“Fashions fade, style is eternal.” This idea has become the go-to mantra of the fashion industry. From Yves Saint Laurent to Coco Chanel, the concept of style above all else reigns supreme (pun not intended). Yet, fashion nowadays tends to focus less on individual style and more on seasonal and trendy looks. It’s easier than ever to wear similar styles to the ones seen at London, Milan, or Paris fashion weeks – and at a fraction of the cost.

          In an atmosphere of conformity and fashion complicity, finding a unique and personal style is imperative. In the long term, it makes clothes-shopping hassle free, saves you money, and ensures that you have a timeless wardrobe. Garneau Fashion Club breaks this down into three easy steps.

           Firstly, let’s address something: what is style? Style is the adoption of lifestyles and themes that suit the wearer’s interests and tastes. While trends come and go, your style should maintain itself over a lifetime. It will also mold and adapt with time, showcasing different stages in your life. In being fluid, style provides us a creative space to explore, experiment, and be conscious of our own self-image. Having control over how you present yourself is a powerful tool, if wielded wisely.

Step one

          The first thing to do when building a style is to take note of your interests and preferences. Your interests define who you are, and by extension, define your style. If you’re the sporty type, you might prefer to wear sweats over button downs, trainers over sneakers, and Adidas track pants in lieu of jeans – this style is commonly termed “athleisure”. On the other hand, if you’re an avid follower of punk or grunge music/subgenres, you may prefer to wear skinny black jeans, relaxed sweatshirts and Doc Martens. Or perhaps both!

          To answer why you should take the time to define your interests, there needs to be some understanding of a lifestyle. A lifestyle is the set of interests, opinions, behaviours, and orientations of a person or a group. Simply put, lifestyles are defined physical and mental states that you live by. Individuals who prefer to wear all black likely have different lived experiences and different lifestyles to those who like to wear pink every other day. Knowing your hobbies and interests gives you a clue as to the lifestyle that you would be comfortable adopting – but it’s only the start.

          Note, our interests are rarely monolithic. While it’s true that we tend to lean towards certain genres, people like to dabble in a plethora of activities and styles. It’s therefore important to consider how your different interests might form a cohesive style – or if that’s at all possible. Perhaps it isn’t, and you might have to consider how you can break your style into sub-styles. Notwithstanding, having a clear conception of your interests is a step in the right direction.

Step two

           Curation is defined as the “process of selecting, organizing, and looking after the items in a collection or exhibition. You should have selected your interests and organized them into a list. Step two is about researching and enriching your knowledge.  

           Style research is akin to academic research: you need to collect data from a wide range of sources and dig deeper. Find the key pieces that define your style. What materials are they made from? Do they have similar colours and tones? Do they match well together? Are there mutually shared design elements? For example, an individual who leans toward rocker style might prefer skinny black jeans, washed denim, leather black biker jackets, and silver accessories. They may prefer to wear cold tones in mostly black, and match them with analogous – or similar – colours. 

           Identifying and restricting yourself to finding garments in your style can save you time and money. You tend to make fewer impulse purchases at fast fashion retailers like H&M or Forever 21, and likely don’t spend as much time window shopping.

           Moreover, you should make an effort to study the brands that specialize in your style. Understand their histories, origins, and their design philosophies. Engross yourself in regional styles and cultures. Analyze seasonal collections and derive inspiration. Knowing the designers, curating an outfit lookbook, and applying their aesthetics helps you narrow your focus. It’s not enough to know about big couture houses like Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and on the off chance, Supreme. Established brands rarely specialize in particular niches. They rely on exclusivity, name recognition, and historical fanfare to remain relevant. Instead, find smaller labels. Look for brands who maintain a low profile while selling high quality goods. If your interests are in hiking and outdoors-wear, do some research into Junya Watanabe, White Mountaineering, and Arcteryx. For those interested in the glam-rock aesthetic, Saint Laurent, Sandro, or Vivienne Westwood may be good fits. Daring individuals who indulge in avant-garde may appreciate Comme Des Garçons, Rick Owens, or Carol Christian Poell. These labels have massive influence within their respective subcultures, but they stay under the mainstream radar. Thorough research involves finding obscure brands, collecting information about them and their styles, and consolidating them into your own.

          It’s important to keep an open mind when hunting down pieces that fit your style. Clothes that don’t sacrifice quality for taste will likely cost you a pretty penny, so look for alternatives. Vintage and thrift shops open the doors to a treasure trove of well-made goods. Moreover, they provide unique styles and options for a fraction of today’s retail prices. Consignment shops for luxury goods also provide some of the best archival clothing around, though sites like Grailed or Ebay are filled to the brim with peculiar and specialized garments. So instead of spending hundreds at Saks Fifth to get the wardrobe of your dreams, capitalize on second-hand and used clothing stores to shop the same looks without the high price tag.

Step three

           The last stage in your style expedition is expansion. By this stage, you should have a good grasp of your style. Your wardrobe likely looks like a museum exhibit: clean, curated, and cohesive. Now it’s time to open your doors to new possibilities.

           Turn to other enjoyable pastimes. Perhaps you need to develop some new interests. Do more research and find what looks good on other people; critique different outfits and find ways to incorporate pieces into your own; combine and match tops and bottoms; work with your styles and moods to create a melange of many. Whenever you experiment, take it slow. Rushing your style expansion will lead to a poor understanding of what makes other styles look good.

           Once you’ve decided what looks good together, and what does not, categorize your creations. With practice, you will have an intuitive understanding of what looks nice on you and what doesn’t. Broadening your style gives you more to wear on a daily basis, expanding your creative horizons.  

          Our generation needs to understand that the clothes we wear ought to be less a show for others and more an extension of our own selves. Unflinching conformity to the words of “fashionistas” is an abrogation of your individuality. It’s difficult to resist purchasing trendy clothing, but don’t fall for it. Staying faithful to a style that defines you strengthens your overall look and fends off obsolescence. Remember this mantra: whatever you wear, wear it well.