It’s been a difficult and dramatic season for fashion. With A/W 11 shows now over, if anything, the most penetrating has been the action behind the scenes. With designers in pandemonium from Galliano’s racist rant - which led to his spurious firing - to Balmain’s Christophe Decarnin who was a no show at the walk of his own collection, insiders are all asking one question; ‘Is this due to the relentless pace of fashion today?’
The doom and gloom was perhaps heralded by Chanel’s Karl Lagerfeld who sent a dark, almost sinister series of gowns and suits down the catwalk surrounded by smoke and gravel. If he was trying to hint that fashion land was striding towards an apocalypse-like cracking, he was spot on with what followed.
With Mcqueen’s suicide always slightly hovering above us, there’s been Marc Jacobs time in rehab following his appointment at Louis Vuitton, now Galliano’s verbal meltdown and Decarnin’s descent into exhaustion.
Couture designer, Hussein Chalayan’s remarks in a recent interview about today’s furious fashion pace have proved rather apt; ‘It’s become like being in a diamond plated hamster wheel, these days you have to go faster and faster and faster. At some stage ones got to fall.’
So what are executives (who are responsible for the current drive to meet profit forecasts) doing to our most esteemed creative talents?
It’s largely due to the number of collections there are these seasons. In the old days, there were only about a dozen major fashion houses, now there are thousands of companies, with designers on a very very tight deadline, ‘it’s like being in a factory putting out an aesthetic. There is no space for imperfection,’ said one source.
The reason? This new commercial, executive-driven approach, largely came about because business tycoons saw the cache in taking over struggling fashion houses and installing a bright top talent at the helm. These companies have now been transformed into multi-million dollar, global luxury brands, which now not only produce womenswear and couture clothes but often resort and lower lines, luggage, menswear, kidswear, perfumes, and accessories.
Take Bernaud Arnault, for example, who took over as chief executive of LVMH - which own more than 50 brands including Louis Vuitton, Givenchy, Celine and of course Dior – and saw soaring profits as he put Galliano in as creative director. It’s almost like these artistic talents have seen the brunt of their own success. As their genius inspirations, designs and artistry struck such a chord that luxury sales exploded to often in excess of $200 billion a year, so their workload escalated to the point where they are endlessly playing catch up.
However fashion’s commercial bent has never been so clear. With Galliano rife in controversy, retailers are not deterred; ‘it’s business as usual,’ commented a Galliano spokesperson.
A Harrods spokesperson wouldn’t comment further than ‘buying clothes was and will remain their focus.’
It’s certainly back to business for Arnault, who made news again by buying Italian jeweller, Bulgari.
But the question is how long can this rollercoaster last? Perhaps with Tom Ford’s return to a defiantly private affair of just making ‘long lasting beautiful clothes,’ without the fast fashion speed and hype, he’s caught a zeitgeist and others will follow.
Images: Christian Dior S/S 11 RTW