Nothing brings out the hammer and tongs in my fashion-friendly friends and I than arguing over whether fashion houses have recruited the right fashion creator for their brand. There has been anger, slammed doors and even tears on one admittedly drunken occasion. We have vastly differing opinions on what objectively constitutes talent, but we have an even bigger problem when it comes to the direction a fashion house has decided to take.
When John Galliano was ousted from Dior a few years ago and replaced with former furniture designer Raf Simons, I was so supremely unimpressed that I dedicated 800 words to saying how much I despised his first collection.
It’s true that after Galliano, God Himself would have probably failed to impress, but looking at those columns of plain, drab, minimalist chiffon covered in a few, sad-looking flowers brought out the beast in me. I was so angry that he had destroyed the aesthetic of a brand I loved so much that when he finally gave up and went to the better-suited Calvin Klein, I threw a small party.
Hype is no substitute for quality
I strongly believe in respecting the pillars of what has made a brand great. People buy designer perfumes not only because they like the smell of them but because they represent something greater, because they are part of an aesthetic that they aspire to be part of. When you start dismantling the cornerstones of what made that brand great, people will not always follow.
Of course, this in turn can work in your favour: when Alessandro Michele took the design helm at the very tired Gucci, he injected it with a life that hadn’t been seen since the days of Tom Ford. Yes, it’s become overexposed and almost a parody of itself but at least it’s selling like hotcakes which is more than we can say for our good friends elsewhere. No fashion house is going to be of any good to anyone if it’s dead.
Can the price of selling out ever compensate for a sellout on your image? Louis Vuitton’s collaboration with Jeff Koons had people frothing at the mouth yet despite this, their collaboration with Supreme had people queuing for days to get a piece of the action. Valentino no longer makes the gorgeous dresses which had women crying at shows but it’s not doing badly off its Rockstud collection, which has at this point been around for years and years without anyone kicking up much of a fuss. It’s a tenuous, uncomfortable subject that every fashion bigwig tiptoes around pretty much like those people that go to modern art museums and nod and smile at everything while secretly thinking that it’s terrible. No one wants to come across as irrelevant or passé.
For my part, I will continue to strive for beauty and creativity in whatever form it comes in as long as it respects the heritage of the houses that I fell in love with and it has the necessary craftsmanship to justify its price tag. I also won’t be spending €15,000 on a piece of plastic because the good people at Louis Vuitton told me to. Hype is no substitute for quality.
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