Friday Chronicle #20 – Why the fashion industry is killing fashion? A heritage and creativity debate. 

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When a very well known trends agency in Paris said back in 2012 that fashion needed to get its freedom from the heritage and history or die, it was probably the most stupid thing to say. Nevertheless it was the state of mind of many people at that time. Since then several iconic Fashion houses decided to embrace this over-modernity philosophy and now, 4 years later, they are dying . Why? Because they lost their identity and their souls. Thy went from a Fashion House status to a simple label. It is not surprising that all fashion creators are leaving their jobs as it makes no sense anymore. Wake up people! When a very well known trends agency in Paris said back in 2012 that fashion needed to get its freedom from the heritage and history or die, it was probably the most stupid thing to say. Nevertheless it was the state of mind of many people at that time. Since then several iconic Fashion houses decided to embrace this over-modernity philosophy and now, 4 years later, they are dying . Why? Because they lost their identity and their souls. Thy went from a Fashion House status to a simple label. It is not surprising that all fashion creators are leaving their jobs as it makes no sense anymore. Wake up people!
Fashion-is-dead

Heritage and creativity are the foundation of a brand identity

What makes a Fashion brand desirable? It is a clever blend of excitement, innovation, originality and sacralization. This last word is a strong one but a good one to describe the desire millions of people can have for a brand. The construction of a Brand reputation is a complex process and when you get there you wish to maintain it. The sacralization idea comes from the fact that generally there is a brilliant and creative mind that gave the spirit of the fashion house. Fashion icons like Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Thierry Mugler, Jeanne Lanvin or André Courrèges, were the foundation spirit of their respective fashion brands. People would come and buy their clothe because they would feel connected to the state of mind and for what they stand for. The beginning of the 20th century, the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s or even the 80’s saw the birth of amazing fashion names. People would dream about haute-couture and buy Pret-à-porter. Fashion was elevated as art and a strong self-expression for creativity. The 90’s were interesting for the creation of smaller brands, generally called “young or new creators”.
Fashion-designers
It was all about the freedom of creation. Unfortunately the 90’s were also the time for luxury brands to become luxury groups.

  • LVMH was founded in 1987
  • PPR was founded in 1994

It was also the time that hotels started organizing themselves in groups and franchises. Probably the creation of these massive financial groups helped saving a lot of jobs but unfortunately these groups are driven by finance, profit and return on investment. The heads of these groups did not have a fashion or even a luxury background. Bernard Arnault was a engineer in Real Estate. François-Henry Pinault had a strong background in sales for Automobile and Pharmaceuticals. So when fashion houses get into the network of these groups, they get into a new dimension away from the elitism and sacralization of their names. They embrace the capitalism logic of distribution, trends, benefits and budgets. Naturally these people are very intelligent and over the years they acquired a certain know-how. But their ultimate goal focus on earnings and profits. Givenchy, Kenzo., Yves Saint Laurent… Where is the original spirit of these brands now? Simply lost in translation!

The moment fashion brands lost their first names, it was the beginning of the end

One strong sign of change was the idea that fashion houses should get free from their past and heritage that was “keeping them from embracing the future”. So one way to emancipate the brands were to change their names by getting rid of their first names.

  • Yves Saint Laurent becomes Saint Laurent
  • Christian Dior becomes Dior
  • Thierry Mugler becomes Mugler
  • Salvatore Ferragamo becomes Ferragamo

By loosing their first names, they started loosing its identity, its singularity. It was a way to disconnect from the past and the founder of the brand.
When Yves Saint Laurent became Saint Laurent and the creative studio moved to Los Angeles, we could see there was no interest to pursuit the work and spirit of Mr Yves Saint Laurent. The same happened with Christian Dior. When Christian disappeared to become Dior, it was like bringing down a fashion house to the status of a brand label like Zara, H&M, Mango, TopShop or Nike. They lost the sacralization. So brands like Topshop has a stronger desirability than most of luxury fashion houses today. When you wonder why fashion creators are leaving their jobs, well, because it makes no more sense to work there. Raf Simmons, Hedi Slimane, Albert Elbaz or Alessandro Sartori have all quit their fashion houses although their work was at the top. You can read the full article about it here.

How Heritage and tradition can generate tomorrow’s creativity

André Malraux used to say that the past and the future, heritage and modernity are not antagonists. At the contrary, heritage and history can be strong sources of creativity and modernity. This is a state of mind and a strong philosophy that timeless brands know very well. When Marc Jacobs got inspired by Diane Vreeland, the fashion goddess of Harpers Bazaar and Vogue (30’s to the 60’s) for one of his collections, it was a strong reference to fashion heritage. Yet, modern and avant-garde. He invited Caroline Vreeland, her Great Granddaughter to be first row at the défilé, like a tribute to fashion heritage.

So what now? Well, fashion creators need to rethink their models of development. Fashion labels have a strong, yet short-term desirability. It is something that can bring a lot of creativity and dynamism. Yet, we need to build the future of a business and a creative industry. As we know, people do not buy products anymore. They buy brands and experiences. For that, they need to feel deeply connected to the brands they interact with. This connection is a pure emotional and aspirational one. The only way to build this is for brands to capitalize on their strength in order to propose something unique, original, modern and creative. The basis of that? Heritage, know-how and courage. When Louis Vuitton shows all the tannery craftsmanship in their ateliers, or Cartier celebrates its métiers d’art, we are talking here about pure heritage. Yet, it is modern and give you a deep understanding on the brands and products you would buy. When you buy a pair of JM Weston shoes, it takes several weeks and hundreds of manual craftsmanship to manufacture the perfect shoes. If you do understand JM Weston heritage and legacy, you will fully enjoy the pair of shoes you will have your feet on. It is not about the money, it is about the amazing creativity and savoir-faire that each generation of customers perpetuate by connecting with these amazing brands. We hope that all these beautiful creative minds, from Elbaz to Simmons and Slimane will shape the future of fashion and write with golden letters a tremendous path… For the pleasure of all fashion aficionados.

José Amorim

Fashion-is-dead
Info sourced at Forbes, New York Times, Wikipedia, LVHM annual report and Bilan. All content is copyrighted with no reproduction rights available. Images are for illustration purposes only. 

José Amorim

José Amorim has been working in the luxury industry for more than 15 years. In the past 8 years, he joined his personal passion for digital culture and his luxury background to develop digital strategies for premium brands. He is the founder of LuxuryActivist.com and is happy to share his passion here.