Aussie Fashion, Australian Fashion, Australian Fashion Industry

Unsocial Media

April 28
Jade Cosgrove for the launch of The Ageless Project May 2020

Well, here it is.

The article on social media I have been promising for years. You will notice that I have named it Unsocial Media, so at this junction you will glean an insight into my feelings on the subject. For those who know me professionally and personally you will know that this is a subject close to my heart and you will also be well versed in my opinion about social media and the destruction it causes in peoples lives, young and old. Those same people have been asking repeatedly when I was going to write this article which I have contemplated for a very long time.

For reasons unknown even to myself, apart from my own intuition, I have resisted until now.

It seems the time is now.

For the longest time, I have been watching, observing, discussing, and lamenting the some positives but largely negative impacts of the shiny, interactive platforms we call “social media”. It is a contentious subject at the very least, and one which creates very heated responses very quickly in any group you care to mention, but especially the fashion industry. For at least the last three years at Sydney Fashion Week, sadly cancelled this year, this discussion has been one that doesn’t get old. Most people I’ve spoken with have a love/hate relationship with it for a plethora of valid reasons.

In our current global situation, where social media is playing an even greater role in the lives of nearly everyone we know, it has become alarmingly apparent to me that platforms upon which the fashion world particularly focuses has reached the lowest ebb ever. You might ask which platforms I am referring to? Well, Instagram mostly and Facebook to a lesser degree as I think it is no longer patronised by the fashion world to the extent it once was.

I have seen a rapid decline in interesting content on Instagram and in my opinion it has just turned into a tart. A once interesting, varied, high quality content experience has now mutated into a highly inane and dissatisfying experience of scrolling, and subjection to copious amounts of people yelling at me through automated videos about subjects which hold no interest or connection to my account. Advertisements that I spend my life trying to lessen (when I can be bothered) answering Instagram’s questions about “why I don’t want to see this”. Followed by nauseating low level porn that I have grown so tired of seeing that my eyes glaze over at having to semi-accept the garbage being presented as “content”.

In the hope of not offending anyone, it is also rapidly turning into a vehicle of self promotion for many. Even in the current global circumstances, where most fashion people have literally gone from working jobs to not at all, I have witnessed quite a number of people continuing to self promote, instead of creating vehicles that collectively help the many in order to drive change and hope for all of our fashion futures.

I cannot be the only person who is so irritated by Instagram brands who have no real brick and mortar presence, and therefore no real “skin in the game’. Massive followings, important Instagram space, yes. Don’t we have to question the actual contribution to the industry? Is it not a question of ethics? We are now so vocal about the ethical responsibility of brands, the hows and the wheres of their production but yet we fail to discuss the ethical presence of those brands on social media and the impact they have on the real fashion and retail platforms.

Then of course, there is the subject of the “influencer” and the role they should be allowed to play within our fashion world. Both difficult subjects I know, and believe me,  I have been present in so many discussions around both these subjects. I know how contentious they are and have been in a few heated discussions of my own. I don’t say that there is no place for these things but I am a big fan of bringing elements to the fashion industry at large that serve the collective and not individuals. Our industry can no longer afford or sustain this selfish approach of self serving and self important behaviour.  Things are way too dire for that.  I believe our focus needs to be around contribution and what serves our collective interests and subsequent global recognition.

Rightly or wrongly, I have a very small Instagram following. I think the term for someone like me is a “micro-influencer” in the sense that my following genuinely follows my fashion work. Importantly, I don’t feel the need to have a large following, and as a dear friend and professional colleague of mine said, “keeping track of and controlling social media is a job in itself and if you are a solo business person it’s often hard to do this. You find yourself wasting time trying to work on your social media presence instead of working on your strengths within your business. I find that I have the potential to waste a lot of time trying to understand growing a business via social media, which can be frustrating when that is not your strength. It can also be hard to navigate the authenticity of accounts and products, as people tend to believe in products simply if they have a good account with lots of followers, which can be just smoke and mirrors”.

Perfectly described don’t you think? And no, she is not old like I am so it is not a generational difference.

To further this narrative, some years ago now, I well remember speaking to another in the fashion world; a beautiful, successful, young woman who described her feelings around social media like she was a cardboard cutout due to the isolation she felt due to the pressures put upon her by social media.  The expectations, the perfect lifestyle, and the constant perceived requirement to post content, several times each day, which would serve to impress or dare I say “trump”, her followers and friends. I am not suggesting that she fell into this trap, because, we all know it is a trap, right? I am only describing the sentiment of her words and the potential debilitating consequences and subsequent feelings of inadequacy and misery for those who do succumb to its powers. A very real problem in our current world wrapped up in our collective addiction to devices, low attention spans, and our unhealthy patterns of communicating through devices versus open communication.

She also commented that she struggled to come to terms with the level of comparison she felt in all aspects of her life because of her social media accounts. This ranged from her hair, body and beauty choices, her choice of boyfriend, her living quarters, her lifestyle, hobbies and diet. She explained that she felt this led to an inauthentic expression of herself and the resulting inability to live a life that was just her own. She felt the pressure to keep up with her friends and their illusory social media lives was at times, crushing, and perhaps even worse, that her most personal moments, those which she cherished alongside her greatest disappointments were exposed not only for everyone to see, but for all and sundry, many of whom were complete strangers, to comment on and gloat over. My heart melted when I heard her describe the effect social media had had on her young life. Simultaneously, I was extremely heartened to witness her realisation that her own common sense and innate sense of self prevailed as she declared she did not need social media to revel in her own authenticity and shine in her own beautiful essence.

I post to Instagram rarely now. Largely because I am genuinely busy and partly because I don’t want to bore people with content about nothing. I post when I feel I can motivate, inspire or uplift people who genuinely follow my work and whom I can help. In essence, I try only to share the love and the passion of the work I do in Australian Fashion.

My dear friend went on to say, “I have a love/hate relationship with social media. I don’t spend a lot of time on it because I recognise that it can put me in a negative state of mind. I enjoy it in small doses”. She went on to say, “on the other hand I don’t like the feeling that you may be missing out on some particular thing. Being able to look at so many different activities in one quick moment makes you feel you should be packing more into your day/life. It often confuses what your values are in relation to others.  For example, seeing a picture of a mother baking with their child all of a sudden makes you feel like you should be baking with your children, when this isn’t necessarily a passion of yours. 

It can create unnecessary anxiety in this way.

I don’t often feel jealous because I want people to have amazing lives and love people doing well and succeeding. This makes me feel happy, but social media sometimes makes me feel like I’m not doing/achieving what I should be”.

An older person I know, and a mother of three told me that all her kids are completely addicted to social media, particularly her teenage daughter. She said that she personally used social media as a tool, as she regarded it as beneficial and informative for shopping, trends, and news.

Hmmm. I don’t know what I think about that. Shopping? Well, maybe.

Trends? Does the world actually have trends anymore? I think we’ve moved past that.

News? Well, let’s not go there.

She did make the comment that in their (kids) head, social media was their link to the rest of the world and that it was an addiction. I liked her honesty.

My focus is really on whether social media is negative or positive and how it relates to the fashion world. So on we go.

There is something else that really worries me about the social media world and its particular relevance to the fashion world.

It is just me? … or are many young women and men starting to look like each other?

This insistent and consistent trend for the young ones to look the “same” is really disturbing.

Why and how have we created and consented to a world where individual differences are not celebrated? I am not talking about runways, only general audience here. Why have our levels of self esteem plummeted to the all-time-low of not being comfortable with ‘who we truly are’, and if this is truly the paradigm we are happy to accept, what depths of despair awaits us?

Is the older generation of fashionistas responsible for this and if so, did we not have a duty of care to mentor this younger generation of fashion followers? This tendency to over-do everything … fake tan, enhancing boobs, eyelashes, waistlines, and butts is not only ugly but completely unnatural not to mention the shellac! I don’t want to think for a nano second what the health implications might be down the track and don’t even start me on the eyebrows!!! You can hate me if you want, but I say, it is time to reclaim our natural beauty and encourage the young ones to do the same, in all our glory. We all possess beauty in one form or another, and the tendency to want to look like each other is an aspect which belongs to sheep not the human race.

My purpose in writing this article is not to bad mouth social media as part of me does recognise its benefits, although I do believe that many accounts are reducing to all time lows as every day passes. I do however see a lot of misery and sadness created by this illusory reality which takes us away from our blessed daily lives and the beautiful experience that living in every moment can provide. Whilst our heads are buried in our phones and our social media accounts, real opportunities and real life friendships are walking by. I encourage you to be led by your heart, and return to your true fashion souls. Be who you are and be proud of you. Be strong in your sense of self and by all means, beautify your magnificent self.  I don’t mean to put guidelines around what this might mean for you as individuals, for of course, that is not my place. I also love to beautify myself, and for all the people that love and know me … they will tell you … I am as vain as all Hell!

Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that!

In the heyday of my styling years, I used to tell the scores of women and men I styled, and occasionally even now when I fall back to that work, “look into that mirror and have the courage to see the beautiful soul that is looking back at you. Allow your tears to flow in the realisation of who you truly are, and adorn your magnificent self appropriately”.

It seems the pertinent moment in time to let all you beautiful fashion people know, that I have cried real tears for the state of the fashion world right now. I come however with a message of great hope and to let all of you know that all will be well.

Yes, our industry will change and perhaps the new fashion world will be unrecognisable to some. It is a change that has been coming for a very long time, and one that is timely and sadly, very necessary.

Our new fashion space will be refreshingly re-calibrated, and those people who were temporarily acting as place holders, but who never really cared, will fall away.

Those who remain will be the real deal ; The leaders ; Those who hold, and who always have, held the vision of what is to come and those who possess the ability to take it to new heights ; Those people will rebuild the amazingness of what has never been in question – the brilliance of Australian Fashion.

Be a vehicle of light everyone and hold your heads high. This too shall pass and when it does, the landscape of Australian Fashion will never look so bright …

Watch this space.

Until next time,

Jade xx

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