Katie Trotter: Why fashion matters

M's fashion expert on why you shouldn't underestimate the cultural power of clothes.

People love to ridicule fashion and the pomp that surrounds it. I suppose writing the whole thing off as trite or unethical is less bother than trying to understand it. Yet what most of us see is simply what we want to see - half-starved teenagers in questionable creations of ludicrous proportions, designed largely by rich old men for rich old women. Which, of course, is partially true. Planet fashion is a fictitious wonderland of self-publicity and gratification, a Narnia ruled by Victoria Beckham and her throng of Kardashian munchkins. A place in all its razzle-dazzle and absurdity that frankly frightens most of us. Which is a shame really, as there is so much more to the Ferris wheel both in taste and authority, if you care to look.

Fashion: The National dresses

Catwalks, seasons, features, news and all things fashion

In the world of fashion, where inspirations are often inexplicable, we rarely discuss the message or the story behind the imagery, leaving most of us somewhat perplexed. That's a missed opportunity for all of us, so allow me to share with you that what I know.

Firstly, there is no right way to look at fashion. Like any form of media, its aim is to seduce, to tell a story. It is only as part of its process in creating a feeling or a mood that a look or a trend is born. You should question what those involved are trying to say, and ask what their work brings to you. Is there a correlation? If not, why?

For those of us who live and labour in Narnia, I can tell you it is both a blessing and a curse. Producing fashion editorials tears at your patience, snatches the few hours you once gave to yourself and then heckles you to push further and explore new territory.

But every so often - on location, in a studio, behind the curtain, on the runway - there are moments that for one reason or another you know that fashion has achieved something magical and has surpassed its own expectations and changed the way you see things forever. Perhaps it was in 1998 when the double amputee Aimee Mullins, a former Paralympian, graced the catwalk for Alexander McQueen wearing a pair of hand-carved wooden prosthetic legs. Or in spring 2009 when McQueen programmed robots to spray paint a beautiful design directly onto a model in a simple white dress, in what was ostensibly a comment on the couture industry. Or simply in the moment we observed the first fashion show streamed live to buyers across the world.

It is for those rewarding moments - the moments that have no tidy explanation or general pattern - that we continue. Perhaps when you next look at fashion, give it a little more consideration than you have done in the past. Remember that fashion is not the culture. We are.


This week's highs and lows

A TOTE WITH A DIFFERENCE Sick of your plain oversized, everyday bag? Try this tote by Jerome Dreyfuss at Net-A-Porter.

POPPED POLOS It's still summer and still hot but if we see another man wearing a popped-collar, monogrammed polo shirt, look out.

FLOPPY FUR Yes, maybe we shouldn't love these outrageous hats by The Row, but we do.

BANNED CARBS We cannot deal with another day of the Dukan Diet. Just say no to steak.

COAT TALES This season's collarless coat is on our radar - extra points for the fringing on this one by Vionnet at Matches.