Words Of Wisdom From Edward Enninful and Marc Jacobs

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Last night, Oxford Union hosted Edward Enninful and Marc Jacobs in a conversation that spanned everything from the importance of diversity to the fantasy of fashion. Here, we highlight some of the words of wisdom that they shared: an insight into the mind of two of the industry’s most celebrated figures.

Fashion isn’t always about buying the clothes…

“I didn’t grow up with money; I didn’t come from a rich family. But what fashion gave me was an escape into a world of creativity: if I couldn’t afford that Junior Gaultier jacket, then I’d get one from the market and customise it. Fashion brings out your creativity; when he shows a collection, Marc’s not just saying, ‘here’s a dress, go buy it.’ He’s saying, he’s an idea of what you can be, or become.” – Edward Enninful

“Fashion is for everyone: owning a dress isn’t what it’s about. I mean, it’s a great thing if you have the ability to buy something – but, like with art, like with music, you don’t have to own it. If you can experience fashion, if you can relate to it, if it moves you or inspires you in some way then you can go out, get that jacket, hack into it, put some shoulder pads in – or maybe it’ll encourage you to do something completely different. But that’s what creativity does: it stimulates and inspires people. Ownership isn’t the important thing. – Marc Jacobs

All the world’s a stage…

“When you leave your house in the morning, however you dress is the way you want the world to see you. I think fashion can tell a story about celebrating difference, can talk about how different people are, how diverse people are – and for me, that’s where fashion really succeeds, when it tackles things to do with the world we live in.” – Edward Enninful

“Whether people are into fashion or they aren’t, they still express themselves somehow, with the clothes they choose: whether they want to be a part of something, whether they want to be apart from something. Fashion is just a form of self-expression. I love the idea that all the world’s a stage, and that we all costume ourselves for this great piece of theatre that we perform every day. What has always interested me about fashion is identity, and the idea of creating identity.” – Marc Jacobs

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Different cities have different fashion specialties…

“My memories of London Fashion Week are of starting out and not getting many tickets for fashion shows, but wanting to see them so much that I’d sneak in with my friends, people like Pat McGrath and Craig McDean. We’d try to find somewhere to hide, somewhere to sit on the floor, anything; we were just so excited to be there. Then I remember later, seeing Lee McQueen’s shows, and the fire, and Shalom Harlow being sprayed with paint… and today, you have people like Jonathan Anderson, like Molly Goddard. So, for me, London Fashion Week has always been about setting the trends, about creativity. There might not be a lot of money, but there is always a lot of creativity.” – Edward Enninful

“I always got the feeling that American design schools turned students into good assistant designers – but that, at Central Saint Martins, there were professors who were pushing their students to be creative, to express themselves, and to find a voice to express their vision. It’s very different to the underlying message of fashion education in the US, and I think that’s reflected in the shows: during New York Fashion Week, with a few exceptions, it feels like a presentation of commercial product whereas, in London, it’s about designers expressing their vision. It isn’t a bad thing, it’s just different – but both cities have a youth culture that’s amazing and, in my mind, although they’re very different, there’s a similar energy there.” – Marc Jacobs

Inspiration comes from everywhere…

“At its essence, fashion is about taking inspiration from everywhere: different countries, different histories. Cultural appropriation is a very delicate subject but, if someone is inspired by something, then as long as they tell you where it’s from, acknowledge the history of where an idea came from, then I’m fine with it. We work in fashion, and it’s a dream, but we should credit the source.” – Edward Enninful

“I learned a very valuable lesson after I showed a collection that included woollen dreadlocks worn on the girls’ heads: I had been inspired by Lana Wachowski, The Slits, rave culture, Marilyn and Boy George from the Eighties and I didn’t feel like I was doing anything wrong – those were my references and I didn’t think that, by showing that collection, I was saying they were the origin of dreadlocks – but it caused this whole thing. I think that it’s very dangerous to say, you can’t look at that, you can’t use that, you can’t borrow from that or be inspired by that – I think that’s setting people up to stay in their own lane and I think that’s a dangerous way of thinking. But what I learned from that experience was that it’s important to be sensitive, especially when people say something hurts, or feels like appropriation. That you need to listen to what people have to say and that, if somebody is expressing something, some pain or some problem, then you need to listen to why. I don’t believe there should be a border patrol on what’s okay to look at or be inspired by, so I stand by that, but I did learn that a conversation requires listening to the other person talking.” – Marc Jacobs

Diversity is key…

“Fashion can say a lot about the times we live in: about race, about creed, about size. Now more than ever, people are really embracing that. Diversity really is the word, and it’s about enjoying our difference; I always believe that a diverse range of voices is more powerful than one singular vision or voice. I don’t believe in tokenism, but different people being a part of the conversation in order for us to move forward? That I like.” – Edward Enninful

“Look at women in Fifties advertisements, with corsets on, full skirts, standing in front of a washing machine. That’s what society thought women’s’ role was: to look nice for their husband and take care of the home. But right now, there’s a new desire to see people – all people – doing different things. That’s what’s stimulating. It goes beyond responsibility: it’s just so much cooler, fresher, nicer, more exciting to have your eyes wide open, to take as much in as possible, to hear different voices and see different things. And thank God for that.” – Marc Jacobs

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