During the end of the winter holidays, a period that signals the transition into a new calendar year, we are all encouraged to reflect on the people and things we’re grateful for, but also those which we regret. This makes it the designated season for compulsive and corrective list making, in the efforts of somehow tweaking our personalities or our actions to banish our vices and avoid failure at any cost. But in the fast-paced evolution of our daily lives, accelerated by hyper connectedness through social media, we can easily encounter failure even in the wake of achievements — unless we can learn to switch the script and offer thes shortcomings a new name: ‘success’.
When we’re little, we’re taught that there is no such thing as a bad or stupid idea, but as we age we are hounded by the notion of what “right” means in the particular epoch or setting in which we are born and bred. Each generation that preceded us viewed success differently. In the 50’s, the focus was on building a fortified home life, an essential structure of society. In the 60’s and 70’s it was all about movement, both social or political. By the 1980’s we witnessed a shift towards excess in material goods. Ironically, fashion and clothing have also reflected these tendencies and those who challenged this state of mind were also considered to be failures of their kind. Today both failure and ‘success’ are ambiguous terms. It can mean being the best in your particular field or simply reaching your own personal best. And as a whole generation of young people are now beginning to question the superficiality of material wealth, analysing and questioning what we buy into as we get older, we may now understand the importance of seeing things not as black and white, but in shades of grey as well.
For most of us, failure’s so-called antithesis, success, is equates with happiness and satisfaction. However, once we achieve our goal, we are often faced with a new, inexplicable emptiness - dissatisfaction. Because now that we’ve reached success, the fact of being on top means there isn’t much left to reach for and that in itself is what drives people to their demise. Suddenly, the attainment of our seemingly unimaginable dreams makes them not-so-desirable. This idea is most clearly explained by the filled/empty glass analogy, but in 2018, it would be cliché to still view of our lives or actions in such a two-dimensional way when success and failure aren't actually binary. Society dares us to view the glass not as half full or half empty, but as comedian George Carlin so wisely words it, “a glass that's twice as big as it ought to be.” We are challenged to assess this problematic not in terms of ‘failure’ or ‘success’ but in terms of varying perspectives of the two, appreciating that failure is not measured by the end result but also by the process.
Finally, let’s not forget that failure is the stepping stone to success. The accumulation of these sometimes crushing experiences can motivate us even further. Failure is subjective and it is also an inevitable test of our capacities as human beings to overcome any challenge at any stage of our lives. Think of the disheartening rise of the Trump administration and how one man’s failure to respect his citizens made numerous fashion houses think twice about their relationship to human rights and civic responsibility, beginning a seismic shift in the conversation about social justice across hundreds of disciplines, also prompting the largest single-day march in American history, mobilizing nearly five million people from all across North America, which then made it impossible for people to disregard issues concerning women’s rights violation, be it socially, verbally or sexually (think #metoo). That one major setback can remind us of the steps we should have been taking in the first place is a major eye-opener. We are now living in one of the most socially and environmentally aware eras of fashion, in particular; past failures in addressing such issues has given us the responsibility of initiating a conversation about progress and all around change. For example, iconic brands like Gucci have decided to go fur-free, while ethnic minorities, plus sized, and older models are now taking centerstage in runway shows and campaigns making ‘diversity’, ‘diversity’, and ‘diversity’ the fashion industry’s favourite words.
Despite the ups and downs, as an industry, but more importantly as a society, 2017 became the year of progress. And if you’ve participated in this movement than regardless of your failures, you’ve at least contributed to another kind of overall success, one that will guarantee you good luck in the karmic cycle ahead.
Unfortunately, predicting the future in order to avoid failure is still an impossible task but while scientists and mediums work to figure out the formula, I say that we focus on the present as a vehicle to get to the future, one that can help us reach our own version of success and one that we should continue to be proud of, flaws and all.