Men are spending more money than ever on what they wear, but what’s more interesting is the effect of this insurgence on the design of the clothes. With a flurry of talented fashion graduates being spat out of universities up and down the country every single summer, their hopes and dreams of a career often lie in a single collection.
Ffian Jones took the opportunity of her graduate collection, entitled ‘The Mauve Man’, to tackle issues involving men’s mental health.
From her previous work into the objectification of the female form in renaissance art, she began to explore gender identity, believing that the crises we see today have a lot to do with our past.
Gender identity as a subject is enormous, and she was specifically concentrating on gender stereotypes when Emma Watson’s UN speech emerged:
“In fact, in the UK, suicide is the biggest killer of men between 20-49 years of age; eclipsing road accidents, cancer and coronary heart disease.”
It was then that she realised this was and is a crisis, a gender identity crisis that we can all help solve.
Taking from her research into gender stereotypes, she wanted to focus on the colour purple.
“When we are born we are instantly categorised. If it’s a boy it’s blue, if it’s a girl it’s pink; it’s an instant label. I wanted to exaggerate this by creating an all-purple collection, bench-marking it the ‘middle ground’ as such. I wanted to say, ‘it’s okay to just be you, not you as a sex, but you, and all the qualities that make you up as an individual’.”
She refers to it as a sort of “safe-ground” and, in turn, creates a platform of self-expression, thus producing what she believes is fashion that matters.
Through her research, she found the archaic male stereotype to be one that suffocates the very nature of pure self-expression: “It’s a very narrow persona of what a man is. Men don’t play certain sports, men don’t cry… etc.”
And this is the crux of the problem, she says: “It’s so embedded within our society, it’s increasingly difficult to realise what needs to change.”
In creating the silhouettes for her collection she looked at iconic shapes and styles associated with femininity and masculinity, from the Dior ‘New Look’ to zoot suits. “I wanted to merge the soft lines and fabric associated with womenswear, but still retain the sharp lines associated with suits and tailoring.”
So, does she believe such a collection will change anything?
“I know clothes are just clothes, but for me, challenging myself to address such big topics is the beginning of change. I know my clothes aren’t very wearable for a wide market but the sheer fact they can start a conversation is a good beginning I think.”
Ffian is currently working on an ongoing project called “Charity Place” inspired by her hometown in South Wales, Caerphilly.
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