Industry Stalwarts Weigh in on the Increasingly Fast Pace of Fashion

Karl Lagerfeld, Rick Owens, Alexander Wang speak their mind.

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In an article titled “Is The Fashion Heading Towards A Burnout?” WWD poses a big but ever more relevant question — is the fashion industry getting too fast-paced? Hot off the news that Raf Simons is leaving Dior after three-and-a-half years at its helm “based entirely and equally on my desire to focus on other interests in my life, including my own brand, and the passions that drive me outside of my work,” along with Alexander Wang relinquishing his post at Balenciaga, it seems an appropriate time to question the workload for these designers and the overall health of the industry. Among torrents of fashion shows, trends, and an increasingly competitive market, see what some industry heavyweights had to say about the issue. Read the full array of responses on WWD.

Karl Lagerfeld
“I have no problem, but not everybody may have dream teams to do all that work. It goes with the times we live in. There is no way to look back. For some people and smaller companies, it could become too much but big companies like Chanel, Dior, Vuitton, etc., are organized to face the speed.
There are so many different levels of business and so many different possibilities today. The thing that I hate most are designers who accept those very well-paid jobs and then think the demand is too strong, that they are afraid of burnout, etc. It’s a full-time job, not an occupation between others. Fashion is a sport now: You have to run.

Donatella Versace
“I love the pace of fashion. Fashion is about moving forward, and moving fast. One of the greatest pleasures of my life is how the new generation has connected with Versace. If you complain about the pace of fashion today, you are closing the door on the future of fashion. We should not be talking about limits, but about opportunities.
We should be excited that there are more people around the world who want to be part of our world. It’s amazing that the world has fallen in love with fashion, and has a hunger for more. It makes me want to work harder than ever.”

Rick Owens
“I don’t really see a problem: I tend to look at these things as evolutionary. The fashion calendar is just having a cultural moment like the Sunset Strip in L.A. did with rock bands in the Seventies. In retrospect, we might look back and see this period as a breeding ground for a golden age of design. The energy will eventually dissipate and the crowd will move on to something else. As for myself, I feel stimulated and the volume of stuff I see that I don’t really agree with stimulates me to react, which probably makes me work harder. And busy hands are happy hands.”

Alexander Wang
“…Specifically speaking about the show system, I think that’s something everyone is challenged with — the immediacy of things, and the idea of how to deliver in this system, where the attention span has become nonexistent.…Our brand, as opposed to Balenciaga, or even a much bigger brand where you own all your own retail, portions of your supply chain, they can dictate a lot more in terms of changing certain things. We were looking at the calendar the other day and were like, what are the hard deadlines? It’s the show. That’s something that we cannot control. We have to have the collection ready, etc. Those are pillar dates we work toward.
There are very few exceptions. Whether you’re a lot smaller or you’re completely outside the system like [Azzedine] Alaïa, or if you are someone like a Chanel or a Dior, where I feel like they have the financial, they have the infrastructure — like what they did with the resort shows, where they can fly the whole industry, make their own deliveries all that, we’re more in a situation where we have to follow the system. We’re realizing a lot more, at the end of the day, it’s becoming much clearer that fashion is a business and the first priority is the consumer. That’s why everyone is trying to go omnichannel, direct-to-consumer through social media or their own magazines and building into their own retail. It’s not just the journalists but the buyers. Their position is being reevaluated. I don’t have a hard feeling or answer, but it’s definitely something we continuously talk about in terms of who we invite to the show.”

Umit Benan
“Social media is controlling fashion now. And I don’t like it. The attention to workmanship is disappearing. It’s all about marketing. I absolutely think someone should stop this. Attention is good. But I think it’s time for the brands to control the final [customer]. Slow down a bit. As long as the big brands serve in such a fast way, the final [customer] gets spoiled, [wanting] more and more and faster, newer things every two weeks. But also, if the big luxury brands slow down, then the mass market will take the opportunity to steal a piece of the cake as seen by Zara, etc. So yes, it’s too much!! Too fast! Change? Hopefully. How? Have no clue!”

Leandra Medine, founder of Man Repeller
“I’m not sure if this is going to answer the questions, but I do think that Raf Simons’ departure from Dior has been a bit of a wakeup call for a lot of people in fashion. It was like a selfless and heroic act of personal betterment that I think many of us have de-prioritized in order to “succeed,” sort of forgetting that the pursuit of success is one that is supposed to be motivated by achieving quality of life.

Do I think shows should go directly to the consumer? Not really. It’s for the elected “arbiters of taste,” those trained opinions to share the shows through their lens. Plenty of what’s happening is good; the “democratization” of fashion as they call it, is ushering this industry into an era of all-inclusion. I would not be here, commenting on a story for WWD without it. And I do believe that everyone should be afforded the choice to participate or not in the industry, but what seems to be getting lost is this sense that the pace we’ve set is feeling more and more unreasonable and unsustainable.”

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