Thursday, February 22, 2007

Criticism

My friends and I have been having conversations about the state of fashion. I dont know if they realize that's what we're discussing, but it's all got my brain working.

Today's New York Times Thursday Style contains a surprising amount of criticism towards the Fashion Industry. This is a too rare event in fashion coverage. It is difficult during the Fashion Weeks to find a single bit of a critique for a show. American Vogue is more apt to do so than British Vogue (particularly of British designers) and the newspapers tend to be a bit too harsh - I feel often missing the point of certain shows to showcase a sort of fantasy, not to be a look book of the new season's wares. Perhaps I'm mistaken about what most shows should be. Also, a tenured designer seems to get a pass in the face of bad design, when a lot of new designers dont even get reviewed. The internet has helped in making almost anyone with a pair of scissors (or who can hire someone with a pair of scissors) capable of staging a show and getting their photos online, but I dont really have any hard data about how that translates to success or even sales.

One article talks about the state of Italian Fashion. On one hand, it is dated and stuck only on the success of their established designers, with no interest in cultivating and supporting new talents. On the other, what is passing for fashion is often just dumbed-down overtly and overly sexy club gear. A new denim line is not the next Valentino or Miuccia Prada. I dont think such problems are limited to Italy, though. Yes, American Vogue is very much a champion of *certain* small labels, and yes a lot of effort is put into documenting a lot of shows for labels that maybe should not be staging shows. But is that really American Fashion? Is that how people are dressing? Who is influencing whom? A celebrity wearing clothes right off the runway instantly dates that designer's entire show. Who wants to buy the dress at full price that we saw on the red carpet six months ago? How does that attitude affect sales? And if it doesnt? Then *why* does that person want to own that dress? Is it because of the quality and timelessness or even the "now"-ness? Or is it just of accruing *things* and displaying wealth? There's nothing wrong with a consumer feeling either way, but it pains me to see the entire industry accepting the latter.

In my opinion, what passes for Fashion is the disposable kind found at the mall and H&M. I dont want to be a snob, because honestly I wont even pay H&M prices oftentimes, but I dont feel that is the way to build a wardrobe. [And if such an idea bores or horrifies you, then what are you doing reading this?] That seems the perfect way to just spend money. Quantity and effervesence.

Just yesterday, my friend brought up this concept. How much should be spent on a quality, lasting wardrobe? She had spent the weekend with an 80-something friend, sorting through her extensive collection of dresses from the 50s and 60s - including a Nobel Prize dinner evening gown, and was wondering how much money she had spent then and how much it translates to today. I would not even know where to begin. Money does not translate into quality. An expensive dress can still be made from cheap fabric or sewn on a machine in a factory in China. (Not to say Made in China means a lesser quality). I feel that proof of quality has to come from helping to pick the fabrics and finding someone to make your clothes by hand. This doesnt have to mean Couture. And maybe it just means having fewer clothes and more accessories. Deciding on the items that you are willing to sacrifice quality for...

I think with all good things, moderation is key. As well as the mantra "Buy the most expensive X that you can afford, just have a lot less X."

What do you think?

1 comment:

trixie said...

I read an article on the plane that asked various fashion designers/stylists about what wardrobe items you should really spend money on and which you can cut corners with....dang! it's not online. I'll have to scan and send you a copy. I thought there were some very interesting ideas.

I have trouble in that most clothing is not designed for long-life. Much of it is cheaply made and doesn't wash well. Add to that fluctuating weight and it's really hard to think about clothing as a long-term investment....

I think that fashion week shows should definitely be viewed more as fantasy than reality --- how many of those designs ever really get translated into ready-to-wear or even reality-wear?