It’s no longer news that Instagram has become fashion’s most embraced Internet tool. It has created a myriad of self-made, self-promoting starlets, turbo-boosted the rise of street style photography, and has fashion executives biting their elbows trying to come up with ways to market and sell products on the app. But, perhaps most importantly, it has influenced fashion design itself.
These days the fashion press that still bothers writing about fashion is filled with two types of articles. It’s either opinion pieces decrying the broken fashion system, or news about individual designers taking change into their own hands.
Some of the woes befalling the fashion systems, according to the “broken fashion system” articles, is that the stores demand deliveries too soon and put them on sale too soon, and that the fast fashion system produces knockoffs at far cheaper prices and put them in stores before the real stuff hits the racks. Supposedly, the latter necessitates the former, but designers don’t like to be rushed, and the additional stress put on them is the other reason for the fashion system being broken. We have fall clothes filling the racks in the summer, and summer clothes in the winter. Everyone shops on sale.
This year is drawing to a close and a lot has happened in fashion, most of it not so good. I am not talking about the departed: Raf Simons from Dior (good for him), Alexander Wang from Balenciaga (good riddance), and Alber Elbaz from Lanvin (good lord!). I am talking about the arrivistes: namely, Gucci under Alessandro Michele and Vetements under Demna Gvasalia. And not just about them, but about the reaction on the part of the fashion media to their work.
Last week Raf Simons left Dior after only three and a half year tenure. Some weeks before that, Alexander Wang exited Balenciaga. Both designers cited the desire to concentrate on their own brands as the main reason for leaving and made the obligatory public statements of gratitude to their corporate employers. But some in the fashion press took the opportunity to voice the old refrain – the fashion system is broken and it needs to be fixed.
It used to be that when a designer showed an item in a particular season and you did not get a chance to buy it, you were out of luck. And if you really wanted it, a hunt ensued. You would call stores in other cities. You would pray that the item would pop-up on Ebay or Yoox in your size, or at your local consignment store. Or you would have to accept defeat.
But as designers have become savvier at business, they realized that if the customer wants something, they should give it to them, again and again. Perhaps they learned the lesson from watching luxury houses fling it-bags season after season with great commercial success. If it could be done with bags, why not with clothes?
ABYSS – with Chesea Wolfe. Shot on the Red Hook waterfront in Brooklyn, New York. Photography – Ellinor Stigle, Styling – Eugene Rabkin, Hair – Nero (Yuhei Nerome), Makeup – Takahiro Okada, Photo assistance – Melissa Lopez-Leach | Styling assistance – Jenni Hensler & Patrick LaDuke
I first met the singer Chelsea Wolfe at an understatedly swank, dimly lit bar in downtown Los Angeles a year ago. The place looked newly minted and was completely empty. Over drinks and small bites Wolfe and her collaborator Ben Chisholm, talked about their work and life in the desert (they recently moved outside of LA). Wolfe’s forth studio album, “Pain Is Beauty,” came out the year before. It was well received by critics and has found her a new audience. Unrelenting, Wolfe was already working on a new album, “Abyss.”
Last week marked the fourteenth anniversary of 9/11, a tragedy that radically changed the political landscape of the world. There were memorial services held in New York and across the United States. The Givenchy Spring/Summer 2016 show was another unlikely place where 9/11 was invoked. The show was held at pier with a view of the new Freedom Tower, and was art-directed by Marina Abramovic. The presentation was supposed to pay respects to 9/11 and celebrate the spirit of human unity. The entire thing – from having an Italian designer who works for a Parisian house preaching to New Yorkers to Givenchy offering special guests tours of the 9/11 memorial – was tone-deaf, if not insulting. There was not a shred of the political in the clothes he presented, making the show’s art direction even more jarring as mere trappings.
Several days after his Spring/Summer 2016 men’s show Haider Ackermann was in his showroom, which was buzzing with buyers. Ackermann came down from the top floor of the building where he was already shooting the looks for his e-commerce platform, to be launched soon.
I meet Veronique Branquinho on the 21st floor of a high rise in Chelsea where she’s showing her pre-Spring 2016 collection. She’s in a corner suite with floor-to-ceiling windows that glance out over the Hudson, where industrial barges and cruise ships coarse by in clouds of spray and vapor. The evening is pearly grey and the room feels weightless, suspended up here in a box of steel and glass. Weightless, too, is the effect of the collection: dresses, all white and long, draped on a sparse cluster of forms with a lone live model at their center. Her dress is black with leather straps and falls to the floor. I think of Greek columns and their counterpart in ancient draperies, where the cloth is suspended simply from the shoulders and takes shape only with the moving body.