Is fashion having a confidence crisis?

Peter Lindbergh

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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