Portmanteau Commentary: Knowledge vs Intelligence - Defining expertise in the world of fashion

The 10000 hours rule
One of my favourite concepts is that of Malcom Gladwell's 10000 hour rule. You can become an expert in anything when you practice 10000 hours. However true the concept of abundance of ideas and quantity leading to quality might be, I am not certain whether the same applies to fashion style. Sure, expertise is needed in the craft of creating a dress, or in a situation when actual knowledge is involved for instance as someone who is meant to analyse trends. However, does this rule also apply to taste?

Knowing yourself is having good taste
I've done some research and it seems everyone disagrees with each other on this point. 'Fashion consultant' Robert Pante from the 1980s, calling himself an 'expert' after a few years of being involved in fashion, suggests that although taste is born, with a 'right' and alert attitude anyone can copy and consciously measure their style into being tasteful. However, I'm sure many readers will agree with me when I say that this is utterly cringey. The idea of taste and style is to be yourself, not copy, and make "it" work in a way that fits you as an individual best. In many cases just copying someone's outfit that might have suited that person perfectly, most likely won't suit you.
However, I have come to realise that taste comes from knowing yourself, which is a form of knowledge that increases with the amount of hours one spends on actually getting to know the way in which the self interacts with fashion and combinations of pieces. Experimenting, making mistakes and stretching your fashion use to the max does seem to improve the knowledge of oneself and results in an increased awareness of what one can pull off, what looks good on oneself and what is - for your own individual body and type - good taste.

Copying or interpreting?
Where do the boundaries of expertise actually blur, though? When can someone working in the fashion industry actually be called an expert? A great example for this, and what set off the chain reaction of thoughts on this subject were the DIY tights made by the lovely blogger The Haute Pursuit who openly establishes her consumer and amateur stance as a down-to earth girl with fashion sense. 'Inspired' by Cecilia from KeepItFvncy, she copied the idea of Miu Miu prints by skilfully creating tights using similar designs and is utterly open and proud about it. Curiously, its result were a lot more tasteful in the context of her style than the commercially perfect, neat lines of the Miu Miu pieces themselves would have been. My question now is - as an individual, who has spent hours and hours coming close to the 1000 hour rule on fine tuning herself (as it should be) paired with a talent, which must also have been honed in unmentioned hours - can she be counted as an expert despite her 'consumer' presentation?


Despite its certainly fun and talented application, there is a substantial itch that needs to be addressed and although it may not be a particularly important point for a consumer, it always will be an itch for anyone who is a creator of fashion - that of uniqueness. Here I go back to the idea of expertise in fashion - taste is to know oneself because the self is unique. However, as the wise designer Rosario from El Ultimo Grito has once said, ( immortalised on a badge by Stuart Bannocks) - value hirarchy of creative claim is based on either being better or having done it before everyone else. If you exclude cultural attachments and social status that comes with official titles 'blogger/ consumer' vs. 'big-name-established-designer' and look purely at the fashion pieces in the used context themselves, this applies here - the tights look definitely better and in terms of finish and application as well as the placing of the idea on tights and sheer fabric with a rock glam finish rather than on a solid coloured, thick black suit. On the other side of the spectrum of this argument I have come across Lou Lou Magazine from Canada today, which claims to be an 'expert in shopping'. This is, I can assure you true in the sense of the word, but sounds strange as the concept of 'expertise' carries a business, logical attachment as opposed to a the fashion equivalent of 'good taste', which is a lot harder to use as an official status claim. Intelligence has always been harder to prove than knowledge.

It all boils down to value
As in so many of my articles it all boils down to value. Expertise, in its textbook sense of knowledge accumulated in quantity, doesn't apply to the consumer fashion industry in as much of an extent (only through a backdoor way to establish taste) as does the hirarchy of value and contextual and visual intelligence, which is born, not learned as is knowledge and skill.