From the publications, influencers, and brands that are flagrantly disregarding federal truth-in-advertising laws to how Vetements managed to win over the fashion industry and the rise in celebrity-status of the modern day creative director, here are some of the best features we wrote in 2016.
1. The Federal Trade Commission and the Violations of the Fashion Industry
This year, we took a long, hard look at where the fashion industry is falling short in terms of ethical reporting in a series dedicated to federal truth-in-advertising laws.
Part I. Posting endorsements that have come about as a result of a connection between the endorser and the underlying brand without proper disclosure are violations of the FTC Act. The same is true for the posting of sponsored content (regardless of the medium). Aimee Song and Laura Mercier – who entered into a headlining-making $500k+ deal this year – are just two parties at the center of a truly massive scheme between the fashion industry’s most successful personal style bloggers and major fashion and cosmetics brands with the purpose of deceiving consumers for profit.
Part II. What can you do to ensure that you are not running afoul of the FTC’s guidelines (and thus, federal law), and thereby, running the risk that the FTC initiates an investigation and potentially disgorges you of all profits you’ve earned in connection with a campaign or partnership? It is easy! Here is a how-to guide – taken directly from the FTC’s various guidelines – that will get you started (but which are NOT to be considered legal advice and are not to stand in for independent consultation with legal counsel, of course).
Part III. When it comes to runway collections, many major fashion publications omit a significant element from their coverage: The fact that they are essentially being compensated in exchange for runway show coverage and editorial placement. The editors behind some of the industry’s most influential publications are consistently being “paid” by brands – by way of vacation-like getaways and expensive gifts – to write runway show reviews, or better yet, to feature brands and their collections in an array of non-traditional advertising formats.
And the unofficial Part IV, we introduced the first in an ongoing Quarterly Brand and Influencer Report, which takes into account 19 of the industry’s most celebrated influencers – from the biggest names, such as Chiara Ferragni and Julie Sariñana, to somewhat lesser-followed but still very noteworthy ones, like Marianna Hewitt and Gala Gonzalez, as well as the brands with which they are associated - and how well they are or are not abiding by the FTC's guidelines.
There is a common element in a lot of the street style photos over the past couple of seasons or so: Vetements. The Paris-based brand, which was launched in 2014 by brothers Demna and Guram Gvasalia and friends, is undeniably the “it” brand at the moment amongst industry insiders (or wannabe insiders or “fashion victims” as fashion blogger, BryanBoy aptly coined them recently) with $1000 to spend on a sweatshirt.
The role of the creative director and the general visibility of these individuals has been evolving for some time. Sure, emphasis on individuals, such as Olivier Rousteing, the fame-hungry creative director charged with overseeing Balmain, is becoming quite commonplace in the modern day fashion landscape. This practice, however, was not always the norm.
On an average day at just about any high school in America, the majority of the students are covered head to toe in trendy garments that cost $50 or less. Many of them don’t know much about the downsides of fast fashion and even if they do, they don’t tend to do anything about it. I know this because I am a high school student and I witness it every day. However, at age 16, I did my research and decided I just could not continue to support the cycle of fast fashion anymore.
Given the ease with which such publications can increase traffic, eyeballs, clicks, ad revenue, etc. by following a proven method (think: Kardashian, Jenner, Kardashian, Jenner, Hadid, Jenner, and countless covers that tout language that is some iteration of "Insta star" or a mention of "followers" or some other play on social media) and the fact that most publications are faced with the increasing need to tighten their budgets (evident in the shuttering of publications, declining sales of print, pooling of staff, sharing of content, and increase in reliance on digital), it is difficult to blame them for wanting to exert as few resources as possible in order to achieve results. However, in this way, industry insiders are undoubtedly resting on their laurels.
Western luxury brands have been looking East rather relentlessly as a hotbed for growth. The Chinese consumer, in particular, has become wealthier and more accepting of Western retail formats since luxury brands began investing in the Chinese market, with Louis Vuitton, Bally, Gucci and Ferragamo among the first wave of retailers to open outlets in China more than 10 years ago. However, with the changing tides of consumption and luxury spending and the introduction of new – younger – spending groups, luxury brands have had to tailor their approach.
We have long known that fast fashion giants are the so-called “bad guys” in the fast fashion cycle. They are the entities consistently profiting at the detriment of others and the environment. However, if we reflect upon the grander scheme of things, there are supplementary culprits: The famous names and faces that endorse these brands and the publications that glamorize such garments and accessories, all of whom simply must be held accountable.
Fashion designers banning publications from their shows is not merely a mythical practice of the past, nor is it a one-off act that occurs on a season-by-season basis. No, it was alive and well (maybe not well but alive) as of the Spring/Summer 2017 show season. Nicolas Ghesquiere (circa his Balenciaga creative directorship), Hedi Slimane, Giorgio Armani, Carolina Herrera, Oscar de la Renta, and Versace, among others, have been known to ban critics. Yet, the most well-known designers to employ this tactic are arguably the oft-controversial Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana.
What are we really looking for in a creative director? Is "creative director" really just another term for brand ambassador? And what does a creative director actually do?
In an industry famous for shrouding the connection between what it costs to manufacture garments and accessories, and the price that consumers pay for those items, Everlane seemingly fills a void; hence, its success. However, despite such seemingly straightforward dealings, Everlane is cloaked in quite a bit of mystery, itself.
“We’ve already got a black girl,” “It’s not our creative vision,” “Our customer isn’t ready yet.” These are the excuses we hear time and time again to explain the lack of models of color in the fashion industry. In fact, the more you talk to people in our profession about this, the more you realize that these statements are tired, unimaginative and backwards; things this industry supposedly detests.
Fashion fans are well versed in the fact that despite helping to herald a place for Belgium in the hierarchy of high fashion, along with the legendary Antwerp Six, Martin Margiela is anything but well known. His label certainly is; its archive is one of the more commonly referenced. Look no further than any of Demna Gvasalia's collections for Vetements and you will see direct "inspiration" taken from the work of Margiela. But Mr. Margiela, himself, is, as the New York Times described, "still the most elusive figure in fashion."
For well over a year now, the sales of luxury goods have been faltering. As the crisis in the global luxury goods industry has deepened, even those situated in the upper echelon of the market – the grandmasters that had proven able to withstand the Great Recession, such as Hermès and Chanel – are experiencing plunges in profit.
While many luxury brands are cutting their revenue forecasts, Sephora and similarly situated brands have each posted a string of blockbuster sales results. Estee Lauder, the company that owns its eponymous cosmetics line, as well as brands such as Clinique and MAC, recently upped its sales forecast this spring, in response to experiencing greater demand for its products.
Belgian design force Dries Van Noten reflected last year on the business model of his privately held brand, including the role of the runway show. In an interview for Rolex’s The Talks series, he said: “For me [producing every single look from the runway for retail] is absolutely necessary.” His comment sheds light on his ongoing resistance to conforming to a larger trend in the fashion industry: Brands’ reliance on the sales of non-runway – and in many cases, non-garment – goods to derive the majority of their profits.