Pattern as a Movement (From Dressing Indianapolis)

I’m not an urban planner or historian, but I do understand movements. And I believe that Indianapolis has the ability to shape the fashion industry’s next move. And, through fashion, we have the ability to shape the next stage of our city’s aesthetic and economic maturation.

The language of fashion is often perverted by our hyper-focused obsession with the dimensions and sizes of individual people rather than discussing the dimensions of the group as a whole. Between tabloid scribblings and celebrity designers, we’ve obliterated the space between what is truly fashionable and who is merely dressed fashionably. Indianapolis, a city bereft of gossip column regulars and haute couture houses, is actually ahead of the curve in this regard – we haven’t had the opportunity to cloud our vision with socialite-pandering and pantless pop stars. This clarity gives our city the potential to lead as fashion’s populist vanguard. With Pattern, Indianapolis has the chance to actualize this community-driven movement.

If you walk around Indy, especially in the more sterotypically-artistically-inclined neighborhoods (like Fountain Square, Broad Ripple, etc), it is slightly depressing to see the pervasive hipster-styled stagnation that has gripped our twentysomething year olds. But, they do have to grow up – and ironic mustaches, faux-vintage flannel, and liquid-tight-fitting denim will not (fingers crossed) survive. (At least we’ve largely gotten over the Von Dutch trucker hats and Ugg-boots-as-formalwear thing). If you walk around the gallery openings on any given First Friday, and filter out the aforementioned non-fashion fashions, you’ll see people dressing in a way that offers a glimmer of hope for our city’s sartorial future. It is there – you just have to squint a little bit. There are people dressing fancifully, outlandishly, and meticulously without any underlying irony. There is ample room to dress up in a way that is self-aware, without being simultaneously self-deprecating. Irony poisons honest creativity and deprives us of experiencing any deep sense of enjoyment (both in-the-moment and long-term). David Foster Wallace described what he called the “tyranny of irony” as a mode of thinking that “serves an almost exclusively negative function…It is critical, destructive, and ground-clearing…But is singularly unuseful when it comes to constructing anything to replace what it debunks.” This destructive tendency (which, I admit, seeps into my conversations whenever I feel that my response will be inadequate or not-quite-witty-enough), is part of what has kept Indianapolis from helming this populist fashion movement. I mean, even I couldn’t help but start this post without mentioning the usual villains: popstars, hipsters, LLBean suburbanites. And that language is not only useless, but completely contradictory to the future I see Indianapolis moving toward. That’s were Pattern comes in.

For those of you that are unfamiliar, Pattern is the new manifestation of what was formerly called the Indianapolis Fashion Collective. The IFC was started some years ago by a group of delightful dreamers, who envisioned it as a resource where our city’s fashion-thinking members could come for…well, anything and everything. As with most dreams, reality can pretty quickly turn those unfulfilled aspirations into bitterly nostalgic memories. But, that’s not what they chose to do – they didn’t want to sit around, lamenting their lack of luck or licking their stylish wounds. Instead, they decided that the organization needed to undergo a strategic, transformative surgery. (If you will – an identity-altering metamorphosis). With the help of KA+A and a few new board members (of which, I am one), we dismantled the old model, and began building something new. Something that could move and flex and grow. We forced ourselves to discard the ironically disparaging facetiousness, and try to construct an inclusive fashion-focused community – starting with the simple thought that: “We don’t need to convince the city that fashion and a creative class are good for the economy. We need to convince them that enough people in Indiana care about fashion.”

The mission of this endeavor was to create a place for fashion within Indianapolis, a place that has a uniquely Indiana-flavor, but isn’t settling for the cliched midwestern status quo. As we began working through what Pattern would look like, we realized that it’s struggles mirrored those of Indianapolis: we needed to build a community where people felt free to critique without alienating; a space where people felt safe, and yet challenged; an enclave where people felt they were a part of something unique, without putting up exclusive barriers to newcomers and those with divergent tastes; a place where people were intertwined by a common goal, and yet still able to exercise their individuality; a place devoid of manic confidence, or paranoia of the yet to be understood unknown.

Individual growth is magnified when it sees itself mirrored in a vibrant community, allowing ideas to organically take root both generally and individually. To build this community, founded on the idea that fashion is a necessary element of Indianapolis’ growth, we needed funding. Or, more specifically, we needed all of the accoutrements that come with being a funded organization – the actual, touchable money was optional (for now). So, to get funded, you have to be seen; to be seen, you have to have a community; and to develop a community, it has to be free. And, with the aid of a diverse array of supporters, like Sun King Brewery, Mass Ave Wine Shop, iMOCA, French Pharmacie, Hayes & Taylor, and KA+A (and many more lined up), we have been able to function alongside our corresponding communities (whether it be tech startup-focused groups like Verge, or others) – and we’ve been able to begin reshaping the discussion between both the consumers and creators (and, just the lovers) of fashion in Indianapolis. Pattern seeks to grow within the already-existing city structure, and help propel movement from the inside-out, pushing and swelling and expanding Indy’s creative class. Pattern seeks to be the active catalyst in the fashion equation of Indianapolis, keeping the movement…moving.

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