New York Fashion Week Highlights – Fall 2018

NYFW was a blur to me. I didn’t actively pay attention to any of the happenings as they were happening but I did spend some time at the end of it all looking through images from all of the shows. I was on vacation for part of fashion week then in school then before I knew it, it was all over. I think that fashion week doesn’t actually pertain to you unless you work in the fashion industry as a buyer or an editor. Otherwise, it isn’t as important to stay timely with everything. As an enthusiast and consumer, I can afford to catch up at the end of it all. In a few years time, I hope to be in a position where it is paramount that I actually pay attention. Regardless, here is my round up of the best looks from the entire week. Enjoy!

Phillip Plein
Phillip Plein (minus the Saint Laurent knockoffs)
Pyer Moss
Pyer Moss

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The Précis – 17th February 2018

It’s a busy time in fashion right now. Fashion month is in full swing and we are now across the pond in London for the shows. Honestly, I’m still catching up on New York. I’m going to have a post rounding up my favorite styles from the city next week sometime (most likely on Wednesday) so stay tuned for that. In the meantime, here is your regular weekly column of some of the most interesting stories from the week.

“Cushnie Et Ochs Designers Split Ways After 10 Years in Business Together” – Fashionista

A FW18 Look

Cushnie et Ochs is always one of my favorite shows of New York Fashion Week, which just ended on Thursday. NYFW was a long, drawn-out affair this season and it was filled with news. The splitting of Cushnie et Ochs was some of the most interesting to me. The brand, started by Michelle Ochs and Carly Cushnie, upon graduation from Parsons 10 years ago, filled that gap in the market for sexy evening-wear that you could probably wear during the day if you were boss enough. Season upon season they managed to make fluid silky dresses that hugged every curve of the body in colors that would just pop on every skin tone. The news that the duo are going their separate ways came as a bit of a surprise to me as I had heard no rumors of an impending departure from Michelle Ochs. The future of the brand remains clear – Carly Cushnie is staying and it will be business as usual. I am curious to see if the aesthetic of the brand remains the same with just a singular vision and also what Michelle Ochs does next.

“Vogue Criticized for Unpaid Internships” – The Guardian

Edward Enninful’s tenure at British Vogue has not been without its missteps. The reaction to his appointment, which was supposed to herald in a new age at British Vogue filled with opportunity and equality, was overwhelmingly positive but that reception seems to have soured slightly. The latest news to break is that British Vogue is offering month-long unpaid internships, called shadowing. They argue that the internships are still legal because the employee is not bound to show up to work daily and that they are not actually doing a job but are observing someone else doing theirs. It sounds like a PR spin on an unfair reality. Unfortunately, the #NewVogue isn’t very different than its previous iteration.

Plagiarism or Inspiration?

The four main fashion weeks, or more so “fashion month”, occur biannually as a whirlwind of clothes, shoes, bags and walking mannequins (models) in marvellous creations slinking down the runways. The top designers showcase their visions and we (as the consumers) soak it up, often subconsciously.  Essentially what the designers show in February and September, a mere matter of months later the masses will be wearing. High street stores often recreate entire outfits that are seen on the runway and sell them for a tiny fraction of the price, making them available to the general public who cannot afford the immensely priced originals. Isn’t it unethical to copy someone else’s work for profit? Should we be thankful for the reasonably priced copies? It’s all a battle between what we, as the mass market, want and what we would want if we were the designers.

Firstly, the high street stores themselves are not solely responsible for copying the ideas. Designers are often exposed to the same influences in relation to art exhibitions, films, books and events and often draw inspiration from these. For this reason, coincidentally, designers may produce collections which have similar elements in them as others. Trend forecasting agencies such as WGSN are hired by the companies to help them to decide what is in and what is out for the upcoming season. For example, WGSN’s clients include River Island and Primark. What you see on the runway is then filtered into River Island and Primark at a lesser price hence why so many high street shops all appear to carry the same clothes, sometimes even in the exact same fabrics. Magazines and forecasting agencies then pick up on these and project them onto the public. The high street stores are told what to produce and the public is told what to buy. Just like that, a trend is formed. To further understand this, I fully advise you to watch the Devil Wears Prada. You may be thinking, “it’s just a film????” but really, there are so many snippets of truth in it. Take Miranda Priestly’s rant about how the two belts (photographed further down) are very much different, and how the designers’ collections made that colour very important, so much so that it had filtered all the way down into the bargain section of the department stores so that her dowdy assistant, Andy, could wear it. I have linked the video on youtube, it is hilarious and very apt (but an awful quality video, I do apologise).

This dress probably costs more than a year's college tution
This dress probably costs more than a year’s college tution

However, just because the high street stores are buying into a trend does not mean that they can make blatant copies of items. In France, you can face up to three years of jail or a maximum fine of £250000 for buying counterfeit goods; for buying an “inspired” item none of these charges occur. Different copyright laws exist for fashion than what exists in literature, art and music, hence making the lines as to what is copying and what is actually allowed a little hazy. Regardless, it is different buying a counterfeit item to an “inspired” item. At least with the latter, it is not falsely claiming to be a designer item unlike the counterfeit offenders. The troublesome part occurs when trying to decide when “inspired” is too close to borderline plagiarism. Christian Louboutin and his infamous red soled shoes are often subject to copies with numerous lawsuits against the culprits. A court case occurred against high street store Zara which Louboutin lost, even with the little copyright protection he was entitled to on his designs. With many high street stores such as H&M, Zara and Forever 21 becoming almost synonymous with designer “inspired” copies that are a little too similar to the originals, you are often left wondering how they manage to get away with it? If somebody copied a book, a poem, a song melody, a movie script would they get away with it? Highly unlikely. If you copy a clothing item, even down to the smallest detail, you can somehow escape unscathed. How? Simply because clothing isn’t entitled to the same protection as other art forms so it is relatively easy to win a case. It all comes down to the fact that fashion is thought of as a lesser art form than the rest: many people don’t even think of it as that. Fashion is the poor-mans art, some may think. Unworthy of the same rights and protections as classical art forms like painting and sculptures but often with a price tag to match. Fashion is just as collectable, and often just as valuable, as other creative outlets yet gets very little respect. Fashion is still thought of as frivolous, unimportant: mere fluff. Getting back to the law part, sometimes cases are even settled outside of court. A simple pay off and agreement seems sufficient to allow the high street chains to keep mass producing the copies. Is this wrong?

On the other hand, if it were not for these high street stores where would we shop? Only a small margin of people can afford to buy designer goods due to the excessive prices and the amount of small family run stores is ever decreasing. At least with our trusty high street items, we can afford to get a little mucky, the items are replaceable. Nobody wants to be in their “Sunday best” seven days a week. With the lower priced items of the high street, you know better than to expect something you paid a small price for to last you a lifetime. You do know, however, that it will last you the amount of time you want it for. With the ever changing cycle of fashion, what is the point in spending staggering amounts of money on clothing that in a year’s time you may not still like? Even the magazines advise this – in November 2014 Elle, they advise you to turn to the high street for trend pieces and only invest in designer goods if you see it becoming a classic or a wardrobe staple. By allowing high street imitations of the designer goods, it makes fashion accessible for a wider audience. Actually, I have started making my “Shopping Find” posts as a result of this. I am enjoying finding cheaper, designer inspired options out there on the high street, although some of what I have found really has been a little bit too similar.

Gemma Ward for Prada FW04. (Just wanted to showcase this beautiful image really).
Gemma Ward for Prada FW04. (Just wanted to showcase this beautiful image really).

In spite of this, designer goods are usually so expensive for a reason. You are paying for quality that cannot be rivalled by the high street stores. The price is often a reflection of the materials used to make them. Bags cost a small fortune due to what is used to create them; the ponyskin, the calfskin, the snakeskin. Designers will rarely use faux leather and if they do prices will be lowered dramatically to echo this (unless you are Stella McCartney…). Luxurious fur coats can cost you more than a brand new car, but increasingly even dresses can cost multiple thousands. The vast prices are also due to the fair wages and working conditions in which the actual makers of the clothes are given. Unlike in fast fashion where sweatshops are commonplace, the luxury designers take pride in their humane treatment of workers, something that is not afforded to fast fashion. The designers also do research in abundance when creating their collections and the money to cover that needs to come from somewhere. However, a huge mark-up does exist. This is to further the illusion of luxury. As the rich are getting richer, designers are able to charge much more for their products as their target market can afford to pay the obscene prices.

Money may not be the only object in the way of buying the designer goods. Since the designers are charging such high prices, logically, they must use the highest quality materials. They cannot charge such steep rates without that. But what if using the highest quality means using real fur, real leather, and real animal products? Many people have objections to this due to what they perceive to be the cruelty to animals. Many fashion shows are even targeted by groups such as PETA who have made famous the slogan “I’d rather go naked than wear fur” which has also been endorsed by many celebrities. Due to this, high street stores may be a better option as they are more likely to stock the faux versions for the same look as what is offered by the real thing but without the moral objections.

There was a wonderful scene in the Devil Wears Prada (photographed) where Meryl Streep's character wonderfully explains how fashion filters down through the designers and into the bargain basements of department stores. Basically, it explains the fashion industry in a nutshell.
There was a wonderful scene in the Devil Wears Prada (photographed) where Meryl Streep’s character wonderfully explains how fashion filters down through the designers and into the bargain basements of department stores. Basically, it explains the fashion industry in a nutshell.

Now, we could all lie and pretend that we are completely against the imitation designs that we see all across our beloved high street stores, that would be a falsity so what’s the point? As consumers we want value for our money and also products which we actually like. While it may be nice to be able to walk into a Prada boutique and buy a whole wardrobe worth of clothes, it is unlikely that the majority of us are ever in a financial situation where that’s viable. Most people are aware that counterfeit goods are wrong yet people still buy into them frequently so it’s improbable that people will ever object to the high street imitations of the designer goods. Some people simply don’t care and others are just unaware. Until copyright laws are changed universally in the favour of designers, the dupes will still crop up. As consumers we should revel in this; out of appreciation to the art form we should sympathise.

The Précis: 10th February 2018

It has been a busy couple of weeks for me. I went back to school to work on completing my Bachelor’s degree, it was my birthday, and I’ve been preparing to travel. It has also been a busy few weeks for the newscycle. Whilst it seemed like January was never going to end, I have a feeling that February will fly by given the sheer amount of things on the agenda for me. I’m happy about that because I am desperate to feel some warmth when I step out of the door. I am so over the winter.

“To Our Daughter” – Kylie Jenner

Kylie’s pregnancy reveal video was heartwarming and genuinely sweet. Her excitement and enthusiasm about this new chapter in her life is so beautiful, and I am impressed by the loyalty and the commitment of her friend group to keep her secret and not leak any images to TMZ. I think we all knew that Kylie was expecting and I’m sure she feels so lucky to have been able to have this experience in private.

“Skincare is good and also works” – Racked

At the end of January there was an article published which made waves on the internet. It basically said that skincare is a con and we are all wasting our money on fancy products that we do not need. As a skincare enthusiast, I was a little bit taken aback by the article. Yes, I know that we probably don’t need a 10 step routine like encouraged by a lot of K-Beauty enthusiasts, but taking care of your skin is nothing to scoff at. Fortunately, Racked has come back with a rebuttal and a good one at that. If you are a fan of taking care of your skin and having a little “me” time, try reading Cheryl Wischhover’s response. It will reaffirm your confidence in your routine. Also, even if it is all a con, if you enjoy it why stop?

Thoughts on Influencers

I wonder if it is worth being influential if being influential makes you lose your self-worth?
Or maybe not your self-worth entirely but it makes you lose it coming from an internal source.
Is it worth relying on the validation of others to assess the validity of your opinions?
Or is it better to trust your instinct and do what you think is best?
At the end of the day, influence is not infinite.

Is it better to yell out into the void, if you are yelling your truth?
Or is it better to speak to the masses if you are just being a mouthpiece for whoever is funding your life?
Do you want to be seen and heard for your true self or for who you think you should be?
Who you are being paid to be?
What you are being paid to believe?
Where is the line?

I have been doing a lot of hard thinking on the concept of influencers recently as I feel like it is a trend which has permeated culture in a way that cannot be ignored. Being an influencer is something that kids aspire to be nowadays and that thought alone scares me. It is considered an admirable feat, achieving online popularity, but is it really true? I would argue, no.

I was scrolling through my Instagram explore page last week when I came across a brand page for a company owned by an influencer. It had a follower count in the low six-figures yet received just a few hundred likes per post. Immediately I thought something was fishy. It has been said that accounts with under 1000 followers should have an engagement rate of around 7-8% and 2-3% for large accounts (100k+). This account had an engagement rate of around 0.5%, meaning not even 1% of its followers were liking their posts. Using services like Social Blade, you can see large spikes in followers, quickly followed by a loss of around half that sum. That tends to indicate that somebody has bought followers. If their daily average is around 100 new followers a day, then one day there is 1000 new followers, they’ve probably purchased them. It’s easy and inexpensive to do, but builds you an inauthentic following. I wonder if Instagram were to delete every bought follower what the true following count of each account would be? For this account, I’d argue only around 5000 followers. For that said influencer’s own account (1m+), I’d estimate the real following to be around 150k.

One thing I noticed was this account with a large following was still buying frequent re-ups of followers. I found this sad because it made me realize that no matter how big your account is, if you are somebody who is so sucked into this social media lifestyle the numbers will always matter to you. You will always judge yourself based on the numbers at your disposal. You don’t want to look any less popular than you may have once appeared to be.

I recently privated my own Instagram account and I feel glad that I did it. I’m not trying to be “known”. I’d like to be recognized in my own industry for my work and brains, and for being a nice person. I’d like people to actually like me because they like me, not because I have a lot of people following me. I don’t like when people judge someone to be cool just because they have a large following. That is lame. It’s like an extension of high school, an ongoing popularity contest. It just allows an immature mindset to flourish in adulthood, something that should’ve been left in adolescence.

In ten years time, what will all of the followers be worth? What will have happened to each influencer when social media stops being a big thing? Some of them have struggled to create long-lasting brands that can stand on their own outside of the online personality’s own fame. For those people, all of these years will have been wasted. The only way I can see an online following being beneficial is if you manage to convert the followers into customers and build a real, successful brand. A brand that is sold in stores, a brand that can stand on its own with product that has real value besides the name being slapped on it. I wonder who is here for the long haul and who will disappear into the void.