On New Fashion Realities
“[…] I’ve watched the fashion industry in Second Life explode with fashion shows, trendy publications […]. Skins are more realistic, the clothes are mindblowing and we’ve even got prim feet.
“But I think we’ve lost something as well.
“[…]Fanstasy sims with dragons, trolls and faeries have been replaced with strip malls and mega shopping sims. Elaborate builds where you could […] pick up copies of trees, flowers and little prim critters now all come with a price. Perfect prim feet are replacing long, flowing mermaid tails and I don’t remember the last time I saw someone walking on an SL road… just exploring.”
Like Mahala, I’ve been feeling lately that the call for a more “realistic” aesthetic in SL has been turning into a “will of reality” (please, note, I’m referring only to an aesthetic domain, for in other areas of their second life, many people seem to live away from reality), especially in what relates to the fashion industry. I mean, is it just my perception or, as skins became more and more realistic, for instance, we’ve been seeing less furries (not less nekos, though)?
The phenomenon is not restricted to skins. Fashion creators, in general, have been making shoes, shirts, hats, pants, coats, undies and so on, following RL trends. Nonetheless, it’s not “their (our?) fault”. It also involves SL photographers, media and consumers (after all, they are the ones who buy the items, right?). Nonetheless, to consider it just an ensemble of individual wills is to be ingenuous. It is a dynamic of disputes and accommodations between the established SL avatars and the outsiders. Let’s illustrate it.
Mahala tells us that, at some point in her second life, when she was still a newbie, she was at a certain sim, after having worked on her look but still wearing her helmet hair. A handsome man IMed her, saying “Great look, but you need hair. Follow me”. It has happened to her and to many newbies. Many of us don’t ask people if they need help, what they need, if they’d like to be a dragon, a furry, a siren, an android… We kindly “help” them with our own standards – and we know that, by following those standards, they will be “in”, they will no longer be newbies. At the same time, we spread our preferences and, automatically, make sure that we are “in”.
The same happens with big fashion sellers, who become models of success – but let’s not be naive and think that they alone impose themselves over the whole industry. Of course, fashion events, magazines and blogs are also part of it: they promote a certain standard and, at the same time, they become a success by adhering to that standard. It’s just an impression, but I’m inclined to think that, at the moment, this standard is more and more attached to “reality”.
It’s important to understand the difference between the “will of reality” and realism. A fairy, a gnome or a monster can have either a ludicrous design or a realistic one (actually, there are other options, but let’s take those two as an example). Both can be very well-done and detailed, and may require dedication in order to look good. I’d love to see both in SL. But it’s not only that realism seems to dominate. Also, it seems that it’s giving pace to something more and more inspired in a certain representation of reality – of course, a reality that only exists in imagination, where all avs are beauty gods and goddesses (following a specific beauty pattern). Such a “will of (idealized) reality” doesn’t mean that we actually have “reality” (as we see it in RL) mirrored in SL. Actually, it’s more like “let’s correct reality”.
What does fashion has to do with it? Well, in such a world referenced to RL reality, there is a risk of creativity losing space to ability. That’s what happens when SL fashion designers copy RL Diesel or Vivienne Westwood creations (I’m sure we’ve seen that over and over). It’s their ability that counts – creativity is outsourced. Note that it is different from reproducing the Eiffel Tower or the Taj Mahal – for both are unique and their reference is obvious, so a reproduction is more like an homage (still, it’s more ability than creativity which counts). Now, copies of RL clothes – especially for profit – are not just an homage.
The problem goes beyond copying. Maybe, the fashion industry in SL – and I include myself there, though i don’t dare to consider myself part of the mainstream, the big stars – could try to be more daring, in many ways. Architecture has gone there, and there are many buildings in SL that are not possible in RL (it reminded me of a blog, Not Possible in Real Life). I’m not saying clothes should be “not possible in RL”, but maybe they could be really different. Not all of them. There’s also a place for “reality” (referenced in RL). But why be restricted to that?
Actually, Mahala’s post reminded me of one of the reasons why I decided to design clothes in SL. The other main reason was to learn the techniques (for i love doing that, working with graphic/photo programs, drawing, designing). My next release, which is already done and will be launched in a few days, is just a simple item – but i will work harder to try to balance my “will of reality” with some lack of reality reference (actually, there’s always some reality reference there, but I can try to be less attached to it). I don’t know if SL is a good way to escape reality, but it sure can help us build new realities.