This Valentine’s Day, heart sees heart

How does creativity drastically change with age and expectation, and how can we combat such narrow stigmas to open possibilities for fearless exploration?

Hyojin Park / Daily Trojan

Happy Valentine’s Day, loyal readers. I hope your day is full of love and fulfillment in all forms — whether it’s from a special someone or a Candygram from your pet at home, you deserve all the love and light from St. Valentine himself.

I was thinking about how I could tie fashion and love together for this special edition. What differentiates fashion as physical appreciation from convenient consumerism is history and love. While last year I discussed Isamaya Ffrench and her phallic lipstick, this year I felt less inspired and more overwhelmed with the amount of advertisements for Valentine’s Day.

Perhaps it stems from 10 jam-packed days of my birthday, Lunar New Year and then Valentine’s Day, but I felt like I was drowning amid the shopping carts and screenshots of my Instagram ads.

In my “Advanced Writing” class, we discussed Matthew Salesses’ “Audience, Theme, and Purpose,” which explored the idea of the author behind the narrator — the separation behind intention and perception with the writer and their creative manifestation. I pondered the idea of becoming who we never thought we would or could be, and how I’ve seen it happen to me despite my questioning of people’s true ability to change.

I, for one, never thought I would be incredibly romantic or cheesy in the way that couples are in movies, and yet, upon meeting my boyfriend, I became exactly that. He sometimes even jokes, “What would the Hadyn I met a year ago think about what you just said?”

My next thought, though, was: What does it mean to be creative?

Everyone is a consumer: We all watch, perceive, think, buy, judge, discuss and influence others to some extent in some way, shape or form. But not everyone gets to be called a producer because of the stigma surrounding what it means to be legitimate.

It’s the same stigma that exists around the “starving artist” or “struggling actor,” and if you really consider it, every industry. There is an obsession with ranking and public recognition regarding company names, job titles, who you know and what you do. As such, when creatives are first starting out, regardless of whether they have natural talent or not, or if their craft is not deemed “good” according to popular thresholds, they are degradingly labeled as hobbies.

Not only are they not taken seriously as they take their first step — big or small, in public or in private — but they are not acknowledged until they are comparable to the greats: the Miuccia Pradas of the fashion world, the Pablo Picassos of the art world or the Mark Ronsons of the modern producing world.

What I think is most frustrating, though, is the ageism that comes with this. When children are first starting new hobbies, we encourage them to keep trying regardless of expectations, peer pressure or uncertainty. We take each young person and nurture them under the light that they may be, in fact, the next prodigy in their respective industry — the one in a million like the 13-year-old who recently secured an internship with Louis Vuitton.

The inability to interpret the outcome of passion and drive in the creatives who are older in age as legitimate producers and creative visionaries comes from passive statements of, “How is your new hobby?” or “It’s so nice that you’re trying something new at your age.”

Just like the separation in interpretation between the authors and the readers in Salesses’ piece, there is an encoded dialogue of understanding between the interpretation of the observer and the intention of the creator. As a result, the appreciation is held ransom by discounting the value of the learning process — the trade behind the craft.

Truthfully, the issue with this is not because I’ve been made fun of recently or the fact that I personally don’t like to be “bad” at tasks — in fact, I’ve had my fair share of failed creative ideas and career paths. (Did I mention the one summer I ventured in retail, styling and jewelry making?) But my gripe is that this close-minded thinking is just as discouraging as stopping a three-year-old from coloring because they don’t understand color theory yet.

Vera Wang started her career at 40, Christian Dior pursued fashion at 37 and Giorgio Armani launched his main label line at 41, so why does the pursuit of world-recognized creative capability have to suddenly jump to a statistic of one in three-million-trillion for those over the age of 20?

I think the solution isn’t to ask you (the general audience) to be more open, but rather to reconsider what it means to be creative and what those qualifications must be. To be creative is to be one that creates; to be a producer is to be one that produces; to be a visionary is to be one that envisions.

Essentially, only you have to understand: You aren’t creating for others, or at least, you shouldn’t necessarily be. What you produce is a product of your thoughts, feelings, emotions and energy. And, as Peter Do for Helmut Lang recently showed us in the latest show with bubble-wrapped pants made of silk fabric, there is often more than meets the eye.

To recognize and internalize that change within yourself, though, takes courage and self-respect. As Frankie Valli puts it perfectly in his 1978 song, “Grease”: “We take the pressure and we throw away / Conventionality belongs to yesterday / There is a chance that we can make it so far / We start believin’ now that we can be who we are.”

People will talk, but what matters most is the person in your head. How do you see yourself? Who do you see yourself as? Doubts will be inevitable, but a title is a title.

So call yourself an emerging designer or the godfather of machine-manipulated polymorphed wool. I believe in you, and I believe in your creative visions.

I want to leave this movie quote for you before I go — it’s one of my top 10 favorite lines, and it’s from B.J. Novak’s film, “Vengeance” (2022): “Heart sees heart.” Well, I see you, and I hope that you will, too.

Hadyn Phillips is a junior writing about fashion in the 21st century, specifically spotlighting new trends and popular controversy. Her column, “That’s Fashion, Sweetie,” runs every Wednesday.

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