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?