Vestoj has printed four-part narrative interview conducted by editor-in-chief Anja Aronowsky Cronberg for its sixth issue, “On Failure.” Tapping industry figures – including Tim Blanks, editor-at-large at Business of Fashion; designer Thom Browne; Ralph Toledano, president of the Fédération Française de la Couture, du Prêt-à-Porter des Couturiers et des Créateurs de Mode; Adrian Joffe, president of Comme des Garçons; Glenn O’Brien, editor-at-large at Maxim; and Nicole Phelps, director at Vogue Runway, among others – the series explores what – exactly – is wrong with fashion. What follows are some of our favorite excerpts from Part II …
Hirofumi Kurino, co-founder & senior adviser for creative direction at United Arrows: The standard of fashion is slipping with the focus that we have on money now. People think that being successful is about having your photo taken by Scott Schuman or Tommy Ton, or that a good collection is one that is iconic or instantly recognisable. We’ve stopped looking at the actual design of the garments, and we need tastemakers and opinion-leaders to remind us about the importance of innovation and quality.
Jean-Jacques Picart, fashion and luxury goods consultant: Fashion is like a banana. No, don’t laugh. I’ll tell you what I mean. Sometimes designers complain to me that a competitor has copied one of their ideas and is making a killing with it. I tell them, tant pis! If you presented that idea two seasons ago and nobody noticed, it’s because the world wasn’t ready. That was your mistake.
An idea in fashion is like a banana; if you eat it too soon, it’s green and tastes bad. And if you eat it too late, it’s brown and the taste is still bad. It has to be just perfect. That’s your job as a designer – to put your ideas out there when they’re ripe.
Tim Blanks, editor-at-large Business of Fashion: That’s a real theme for Hussein Chalayan. He says Phoebe Philo ripped him off. That’s how he justifies his own lack of success, but the reason he hasn’t done well isn’t because other designers rip him off. He’s just a very difficult person. Hard to work with. I think he’s slightly autistic or something. I love him but he can say the most inappropriate thing at the worst possible time.
Thom Browne, designer: I create two collections every season: one for the catwalk and one for our showroom. I look at them totally separately. One is for show, and one is for wear.
Jean-Jacques Picart: The fashion business changed an awful lot with Tom Ford’s arrival at Gucci in 1994. That’s when we developed two separate parts to fashion –business and spectacle, catalogues and editorial. We got two different fashion languages, or two separate ways of looking at fashion. The red carpet became very important; fashion became entertainment for the masses in a way that it hadn’t been before.
Ralph Toledano, president of the Fédération Française de la Couture, du Prêt-à-Porter des Couturiers et des Créateurs de Mode: It shocks me when designers make clothes for the catwalk that they don’t sell in stores. I think it makes the customer feel cheated; they will end up not trusting the brand. If there is a wide gap between the catwalk collection and the store collection, to me it’s a big sign of weakness on the part of the brand. It shows that the complicity that should exist between the management and designer isn’t there.
The attitude to fashion changed fifteen years ago, when certain brands decided that the container was more important than the content. That’s when catwalk shows became about generating buzz in order to sell other products. At some point fashion shows turned into extravagant competitions between the big fashion conglomerates. But the tide is turning again.
Nathalie Ours, partner at PR Consulting Paris: Today the marketing often matters more than the designer. That’s when the product becomes boring. The products made by all the big conglomerates are often produced in the same factories and that means that the hand of the maker is in danger of being overpowered by the industrial process. And what is a designer after all, if not his hand?
Adrian Joffe, president of Comme des Garçons: That is precisely what is wrong with the fashion business today. Marketing. It’s the biggest failure of our age. It just doesn’t ring true anymore.
Robin Schulié, brand manager & buying director at Maria Luisa: The moment the people investing in fashion started coming from outside of the garment industry, things took a turn for the worse. Now we have businessmen essentially trying to sell you yoghurt. There is nothing glamorous about it anymore, it’s just men in suits selling yoghurt. I mean, when the executives of a fashion company come from Procter & Gamble, you know creativity is in trouble.
Jean-Jacques Picart: Fashion shows are intended for fashion people. When non-industry people – ordinary consumers – see a fashion show, they are frightened. It’s too much. It’s like giving a very hot dish to someone who isn’t used to spices. Fashion shows speak the language of the fashion industry – they cater to people who see too much, who are blasé.
These blasé professionals know how to decode the messages that the designer puts on the catwalk, our job is to transmit what we’ve seen to ordinary women and men. If you make fashion shows available to the public, most people will wonder where they are supposed to wear what they see on the catwalk. Where is the restaurant or party where I can wear this dress? They would panic. They wouldn’t understand.
Glenn O’Brien, editor-at-large at Maxim: Fashion week is ridiculous but I like going because I like seeing all the people that hate each other in the same room, pretending that they don’t hate each other. But until people are not only applauding but booing too, then what fun is it?
Adrian Joffe: People look at pretty images in magazines today and get duped. So many designers lack an artistic vision, but they somehow manage to fool people into thinking that they have an original point of view. You can get away with a lot in fashion – it’s an easy business to be taken along with. But I don’t think it matters. It’s fine to be duped. Or if you think you’re being duped, turn away. Just go somewhere else. Not everyone is duping you.
Andy Spade, co-founder of Partners & Spade, co-founder of Kate Spade, founder of Jack Spade: They tell you you need a Birkin bag, and if you’re naïve enough to believe it – you’re wrong. I think it would be embarrassing to have one, don’t you? You have to pay the equivalent of a mortgage, and be on a waiting list. It’s ridiculous.
Glenn O’Brien: When I was young nobody wore designer clothes. People had their own personal style. Today fashion has taken over what style once was. Style is what makes you different to others. Fashion is what makes you the same. I think it’s very important not to be fashionable.