It was around 2007 that I really first registered the winds of change. I was still covering New York Fashion Week in person and experienced firsthand the Fashion Week that marked the beginning of the end.
At the time, NYFW was still held in makeshift tents in Bryant Park, normally a public space that adds a touch of welcome green to the concrete jungle that is Midtown Manhattan. Twice a year, the giant white tents would sprout up throughout the park. I must say, it was always great sport to watch the fash-insiders teeter about in fabulous but completely inappropriate footwear, attempting to negotiate the cobblestones and other impediments to looking cool. Fortunately, they could sneakily take a load off away from the glare of paparazzi if they could just make it to the main tent, for inside the entrance, they could safely collapse in one of the chairs scattered about with cafe tables. In addition to giving one's pissed-off feet a break, editors also used the chairs and tables to make calls, write up their show notes, conduct interviews, meet people, or otherwise chill between shows.
The Season That Everything Changed, however, the tables and chairs were completely gone! In their place: two massive Mercedes cars resting on carpets. Around which the non-backstage masses now sat on the floor between shows. Other than it being annoying to camp out on the ground during the depths of February in New York, when everyone tracks in slushy snow, mud and other winter-wonderland nastiness, I've never been one to fret such things that much. Sure, it was annoying - but what I actually found beyond annoying was being sternly instructed I was too close to a precious Mercedes by one of the studs in Armani'ish suits hired to look hot - as well as keep the floor-sitting fash-masses from touching the cars.
As the Fashion Week's sponsor, Mercedes obviously had the right to put its cars wherever it wanted in the show venue to offset the ridiculous amounts of money it spent paying for the privilege. But as I listened to the grumbling around me, I began to wonder: "Why? Why would you want to piss off fashion writers attending a trade show by making them sit on the ground and be insulted by pretty plastic men?"
So the next season, I wasn't in the least surprised to read that the longtime organizer of Fashion Week, IMG, had suddenly reversed their notoriously anti-blogger stance and were now welcoming bloggers by the boatload. Which made perfect sense from a business perspective. These lowly bloggers, grateful to suddenly be allowed access, would breathlessly report back to their readership about the experience, taking great pains to praise Mercedes and the rest of the brands involved. Overflowing swag bags filled with loot from the participating brands sealed the buzz deal, ensuring an ocean of free blogger blah-blah.
This morphing from trade show to brand showcase actually presaged a disturbing trend that pattern-recognizer extraordinaire Li Edelkoort recently addressed in a dramatic, 10-point manifesto about the "end" of fashion. Describing the fashion industry as "a ridiculous and pathetic parody of what it has been," (amen!) she takes the industry to task for resolutely ignoring The Now in favor of a world long gone. In particular, the designer-as-diva. "In a society hungry for consensus and altruism," she observes, "the fashion world is still working in a 20th-century mode, celebrating the individual, elevating the it-people, developing the exception...to become catwalk designers, highly individual stars and divas, to be discovered by luxury brands. This places fashion out of society and de facto makes it old-fashioned."
Unfortunately, there is far more at stake than just hemlines.
As designers spend their time in fashion schools learning to build their brand rather than the industrial-design side of things, the technology is vanishing. "Students are no longer instructed in textile creation and basic knowledge about cloth," she notes, so "the first to be sacrificed are knitting and weaving ateliers." Particularly the highly-skilled, tradition-rich yarn, fiber and textile businesses in Europe. "Without them, the knowledge of spinning, weaving, finishing and printing will be lost."
These high-quality, tradition-saturated inputs have unfortunately been sacrificed at the altar of accounting. The industry-wide drive for ever-leaner supply chains has led to a "rapid and sordid restructuring process, which has seen production leave the western world to profit from and exploit low-wage countries." And sell at fast-fash prices. "Prices profess that these clothes are to be thrown away, discarded as a condom and forgotten before being loved and savoured, teaching young consumers that fashion has no value," continues Edelkoort. "The culture of fashion is thus destroyed. Now that several garments are offered cheaper than a sandwich, we all know and feel that something is profoundly and devastatingly wrong." (image)
Fortunately, peeking through this marketing-driven mountain of cheap-crap clothing there is a glimmer of sunshine: we, the consumer. "The consumers of today and tomorrow are going to choose for themselves, creating and designing their own wardrobes," writes Edelkoort in her manifesto. "They will share clothes amongst each other since ownership doesn't mean a thing anymore. They will rent clothes, lend clothes, transform clothes and find clothes on the streets. Clothes will become the answer to our industries' prayers. Clothes will dominate trends for the future. Therefore let's celebrate clothes."
Which is just what the Paris-based designer Jacquemus seems to be doing with his Fall 2015 collection that is deliciously off-kilter (he worked at Comme des Garçons) and features much concept-over-hanger-appeal plus playfulness. "I cut jackets like little kids will do—sometimes the cut is weird, there is just a half top," he explained to Style.com. "I like this randomness." Style.com, however, didn't. "With this collection's porthole and strap construction, the shirtsleeves sewn onto the front of a dress, and the general askewness of the clothes, this outing definitely had its avant-garde antecedents in the work of Rei Kawakubo. Rei had the shock of the new going for her, though; Jacquemus does not," sniffed Style.com's Nicole Phelps. "Add up the one-leg pants and the bared breasts, and what you got today was a collection that felt too effortful on the one hand, and not polished enough on the other. From season to season, Jacquemus has bopped from commercial-mindedness to conceptualism. Such unpredictably isn't entirely a surprise: He is all of 25, after all, and he never finished design school."
No piece of paper from a design school? The horror.
Honestly, the fact he didn't finish design school is probably a good thing as is his focus on the actual clothes - with large doses of whimsy thrown in because actual clothes that are fun are what those of us who don't live in a Style.com world want. Clothes. Not fashion. Not design school. Clothes.
Methinks that a snarky diss of a review from Style.com is the new black. :)
- Lesley Scott
NOTE: The anti-establishment feel of this collection is very congruent with the vibe of the Apocalytical fashion tribe which has a chic cloud of effitalltohellalready Doomsday & End Times that seems to follow them everywhere. For more of my posts and podcasts about the Apocalytical tribe, CLICK HERE. To learn more about each of fashion's four mega-tribes that I track, START HERE.