Essays, Fashion

The Role of a Fashion Critic

I have been reading a lot about fashion criticism and the role that it plays in the industry nowadays. Are critics important? Do they still have a voice? Do they even fit into the ever-changing world of fashion? Honestly, I have no idea. In my opinion, as long as there are people who care about more than clothes, but about the sociological and historical context of fashion, then critics are needed. If there’s nobody like that left, then they’re redundant. Thankfully, there’s still some people who care (even if it’s a shrinking group).

In the clickbait heavy world of fashion journalism critics are being overshadowed by shopping listicles and selfies. Most online publications would prefer to post 5 short articles filled with fluff that doesn’t really make a point or leave a memorable impact instead of 1 high quality review or in-depth story. Discussing fashion in an intellectual way is increasingly rare nowadays, but fortunately there are still some outlets which quench my thirst for this format. Quartz and Racked are two online publications that I’d recommend, along with all of the big newspapers for their critics (The Washington Post and Robin Givhan, The New York Times and Vanessa Friedman etc.).

The general consensus on why fashion criticism doesn’t matter as much anymore is that it has no impact on a business’ sales. Fashion designers don’t need critics on their side, they need the masses. Social media has let everybody become a critic by sharing their opinion online. You don’t need to be educated or informed to say your thoughts on a collection, but your voice does matter. Olivier Rousteing’s high at Balmain directly coincided with when the brand was at the height of fame on social media and was being posted by people across the globe. It didn’t matter that the critical reviews of the collection touched on the repetitive nature, as long as the public still liked it. Social media buzz doesn’t always translate into sales, but it certainly helps.

A celebrity/influencer-filled front row at Cushnie et Ochs SS17

I think the more accurate reason why fashion criticism has fallen by the wayside is because people simply don’t want to read anymore. I know this for a fact. Even just by looking at “fashion” bloggers who have huge followings and infinite views, you can see that the content they post is more image-heavy instead of words. When online, people don’t want to be confronted with huge blocks of text, especially on a topic thought to be as trivial as fashion. I can even tell this with my own blog. I know it would be bigger in terms of numbers if I tried to just post outfit pictures and click-baity articles, but that wouldn’t be fun for me so I choose not to. The digital presence of major fashion publications gives weight to this theory. On Vogue.com, the average article is short (maybe three or four paragraphs) and has at least two images or tweets included. Most of them focus on gossip or shopping guides. The reason why is that people want to read this kind of thing. Writing is all about garnering the most traffic nowadays. If a publication can gain thousands of views on an article that took 30 minutes to write, why would they waste their time getting potentially less views on something that took multiple hours to fine tune and perfect? If a writer is freelance, the more stories they write, the more they get paid. Say the base rate for an article is $500. Would you rather write 2 articles in a day and make $1000 or 1 article in the same day and make half?

If fashion criticism were to become relevant once again, it would take a major change from readers in terms of their behavior. For one, we would all collectively have to reject all clickbait. This includes commenting on articles via social channels, which still contributes to their statistics. The more comments something has, the higher it gets pushed in people’s feeds, the more likely they are to click on it. If outlets started to see a major drop in engagement in their current preferred format then perhaps they would invest in long-form journalism and criticism. However, until then I am happy to support the few remaining critics who still have a platform.

For further reading on this topic:

The Importance of Being Earnest” – Style Zeitgeist

Little impact, lots of prestige: A look at the role of fashion critics today” – Digiday

“Kelly Cultrone: What Happened to All the Fashion Critics?” – The Fashion Spot (from 2014)

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Celebrity & Red Carpet, Fashion

Kanye’s Best Looks

I still love Kanye West. I went through a phase last year where I refused to even think about him because he spoke out in support of Donald Trump. However, after those comments were made he had a bit of a breakdown and disappeared from the public eye. Since then he has periodically reemerged, taking care of his children and hanging out with his wife. He has also been holed up in Wyoming recording a new album. Whilst I don’t think it will be of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy caliber (nothing ever will be), I am excited to hear his new sounds and see what he does.

I have always been a fan of Kanye’s music but more so his style. He paved the way for the high-fashion sartorial choices made by hip-hop artists nowadays. He wore the Givenchy skirt (leather kilt, whatever) back in 2012 and faced ridicule. In 2016, Young Thug wore a dress for his album cover and got nothing but love and some memes. In honor of Kanye’s ever-changing but solid style, I decided to take a look back at my personal favorite looks of his. He goes through various eras style-wise, often related to the current album he is working on. Right now we are still very much in the Yeezy era which isn’t directly linked to an album (it started slightly before TLOP was released) but more so in relation to the Yeezy line he designs for Adidas. Yeezy is now a minimalist lifestyle philosophy for Kanye. It will be interesting to see the next step in his evolution. Will he go for some more maximalist styles going forward?

In a Supreme pull-over and Air Jordans | Paris, October 2012

In a camel coat | Paris, January 2014

In fur and a hoodie | Paris, January 2014

Wearing Yeezys | New York, April 2016

In camel | New York, February 2016

In a custom Saint Laurent jacket | Paris, January 2014

In a blue overcoat | Paris, September 2013

In a Louis Vuitton fur scarf | Los Angeles, December 2008

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Fashion

Read: How Fashion Reflects America

I just wanted to share an article which I contributed to Set My Soul Online, a digital magazine published in New York City. The theme of the November issue was American Beauty with a focus on diversity, in response to the narrowing ideals presented by the current administration. I chose to tackle the idea of how the fashion industry has responded to the election of Donald Trump and what they have done to combat Trumpism. Read the article here and check out the full magazine at setmysoulonline.com

Public School’s “Make America New York” hats, as discussed in the article.

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Fashion, Weekly Words

Weekly Words: 21st October 2017

For this week’s edition of Weekly Words, I read through various articles on the internet about fashion and related topics and struggled to find anything that I could really share my opinion on, or even add to the conversation. The fallout from the Harvey Weinstein scandal has dominated the news cycle, and his involvement in the fashion industry and how that crossover works has emerged and is deeper than initially expected. Furthermore, the sexual assault / harrassment issues in Hollywood have permeated the fashion industry. Model and activist Cameron Russell started a hashtag on Instagram (#myjobshouldnotincludeabuse) where she shared stories of sexual abuse experienced by models, gathered through DMs which she kept anonymous. It seems like the floodgates have opened and the entertainment industry (fashion now included) cannot ignore it anymore. Check out Cameron Russell’s Instagram to read the stories in full. All are horrific, with many including underage models. Now non-famous people have gotten involved with #metoo being used to share stories of sexual assault. As the internet has been a dark and depressing place recently, I decided to try to keep this post a little more lighthearted (as some escapism almost).

“Naomi Campbell Recounts A Week Spent Doing Community Service—Wearing Dolce & Gabbana—In 2007” – W Magazine

Somehow I stumbled across this article from W Magazine’s archive this week and I’m so glad I did. Basically it is just Naomi Campbell’s diary from her time doing community service. She shares her experience with the Sanitation Department, the people she encountered, what she actually did, and explains the logic behind wearing the insane outfits that she wore. The supermodel’s community service week became a media sensation and it is hilarious reading about it now, ten years later, because it all just seems so ludacris.

“Azzedine AlaÏa Invents The Future: Alexander Fury Meets The Master” – 10 Magazine

Alexander Fury is my favorite fashion writer of all time. He has such a deep love for fashion, the whimsical nature of it, and the craft behind the clothing. This adoration manages to seep into his work, especially when he is writing a piece about somebody who he admires. His interview with Azzedine Alaia, friend of the aforementioned Naomi Campbell and one of the most revered fashion designers of all time (anyone who loves fashion loves Alaia, I promise), was truly heartwarming and it is a great profile of the designer who is famously media-shy. An Alaia show has no external photographers (he employs his own) and doesn’t stick to the traditional show schedule for the seasons. He makes couture-level pieces but doesn’t call them couture; Alaia refused to join the official couture group of France since the 1980s and shows no signs of succumbing now. It was just lovely to read a piece full of genuine admiration and respect for somebody who is truly a great artist. Everybody should know a little more about Azzedine Alaia so I encourage you to read this beautifully written interview!

“Where ‘Hitler’ Doesn’t Mean Anything” – The Outline

This piece was just strange because it was so absurd. Apparently they have no idea who Adolf Hitler is in Pakistan. The ignorance runs so deep that one of the most popular menswear lines in the country is named after one of the most deadly dictators in modern history. The thought of seeing storefronts with Hitler on the sign is certainly a jarring image. What’s more crazy is that when the writer asked people in Pakistan what they thought Hitler meant they said that all they knew was that he was an army general who was very disciplined. That’s it. Wow. You need to read the piece because it is really fascinating.

 

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Fashion

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.

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Fashion

Weekly Words: 14th September 2017

“Made Gold Founder Confronts Good American’s Emma Grede at La Conference Following Copying Claims” – Fashionista

Kylie Jenner in Made Gold – October 2016

Khloe Kardashian’s denim line “Good American” had the most successful launch in history. Since then, the brand has gone from strength to strength, introducing new product lines and receiving distribution in department stores across America. However, the feedback for the brand has not always been positive. The brand has been marred by claims of copying smaller designers, asking for samples of their products then replicating it almost to the stitch and then selling it on their site, reaping all of the products and leaving the smaller, indie designers out of pocket and out of luck. Fortunately, we are in the age of social media which means an unknown can get attention the same way that a celebrity does. Using her Instagram account, Destiney Bleu managed to draw attention to the fact that Good American stole her designs for a line of bejewelled bodysuits. Bleu was later sent a cease-and-desist letter from Good American’s lawyers and the case seems to have stalled since. Another brand which claimed Good American copied their designs is Made Gold, a smaller, indie denim line worn by the likes of Bella Hadid and even Kylie Jenner. A famous style of theirs with laces up the side of the legs was worn by the aforementioned stars before Good American apparently copied it. Instead of using social media, the founder of Made Gold chose to confront the situation directly, using a Q&A section at the Fashion Tech Forum in LA to voice her concerns. Emma Grede, Khloe Kardashian’s founding partner of Good American, instead dodged the question and the panel session ended. Unsurprisingly so, Good American chose to ignore the allegations and act like nothing happened. I think this is a poor strategy. We all know that fashion is an industry that thrives off of copycats: high-end designers copy each other, contemporary designers copy the high-end, and fast-fashion copies them all. By ignoring this process, Grede and Good American made themselves look, once again, untrustworthy and any designers who send their samples to Khloe Kardashian again risks the same copy-cat treatment. Spout off a false line about being influenced by “girls on the street, girls on social media”, whatever. Just don’t ignore it all together.

“FarFetch Is Selling 500 Gianni-era Vintage Versace Pieces” – Fashionista

Following Donatella Versace’s triumphant fashion week tribute to her late brother, Gianni Versace, which was influenced by vintage styles that he designed ranging throughout the 1980s into the early 90s, Versace-mania is back in full-flow. The brand is at the buzziest it has been in years. Smartly so, FarFetch have teamed up with William Vintage, a London-based boutique, to offer a range of archival Versace pieces for sale on their site. Many designs are almost identical to the ones that walked down the runway a couple of weeks ago, but they have the edge given that they are the real, original pieces. FarFetch’s business model is interesting. Their concept is that, instead of having their own inventory and placing a seasonal buy like other e-commerce sites do, they partner with small boutiques around the world, facilitating the distribution of the products and allowing the boutiques to reach a global market that they may not be exposed to if they tried to do it alone. FarFetch, of course, keeps a cut of the profits. I love the company and the whole idea of it, and I truly believe it is one of the most innovative companies in fashion. As for the Versace collection, there are some pretty to-die-for pieces in there – matching skirt suits, leopard printed jackets and leggings, belts and brooches, and baroque prints. The prices are very steep but what you are paying for is a piece of fashion history. I hope one day to build up my own archive of vintage designer pieces, as collectors items, not for wearing. I urge you to check out the edit – here on FarFetch.

 

A $42,000 Gucci fur coat available at FarFetch 

Gucci is the latest brand to bow to pressure and eliminate the fur styles from its product offerings, choosing to auction off the fur inventory, starting early next year. The alternative option which they will likely use is faux-fur, joining the likes of Stella McCartney (also owned by Kering, Gucci’s parent company) and Giorgio Armani. The main reason they cited for the decision to stop using fur was sustainability. I call bullshit. I think they are just trying to get a good reputation in an increasingly socially-conscious, animal-friendly, harm-nobody society that we currently live in. Caring about these things is cool and Gucci likely wants to capitalize on this mindset. Fur, a natural animal based material, is biodegradable. It causes no harm to the planet. Faux-fur, on the other hand, laden with chemical treatments and synthetic materials has been proven to cause environmental damage. We are in a time where the leader of the free world is a climate change denier, despite there being a mountain of evidence (and an increasing number of natural disasters devastating the world) to prove it to be true. In that case, shouldn’t we be looking into more natural products and materials that aren’t harmful? If you don’t want to support the fur trade, you can buy vintage styles. And if you’re wholly opposed to fur, you can just not buy it. Overall, I am just slightly disappointed in Gucci. Whatever.
FarFetch coat – $42,000
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Fashion

Harvey Weinstein’s Fashion Connection

Harvey Weinstein, notorious Hollywood producer and noted sleaze, has been hit with a serious of allegations of sexual assault and indecent exposure dating back decades. The New York Times published a damning exposé of the movie mogul last week and Weinstein has been on damage control mode ever since. The New Yorker followed up with a similar piece, filled with new damning revelations on Tuesday this week. Each publication got statements from women, some anonymous but some on-the-record detailing the gross misconduct of Weinstein over the decades. Subsequently, Weinstein was fired from his own company last weekend, after initially suggesting he would take a “leave of absence” to seek therapy and counseling. Judging by the fact that this behavior has been occurring for decades and Weinstein has continued to abuse his position of power to get what he wanted from people and used it to force people into silence, I somehow believe that counseling won’t do the trick and that this is perhaps just a line to keep people quiet. Weinstein’s connection to the fashion industry comes in the form of his soon-to-be-ex-wife, Georgina Chapman, the co-founder of red-carpet label Marchesa. Despite Weinstein’s lack of professional ties to the company, the brand seems to be collateral damage, marred by the fall-out of the scandal. One can’t help but wonder how many stars wore Marchesa to their premieres just because Weinstein coaxed them to do so. How many stylists does he have a “relationship” with that encourages them to dress their clients in the brand? Furthermore, Weinstein has a lot of friends in the fashion industry, through his wife, who likely knew or at least had an inkling about the kind of man he was and the behavior that he subjected those around him to. One wonders how long this cover-up has gone on for.

The Hollywood Reporter’s coverage of the events surrounding this scandal has been my go-to source as they have information from all sides of the story: the legal side, the movie & Hollywood side, and the fashion side. In an article entitled “Harvey Weinstein puts wife’s Marchesa fashion brand in a tough spot“, THR examines the impact of the scandal on Marchesa, the hugely successful eveningwear (and bridal) line designed by Chapman and her business partner Keren Craig. The label was already beginning to draw criticism for their presentation at Bridal Fashion Week, with one commenter mentioning the link between Chapman profiting off women whilst her husband sexually assaults them. Weinstein’s connection to the fashion industry goes further than just his wife’s brand though. He has served as executive producer on Project Runway, the fashion-design focused competition where his wife has served as a guest judge on numerous occasions. According to the same article, Weinstein’s name has been removed from the credits of the next episode. He is also close friends with Anna Wintour, yet to comment on the allegations, who has helped him set-up a variety of business deals and has hosted events with the mogul. In terms of fashion business ventures, he tried to revive the Halston label in 2007 (with family friend Rachel Zoe as one of the creative consultants) and he bought the Charles James name, known best for the Met Gala exhibition about America’s first couturier.

Weinstein pictured with Rachel Zoe in 2009, who is yet to speak on the scandal.

Weinstein’s close relationships with those in the fashion industry, plus his business interests, make this an interesting connection between what could’ve been a solely Hollywood scandal and one that has now crossed over to a whole new industry (not to mention politics, given that Weinstein is a firm Democrat who has donated millions of dollars to various campaigns for the likes of Hillary Clinton). Disappointingly, few people have spoken out against Weinstein. Donna Karan made a huge PR misstep (and exposed a real personal flaw) when she spoke out in support of Weinstein, citing the way women dress and reinforcing rape culture in one little statement. Her statement, made during a red carpet appearance last Sunday, effectively blamed the victims of Weinstein’s assault because of the way they were dressed, saying “How do we present ourselves as women? What are we asking? Are we asking for it by presenting all the sensuality and all the sexuality? And what are we throwing out to our children today about how to dance and how to perform and what to wear? How much should they show?”. Karan received backlash for her comments almost instantaneously from the likes of Rose McGowan (who has been alluding to Weinstein’s behavior for years now) and chef Anthony Bourdain, plus the scorn of the entire internet. The following day, Karan said that her statements had been taken out of context and that they were not intended in that manner. Unfortunately, this apology fell flat, in my opinion, because her initial thoughts on the matter were expressed clearly. Both her initial statement and her apology have been written about in more detail on The Hollywood Reporter, which I will link below. I spotted a few people saying that they should boycott Donna Karan products but this is counterproductive given that she sold her company a few years ago and has no part of the business anymore. Regardless of what people want to do, expressing scorn for Karan’s statement seems like the right idea. Going forward, it will be interesting to see if any more figures in the fashion industry comment on the Weinstein situation.

From what we all know now, Harvey Weinstein has committed some disgusting and unforgivable crimes since her ascent into power, spanning over at least three decades. Not only have these acts taken place, but they have been ignored. Hollywood has taken part in a long-term cover-up, on the lowest level by Miramax employees and all the way up to A-list stars like Matt Damon and Russell Crowe (who were accused of having a story nixed back in 2004). From what has been reported, people have known about Weinstein’s behavior for a long time and have chosen to ignore it for the sake of their careers or fear of legal action from Weinstein’s cutthroat defense team. On top of all of this, many people have benefitted from Weinstein over the years, whether that be in terms of monetary compensation, movie roles, or exposure. His wife apparently knew of his behavior but his connections helped her grow her business, getting it worn by A-listers the year of its launch. I wonder how many other people stayed quiet for similar reasons?

Further (required) reading

The New Yorker exposé

Bridget Foley on Harvey Weinstein – WWD

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Fashion, Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week Highlights – Spring 2018

I went into fashion month this time around feeling very disillusioned by it all. I was bored of the Instagram antics. I was sick of seeing all of the parties being discussed instead of the actual clothing. I was just over it, in general. Then something changed. Maybe the parties in the other cities aren’t as intense, maybe I just don’t follow the right people online. Regardless of the outcome, I feel that as fashion month progressed we did actually hear more about the clothes (and there have been quite a few really great shows this season too). Paris is the end of it all, the grand finale.

A very shiny coat from Kenzo.

Jacquemus is one of my favorite shows of fashion month. The next few looks are from him also.

None of this collection was entirely new. You could already get these clothes, or at least things very similar elsewhere, but for some reason, perhaps the styling, I just got a certain mood that I don’t get when I see similar styles elsewhere and it just charmed me.

I love the colors.

The drape of this top reminded me of a great dress that I wore on vacation last month.

Always here for a headscarf. Also, I love the liberal use of blush in this show. It makes me wish I had a tan so a little rouge on the cheeks would look glamorous instead of flustered on me.

A polka dot sarong is what we all need on vacation really.

This outfit feels very Yves, at Saint Laurent.

The boots! The romper! Yay! at Saint Laurent

This leather jacket is so awesome… c/o Saint Laurent.

I really like this entire look at Olivier Theyskens.

Very sexy at Theyskens.

Logomania at Lanvin?

Virgil Abloh’s best collection yet, in my opinion, at Off-White

I say yes to the dress (and one of my all time favorite models, Bianca Balti) at Off-White

I looooooove this entire look!! Very unexpected for Off-White.

Sophisticated tailoring at Off-White.

I love how the print of both the skirt and the boots is like an abstract floral, almost snakeskin. It looks super cool. This is from Chloé.

I am adoring everything that Julien Dossena does at Paco Rabanne. This dress is amazing. It’s paisley and chainmail all in one, with a cute and flirty silhouette. Yes!

More from Paco Rabanne. The asymmetry is cool and I am trying to work out if this is a dress or a long top over a skirt? Either way, I like the finished look.

Cute slogan shirt, sexy skirt, and a great boot. I feel like this is a modern woman’s uniform c/o Paco Rabanne.

This is the look of a Bond girl from the 1970s. She is the pretty sidekick who is a slight damsel in distress but still smart. Think Dr Goodhead from Moonraker. I love it. (Still Paco Rabbane.)

Balmain is entirely formulaic at this point but there’s always a couple of good looks per season. In this case, I like this dress on Bianca Balti.

I love the twist details on this crop top at Haider Ackermann.

This struck me as sexy Prada at Mugler.

Altuzarra was sorely missed in New York but really it was worth the wait in Paris.

You know the saying “she looks like a million dollars”? Well, in this case you can look like one-hundred thousand euros c/o Balenciaga.

Bill Gaytten is often overlooked at John Galliano, despite being his right-hand man for years. This dress would look fantastic on Angelina Jolie.

I liked Clare Waight Keller’s debut collection at Givenchy. It didn’t scream out Givenchy to me (perhaps because I am so used to Riccardo Tisci’s work that I am forgetting what else the house has ever looked like).

I like the combination of the various prints that were all so similar yet different, at Givenchy.

So gorgeous and romantic c/o Sarah Burton at Alexander McQueen. The hair here was very similar to the Vivienne Westwood show too.

This was a super cute dress from Nicolas Ghesquiere at Louis Vuitton. The Louis Vuitton show has lost so much of its buzz nowadays which is rather sad.

 

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Fashion, Opinion, Shopping

Reading about Rent the Runway

I’ve noticed a lot of buzz about Rent the Runway recently. They are in the midst of a new marketing campaign promoting their new, lower priced subscription, and, as a result, coverage of the service has been myriad, from sites like Fashionista all the way to AdWeek. For $89 a month, you can rent four pieces per monthly cycle. This is in comparison to their unlimited subscription which costs $139 to have any three pieces at once (which can be traded for another item at any time) instead. Rent the Runway is an interesting concept to me, because you are paying either a monthly fee or a single-time fee for the actual item (depending on how often you think you’ll use the service) to essentially borrow clothes and return them. You spend all of this money and don’t actually keep anything at home.

Rent the Runway was founded in 2009 by two Harvard Business School graduates. The initial concept was to provide occasionwear. You could rent a dress for a formal event like prom, a wedding, a gala, anything. The idea was that instead of spending $200 on a dress that you will wear one time and then banish to the back of your closet, you could spend under that dollar amount to rent a dress and return it afterwards (no questions asked, different than what would happen if you tried to do the same thing to a store). You could also rent a designer style which you may not be able to afford in a regular store like Barneys but you could wear one-time for a manageable price-point. Since then, the service has expanded into all categories of clothing and accessories. They want to be the go-to source for a woman’s everyday wardrobe, not just for the once-a-season event that she may have to attend.

In one of the articles linked below, a representative from Rent the Runway mentioned that under the new subscription plan, each item only costs around $20. The point being made with this figure was that the service was intending to compete with fast-fashion stores in capturing the women’s dollars. Instead of buying a cheap shirt from Zara, rent an expensive one from Rent the Runway. You get the quality you can’t normal afford for a price that you can. However, I wonder how many women would be comfortable with not actually owning their clothes. What if someone compliments your cute sweater and then you can never wear it again? That’s what seems weird to me because I can’t imagine having something I love and then not owning it, then not being able to afford it if I actually did want to add it into my closet.

Currently, Rent the Runway operates across the US with physical stores where you can try on the clothes in a select few cities (New York and Los Angeles included). They also ship all across the US. With the new round of marketing campaigns they are targeting the US in its entirety. They’re putting adverts on national tv. Besides the lower cost subscription, a huge thing that the brand is pushing is the sustainability factor. According to representatives from Rent the Runway, the brand is entirely sustainable as it uses reusable garment bags and 100% ‘green’ dry cleaning practices. Furthermore, because the customers aren’t actually purchasing the clothes and are sending them back after use, clothes that are unwanted are going back to Rent the Runway, not ending up in the landfill.

I think that Rent the Runway is a great concept but I’m not sure how I would feel about having my entire closet “in the cloud”, as they put it. I like to own my pieces and wear them again and again and again. I think that is a pretty sustainable option. I would consider Rent the Runway for an occasion if I needed to rent a gown. However, for everyday use I’m not quite there yet.

Further Reading

“How Rent The Runway’s “Closet In The Cloud” Is Changing The Face Of Sustainability” – Fashionista

“Rent the Runway’s National Campaign Wants You to Convert Your Closet Into Anything You Want” – AdWeek

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Essays, Fashion

Why Do Fashion Brands Continue to Look Back?

It seems that fashion is increasingly referential. Nothing is really new anymore. No new silhouettes are created. No new innovations are made. Nothing. But is this a bad thing? And is it unexpected?

I started to think about this topic after catching up with all of the shows at Milan Fashion Week. There were two brands in particular that I felt specifically looked back in time, into their own archives – Versace and Dolce & Gabbana. However, their techniques were different. Versace was deliberate, Dolce & Gabbana was not.

This season’s Versace show was, as Donatella put it, a tribute to her late brother Gianni Versace, to mark the twenty year anniversary of his death. The show was filled with her takes on his most famous designs. It was like the highlight reel of Gianni Versace’s career and what made him, and the family name, famous and into a brand. Donatella looked back into the archives (no, literally, she went to the physical archives and looked at his pieces) and chose the silhouettes and prints which were most iconic and ran with it. She featured the Marilyn Monroe and James Deen portraits by Andy Warhol (which Gianni turned into a multi-colored, tile print), she used the baroque that was last en vogue back in 2013 when hip-hop artists like Migos and Drake were obsessed with the brand, and the leopard print (most notably, the yellow version worn by Kaia Gerber who opened the show). According to this New York Times article on the show, “Every garment will come complete with a label that notes the collection and the year, so consumers will know the moment of origin.”. It is a way to incorporate the brand’s history into it’s present show but do it in a way that is of the moment but still collectable. I suspect that items from this show will be just as valuable as the originals from 20+ years ago. Many have wondered if this collection was Donatella’s farewell to the brand as rumors about her imminent departure have been swirling for months now, but she says otherwise. It was, in fact, just a tribute to her late and beloved brother. Of course, no mention of this show would be complete without bringing up the finale which featured the supermodels of Gianni’s shows marching out to Freedom ’90, the iconic George Michael song which lent its sounds to a Versace show back in 1991. Of course, the crowd went wild for this. It was nostalgia at its finest, and that’s what made this show great.

The finale gowns at Versace.

Dolce & Gabbana, on the other hand, offered none of the nostalgia factor. They produced a show of beautiful, albeit boring, clothes that could’ve been any one of their shows from the past five years. Dolce & Gabbana refuse to innovate anymore and it has gotten dull. It is hard to believe that 10 years ago, they were one of the main attractions in Milan and they actually made futuristic, fashion-forward styles. Remember the show opened by Snejana Onopka strutting down the light-up runway, after arriving in a glass elevator and descending down some stairs, to the sound of Justin Timberlake’s Sexy Back? That would never happen nowadays. Instead they play it safe, season after season, year after year. I guess they are doing what works for them and their business, but that is why Versace was all over your social media for the entire weekend and Dolce & Gabbana was a blip that almost went unnoticed.

Dolce & Gabbana SS07

Designers often look back though, at their past work (like the No. 21 show, also at Milan Fashion Week), or at the brand’s own heritage. That’s what almost every designer does who becomes the Creative Director of a storied brand, like Julien Dossena at Paco Rabanne. The chainmail, futuristic styles are nothing new, but they work and people love them because they look cool. It is said that Alexander McQueen was so impressive because he is one of the only designers of the past quarter century to create a brand new silhouette, the Bumster, the ultra low-rise pant style which exposed the top of the butt and caused women to shave their pubic hair because the top of the area was revealed. When the Bumster trickled down into mainstream fashion, it came in the form of low-rise jeans, beloved by your favorite mid-2000s celebs who loved to show off their g-strings peeking out above their waistband.

McQueen’s Bumster

Maybe this is just how fashion is going to be going forward. It isn’t about innovation. It’s about commercialism. It’s about sales. It’s about social media coverage. It’s about short-term attention. It’s about building a brand. The only way to build a brand is to be consistent, but I believe that there is a way to do it by innovating or making some changes and introducing new things along the way.

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