality, but we haven´t paid much attention to fashion as violence. Fashion can be used as competition and a form of exclusion” Otto tells me. And I agree! I have seen with my own eyes how evil kids and also adults can be when it comes to the way we choose to dress. So lets just agree on one thing right now. Respect other people and their choices ok? But that is a whole new blog post…
That was all for now. I hope that you could find meaning in this unstructured text. It is a little bit difficult to change a Skype call into a text:-)
PS: Otto is also an expert in fashion hacking, which I will probably write about here on the blog.
And once again –Thanks Otto! You are a big inspiration!