Is fashion having a confidence crisis?
I was talking to a friend last week about my fashion fatigue and he said I should stop ranting and write a blog post instead. “I can’t!” I wailed. “I don’t want to sound negative!” But he was right. The whole point of this blog is that it’s a space to mull things over, and hopefully by doing so, I’ll resolve my woes and can move forward.
One of the issues is I don’t feel inspired by fashion brands and partly that’s because the brands don’t seem to know what they are. No one seems to want to stay in their lane; instead they all want a slice of each other’s pie. I can understand it. The retail world is in turmoil, no-one’s shopping and brands are freaking out. In their panic, they’re desperately trying to cross over into other demographics and frankly, risking losing their core customers.
When I was growing up, we didn’t have the brand culture that we have today. The high street was bland. We had a few heritage and designer brands that harnessed great loyalty but every brand wasn’t a Brand. Today, every brand wants to be a major player and it’s easier to have the means to cultivate the image they want. Thus high street brands think they’re luxury brands. They can afford the same high-end photographers, art directors and models, yet take all that away and the product won’t live up to the hype. But their customer will buy into the aspirational image nevertheless.
Meanwhile, luxury brands aren’t content appealing to affluent consumers. No, they want the aspirational customer too. Hence you get Louis Vuitton menswear cross-pollinating to reach the youthful streetwear customer. Which is risky territory and how you end up with cheap looking product like this that in turn alienates your longstanding clientele who feels betrayed. (Do I sound ancient and bitter? As I said, I’m mulling this over…)
I’m old school. For me, luxury brands were not something young people aspired to. For one thing, there were no entry-point keyrings and bag bugs back in the day. For another, luxury brands in the 80s were either bourgeois and fusty or overly glam, which was equally unappealing to a generation just discovering white Levi’s and Adidas Superstars. It was the dress-down post-Dynasty years, so YSL, Chanel and Mugler were not cool to a teen. It was only in the grungy 90s that classic luxury brands started to have a subversive appeal to me. I would see Stella Tennant and Kirsten Owen in a Vogue model-off-duty feature sporting their Helmut Lang airport garb, lugging a Vuitton monogram holdall like it was a Tesco carrier bag, and think, oh I want that! Or a Mark Lebon/Judy Blame collage in i-D where they had punkified the Chanel logo. That made me look at luxury brands differently. (Is that not the same as Kim Jones Supreme-ifying the Vuitton brand? No, because my way was organic and his way feels contrived.) Once hooked in I later learnt about the heritage and craftsmanship that are the key to the brands’ DNA.
DNA! That’s another thing amiss with many brands. There are too many new brands that don’t have a reason to exist other than wanting to make money. They’re diluted copies of other designers – I mean, how many versions of Common Projects, Celine, Stussy and Comme do we need? Where’s the point of view? Then there’s the problem of revolving doors at the legacy houses. Who knows what Givenchy or Carven stands for any more? I don’t. [Update: my ‘why do you exist’ thoughts are echoed here by former Chanel global CEO Maureen Chiquet…]
But as I said, I’m old school. And I feel that thanks to the speed of fashion now, maybe consumers don’t actually care for brand loyalty. They’ll take a bit of Dior when it suits them, a bit of Chloe, a bit of Zara and even a fake Hermes (you can get some super real-looking ones now you know). The legacy and heritage of luxury doesn’t mean anything to them, it’s all just consumable goods. And that’s a shame.
But I think there’s hope. Because I don’t believe I’m the only one feeling a bit disillusioned. I feel that the over-saturation of fashion (and its accompanying content overload – but that’s another rant for another time) is reaching its tipping point and that’s why we’re seeing a shift towards no-buying and low-buying . It will unfortunately mean a few retail victims along the way but long term that will be for the greater good. Out with the the old and ubiquitous and in with a new wave of creative energy and an uptick in my mojo. #Prayforme
WORDS: Disneyrollergirl/Navaz Batliwalla
IMAGE: Peter Lindbergh
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12 April, 2017 @ 9:21 am
I agree with all this , but then I have found a couple of brands I like and rarely look elsewhere now , whereas before I’d always be looking through the designer floors in the stores now I hone right to the one.
12 April, 2017 @ 9:35 pm
Ooh which brands Estrella? Do share…!
12 April, 2017 @ 10:27 pm
Hmmm, I’m afraid it’s a very weird mix but works for me : Humanoid for clothes and Hermès for scarves and bags .
12 April, 2017 @ 10:29 pm
Hmm, it’s a very weird mix but works for me; Humanoid for clothes and Hermès scarves and bags.
13 April, 2017 @ 12:27 pm
Weird but good!
12 April, 2017 @ 10:24 am
I’m probably one of your oldest readers and I do so agree with what you say. So much high-end ‘designer’ stuff is just a con and they get away with it because buyers are uneducated. You need to learn to look beyond labels and brands and assess the item dispassionately. My elegant great-aunt taught me to look at the design, the quality of the materials and the workmanship. It’s knowing that something is quality through and through that gives pleasure and that sort of luxury is a private one. Learning to trust your judgement, based on knowledge, gives confidence in the wearing. Buying a brand for the name alone is a sad form of dependency.
12 April, 2017 @ 9:34 pm
Absolutely Annabel, thanks for saying it! (And for reading! xx)
12 April, 2017 @ 10:55 am
Agree! I think fashion fatigue is a result of the fast fashion movement and the luxury brands deliberately trying to hook consumers in a similar way to tobacco and alcohol companies ie buying things that they cannot really afford or need. Yes, that last assertion is controversial. Meanwhile, fashion consumers are thinking I don’t really need all this stuff, I just need to some well made clothes that I love and make me feel good. Cheap clothes don’t make me feel good because someone is not being paid a fair wage and they are usually horrid to wear. Expensive clothes that I can’t really afford make me feel a fool or a tool – have your choice. Well, that’s my view.
12 April, 2017 @ 9:33 pm
Good points Claire. Yes, luxury companies dangling the carrot of affordable doodads so that younger customers aspire to them. But as you said, they can’t really afford it but feel they should because everyone else has it so why can’t they. For my generation luxury was out of reach, it was something you *might* be able to afford in the future, not when you’re 22!
12 April, 2017 @ 12:35 pm
Very well said, and a great read. Thanks!
12 April, 2017 @ 9:30 pm
Thank you Kathy!
12 April, 2017 @ 3:09 pm
You’re absolutely right, of course. Quality is always best. And few good pieces are much better than a closet full of junk. I love that the slow fashion or low-buying movement is making NOT shopping cool. But if that’s the reason everyone is jumping on that particular bandwagon…brands needn’t worry. Because just like people who join a gym in January, those jumpers will jump off again soon, and be back at the fast fashion places before long.
12 April, 2017 @ 9:49 pm
Thanks Sue! Agree, some people will fall back off the wagon, but others will change their habits long term. From social media I can already see people saying that they read my book and have been converted to buying better quality clothes that reflect their style. (I didn’t write the book to be an eco-warrior but it’s a nice side effect!) Thanks for commenting :)
12 April, 2017 @ 3:43 pm
I completely agree! My fashion fatigue is more with the lower end of the market, all of the online platforms Boohoo, Missguided, Miss Pap…same fashions same celeb faces! I find Instagram massively refreshing when searching for new brands! I love a company called Daiss, @welovedaiss http://www.daiss.co.uk also @lazyoaf http://www.lazyoaf.com a bit wacky but amazing for inspiration but also Jade Clark UK too @jadeclark.uk . Check them out! Thanks, love the blog x
12 April, 2017 @ 9:28 pm
Thanks Rebecca, I remember Lazy Oaf from the early days, we loved them at CosmoGIRL! A great, grassroots brand that was genuinely new at the time. Will check out Daiss and Jade Clark. Those saturday-night-dress etailers are killing it but can’t bear their branding, so cheap and tacky, I am assaulted by their posters every day on the tube. And now the vile Nasty Gal as well!
That's Not My Age
12 April, 2017 @ 6:07 pm
There’s just too much stuff! I think we’re all suffering from fashion fatigue and hope we are shifting to a more authentic, ‘buy less’ period.
12 April, 2017 @ 9:50 pm
12 April, 2017 @ 9:39 pm
Totally agree with you, too many brands, too many seasons, no clear identity… It’s also why almost everything is available on sale now! I used to look forward to the new season but now I can’t be bothered as it’s all so constant. Buying much less than I used to as despite the constant barrage of new clothes, I find something similar in my closet.
13 April, 2017 @ 1:52 am
Yep I hear you! x
12 April, 2017 @ 10:24 pm
This. You are on to something big here. I live in NYC and I used to love to explore and discover small shops and restaurants. Now, because of the ubiquity of top ten lists and blogs, there are lines everywhere of people wanting the same stuff and then the posting, re-posting of it all. We’re swarming in our stuff and killing the pleasure of discovery and savoring as we shove ever more shit down our collective maw. Everyone is the same, a different kind of flat world. And it’s not just fashion. It’s the speed of it as well. Several brands that I do really like and respect now send emails with guides to cities (because we don’t have enough of these!!!) or recipes and the like. I can’t hold it against them, they’re trying to compete, but to me it dilutes their appeal. If you’re really good at something, why isn’t that enough? And I’m over the term Brand. It’s origin is violent (branding/burning/marking) and while I certainly understand the need for short hand in our fast world, the obsession with branding ultimately reduces a product rather than expands it. Where is the art in that? Dig further in this vein, it’s deep and it resonates broadly. And one last point, there’s a real environmental concern in this bottomless consumerism that is part of this cycle of brand confusion. A friend of mine has a company called Zady and she’s trying to make clothes that are sustainable and fashionable. It’s tough. Did you know that after oil, fashion is the biggest industry polluter? Something to think hard upon. It’s all inter-related. Keep at it.
13 April, 2017 @ 1:51 am
Thank you Noelle! There’s a big counter movement here in the UK, as I’m sure there is in the U.S so I think we are going through a transition. It makes me wonder if we WILL start to see a return to secretive, underground movements that aren’t promoted on social. People said it couldn’t happen but I think it can and maybe already is… Food for thought!
13 April, 2017 @ 11:26 pm
I 100% agree with you on everything you said!! I was trying to find a dress for a wedding today in central London..and oh my!I felt sick just walking around and looking.Too much choice and poorly made clothes!Even top designers!!
Fashion has lost its lustre in a way.I hope we all get back to basics some day.I know I’m going that way already.Always try to buy something from local designers and independent labels.And on top of that something that will last a life time :)
Quality over quantity any day!
Love your blog and book!!!
ps anyone knows of any London based leather makers?ie bag?
14 April, 2017 @ 12:52 am
Thank you Ally, lots of agreement here! Do you mean designers who make the bags in London? Or the brand based here but the bags can be made elsewhere?
17 April, 2017 @ 11:33 pm
I just discovered Alfie Douglas. I haven’t tried the bags but they look great: https://alfiedouglas.com/
15 April, 2017 @ 12:38 pm
This is when I rely heavily on my own personal style, only adding pieces that I truly love. I like the challenge of finding items that suit me when fashion seems to have gone off the rails. Also, I never look like everyone else because I’m not buying into the trends.
15 April, 2017 @ 1:52 pm
I agree. I think it’s a grown up thing. You realise you don’t *need* anything but you still like to have a bit of newness so it’s good to have parameters of only buying things that fit *your* specific taste/size etc
15 April, 2017 @ 12:47 pm
Also, I like the fallout from the recent designer shuffle. I’m excited to see a women helm Givenchy, Pierpaolo Piccioli’s solo collections for Valentino have been sublime, and I cannot wait to see what Nadege Vahnee-Cybulski brings to Chloe— the line was looking a bit tired.
15 April, 2017 @ 8:59 pm
Oops, it’s Natacha Ramsay-Levi at Chloe?! (All these new names!!) I was VERY bored with Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy and looking forward to seeing what CWK does…
16 April, 2017 @ 11:52 am
Yes, my mistake, Nadege is at Hermes. Looking forward to seeing what Natacha Ramsay-Levi brings to Chloe.
16 June, 2017 @ 5:10 pm
I came to this story two months late through bloglovin but I still have to comment. I couldn’t agree more! I’m also suffering from fashion fatigue and as it is my livelihood it’s not the best feeling, but the system is seriously broken. I wrote a related post you can see here http://www.primadarling.com/fashion/year-of-living-designer-free/ and have initiated a year of not buying anything from the major fashion houses in favor of smaller companies.