Portmanteau Commentary: What is art and what is fashion?

Fashion is essential. Its pieces are utilitarian, practical in fact. Does it pain you to read this? Me too.

Fashion embodies a two-in-one market. Being one of the few markets which polarize the commercial and art, it evokes all the classic trademark of broad misrepresentation. There is the naive disrespect of scoffing nature-loving (for example) cyclists stating that "they don't do, nor respect fashion as a legitimate past time" without realizing that their highly technically designed latex outfit is just as designed as their bike. There is the self immersed, disconnected fashion snob who can't appreciate the necessity of practicality.


In fact, it's best to acknowledge they should happily co-exist - as separate entities. When I say "fashion", I am talking about art in wearable form. I am talking about the goose bumps evoking, beautiful reviving of a concept or a visual into concrete and wearable (and sometimes less wearable) form.

Just like with art, it is my personal disposition that it is, in its creation but even more so in its consumption, intimately personal. You can know the history of art, the context, the idea and the concept of a piece or collection, but none, and I mean NONE of this matters if it doesn't touch you, doesn't strike a brainwave like a splashing paddle on resisting water to shake you and create the ripples across your body it deserves. When the paddle smoothly enters and pushes the water like the perfectly logically conceptualized canvas painting or the obvious shift dress it is efficient, brings us forward in the boat on the river of life. It is practical, and necessary. However, it is those splashes of exhilaration we get surprised by, it is those who the fashionista or art collector gets addicted to in a bid to escape and snob the necessity of the former.

For instance, I have throughout all my life seen the interior of uncountable galleries, museums, art fairs and Documentas. I meet most art with the same indifference a fashionista might meet the outfits of every single person they come across on the commute to work. Yes, you'll look at it up and down if you're not too tired or wedged between someones armpit and another person's bum on the train. It may strike your attention, you'll see the strange, the good, the bad, the obvious and the plain. But every now and then there's a gem, one in a thousand, a wonderfully, wholly fitted puzzle of an outfit perfectly styled, of a piece of creation that hits you like a paddle hits the water at a wrong angle.

Those, I believe, are truly personal. Ideally, there is not a hint of contextualization, cultural hierarchy or objective beauty theory - at least not in what makes it create the impact it does. There's just you, your personal experience and the piece.


I am lucky enough to have had this happened a few times in my life. One of them was when I encountered an abstract painting entitled "The ratio of sorrow" by Jema Austin - it's the only piece I have hanging in my office and it makes me sad and happy every day. It reminds me of the deeply lodged Taoist necessity of pain to feel joy, the necessity of a well where there's a dam. It makes everything OK. It balances me, it calms me and it reminds me to get excited about the things that are worth it in my own personal realm.

The same goes for fashion. Yes, there's beauty. There's the necessity and joy to find a piece that exactly matches those other pieces you like. But when you come across something deeply personal, all of a sudden it doesn't MATTER. You don't CARE if you used to think abstract art is the most boring form of painting ever. You don't CARE if it fits, or whether there's a place on the wall, or whether you even have anything that you could wear with the piece.

My favourite fashion piece I own is extremely personal. In fact, it is so personal, spelling it out in too much detail on a blog would be inappropriate and more of a psychological analysis of what makes up the psyche and personality of Lira Leirner the Portmanteau. It's the bracelet by Yorkshire Pearl.



There's the Mater Dolor, which reminds me of my mother every day. It reminds me of what a horrible child I was, how much she sacrificed for me to be who I am, and how much I owe it to her to be the best I can be now.
There's the flower, the pearls and the dark and colorful side - there's the tribal, the antique porcelain Japanese doll and the rank specifications and the bind holding it all together. It's me, and it's all there.
When you come across something personal that hits you like a paddle in the water - do yourself a favour and do everything you can to get the piece for yourself, or you'll regret it forever because that's when you know you've encountered art.