I’ve not always aspired to work in fashion. When I was a kid, I actually wanted to become from time to time a ballet dancer, a jockey, an ambassador and even an interpreter. But then I realized that all of these professions had something in common, something that I was looking for in my ideal job, something that this industry could give me every single day: an intense rhythm that could take me discovering new places, meeting talented and passionate people and more importantly, a unique experience that could make my heart beat. That was it. I was looking for this feeling. Adrenaline. I felt it in sports, I felt it on the back of my horse and on the scene, and I felt it at fashion shows. From this time on, my decision was made. Fashion was attracting me into its arms and I felt in total connivence with her. Until today.
This is certainly why I stopped running this blog for a while (and I already wrote about it here). Because fashion ceased giving me what it always did since the very beginning – a reason to dream. I did not feeling anything anymore like some sort of overwhelming emptiness refilled day after day by an obnoxious Instagram feed. Maybe you too felt it once, this sensation of “too-much”. Like if Instagram was emptying my writing skills and drastically reduced my dreaming and creative capabilities. I was looking at shows that did not make any sense to me, that left me completely emotionless and even worse, indifferent. Fashion shows more and more led to some kind of passiveness, whereas a fashion observer should feel part of the creative process by experiencing whatever feeling. It is exactly this obtained reaction which makes it an active player of the whole show. At least I thought that this exact receptivity was what really defined the success of a collection.
But roughly since the departure of John Galliano for Dior, designers showed more and more minimalist collections. Or should I say, apathetic collections. Fewer, darker, simpler. Cold-hearted like psychopaths. The comparison is on point. Insensitiveness came into this industry and propagated almost everywhere: in the way of showing collections, in the way of interacting with people, in the way of doing business. Shows left us indifferent besides the evident efforts of branding: the grand settings, the front-row celebrities, the glamour of it all, which after all inheres to this industry. Fashion shows became the expression of a business model more than a celebration of creativity and an obscene ladder to reach short-term fame. It also impacted the way we interacted with each other. Relationships became traps put up to attract the weakest. No care. Never. There is no human side to this industry. You cannot afford yourself the luxury to trust someone who is at first glance kind to you, who you believe to be honest. Because you’ll get looped. The fashion industry epitomizes and exaggerates every aspect of business. But this is not what I am criticizing. I am more concerned with the lack of humanity which has developed for the last decade. A case in point is the Lucinda Chambers case. You can read more about it here.
The point that I’m trying to make here is to demonstrate how creativity has suffered from all this negativity. Fashion is no more exciting, it does not sell dream anymore. We reached a peak point, where the essence of luxury has been trashed out. It became rough glamor. With no feeling whatsoever. When you read today’s fashion editorials, it does not inspire anymore. Fashion press became the sbire of luxury groups, another marketing tool to sell advertisers. There is no thought process anymore in the way of shooting fashion. I worked at Marie-Claire, I can tell you how it works. You get a list of advertisers, you’re told to gather all the new items, you add them up on a model in an impersonal studio, you adjust the lights so it values the products and you shoot. One photographer once told me this story. He was shooting for Vogue Russia so they paid him the flight, the five-star hotel and all the other expenses. And you know what’s the best part? He did not have the opportunity, not one, to shoot in the city! I mean, they locked him up in a studio, with basic backgrounds that he could have found anywhere in Milan or Paris. This is exactly what’s happening to fashion right now, and maybe money is part of the answer. It corrupted creative processes and pushed artistic minds to their limits.
Pressure and Money
Not surprising to see so many designers transferring from one seat to another. The pressure is so intense. And we really get a sense of what it’s like when reading Cathy Horyn’s interview with Raf Simons before his departure from Dior.
2016 was exceptional as we witnessed maybe twelve or so musical chairs. Designers are no more free to deliver a full creative production. Creation is impeded by so many leverages from outside, marketing tools, production time constraints, see-now buy-now etc… they are limiting the designer’s ability to take time and focus. In fact, maybe it all comes to this. Time. And it is not only a question which is so accurate for our sector. You may have already felt it youself, this enormous pression hanging over your head, enhanced by social networks. We have no more time for ourselves. Time becomes the true luxury. Those who possess time will generate more efficiency and more inventivity.
The whole industry is engaged in a furious race for money. But who are the collateral victims? Creatives or brands themselves? The incredible
musical chairs in terms of designers that we saw last year are very much noxious to the brand image, as it underlines an incapacity to keep a straight and cohesive line. Let’s take a simple example: we had Galliano for Dior with a clear statement, then we had Bill Gayten for some months with a complete reverse logic, then came Raf Simons poles apart and Maria Grazia who is once again doing a complete other job. Diversity is a strength, but in that case, it weakens the brand ambitions and what the customer envisions. There is no clear definition of what Dior is about now, a notion the house needs to rebuild. But that is another topic.
Now, that doesn’t necessary mean that all brands are falling in this infernal circle. There are indeed some very innovative collections like Moschino, Gucci and young designers like Iris Van Herpen, playing with physical properties of the fabric and 3D printing.
The fashion industry comes into an era where content is fundamental but where the brand environment is even more important and will impact the customer’s buying decision. We saw it with Alessandro Michele boosting the sales at Gucci while rebranding the House into his own vision (at the shows, in the clothes, in the shops). It is the essence of luxury to sell dream and leaders should pay attention to this downwards trend of “luxury mainstreaming” which have a negative impact on the final turnover.