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Who's next in fashion? No one. By Suzy Menkes | Dated, but Great Article year - 2006

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Who's next in fashion? No one. By Suzy Menkes | Dated, but Great Article year - 2006 Empty Who's next in fashion? No one. By Suzy Menkes | Dated, but Great Article year - 2006

Post by xyz on Sun May 19, 2013 12:19 am


A very sad and pessimistic article about killing all the new-coming designer dreams Sad

Who's next in fashion? No one.

By Suzy Menkes International Herald Tribune


There is an exquisite irony to the idea that the 1980s are being revisited as the latest fashion inspiration. For that giddy, glitzy fashion era was labeled - first with enthusiasm and later with distaste - "the designer decade."

It did, indeed, give birth to a roster of names that are now imprinted on the public consciousness. Jean Paul Gaultier, who celebrates 30 fashion years during this Paris season, came to fame and glory in the 1980s. The same is true for Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein in the United States, and for an A to Z of Italian designers from Armani to Versace. The decade also spawned the "alternative" designers, especially the Japanese and later the Belgians. Almost everything that happened in the 1990s grew from roots in the flamboyant '80s.

So, who's next? Make that "Who's Next?" - the name of an ongoing project in Italy to find new talent. That search is being replicated across the world from Fashion Fringe in London to the "You're In! You're Out!" of "Project Runway," the U.S. reality TV show.

The answer to that burning question for the fashion world is this: No one.

The current state of the industry and a cultural state of mind makes it virtually impossible for any new designer to brand-build in the way that the 1980s seedlings flowered into mighty trees.

Of course there will be creative talents who inject new energy into the fashion scene. Heaven help us if there were not those forces for change and artistic souls whose vision reflects what is happening in the wider world.

But will any of these construct a mighty empire with a global stretch, selling everything from lipsticks to bed linen?

I doubt it.

Looking back over the sweep of the 20th century, you might say that the designer era has lasted just about 100 years, from when Paul Poiret, at the turn of the last century, turned fashion into personality-driven performance art with his extravagant orientalist shows and his profligate lifestyle. Poor Poiret! He was born too soon to sign deals for perfume, lingerie and eyeglasses and died a pauper.

Some of the names that were fashion gods in the 1980s have not made it big, compared to the earlier 20th-century couturiers from Chanel or Dior to Yves Saint Laurent.

Thierry Mugler, whose carapaces of glamour are being cloned on runways, still has his lucrative fragrance deal with Clarins, but the fashion company was shuttered. Claude Montana's dominant aesthetic in the 1980s never turned into big bucks. And Romeo Gigli's romantic counterpoint never reached a crescendo.

But in the past, there have usually been reasons connected to character, temperament or management that explained why particular designers faded away.

Now, the truth is that nobody is building a global business - unless the label is attached to a powerful parent company, as with John Galliano at Dior and Marc Jacobs at Louis Vuitton. And if you compare the figures, these two LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton designers have tiny companies under their own names compared to the might of their brands.

The industry reveres and nurtures personal talent, describing an outfit as from "Alber," referring to Alber Elbaz at Lanvin or from "Nicolas," as in Balenciaga's Nicolas Ghesquiere. But this insider enthusiasm conceals the fact that to the worldwide public even these powerful designers do not register in the way that the names of Giorgio Armani or even Pierre Cardin resonate.

The trend, now definitely on the wane, for brands to snag a hot designer has hidden another reality: that a strong brand always holds the premier position, even when we are talking about someone as famously brilliant as Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel. In fact, brand managers now believe that too much focus on the designer is detrimental, if that
person then leaves, especially for another company. From Chloé to Gucci, new designers are being tapped more for their ability to come up with saleable merchandise than for their charisma.

Three big issues are bringing closure to a designer century.

The first is obvious to any spectator (for that is what we are now) at the big runway shows, where the line-up of honchos in suits measuring the financial cost of a fanciful stage set is growing each season. Designer fashion has gone corporate - and that even includes so-called "edgy" brands such as Martin Margiela, so long an outlaw, but now part of Diesel's empire.

Corporate clout is needed to negotiate a key position in the best mall in Beijing and to fund a 30-strong design studio to make merchandise that sells around the world. But it makes the designer's position public and pressured, compared with the hatching of talent in previous eras, from Coco Chanel in her Deauville hat shop through Gianni Versace at a Florentine trade show or even Olivier Theyskens, now at Nina Ricci, when he showed in obscure locations.

The second problem is that budding designers have to cope with the rise of fast, low-cost fashion. There is just so little space for an emerging brand to inhabit, when there is now a pincer movement gripping and squeezing new talent. On the one side, the corporate brands have the enormous budgets and people power to promote and distribute their goods. And on the other side, so do the Zaras and H&Ms.

It is not quite fair to say that fast- fashion stores are vampires feeding off creativity, because they have design teams of their own. Yet with the challenge from both sides, even established designers are taking the approach of "if you can't beat them, join them." Hence the one-offs for H&M from Karl Lagerfeld or Viktor & Rolf. The success of that Dutch duo, who have a fragrance deal with L'Oréal, is one of the few brand-building successes of recent years. But will V&R have to find a fashion backer? Beauty giants have often given up on clothing lines, as in the closure by Clarins of Mugler, by Puig of Paco Rabanne and by Procter & Gamble of Rochas.

The third and most compelling reason to believe that the designer era is over lies in the cultural landscape. The 20th century witnessed the total democratization of fashion, removing clothing from its historical role as a defining part of a hierarchy of wealth and social position. Branded logos have filled the void to an extent, enabling people to hitch their insecurity to a famous label, wearing the symbol of perceived success on obvious display.

But for at least 10 years it has been clear that the big brands must perpetually find new territory - China, the Gulf States, India, South America, Turkey - to conquer, while the more sophisticated Western world is increasingly indifferent to the blandishments of the visible logo.

We may be looking now at a situation where fashion is no longer the defining badge of social acceptability. Or more probably, that clothes will retain their importance but in a fragmented way, as, in response to homogenous branding, society divides into myriad fashion tribes.

If, at this start of the 21st century, a design crusader emerges who can trounce all that stands in the way and win a worldwide name and empire, it will be a triumph indeed.

Is fashion over? It will just be different. And who knows if the next new brand will be built in cyberspace?

We make SENSE, not clothing

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Join date : 2013-01-05
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