When I received the theme for this week’s blog, namely “performance”, I found myself torn between two different concepts of what this meant to me, as a fashion designer. On one hand, the “performer” in me recreates himself everyday to speak to the fashion industry’s manifesto of selling dreams and encouraging people to aspire to a certain kind of look or fashion identity.
As a young fashion student I remember dressing in a different costume everyday and basically performing on the street level to entertain passersby with my various fashion creations. Because fashion to me is a sociological snapshot of where society or a sub-culture sees themselves, I have always connected my work designing clothing as that of a sartorial sociologist. People “perform” everyday, creating illusions of characters they wish to play and portray and as a designer I enjoy this aspect of my work, that of assisting my customers to create the character they may wish to embody that day.
On the other hand, performance of course is the day-to-day concept of “showing up” and delivering. I look to my computer for empirical statistics as to what items I have designed are “performing”, which styles my customers are buying en masse and what other styles are not capturing my customers’ attention. As I design each season, I look to the past for clues as to what ideas have “performed” and try to capitalize on those ideas by expanding them and re-working them.
Another construct of performance to me is the act of performing rituals. I like to create rituals in my life that speak to my own inner self. In these rituals that I perform I give thanks to the universe for its abundance and infinite gifts. The rituals I perform, in a way, help me to strive to the highest performance on a human level. And just so that you can see how “whacky” I am sometimes, I will share a ritual that I “performed” while on vacation in the Caribbean.
A Facebook friend who is a “Yoruba” priest recommended that I perform a ritual and give an offering to the goddess of the sea, Yemaya. He told me to find a whole watermelon and to walk with it into the sea. Once I was immersed I was to offer the watermelon to the sea goddess, ask for her blessings, and turn to face the shore while dipping my body into the water seven times. My boyfriend, who is a very pragmatic man, thought I was cuckoo, but I loved this act of performance. Humans have created rituals to acknowledge the powers and godliness of nature forever, and it was fun and exciting for me to “perform” this act.
So to me, the concept of performance holds many meanings: from the concept of fashion performance, whether it is on a catwalk or on the street, from the idea of what styles are performing and building the core of my business, to the fringe performance of someone making an offering of a watermelon to the goddess of the sea. Performance is what we make of it. All that it takes is presence of mind, body and soul and the commitment to something 100%. I know that performance is often an attribute of corporate culture and is a way of assessing one’s success within a corporate world. But one can perform anytime, anywhere. Whether it is with a new piece of clothing, or a watermelon for that matter!