These Economic Times have presented the fashion industry with one of its roughest periods to date. Not since the ’90s when haute couture languished, the Gap and mass fashion were set to rule the world and Teri Agins famously pronounced the end of fashion, has fashion had to reconsider its modus operandi on such a scale for the sake of self-preservation.
As the current seasonal circuit has shown, this has not necessarily been a bad thing. From New York to London, designers have shown remarkable restraint and discipline under more austere circumstances. Aquascutum under Michael Herz is one such brand that has shown a considerable ability to innovate under stress (backers pulling out at the eleventh hour) and with the rare exception, most designers have either edited their collections to a more manageable number or have returned to their basics. This has meant that New York Fashion Week has shown greater flair than past seasons (Phillip Lim comes to mind) and that London Fashion Week has remarkably managed to strike a balance between innovation and regard for the bottom line.
It would appear that a little adversity often helps to bring out the best in the fashion industry and there are historical precedents. We only have to recall the triumph of the Théâtre de la Mode amidst post-WWII austerity when French couturiers rallied to reinvigorate their industry or the fact that Gucci was under threat of oblivion when Tom Ford brought it back from the grave. The preceding boom years with its heady fixation on increasing amounts of bling and brand expansion may have lined the pockets of well positioned designers but it has also obviated the need for focus on design. It only makes sense that there was less pressure on designers to innovate as there was to produce at a higher frequency when stock was flying off the shelves and the market for luxury goods and fashion seemed set to expand inexorably.
An interesting scenario should play out in the next couple of years. At its best, Parsons Boy believes that these Economic Times might curtail the celebrity-fashion conflation that has been the unfortunate by-product of the past decade as the constant need for innovation separates genuine talent from the merely well-publicised. One cannot forget also that scarcity does not only spur innovation in design but innovation in retail and brand management. Haute couture continues to decline but the desire for personalisation and its connotation of discreet luxury has never been stronger while the fast fashion evolves from a process of facsimile to something with greater consideration.
Something to remember. The ’90s may have been a terrible time for high fashion (French fashion in particular) but it also gave us the Antwerp and Japanese designers. Key players in the industry today as John Galliano and Marc Jacobs also matured during the post-’80s hangover. Fashion has always had an extraordinary capacity for innovation and renovation – a self-imposed impetus to change is after all embedded into its culture – and it remains to be seen what the next decade might present.
As an aside, the people at Parsons have not been discussing it but it certainly is cause for excitement! Parsons Boy feels that such a personage as Tom Ford was never going to remain apart from fashion for long. Just for the fun of speculation, assuming it does take place, one wonders how long it should take before Hedi Slimane returns to the fold.