A CUP of coffee between shows in Paris and the conversation turns to the only topic it can: what is going on in fashion right now? And by which we don’t mean hemlines, colours, and cuts. That’s what it used to be about: as simple even as that. Imagine. Now, technology, fast fashion, luxury, new names, old names, absent names, new markets, digital markets, demand, and impatience have all made it a far more complex sphere to orbit. And everyone is having some navigational difficulty, it would seem.
“There’s a struggle to keep up with the modern way to do fashion. It has had to change; it was stagnant in so many ways and no one knows what’s best. There is a disconnect. The industry in general is in a state of flux,” says Holly Fraser, editor of Hunger Magazine.
(Valerio Mezzanotti for NOWFASHION)
The “f” word is one that has been floating about the whole season – it’s really the only way to sum up what is or isn’t, what might or what might not be, going on. Especially at the top.
“The big names are struggling and the uncertainty of the designer behind many of them is making people question brand or designer as the key to fashion at its best and strongest,” points out fashion journalist Tony Glenville.
(Guillaume Roujas for NOWFASHION)
It was especially obvious at Lanvin this season without Alber at the helm (though Bouchra Jarrar has just signed up for the job), far less so at Dior, while Hermes finally got into its groove as Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski tucked three seasons into her belt, and Balenciaga – under the new direction of Vetements Demna Gvasalia – made a refreshing debut, delivering pretty much exactly what we had been after: something that struck archival cords and updated them through a contemporary lens. But we didn’t know until we knew – aka saw the collection, which had been the talk of fashion ever since the hire was announced last year. Would he or wouldn’t he make it a success? For up until then, Balenciaga had been on something of a journey of discovery since Ghesquière had left and hopped off to Vuitton – where, incidentally, things were ticking over very nicely, just as they were at Chanel. As they do. Over at Saint Laurent, we’re still left to play the guessing game about where Hedi might be off to with this collection widely touted to have been his last. More uncertainty. Who would go there instead? And just when he’s made it the go-to brand. There are vacancies, there are rumours and red herrings, and they all circulate around the big houses, the heritage stalwarts we look to for fashion safety and stability. And so in just one paragraph, there lies the twists and turns of the establishment and the luxury fashion landscape right now. For Paris is about nothing if not luxury.
(Guillaume Roujas for NOWFASHION)
“French fashion is synonymous with luxury because it means high quality products, hand-made fabrics. When talking about the French Woman ‘La Parisienne,’ this projects an image of timeless elegance, and refinement. Fashion is part of our country’s life blood,” confirms Cacharel’s brand president Jean Bousquet. The relatively heritage Parisian label (it launched in 1962) is on a brand repositioning mission at the moment, trying to traverse this brave new fashion world.
“The term luxury, like everything else, is in a state of flux,” continues Fraser. “Streetwear influences can be luxury now. It’s become more of a transient word, its meaning is different. It’s almost archaic to call something ‘luxury’ now.”
She’s right. It was those luxed-up trainers on the catwalk that did it two years ago. And you can’t help but be curious to know the difference in price point when it comes to the new Balenciaga collection versus that of Demna’s own cult Vetements: one from a luxury label in the traditional sense; the other part of a new breed of zeitgeist luxury.
VIDEO | VETEMENTS READY TO WEAR FALL WINTER 2016 PARIS
VIDEO | VETEMENTS READY TO WEAR FALL WINTER 2016 PARISDiscover the collection online now.#Vêtements #DemnaGvasalia #PFWPosted by Nowfashion.com on Friday, March 4, 2016
“It’s [Paris Fashion Week] an exciting place to be as you get a chance to see some of the oldest most recognised luxury brands that have been here from the start, yet over the seasons I have seen more and more younger brands creating a very exciting space,” noted Huishan Zhang, a London-based designer whose own couture-crafted designs chime very nicely with Paris. Because for once, it’s as though the big brands are having to keep a look out over their shoulder. Or do they?
“These [new] labels do not want to be the next Armani or Ralph Lauren,” reasons Glenville. “They want to sell their clothes in selected outlets across the world to the right people in the right place. And I suspect that for some the long-term is now where they see themselves; they may eventually leave fashion altogether and do something else creative or join with a bigger label and disappear, it doesn’t matter. This is now.” Storied houses, however, are forever. Kind of.
“Heritage brands should stick to their guns – class and style never go out of fashion, but everything else does,” notes Fraser, flagging the importance of consideration. “There is something nice about taking time to think about who to put into these roles, people do need to think about what that means now.”
Because one of the issues is that everything got fast, too fast – be it the see-now-buy-now culture that began something of a landslide movement at the beginning of the season or the need to put named designers into vacant roles as a way to quickly recover some sense of trust and stability only to find the same thing happens not too far down the line again.
VIDEO | LANVIN READY TO WEAR FALL WINTER 2016 PARISDiscover the collection online now. #LANVIN #PFWPosted by Nowfashion.com on Friday, March 4, 2016
Of course, the Federation Francaise de la Couture has already said no to the aforementioned former new fast fashion system but the pressure is still on to fill those vacancies and as soon as one designer moves, a domino effect of career path changes will occur and the establishment as we know it might not look quite like it does anymore. But then fashion never stood still anyway.