The story is an old and familiar one: young, upstart outsiders take on a sedate and conventional system and turn it on its head in the name of authenticity, edginess and cool. Popular culture thrives on this narrative, and in the fashion industry this storyline is a well-worn one. ‘Real’ fashion is thrust, from the street, upon the unsuspecting bourgeoisie, and the bourgeoisie go potty for it.
‘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.’
Jean Jacques Picart in part two of a narrative interview conducted by Anja Aronowsky Cronberg for Vestoj ‘On Failure.’
‘The system is what it is and fashion can’t change that. Are you going to change the world with fashion? I don’t think so. Fashion is just a reflection of society at large. We live in a culture where poor people can dress up in nice things for cheap, and where rich people want to know that they’re the only ones to have what they have. That’s not new. Some people have yachts in the Caribbean; others have a shack to sleep in if they’re lucky. My point is that we need everything – ultimately it’s about balance.’
Adrian Joffe in the first part of a long narrative interview conducted by Anja Aronowsky Cronberg for Vestoj ‘On Failure.’
In a business where designers often become figureheads for large corporations, to be rolled out when a perfume or handbag needs promoting, Christophe Lemaire is an unusually outspoken exception to the rule.
Hussein Chalayan became known as a ‘conceptual designer’ in the 1990s and it’s been bugging him ever since. Rather than getting attention for his more extraordinary designs (there have been dresses made of giant plastic bubbles, a table turning into a skirt, LED lights and lasers incorporated into garments as well as black chadors either covering or exposing the naked bodies of his models), he would like the focus to be on his wearable clothes, the stuff that people actually buy.
Dries Van Noten speaks with care and reserve, like someone well aware of his privileged position in the fashion industry. In Dries’ case this is a standing that has been deftly and meticulously carved over the years, a feat which, in the eyes of many, makes it even more well deserved. Today he is one of the few remaining independent designers, an accomplishment that makes his brand somewhat of an anomaly in the contemporary fashion industry. Nevertheless, Dries, as the designer himself coyly intimates, has to start thinking about his future. Could it be that another of the enduring bastions of fashion sovereignty is about to end up in the hands of a business conglomerate?
Spending time with Nigel Cabourn is a little like being carried along by a minor tornado. He talks a mile a minute, makes friends with just about everybody, and is, by his own admission, ‘like the fucking Pied Piper’.
When I first met Jean Touitou he was giving a presentation in the A.P.C. showroom about the latest collection to a room full of press and buyers. He was cracking jokes and treating his audience as if they were just a bunch of old friends.
Irene is one of the fashion industry’s many éminence grises. In the late 1980s she became the fashion editor of Vogue Paris where she pioneered the work of photographers like Peter Lindbergh, Steven Meisel, Bruce Weber and Paolo Roversi, at the time all young and looking for a break.
We have seen how the vintage aesthetic can be employed in order to reconnect with bygone times, how it can be seen as a way to hold onto the past, whilst simultaneously remoulding it in the image of the future. In new vintage clothing past, present and future seem to converge in a manner which incarnates each element in equal measure, whilst concurrently not embodying any of them.
It’s an open secret in the industry that advertising brands dictate editorial content, sometimes explicitly, often tacitly. Stories of reporters being banned from shows after unfavourable reviews belong to fashion folklore, but accounts of PR people demanding final approval of articles, interviews being cut short after an uncomfortable question and designers bringing their own recording devices to interviews are surprisingly common.
That fashion is constantly on the move, shifting and changing as soon as we think we have a firm grasp on what it is telling us, is nothing new. But rather than being a pointless sign of debauched times, as its critics would have it, we could argue that the role of fashion is instead to hold a mirror up to our culture.