The Fashion Industry is a strange beast. The old way of doing business is based on fashion’s relationship to another industry: namely, print media. Fashion shows occur six months in advance because (fashion) magazines have a three to six month lead time. Ostensibly, this six month jump also gives buyers a chance to make choices and place orders, but really it’s the magazine thing. Fashion magazines need about six months to go from planning to printing and fashion editorials are probably the biggest time sucks in this equation. Concepts are created, photographers chosen, models and crew picked, locations scouted, and so on. And it’s all based on the clothes. So it stands to reason that editors need to know the clothes before any of the rest can happen. And this makes sense. It’s always worked. Fashion editorials can be beautiful, can transcend even the designers’ own vision, can and do merge the ideas and output of the industry’s creative talents: designer, stylsit, hair and make-up, models, photographers, editors.1
Take, for example, this editorial with Kate Moss for W September 2009. It's shot beautifully by Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott, but...
...this dress came down the runway and flew to the tips of everyone's tongue a whole six months earlier, on March 1, 2009. This line was discussed and dissected countless times before it could appear in W's pages.
The thing is, print media is faltering: settling, repositioning, and at least a little bit crumbling in response to the all-holy, game-changing Internet. Because instead of a system where only the fashion elite (editors, celebs, socialites, buyers, journalists) are granted this advance access to designer collections, now anyone with a reliable connection can check out each and every line shown every season. Bloggers have given their thumbs-up or thumbs-down well before the Sunday Style section is dropped. Forever 21 and the like put out their knock-offs a week after the runway show and months before the real McCoys show up at Macy’s.
Recently, the Council of American Fashion Designers hosted a panel to discuss/debate this problem.2 Donna Karan and Elie Saab took the side of revisionist/revolution/”really this isn’t working anymore.” However trivial you may find fashion, this conversation is a critical one: creatively and economically. The fashion industry supplies jobs and stimulates commerce. Or at least it should.
These Chloe triangle-heel wedges came down the runway on October 6, 2007 as part of the Spring 2008 collection. Which, right there, just sounds wrong, no?
By the time the shoes above were released, F21 had come out with these iterations for under $30.
And however fun it may be to buy a trend item for less than the cost of a meal out, companies like Forever 21 also sort of represent everything that is wrong with the world. And in the world. They support the idea that quantity trumps quality. The cost of those cheap knockoffs is paid for by sweat shops, child labor, unfair practices, environmental abuse and pollution. And while those who can afford designer at retail aren’t often opting for the polyurethane knockoff, and while most of us buy the knockoffs because there’s no way we’re spending our rent check on a pair of shoes, the system that allows the knockoffs to hit the shelves before the real things is a broken system.3
So I’m firmly on the side of fixing this clusterfuck. The economy needs better, our creative talents deserve better, and the consumer should ask for more. Fashion weeks in the Big Four (Fall 2010) are going on now and it’s too overwhelming to consider that these are clothes we’re not supposed to wear for 6 months. Hell, there are so many shows to sift through that it’s overwhelming no matter what. So for this blog, I will discuss lines within the current season (and as inspiration strikes). This means that I will be bringing up some of my favorite Spring 2010 looks over the coming days and weeks. This also means, for the time being, until the system changes, I’m giving myself six months to sift through the many, many, many collections that are paraded out every season. I also want to take away the reliance on the idea of seasons, which I think is also already happening, is happening in response to the oddness and incompatibility of the industry’s workings to how real people really dress. We should be able to wear what we want, as is dictated by mood and weather. And if we’re going to talk about “seasons,” Scott is right and stores should sell gloves and coats when the weather is cold and warm weather clothes when the weather is actually warm.
1. Right now, nobody does high concept, well-executed editorials like W and Paris Vogue, in my humble opinion.
2. This article lays out the issue well and is pleasantly snarky to boot.
3. So though I’ve got some F21 and H&M dresses in my closet — and while I will admit that all of my sunglasses and underwear come from these stores — I think that supporting these stores is overall a bad call. Fashion is as much about cycles and imitation than innovation. So if you see a look or style you want to emulate, make a copy, don’t buy a copy. DIY FTW.