Tag: opinion

A Take On "Fashion's Gossip Addiction"

Vanessa Friedman wrote an interesting essay for The New York Times about fashion and the culture of gossip that has permeated the industry in an unmistakeable way. Friedman argues that because everybody spent so much time gossiping throughout fashion month rumors were started that were likely false (some widely, obviously unsubstantiated) and people failed to pay attention to the clothes. If a designer produced a good, almost daring collection, it was “a final collection”. People assumed that if a designer took a risk, they were on their way out. People speculated that designers were getting fired, that they were unhappy in their jobs, that they were being replaced by another big name – all for no reason.

Friedman argues that the reason for the surge in gossip is the ever-changing creative direction of brands. Started by Alexander Wang at Balenciaga, a three-year tenure tends to be the standard for designers at a brand. Raf Simons lasted for just over three years at Dior, too. It is not like the past where designers would stay at the helm of a brand for decades, like Karl Lagerfeld at both Chanel and Fendi. Riccardo Tisci, who spent twelve years at Givenchy, was rumoured to be headed to Versace. Those rumours were eventually squashed, now to have been replaced by rumours that Kim Jones of Louis Vuitton menswear is headed there. The hysteria over who is going where, and who is staying put, has overshadowed the actual creations in many instances, with designer debuts happening each season.

However, this gossip culture isn’t totally unfamiliar given that, as a society, we thrive off of gossip. It is like a poison that we keep going back to – the forbidden fruit. Anytime a celebrity does anything, there is a news article about it. We are people who like to know every little detail of a person’s life. If a celebrity posts something mildly cryptic on social media, there will be numerous fan-accounts dissecting the meaning, plus a DailyMail article (featured on Snapchat for maximum exposure, of course) recapping it all. Think of all of the controversy surrounding the alleged Kardashian-Jenner pregnancies – only one of three have been confirmed, yet every outlet is on bump watch, closely monitoring each sister’s goings-on. To think that the fashion industry has been polluted with the same poison makes a lot of sense.

I particularly liked Friedman’s analysis of why fashion may just be lacking that little something nowadays. She says it is because, paraphrased, that designers, due to their lack of commitment to the brand they are working at, have a lack of commitment to “vision”. Everything is just temporary. Brand codes aren’t getting made and long-term impact has been traded in for a short-term boost via social media impressions. This makes it harder for anybody to be invested in the brand, whether that be department store buyers who are choosing where to spend their open-to-buy each season (Is it worth investing heavily in a line that may go a completely different direction the next season, thus confusing their customers?), shoppers choosing where to spend their money (Are buzzy items really worth it? Often, no.), and the actual staff who work for the company, from the corporate side of things like the merchandisers and the sales team all the way down to the people who work on the design side of things in the ateliers. It must be hard to be heavily invested in your job and the company’s vision just to have it change again and again. That’s why after a designer leaves a brand, often many of the staff do too. The commitment isn’t to the brand itself but to the designer. The loyalty lies with the person, not the corporation that pays the bills. When Alber Elbaz was fired from Lanvin, the team was angry and disappointed. Having an unhappy workforce can’t be a productive environment.

All of this links back to the increasing pace of the fashion industry. Things are going at an unsustainable speed. People are getting burned out earlier than before. Too many people are quitting whilst they can. Furthermore, the fashion cycle is going quicker meaning that designers have to innovate season-upon-season (which have gotten closer and closer together) meaning that there is no time to conceptualize new ideas and build a real brand. The pace of fashion is killing creativity which in turn is leading to boredom. And do you know what bored people do? They gossip.

Fran Lebowitz on Fashion – Elle Magazine

Elle.com interviewed Fran Lebowitz recently and the results were kind of hilarious. What was said was funny not because the words were inherently funny, but because Fran Lebowitz really believes what she is saying and I fucking love that. Overall it was criticism after criticism, most of which I felt were pretty spot on. She spoke about the younger generation (or my generation, should I say?) not understanding that the trends of nowadays are not actually new, stores discontinuing great items, the changing dynamic of parent-children relationships, and actresses being unable to actually “wear” a dress.

For a little background info, Fran Lebowitz is an author known for her social commentary and her often controversial views (smokers rights for example). If I were doing an interview I think she’d be an ideal subject. Not often do you get people so brutally honest and outspoken. And yes, a lot of what she said was spot-on commentary on a whole bunch of people today. Don’t get hurt, just nod your head in agreement. I’ll share a few of my favourite quotes below…

ON YOUNG PEOPLE AND TRENDS… “….teenagers see them and go, ‘Wow, that’s edgy.’ If you’re 18 right now, you think you invented platform shoes. You think you’re doing something new. You think you’ve invented something so ugly that it’s beautiful. When we were young, we knew things. We knew basic history, even as it related to fashion. Now, when something reappears, an 18 year old has no clue that it’s a revival. Despite the fact that they’re almost always online they don’t get references.”

ON MAKING YOUR CLOTHES LAST… “People care more about trends now than they do about style. They get so wrapped up in what’s happening that they forget how to dress, and they never learn who they are because they never learn how to take care of anything. So much of what my generation was taught regarding clothes was how to make them last. How to wash and care for them.”

ON THE CHANGED RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN PARENTS AND THEIR KIDS… “Their parents like them much more than ours liked us. Our parents weren’t our friends. They disapproved of us. All our parents cared about was how we behaved, not how we felt, not what we wanted.”

ON THE INTERNET’S INFLUENCE… “Because of the Internet everybody sees the same stuff. You can buy the clothes of New York, even if you’re not living there. So I think that the accessibility, in this case, drives buying choices more than anything else.”

ON MEN WEARING SHORTS… “My fashion advice, particularly to men wearing shorts: Ask yourself, ‘Could I make a living modeling these shorts?’ If the answer is no, then change your clothes. Put on a pair of pants.”

ON NATURAL BEAUTY AND CLOTHES… “All these clothes that you see people wearing, the yoga clothes—even men wear them!—it’s just another way of being in pajamas. You need more natural beauty to get away with things like that. What’s so great thing about clothes is that they’re artificial—you can lie, you can choose the way you look, which is not true of natural beauty. So if you’re naturally beautiful, wear what you want, but that’s .01% of people. Most people just aren’t good looking enough to wear what they have on. They should change. They should get some slacks and a nice overcoat.”

ON HILLARY CLINTON… “I think her lack of style comes naturally. I do, I really do. She has no style, zero.”

ON ACTRESSES AT AWARDS SHOWS… “Even if the dresses are beautiful and expensive and important, the actresses can’t always carry them. Sometimes I feel like saying to them, ‘Act! You know how to act, you’re an actor. You’re about to win an award for (I don’t know) convincingly playing that Venezuelan nun who went to war. Now act like you can wear this dress.'”

ON SELF-CONFIDENCE AND LOOKING GOOD… “Maybe it’s superficial to exude a sense of confidence in one’s clothes. But it’s also integral. Yes, if you cover a man’s eyes, he legitimately might not remember what he has on. But is that really worth celebrating, or imitating? Personally I don’t think we need to emulate that level of stupidity. Because look, we have an appearance. Not all of us are beautiful. But we can appear fine looking. So we should. Feeling good about an outfit is the point at which that outfit finally becomes good.”

Really, the entire interview is worth reading. Go ahead! (Linked at the start of this post.)

 

 

Menswear: An Under-appreciated Market

Let me clarify things: I am a women, I wear women’s clothes and in my life have only ever purchased women’s clothes for myself (apart from that summer a few years ago when I was obsessed with printed t-shirts and I discovered that the men’s section in Primark did the best ones) and the only time that I buy menswear is as gifts for others. So why have I got any interest in it whatsoever? That is something that I am questioning myself. If I can’t wear it, and therefore participate in it, why should I care?

Menswear Collections Spring 2015 (from L-R) Prada, Dior Homme, Dolce & Gabbana, Givenchy
Menswear Collections Spring 2015 (from L-R) Prada, Dior Homme, Dolce & Gabbana, Givenchy

Men’s fashion is a whole different playing field than its female counterpart , hence making it so intriguing. The rules that apply to women’s fashion, or lack of, do not apply to men. They play from a different rule book and the objective of their game is entirely different than ours. Where women are flamboyant, men are conformist; where women are praised, men are criticised. It is for that reason that men’s fashion can be thought of as a little bit dull in comparison, mainly for the fact that menswear is much more outwardly simple than womenswear, although underneath it all that might not be the case. 

When I say men are conformist, I mean that as a sweeping generalisation and not at all as an insult. Us women are lucky in the fact that we really can wear anything with few questions asked: skirts, trousers, shorts, skorts.  Men, on the other hand, face difficulty in that area. Think of Kanye West and the fact that he has never lived down the time he wore a skirt, which was a custom made leather Givenchy kilt nonetheless. It sparked backlash from the hip-hop community (in particular) and people all around the world, showing that the world really isn’t ready for men in skirts.

The infamous kilt...
The infamous kilt…

So with the more limited options that men face, how does menswear continue to be interesting? Menswear designers, I’d say, have less freedom than womenswear designers. As fashion is a business and profits are key, designers need to create things that are bound to sell and as a result, need to make things that regular men would buy and wear often. There is no point in creating the wild, out-there things that some womenswear designers can get off with doing because, for one, the market is smaller and less reliable – think of womenswear designers creating abstract couture pieces which may be worn by actresses on red carpets or performers on tour; then think of the men of Hollywood who generally play it safe and wear a classic tuxedo -and secondly, the funds are lesser. That really is the crux of the matter and perhaps why menswear is a little bit underdeveloped in comparison to womenswear: money.

Historically, your classic client at a couture house is female. Since decades ago, maybe even hundreds of years, women have had it drilled into them that they must be attractive and they must dress well and, when it comes down to it, to do so means you must be able to afford it. Think of the elaborate dresses, corsets and undergarments worn by royals in the 16th century and beyond, they were the ultimate display of wealth and status. From then on, and really since the start of fashion design as we know it in the modern day, the focus has been on women. Traditional clients of couturiers were wealthy women from high up society families, socialites, movie stars, heiresses and the wives of very wealthy men: the only place for men in this equation was to provide the funds. The early designers like Charles Fredrick Worth and Paul Poiret (whose house is making a comeback) created couture for society’s elite, and eventually over time, fashion trickled down into ready-to-wear and became available to the masses. However, one thing has always remained pivotal: women remain the nucleus of fashion.

Although women are the key, men are almost equally as important. However, the way men shop is entirely different than women. They are less likely to buy into trends, more likely to buy classics that will last for years. They buy because they need to, not because they necessarily want to (as research by Mintel has shown). Women are more likely to buy into the latest fads just because women traditionally care about fashion more. It can be thought of as vanity to care about your appearance, clothing included, so many men shy away from this, not wanting to be perceived as superficial and less intellectual. Other men simply don’t care. My grandfather, for an example, doesn’t do his shopping himself and leaves that up to my grandmother to pick out his clothes. Perhaps he fits into the “don’t care” group?

Examples of Kanye's outfits
Examples of Kanye’s outfits

It is because many men don’t care, and simply buy clothes just because they have to, that menswear is an undeveloped market in comparison to womenswear. If men purchased more designer clothing, the market could grow. The lack of funds for many brands stops them from staging the elaborate shows and productions that we are used to seeing from womenswear designers. The shows are what define fashion and, really, what get the most press. It is because of the underexposure of menswear brands that the market isn’t as vast as womenswear, because population-wise, we are rather equal in numbers. Since menswear generally gets less coverage than womenswear in the mainstream media, perhaps because attitudes are still that fashion is woman’s game, it is down to the smaller outlets, such as blogs like my own, to try and provide the publicity that the smaller brands so desire. We all know Prada, Givenchy and the big fashion houses but what about the smaller ones?

Don’t get me wrong, menswear is not a failing market. In fact, it has grown by 18% in the past 5 years and sales are catching up with womenswear. A study by Mintel shows that the industry is worth £12.9 billion and by 2018 is set to be worth £16.4 billion: that is big money. However, the general attitude and thoughts surrounding menswear need to change I’d say. If men have a desire to learn more and be more involved in fashion, the stigma that surrounds it needs to be removed. It is not vain to be interested in fashion and it is not frivolous to care about clothes. Just because gender roles dictate that women are the ones who fuss over their appearance whereas men are the ones who fuss over their strength, doesn’t mean that you cannot do both. Yes, you can be a successful man who buys designer clothes and yes, you can care about trends in the same way that women do. Think like Kanye West and develop your own personal style whilst turning a blind eye to those who criticise you for doing so: Givenchy kilt wearing is optional.