The New York Times recently ran an excellent piece titled “We Are All Guilty for This Mess,” by Suzy Menkes on the current state of fashion – a world where elite designers are treated like commodities by famed fashion-houses, bought and sold as corporate demands shift. This unfortunate trend where fledgling designers rejuvenate a dead man or woman’s brand just to find backing for their namesake line has been further complicated by the quick to assume social media networks and elaborate contracts offered to these designers. Many journalists long for the day when houses adorned the name of its lead designer and collections were made with the consumer in mind, not the blogger or lavish paycheck. If the industry continues on this path, many niche labels will be lost in a sea of large, encompassing powerhouses building a global brand where design takes a backseat to profit. Offered below is an excerpt of the article. What do you think of this power-shift? Is it detrimental to the industry, will it help build smaller namesake brands for future success, or is there a more inevitable outcome on the horizon?
The drama that started almost exactly a year ago with the breakdown and departure of John Galliano from Dior has spread across the fashion universe.
The moving end to Raf Simons’s seven years at Jil Sander dominated the Milan scene over the weekend as much as the news that Ms. Sander herself will be returning.
Speculation now has Yves Saint Laurent taking on Hedi Slimane, who was a designer choice to follow the original maestro. The idea that Mr. Slimane, who has followed a photographic career since his departure from Dior Homme, would move back to YSL, where he once designed men’s wear, has created yet-another firestorm across the cybersphere.
Caught in this maelstrom are the designers. By their nature artistic and fragile people, they see themselves treated like commodities, bought and dispensed with as the corporate house pleases.
There is a reason that long-serving fashion executives have been replaced in recent years by chief executive officers whose history is in ice cream, yogurt or other marketable products. With a global society hungry for luxury, distribution and supply chains are now as important for executives as a hands-on feel for products.
But not all the blame can be put on the corporate conglomerates, who have, like a flood tide, been inundating family-run houses. In Italy, La Familia just about hangs in there, hoping that each generation will serve up a smart son or daughter. But it is increasingly hard for small Italian brands to keep a mom-and-pop business going, especially when China’s industrial base for fashion will soon outstrip Italy’s.
The piece in its entirety can be read here.