THE CURRENT STATE OF FASHION
So, it’s been quite a while I’ve been meaning to do a post like this, one with a lot of my views on the current state of fashion…
After all, that’s why you’re here right?
…and I do think it’s important to do before I begin my NYFW recaps so here goes!
long post ahead!
I have had this blog for about five years now – albeit not always actively blogging.
But, since then, my views on fashion – both creatively, and as an industry, have grown and changed.
I can now appreciate a number of labels objectively – not just the major ones – for their ability to, not only carve a space for themselves in such a massive industry but also to be able to produce the quality of innovative designs on the scale and timeframe that they do.
Needless to say, the fashion industry is a well-oiled machine.
I also now equally recognize both the practical and artistic elements of clothing; that it can be empowering, thought-provoking, and sometimes can even change our perception of how one should cover one’s body (Commes des Garçons, Gareth Pugh).
However, especially as of late, I am, as we all should be, seeing just how political it can be.
I have always maintained that fashion is art.
Commercially consumed art? But art nonetheless.
Art that we all participate in.
Art that is meant to be political; a reaction to the times around us.
And in Trump’s era, fashion is probably the most reactionary and emboldened that it has been in a while.
This can be seen from designers (Prabal Gurung, Maria Grazia Chiuri, Dior) making literal political statements on t-shirts (We Should All Be Feminists, This is what a Feminist Looks Like, Girls Just Want To Have Fundamental Rights) promoting equality and inclusiveness, to this notion of activism trickling down through the themes of collections.
Fashion has never before been more inclusive:-
- with gender neutral/unisex clothing -as seen at Christian Siriano
- a mish-mosh of mens’ and womenswear – Gucci, Tom Ford, and Calvin Klein have pioneered the merging of their men’s and women’s’ shows leaving one to question the fate of Mens’ Fashion Week
- a blurring of the seasons – Kenzo, Monique Lhuillier, Proenza Schouler, and Rodarte have all chosen to show their major Ready-to-Wear collections during a week typically reserved for Paris Couture
There has also never been more diversity in runway castings.
For the Spring 2018 season:
- Reports [indicate] that 36.9% of those on the runway were models of color, an increase from 31.5% during the Fall 2017 season – just 6 months prior
(For comparison, for Spring 2015, that number was only 20.9%)
- What’s more [impressive is that], the spring shows marked the first time that every runway show included at least two models of color (up from last season’s record-breaking one model of color on every runway)
- There were 31 transgender or non-binary models that appeared on the runway.
- A record 90 plus-size models appeared across 12 runways; the Fall 2017 runways featured only 26 plus-size models.
- And finally, there were 10 “aged” or over-50 models; as compared with six for Fall 2017.
And, while it is clear that fashion is straying away from the traditional and “what has been done,” and trying to form new habits, this idea of reform is still a work in progress.
However, the underlying stimulus for all this seems to be personalization – for both the consumers and the labels.
It’s about what works for you.
Re consumers, when asked what she deems the biggest transformation of the year has been trend-wise, Candice Fragis, Buying and Merchandising Director; Farfetch, says the following.
“The word rebellion comes up. I see that in streetwear, putting a finger up to the typical idea of luxury, to the zeitgeist, mainstream politics. . . . You can wear your Martine Rose or Balenciaga big sweater with a leather Prada pant and a Fenty slide.
It’s about being comfortable but luxurious, and the multi-hyphenate generation is leading this. It’s not about being defined by one look or one trend; gone are the days of the trend of the moment, which I am really happy about. Now you’re facilitating your own brand, not just buying into a brand.
And the idea of customizing luxury, next year we’re going to be major on that.”
And of course, the ever important casting relates to this as more diverse runways lead to more diverse consumers etc…
Conversely, many brands themselves are also experimenting, not necessarily with their products, but with their business models.
From new creative ventures (Dior + Ballet, Balmain + the Opera), to finding new ways to showcase collections – many designers are either opting out of the Fashion Week collective (Fenty x Puma, Alexander Wang showing off-season in June and December) and releasing lookbooks or hosting private shows at their own venues.
Some are even completely changing the city in which they show, an evidence of a globalizing industry:
- Delpozo leaving New York for London
- Victoria Beckham also leaving New York to return to London
- And, as previously mentioned – Monique Lhuillier, Rodarte and Proenza Schouler leaving New York for Paris.
And of course, some are even hiring new creative directors (CDs).
In the past few seasons alone, many major labels have cycled through the following creative directors – referred to by some as the fashion world’s musical chairs:
Nicholas Ghesquière (1997 – 2012), resigned and moved to Louis Vuitton (2013 – present), Alexander Wang (2012 – 2015), left to focus on his own label; replaced by Demna Gvasalia (2015- present) who also is the creative director for Vetements (2009 – present)
- Calvin Klein
Raf Simons (2016 – present) previously of Dior (2012 – 2015)
Phoebe Philo departed the label after ten years (2008 – 2018) to be replaced by Hedi Slimane who helmed Dior Homme (2001 – 2007) and YSL (2012 – 2016)
Raf Simons (2012-2015) resigned and replaced by Maria Grazia Chiuri (2016-present) previously of Valentino (2008 – 2016)
Ricardo Tisci (2005 -2017) left amicably after 12 years, to be replaced by Claire Keller (2017 – present)
Albert Ebaz (2001 – 2015) ousted and replaced by Bouchra Jarrar (2016 – 2017) who, after two seasons was also dismissed
- Roberto Cavalli
Peter Dundas (2014 – 2016) resigned and replaced by Acne’s Paul Surridge (2017 – present)
But of course, as well-intentioned as it is, the industry is not devoid of criticism.
As people become more critical of what they used to blindly ingest, the fashion world – one that is virtually impossible to avoid – and its hierarchy is not impervious to scrutiny.
The shuffling of CDs begs to ask;
- Is the industry just a tangled nepotistic web? How easy is it for fresh talent to rise to the top?
- And, if it’s the same creatives, are we just cycling through the same standards of beauty?
Further questions include:
- Does trend-forecasting harm more than it helps?
Does it kill creativity and encourage lazy designs as designers rely on what is ‘predicted’?
- How relevant are fashion reviews, and by extension fashion reviewers when we form our own opinions anyway?
- And of course the ever important questions about fashion’s social, ethical (equality within the industry, sexual harassment cases against famed photographers Bruce Weber, Terry Richardson, and Mario Testino, laborers’ rights – especially in fast-fashion) and environmental responsibility.
And, while these questions may not find answers anytime soon, one thing is for certain, the industry is getting a much-needed go-over with a fine-toothed comb.
Soon the dust will settle and the chips will fall where they may, however despite all this, fashion still serves as an outlet for many.
And, in a time of oversaturated media and “fake news,” it has been noted that designers – and clothes – that have a genuine heart will ultimately be the ones to succeed.
Fashion is a fantasy for many, an escape – and so “reality” doesn’t quite sell – especially when the reality is today’s tense political climate.
However, as it returns to its optimistic state to help those through these tough times, the words of industry mogul, Anna Wintour come to mind:
“The great thing about fashion is that it’ll always look forward.”
And maybe we should keep our heads up and do the same.