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 IV …
Nicole Phelps, director at Vogue Runway: We know that if we write a really bad review about an advertiser we’re going to get a phone call. It’s just a fact of life.
[Editorial note: I’m not sure its accurate to say that Vogue Runway pens “really bad” reviews anymore for fear of alienating advertisers.]
Glenn O’Brien, editor-at-large at Maxim: One of the differences between art and fashion is that, though it has relatively little effect, there still is such a thing as art criticism. Fashion criticism on the other hand is nonexistent because anyone who would dare to write something against a major advertiser would be immediately not just fired but thrown into the East River.
Robin Schulié, brand manager & buying director at Maria Luisa: I bet even the weapons industry has more watchdogs than we do in fashion. Sometimes I think of the fashion industry as close to the pharmaceutical industry in the sense that they pay doctors to promote their products to patients. Fashion companies essentially do the same with journalists today. It takes years to reveal a scandal.
Glenn O’Brien: As an industry, fashion today represents all the worst values: sheer egoism, lack of conscience, instant gratification, mental laziness. I was watching ’Funny Face’ the other night and there was a very nice side to fashion once. There still is. I mean, there’s a nice side to aviation too – but the stealth bomber isn’t it.
Robin Schulié: Nobody gives a shit about Dior right now. LVMH doesn’t care that the clothes Raf Simons shows on the catwalk are uninteresting because the company will just continue making money with watered-down versions of old Galliano outfits and cocoon coats. It’s the same with Chanel. When you really start looking at the clothes, not even your granny would want to wear it. Then you stick the Chanel label on and suddenly everyone loves it.
The industry is so fucked up. It’s made up of people making clothes they don’t like for people who won’t buy them. It’s all a vast illusion. No big company makes money from clothes anymore; they make money from their accessories, their perfumes, their make-up lines. To me, that makes the whole industry a big failure. I mean, any other industry where the actual money comes, not from the product you purport to sell, but from a peripheral one, would surely be deemed a failed industry. As far as I’m concerned what we’re in now isn’t the ‘fashion industry’ – it’s more like the ‘illusion industry.’
Camille Bidault-Waddington, freelance stylist: Nobody gives a shit about Balmain today, but Olivier Rousteing has become an Instagram It-boy and that gives the house a reason to go on existing. Nobody talks about Balmain clothes anymore – all people talk about is the image of the brand. The Kardashians. The parties. Olivier Rousteing.
Jean-Jacques Picart, fashion and luxury goods consultant: There are times when the elitism in fashion drives me crazy. For example, why do big brands go to such great expense to put on a show for only 250 people when they could easily afford to show it to 600 instead? Why does every designer think that only the Anna Wintours, Suzy Menkeses or Stefano Tonchis of this world matter?
If we only invite the front row set of this world, the way we view fashion will never change. Those people are set in their opinions, and they’re blasé. They spend their time at the shows looking at their phones.
I remember Céline renting a show space that could easily have fit 1000 people, and then putting artificial walls in to reduce the space to fit 250. It really bothers me. I mean, if you have gone to great expense to create something emotionally powerful, why would you not want to share that with as many as you can? That to me is just snobbery.
Nicole Phelps: At Céline they could easily add another couple of rows to their shows. But they’re letting us know that they can afford to say ‘no.’ There’s a huge amount of power in limiting the access to a fashion show – in being able to say no. It’s a strategy; they are creating demand.