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?
(all images: style.com)