In the latest issue of T, Suzy Menkes once again takes aim at the “whirligig” of the fashion industry. She decries its current state, with its endless runway shows — which now include resort and pre-fall, even for young designers just starting out — and its relentless push for the next big thing.
Menkes — an intrepid journalist if ever there were, who’s quite used to the harried helter skelter of the business — is absolutely right. The paradigm shift is more than an inconvenient truth bemoaned by the old guard, and her response is more than a way-we-were diatribe by a pre-Internet critic. This new era of constantly refreshed racks, and therefore constant sales, is an assault on the integrity of the creative part of the creative industry, effectively stripping the soul of the designer-as-artist from the province of fashion-as-art, and plenty of other souls with it.
What’s more, this new rush on the part of houses — hence editors and retailers — to be everything to everyone is really, truly exhausting. There’s no time anymore for the careful shaping of a collection’s message, not before the fast-fashion retailers knock it off and put their versions out first. Or the collection simply becomes irrelevant because the next pre-collection is only weeks away. And why should a house nurture a designer when other designers are launching their careers on Twitter, befriending celebrities with gushy compliments and gifted dresses? Those newbies immediately win nice-sounding awards, so who can say who’s at fault or even how this mess started?
Menkes goes on to postulate, correctly, that the increasing number of shows a designer is now expected to envision and make happen is what led to the more memorable downfalls in recent fashion history. “If we accept that the pace of fashion today was part of the problem behind the decline of John Galliano, the demise of Alexander McQueen and the cause of other well-known rehab cleanups,” she writes, “nonstop shows seem a high price to pay for the endless ‘newness’ demanded of fashion now.”
The decades-long democratization of fashion has been good in many ways, but in executives’ zeal to offer ever more clothes to ever more customers, wealthy and not wealthy, we hope they’re listening when Menkes says, “As the fashion carousel spins ever faster, the concern is that, while the stream of newness never runs out, there’s going to be a good deal more crash and burn among designers in the future.”