Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Fashion, style and design

click photo to enlarge
I don't like fashion, I'm interested in style, and I really like design. That statement is intended to point out the useful distinction between those three words, which are often used interchangeably. Further, it sums up my feelings about the three concepts that the words embody. Fashion, to me, is the changing of the construction and appearance of something for no good reason other than to deliberately make the current model outdated and to stimulate the purchase of a new model. Style (and styling) on the other hand is more about shaping something with an aesthetic purpose in mind. And design, in my book, is creating something in a way that, to the designer, seems the best and most efficient manner. Now I'm sure that's not precisely what it says in the dictionary, and it's true that there is overlap between the three concepts. However, they are not synonyms, and we lose sight of something important if we treat them as such.

I think fashion, whether in clothing, decor, or anything else, is almost always a negative force. It's driven by money and is massively wasteful. Depending on how you look at it, it can be either socially divisive or cohesive. In my book it's predominantly the former. Styling can be used in this negative way too, but where it is used well, it can lift a product above the mundane. Good design, of course, always does this, and a perfect coming together of form and function is a joy to behold - think about the Supermarine Spitfire, Michel Thonet's B-27 cafe chair, or the Olympus OM1 camera.

When I took this photograph the thing that struck me most forcibly was the colour of the wall - orange! This colour was very popular for walls in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and now I notice it making a come back. That's a problem with fashions - they come and go, and when they are not "in fashion" people are afraid to use them. The uplighter, however, is a piece of classic design, never out of manufacture since at least the early twentieth century. This image was captured in the Solaris Centre, Blackpool, a building dedicated to environmental sustainability. Appropriately enough, therefore, the pattern of shadows is made by an array of solar cells built into a sloping corridor roof. I liked the colour, shapes and shadows in this asymmetrical composition, and particularly the diagonal line cutting through it, making two interlocking wedges.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen