Style. Let's sum up. At one fashion extreme is dour-faced Karl Lagerfeld, wearing his little fingerless gloves and telling the world that luxury handbags "make your life more pleasant, make you dream, and show your neighbours you are doing well". As if carrying a status sack is the pinnacle of humanity.
At the other extreme–but still in the fashion monde –is Shelley Mantei, Vancouver-based founder of TheItLists.com. Real style can only happen, she told the Straight , when people stop taking it so damn seriously.
"It's when women are driven, powerful, confident, independent, when they're the CEOs of companies, and are so beyond what brands they wear," Mantei said. "It's then that they can really embrace the conversation around nail-polish colour."
The holidays, she believes, are the ultimate time to take a chill pill with your dose of fashion. When else is it possible to wear sparkly stockings, she asked. And when else can you wear that sleek black dress with mistletoe earrings? Or, more precisely, the little grey dress, because grey is this season's black.
Mantei blogs about consumer trends. No one has time to cruise the malls anymore, she said, so blogging has become more important. Find a blogger with similar tastes to your own, she recommended, and they'll act as your filter.
There's also a reason fashion persists in the face of more important topics of conversation such as, say, Darfur, she said. First, it's an outlet. Second, it really does announce who you are.
"You can't just plop a set of keys onto a table to show you drive a hybrid," Mantei said. "You are a walking billboard of your lifestyle, so you're going to choose organic fibres to communicate that."
Fashion is indeed communication, according to Craig Long, the 22-year-old street-fashion blogger whose site, thecommodified.blogspot.com/, picks out the best of Vancouver's style scene.
"A lot of people complain that Vancouver is all cargo pants and hiking boots," Long said. "People create exciting looks here without having a Chanel store on every corner. We use a lot more vintage and locally designed stuff than in other cities."
Style is pushed forward by humour, Long believes. Slouchy boots, so in during the 1980s and so out for the 1990s, are back. You have to be able to laugh at them to put them on your feet, he said. Even Lagerfeld draped Chanel with chains when he took on the label in 1983. Breaking up that stately classical look took humour, said Long.
"If we're going to let fashion and consumerism dictate so much of our lives, we need to have fun with it," he said.
As a theoretical Christmas gift to the city, Long would give it a distinct fashion district "that is free from the corporate clutter you see on Robson Street and in the malls. I'd bring prosperity to places like Main Street and Gastown."
And Mantei's Christmas gift to the city?
"Rather than casual Fridays, let's have Christmas Fridays," she said. "Every Friday can be Christmas-fashion day, and we can wear sparkly hose all year round!"