Style.com‘s series The Future of Fashion by editor in chief, Dirk Standen interviews leaders in the fashion industry on their take on the future of fashion given the economy, bloggers and social and digital media. Chronicling the thoughts of Robert Duffy, President of Marc Jacobs, Cathry Horyn, fashion critic at The New York Times, Hedi Slimane, former designer for Dior Homme, Oliver Zahm, founder of Purple Fashion, Julie Gilhart, former fashion director at Barneys New York, Alber Elbaz, designer at Lanvin, Carine Roitfeld, former editor in chief of Vogue Paris and Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, who design The Row and Elizabeth & James, the series gives us a view on where the leaders of the fashion industry think fashion is headed. Super interesting!
When I first learned of this series, I instantly read it all and thought I would share key highlights with my readers. Each of these people have very different roles in the fashion industry and getting their perspective on how things are evolving are essential for any young person interested in fashion or having a career in the industry.
Read below for my key thoughts and favorite out takes.
OK, not such a big deal then. But how big a leap is it from live-streaming a show to filming a collection in a studio, without an audience. How important is it to have a live show with a live audience?
If it’s important to people, then it’s important to me. People like to come to our shows. They like the energy in the audience. There are people that you work with, there are certain editors, there are certain stylists, there are certain people who are really, really knowledgeable about what you’re trying to do. You really do want the feedback. And for us, when you’re showing a collection, even if it’s to the stores that buy it, or it’s to your teams of buyers for your own stores, you really do want to show it the way that you see it being worn. It’s a marketing vehicle within the company. I have stores in India, Vietnam, the Philippines, all over China, all over Japan. I have them all over the world. I’m in Saudi Arabia, I’m in Kuwait, I’m in Lebanon, Dubai, all over Europe, my own stores. And the universal language is what they see, and this is how we’re presenting it. This is how we see this being presented in the stores. You have to dilute it according to your climate, according to your culture, but this is a marketing tool for us to use internally. When you get up to 240 stores or whatever, Marc Jacobs stores or Marc by Marc Jacobs stores, they need it. Now if there’s also an audience that’s happy to sit through it, great. I’m not into the celebrity thing or anything, like we used to do. You know, it’s like, that’s boring. People used to want to come to our shows because of that, and we’ve sort of cut that out the last two seasons just because it was boring.
ICON TAKE: I totally agree, live shows are an important factor in the culture of fashion. Aside from the social aspect of it, there is still a mystery about what is behind those tents, and a chase for us young fashionistas to get into them. Having been to several fashion shows now myself, it’s important to visually see the clothes up close and personal and moving live, even if on a model. I also agree that celebrities at fashion shows are boring. Fashion shows are for the fashion people. Those seats should be reserved for editors and upcoming fashion bloggers and influencers.
I hope fashion shows never go out of vogue.
Are you a fan of any of the high-low collaborations?
I think for the young designers, it’s probably good to help them get their name out there. Surely it’s helped Mizrahi in a very strange period in his career. There are the Target collaborations, most recently the Rodarte girls. But I don’t know, I think Target is sort of special, H&M is sort of special, but how many of those can you chase before you cannibalize yourself? I think it’s a reality of the contemporary world, all these business collaborations to help you bring some revenue into your business. But you can’t lose sight of [the fact] there’s an opposite reaction, a basic law of physics, so if you put your name next to Target, then you are changing your values in some ways, and you have to accept that.
ICON TAKE: I agree, if a brand decides to collaborate with a lower end retailer, it can be great exposure for them and their brand and a great opportunity for the masses to have access to pieces and designs that they would otherwise only dream about. I also agree that while the exposure is great they do run the risk of diluting their brand.
Personally, I have never purchased a piece from these collaborations and just stick to mid-level priced items for the style, quality and longevity.
How do you think technology—tweeting, blogging, social media, etc.—has affected fashion? For better or worse?
It has affected different aspects of fashion tremendously. From commentary to fashion design, communication, and distribution.
The fashion Internet community is like a global digital agora tweeting passions and opinions. Anyone knows better, and each one is a self-made critic.
This is a fascinating idea, as I always favored amateurism (”the one that loves”) over professionalism, attraction over experience. It obliges anyone in the industry to think in a fresher way.
Of course, it is hard to say if any “authority,” someone like Suzy Menkes, might one day come out and use digital means to lead with integrity, enough background, outside of any conflict of interest.
On a design perspective, it has allowed any young designer or indie brand to get an instant audience, if used with wit and invention.
I am not quite sure of the future of retail as we know it. This is a truly important thing, maybe the most important one, as it might already mean there is nothing standing between the design and an audience/consumer.
Finally, the better and the worse have always been part of fashion, with the Internet only magnifying it and creating a joyful and noisy digital chaos.
The bottom line is that any note can create music. It is only a matter of taste.
ICON TAKE: Be discerning with what you read and whose opinion you take to heart, however, online fashion critics in the form of bloggers are here to stay and are making a serious and quantitive impact on the fashion industry.
I think you said somewhere, though, that the Internet is not a creative medium.
It’s not a creative medium for fashion, you know. For fashion, I think a magazine is the place for creativity, because for fashion photography, you don’t only show the last collection and the clothes, you show the way they should be worn, you show or you try to capture a spirit, a certain moment in time, and this is creativity in fashion. It’s a way to incarnate and interpret fashion. On the Internet, I don’t see [it], but maybe I’m wrong. I think this is what a magazine is made for. It’s the perfect medium for fashion. Television is not a medium for fashion at all. I don’t know what television is the medium for, actually. It’s a medium to control the population and to make them more stupid. Definitely, the Internet is a medium for interaction. It’s a medium for contact. Not for creativity.
ICON TAKE: I think Mr. Zahm’s last statement is very telling. If the internet is a medium for contact, shouldn’t creativity want to exploit that? What is creativity if no one knows it exists? We need a way to make that creativity touch people, and the internet and fashion bloggers are the answer.
I think his statement is also very revealing about why so many magazines are struggling. They tried for too long to stay exclusive in the name of creativity and it back fired. Creativity exists in the minds of those who see it, and a lot of people see creativity online.
The Future of Fashion, Part 5, Julie Gilhart
Talking of how things are made, you’ve been a vocal champion of eco-fashion, if that’s the correct term. I don’t know if you like that term. How important is that, going forward?
I think it’s actually about being conscious. Green, eco, all those words—it’s just about being more conscious. [Take] somebody like Isabel Toledo, who’s doing everything in New York…and only buys fabric to order and knows exactly where everything is being done and pays fair wages and is doing everything in a very sustainable way, as much as possible. It’s not easy to be completely conscious in the way of sustainability and organic and eco, because not all of the materials are available yet, and the resources aren’t there. I just had this experience with Colin Firth’s wife, Livia, who’s amazing. She [was] trying to go through the whole awards season wearing clothes that are made in a sustainable way, and [was] having a really hard time…She has to be in something that’s designed well and is glamorous, but is actually very conscious—and it’s not easy, it’s very difficult. But I think it should become easier…If I’m going to work in fashion, I don’t want to be part of the things that are contributing to a worse environment. I want to be part of something that’s contributing to a better environment, and so whatever little we can do, I’m going to try to do that. So it means supporting people that you believe really want to try to do a better job in that way, and actually it goes back to some of the things that the customers really want. They want things that are made well, that are made in a conscious way, that have long-term values, that are beautiful. All of that is part of the story. It’s not just about eco and organic.
ICON TAKE: Okay, I am guilty. I am not really into eco-fashion, however since becoming a fashion blogger I have met a lot of great people behind a lot of great and stylish eco-friendly clothes and accessories. We all do need to become more eco-conscious, but it is a slow process. I also totally agree that part of being conscious is about quality control, something that has been bypassed with the recent surge of fast-fashion from popular and uber-affordable retailers; but it’s coming back, people are starting to care about quality again.
Talking about instant successes, have you followed the rise of the fashion bloggers?
I have to tell you, I love bloggers. And I’m not telling you that because I’m [trying to] bribe them. Every morning I wake up and I see the blogs. There is something very innocent. There is something very honest. You can say, OK, they didn’t have the experience of seeing things. But again it’s another medium. That’s their opinion and it’s interesting to see how politically incorrect they are. Of course, when they say, “Oh my God, I love it,” I’m extremely happy. And when they say, “Oh my God, it’s a piece of shit,” I hate it…We are living in an instant society, so everything has to be quick and everything has to be big and everything has to be now. And I think this is also a reflection of society, so it’s not something that we can sit and judge and say, well, I think it’s right or I think it’s wrong. It’s the reflection, the mirror of our society, and [the same applies] to what we are doing. We are being accused that some models are anorexic, but we as fashion designers cannot be blamed, because you know, when I talk to women around the world, rich and poor and young and old and intellectual and not, what they want to be is skinny. You ask them, what is your dream? It’s to be skinny. That’s all they want, so this is something that’s happening in the world. And you know what? Me, as a designer that is not exactly skinny, all I want is comfortable clothes. All I want is beautiful. I mean, I like gray hair, I love wrinkles. But this is me. That’s why our logo is the mother and the daughter. I always feel that I have the ability or I have the luxury to design for younger and for older and for skinnier and less skinny. I feel more versatile about it.
ICON TAKE: I love how a person, not just a designer, but a person, from a different generation has embraced social media and fashion bloggers for better or worse. This is an honest and real opinion that can give a lot of insight to fashion bloggers, both established and blossoming. I also think he is spot on, fashion blogging is a reflection, just as a review in Vogue is a reflection.
Do you feel you did enough on the Internet at Paris Vogue?
No. I never took care of the Internet for Paris Vogue, never, because honestly I had no time to work on the Internet, and I don’t think a lot of magazines have success going on the Internet. You have to be thinking totally differently if you want to do something on the Internet. Even French Elle or Grazia, they’re very popular magazines, but on the Internet they’re not so popular, so there is something that doesn’t work. You have to think about exactly what people need on the Internet. It’s not that you do a continuation of the magazine.
ICON TAKE: Running a blog is hard, so I can only imagine what running a prolific and demanding publication such as Vogue Paris must have taken, however the internet is super important and should never be negelcted -specially if brands and magazines want to survive. Magazines were especially slow to adapt, but with online publications such as Style.com (owned by Conde Nast) and Vogue’s new Tumblr blog they are taking steps in the right direction. In the end magazines are words and pictures and websites are words and pictures – I think that connection needs to be more recognized.
Do seasonal deliveries—resort, spring, pre-fall, fall—still make sense?
A: No, I think there’s a couple of things that need to be ironed out as far as deliveries. Is it buy now, wear now? Is it not? Do you deliver a tank top and sandals in December? I don’t know, but I do feel that everything keeps speeding up so something’s going to shift. It’s just waiting, it’s just going to happen naturally. There will be a shift. I don’t know what it will be, though. Or someone needs to put their foot down. [Laughter.]…Pre-collections are on the floor much longer than your design press seasons, so you’re doing all this press and all this push on a collection that’s never really going to be on the floor longer than three weeks.
ICON TAKE: After I talked to Ronda Walker who is launching The Factory next month I totally have a different take on the business of fashion and how designs are cycled out in full collections and only available to the public after retailers purchase them. So I TOTALLY appreciate that the Olsens (and others mentioned in this series) understand that the way fashion is presented to end users now needs to be changed. Someone needs to put their foot down.
I hope you have all enjoyed this series as much as I have. I picked excerpts that had to do with the future of fashion in the context of social media and how clothes are presented to the public. However, there is LOTS of good stuff in all of these interviews and I encourage every one of you to log onto style.com and read all the interviews in depth.
All interviews were taken directly from Style.com – you can click on the titles to read the full interviews. I cannot wait for more! Such a great forum of ideas and opinions.