Lifestyle

March 6 2007
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In case you hadn't noticed, over the last 5 years 'Cool' has become a very ubiquitous, easy-to-own commodity. Let's face it, everyone is 'cool' these days. It's also the most overused word in the western world, a sure sign of its bastardization. Cool is easy to market, sell and to certain degrees achieve, with the right look, stance, sound, you are ready-made cool - just check out how many Sienna Millers there are walking down the street or how many Beyoncès there are in the charts and you get the point. This is not a good thing. It's making us all the same - so when will we get tired of looking at each other? Whereas pop culture used to be about celebrating differences, now they are hard to spot. Cool and Consumerism go hand in hand - people believe that to be 'cool' they have to buy a massive amount - you have to have the 'right' bag, shades, jeans, t shirts, cap, accessories, ipod, car - it's never-ending, not to mention expensive.
 
What is infinitely harder to own is creativity. The truly creative people of the art, fashion, design and music scenes - these are our new heroes. Creativity is looked up to nowadays. Creativity is Cool (ha ha). But in order for these people to flex their genius, they need something magic, something you can't bottle, manufacture, package or sell, no matter how much those celebrity magazines would love to sell it to the masses. What we're talking about is inspiration. Once inspired, these people are producing work that really astounds us, that takes us someplace else, that moves us, that thrills us, that in turn inspires us do something great.

Getting inspired in today's culture is no easy task. It's hard to be fresh when fresh has become a commodity, when happiness has become fashionshaped, and fashion has shifted from niche pursuit to easy-access shorthand for cool. Like pulling up your hoodie to get an instant toughness boost or feeling 10% smarter because you've got new shoes on. The old signifiers of youth style and culture - music, and particularly, fashion? have become easy-access.
 
 In short, everyone has become fashion-able. Not fashionable, you note, just able to grab hold of this week's trends with a lunchtime purchase of some cheap white pumps or a faux cameo necklace. Super-hip stylist Christiane Joy claims to have almost dropped out of the global in-on-Monday, out-by-Wednesday fashion roundabout, preferring jeans, a shirt and less obvious signals to her style: a pair of sneakers customized by a hip friend, or pumps in just the right shade of blue. Perhaps that's the answer - subtle as the new black. It's an argument that old-school music purists have had with the Limewire generation since the first Napster file-swap happened. Forget the days when it took commitment to get music (ever thought about how hard it was for Mick Jagger to get those Muddy Waters records?).
 
The sheer volume of music that's available to all of us might irritate the purists but it hasn't dampened music's ability to inspire us, nor has it turned down the creativity of acts making music now. As Stewart Copeland (of The Police) points out, "the quantity of music available has gone up, but the quality is still there".  The early noughties have been characterized by a stampede of bands (just think about The Flaming Lips, The Gossip, even bloody Justin Timberlake now he's hooked up with the on-form-again Timbaland) that have blended the boundaries between genres and stamped right over the old ways of expressing ideas, transmogrifying ideas and creation into files we pop onto our iPods.
 
It's crystal clear: the most interesting movements express an individual's own world and morphs their universe into a fabulous new song or into dresses with great big spheres instead of sleeves (thanks again, Gareth Pugh) or, well, whatever. The crusade against the forces of conformity and control is taking place in homegrown mixtapes over mix CDs in the supermarket, fanzines over mega-magazines, high ideas over the high street. And the ideas will keep coming, they have to.

Recognizing true creativity when you see it, nourishing it and encouraging it to grow, is the only way to beat the frightening forces of things like the pop idol machine, high street fashion factories and lookalike magazines and models. Do your own thing, keep reaching up for those high ideas and never look over your shoulder; because that's what being fierce and being creative, is truly all about. By Emma Warren and Elizabeth McGrath



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