The more I think about today’s fashion, the more I realize it’s defined by a kind of fear of empty spaces, or horror vacui in fancier terms. From the number of shows/year, the number of pieces in a runway collection, the number of people attending the shows, or lurking outside the shows, the infinite number of tweets, retweets, to the absurd number of clothing items displayed in stores, the fashion industry is desperately trying to feed us content, to fill every inch of our news feed with its creations. Not a single pixel left unused. It almost seems as if it is trying to keep us distracted from what is actually happening…the end of fashion as we know it.
Li Edelkoort, one of the most prominent trend forecaster published recently an Anti_Fashion manifesto in which she argues why she believes the fashion industry “is going to implode”. Throughout the ten chapters that constitute the manifesto, she tackles different issues of the fashion industry, like the educational system, manufacturing, designers, consumers, marketing, and others. Unfortunately I didn’t have the chance to read the manifesto in its original form, but in the article published on dezeen.com, there was a phrase that caught my attention: “Clothes will become the answer to our industries’ prayers”, due to the marketing’s demand for sellable products, not innovation, or experimentation in the field of fashion design. Slaves to financial institutions, hostage of shareholder interest, designers are recycling trends from the past, fearful of not disappointing the brand owners, and being replaced.
This perspective sheds light on the curious case of Hedi Slimane and his current success in rebranding the YSL brand. In a recent article published on Business of Fashion we are informed about the commercial success of his Saint Laurent experiment. According to recent analysis on sales at different major department stores and multi-brand boutiques, the brand has more than doubled its sales revenue in the three years since he took the creative reins. Despite the negative feedback of fashion critics, Hedi Slimane’s collections proved he has the ability to create clothes that sell. The secret behind this success? “It’s luxury but super basic items such as tailored jackets, bikers, bombers, denims”. Slimane seems to have been a designer ahead of his times, realizing what his consumers want: digestible fashion, perfectly executed, impeccably made ordinary clothes.But where does this change in fashion leave designers that are still trying to innovate, not generate products? Li Edelkoort predicts that couture will make a comeback. “After all it is in the atelier of couture that we will find the laboratory of this labor of love. Suddenly the profession of couturier will become coveted and the exclusive way of crafting couture will be inspiring all others.” It’s almost like an overweight fashion system is slowly realizing that fast fashion is not the answer to its problems, and it’s willing to try a detox program. I really hope it succeeds, and I really hope Li Edelkoort’s predictions will come true: “This is the end of fashion as we know it. Fashion with a big F is no longer there. And maybe it’s not a problem; maybe it’s actually a good moment to rethink. Actually the comeback of couture, which I’m predicting, could bring us a host of new ideas of how to handle the idea of clothes. And maybe from these ashes another system will be born.”
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