Category Archives: Fashion Week

The Revolving Door of Fashion

A long time ago, when I started this blog, I used it as a forum to talk about fashion, but also to talk openly and honestly about the state of the industry and the things I found incredible and / or concerning about it. It’s a slippery slope to write about fashion because on one hand you want to be supportive of the art and design, and on the other you have to be realistic about fashion as a business and the often-ugly truths about it.

I’ve always enjoyed reading about the industry too, and even more so lately with the honesty of some of the writers, and often times even designers who are questioning the state of things and the direction the industry is taking.

Last week, one of my favorite fashion writers, Cathy Horyn, wrote an excellent piece for New York Magazine about something I’ve been saying for far too long – that the industry, acting like a revolving door for some designers, is continuing to lose it’s luster.

If you follow the industry it’s no secret that in an effort to “revive” what were some very successful brands, there is a constant merry-go-round of designers that come in and go out, and get traded like athletes. But should they?

According to various sources, Carven, a fashion house founded in 1945, had many notable license agreements through 70’s, and has had substantial changes in investors and designers in 1990, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2011, and finally 2015 with Alexis and Adrien Martial Cailaudaud at the helm and showing their first collection for the brand. Is it even fair to keep calling it Carven?

Other examples, where new designers came in and I think ultimately undermined the essence of a brand were Alexander Wang for Balenciaga, and Karl Largerfeld for Chanel. The designers make an effort to identify with the style of the brand, but ultimately end up only able to offer an exaggerated example. They try to make things “modern,” but to many, educated eyes, they come up short and can’t quite deliver the authenticity they may strive to.

And while the fashion writers continue to try to figure out where the authentic designers are, the authentic designers are trying to resist the lure of big business and live a life as close to the integrity of their craft as they can get. Some eventually succumb to fame and fortune, and others (thankfully) say, if I can’t be authentic, then why bother?

What’s even more interesting is that most of the designers that can afford to stay authentic are usually wealthy women, who love fashion, have talent, and won’t – make that don’t – have to compromise for anyone. From Stella McCartney, to Victoria Beckham, to Rosetta Getty, to Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen of The Row, they stay true because the can. The same holds for Phoebe Philo and Céline. While she doesn’t’ come from a place the others do, the brand has stayed true, and Phoebe has real talent, and that is the winning combination.

On the other hand, are people noticing that in most of the major fashion houses where the designers are rotating through are usually hiring men? They come. And then they go. Which begs the question: does having a “muse,” qualify you to design what’s best for women?

It’s just something to think about, really.

And all of this brings me back to the point I continue to make, that things with real substance and integrity are being honored less and less…and less.

I am hopeful for the future in fashion because while Cathy Horyn observes how “many designers have a one-dimensional view of glamour that boils down to tits and fringe,” designers like Phoebe Philo continue to look for ways to remain innovate and authentic – and try to answer the questions; What is too much? What is not enough? And what looks authentic?

Céline

Céline

Stella McCartney

Stella McCartney

The Row

The Row

Victoria Beckham

Victoria Beckham

Rosetta Getty

Rosetta Getty

 

Has New York Fashion Week Lost Its Luster?

This is the first February, in a very long time that I have not gone to New York City for fashion week. While I used to have a first-hand account of the over-saturation that is fashion these days, I have no choice but to rely on viewing the collections posted to Style.com and reading the witty wisdom and talent of fashion writers like Vanessa Friedman (http://nyti.ms/1wJFNwy) and Cathy Horyn (http://thecut.io/1CixejB) – who held nothing back this season.

Between the two of them (and many more) it was made abundantly clear that fashion week just isn’t what it used to be – and that’s not necessarily a good thing. Friedman, who dubbed the ever-expanding spectacle “fashion month,” was concerned about finding focus among the “hundreds of shows in four cities on two continents.” Horyn, was refreshingly blunt with her “colorful” language, and after having been out of the industry for quite some time, was able to come to fashion week with a different perspective, one that helped her see the “yawning gaps” and “oversaturation” of the business. I think they were both trying to be upbeat, despite the state of affairs.

Of all the reports I saw, fashion week was over-run with an over-arching trend to revisit the 70’s. Platform shoes, suede coats, copious amounts of fringe and an abundance of psychedelic patterns ruled the runways. Now, I realize the millennials have yet to experience the fashion statements of that decade, but I’ve lived through it twice – once in the actual decade that was the 70’s, and again when it had resurgence in the 90’s – and sadly fall 2015 fashion is not experiencing a fresh take.

From where I sit, revisiting the 70’s seems a little too safe for my taste, and I was really hoping that more than a designer or two would take more risks and go deeper into territories unknown – and a few did, but in doing so really just pushed the limits of all things absurd instead.

As I scrolled through show after show, image after image, I began to wonder why this theater of the absurd had become the choice. I wondered where the middle ground that represents the socio-economic climate of the times was. Instead I kept seeing regurgitated “looks” pumped out and every critic giving it a sartorial “thumbs up.” And it solidified, for me, that just because you call yourself a critic and claim to have an opinion, it doesn’t make you an expert or an authority in fashion. The truth is, you don’t have to “be” in fashion to know that everything looks the same.

If you want to know how I really feel, there is just so much bad taste out there – and good taste is not being honored…and it’s sad.

I feel for those who tried to cover fashion week this year. Summing up hundreds of fashion shows in one week…in the middle of some of the worst snowstorms ever…with nothing to write or talk about. Caught between the mediocre and the absurd, witnessing designers using crowd sourcing as a way of putting out their collections. Don’t they understand that by doing so they aren’t creating a desire for what they do anymore? Don’t they see that they are creating a paradigm of repetitiveness, and there is only so long a consumer can stay on the hamster wheel with nothing new presented to them before they become bored and turn their backs on an industry that can only continue to deteriorate?

I could relate to Cathy Horyn, and I sensed her struggle as she looked for bits and pieces to write about so she wouldn’t come across as some old lady. However, I don’t believe for a minute it’s generational, I think it’s just not so good anymore. I find fashion to be redundant, and not really what consumers want or need.

I have a profound appreciation for those who expose their jugular veins and really take risks in fashion. But they have to put their necks out with purpose, not simply to put on a show.

I’ve been surrounded by the business of fashion my entire life, and have been standing next to it for the last couple of decades, at least. And when I look back to the fashion of the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s through the 90’s, it was apparent that designers of those times were really putting a mark on a world that they greatly influenced. Now I can’t help but wonder, who is making a mark, where is the passion, what is the legacy that is going to be left behind?

I wonder.

nyfw-runway-151896415

Meanwhile, in Paris…

Each season I board a plane to Paris and expect to find some inspiration when I land. I attend shows and visit showrooms; I talk to other businesswomen and men; I meet with designers and exchange ideas with magazine editors…all in an effort to find and bring new ideas and inspiration back to Boston.

I don’t want to sound like a curmudgeon, but as my trip came to a close last week and I found myself ready to come home, I realized that overall, I wasn’t so inspired.

Actually, I’m quite happy with what I bought while I was there, and I had no problem committing to the designers and ideas that I did, but I’m glad I went into it with a definitive point of view – because when people walk into the major department stores in spring, I don’t know if they’ll be able to find one. Sure, you’ll see the trends – but inspiration? I’m not so sure.

I really enjoyed what designers like Haider Ackermann, Jonathan Saunders, Victoria Beckham, and Roland Mouret had to say, but beyond that most everything else smelled quite unauthentic. It seemed the creative air was sucked out of the city in some odd way. Paris has always been about the artistry, but more and more it’s become about going “global,” and the art is getting lost.

I understand that the name of the game is the bottom line, but we can’t forget that ingenuity has paved the road to the bottom line for many incredible designers throughout the ages. There is no question that fashion is losing its edge and becoming too commercialized overall. Authenticity is becoming lost and not only is it affecting the subconscious behaviors of consumers, it’s taking an evident toll on the industry itself.

One of the last shows of Fashion Week was Chanel. Karl Lagarfeld transformed the Grand Palais into a Paris Boulevard and it seemed, a feminist protest. Models strutted together in a large group, shouting with and without megaphones, carrying posters to protest…I don’t know what, or more importantly perhaps, why. Was it a protest of fashion? Quite honestly it left me feeling confused, not inspired.

It seemed there was a sense of anti-fashion off of the runway as well. I couldn’t help but notice the fashion bloggers who are usually very well dressed were a bit more casual in Paris. I saw a lot of boy jeans and white shirts and man-style shoes, indicating that none of them wanted to fall into fashion? I got the sense that Tommy Ton didn’t know what or who to shoot because everyone was dressed so similarly. Nary a Christian Louboutin heel or Céline bag could be found. The tone was definitely toned down and it felt unsettling to me that people were holding back.

Other unsettling news came via WWD where I learned that New York would be adding five new 250k square foot department stores to the borough of Manhattan. Why? So they can sell everything on sale? So the conglomerates that own a great deal of the fashion space can continue to seek a dominant space in the market? At what price?

Quite often I feel like Vanessa Freidman, Fashion Director and Chief Fashion Critic of the New York Times, is one of the only other people who sees what I see, and is willing to talk about it. If you read her articles it’s clear she wants to know what the purpose is of fashion these days, and why the industry is behaving as it is. What’s going on and what’s it really all about? Do we need another paparazzi picture of Kim and Kanye arriving late to a fashion show?

Unfortunately, my need for authenticity and integrity wasn’t quite satiated this season. It seemed the designers wanted to say or demand something, but they didn’t quite know what it was – and it’s for this reason that the reaction of the industry to build more toward dominance seems quite counterproductive at this time.

My hope is that the industry starts to see and dismantle the hamster wheel they’ve built for consumers to build an appetite with, and instead find ways to encourage consumption that has some meaning behind it. Find a way to encourage originality and authenticity, and understand that people want to devour that even more.

Meanwhile…I’m walking around the city streets of Paris wearing pieces that I brought from Boston. Pieces from Louis, past and present – all mixed up but with a distinct point of view. People were stopping me, asking me how I put things together – finally something to talking about!

…and so I ask, do you really care where Kim and Kanye are today?

Haider Ackermann

Haider Ackermann

Jonathan Saunders

Jonathan Saunders

Victoria Beckham

Victoria Beckham

Roland Mouret

Roland Mouret

(all images: style.com)