Style for style
As we come to the end of the Spring Summer ‘19 fashion week cycle, I realise the notion of styling versus design has played on my mind (more than it usually does). The impetus for this occupation comes from years of watching the trends in the fashion world and what direction they are taking - we take for granted that we live in the age of the stylist.
Cast your mind back to the early 2000s. The Simple Life was on television, and we were all okay with velour warm-up suits, low-rise bootcut and extremely thin brows. The aesthetic that was borne out of that time was so specific, you would assume that it was created by someone with a purposive, singular vision. When in fact, neither Paris Hilton nor Nicole Ritchie had stylists.
It was all them.
Ironically, that freedom spawned the conformity, in a movement for other celebrities to be seen with that look and in those Von Dutch-esque brands and so an increase in personal stylists began. This is all well and good, but what happens to the quality of the clothes we see on the runway? Looking at the collections of some of the most powerful brands today - Balenciaga, Vetements et al - their garments are created with a view to emphasising the specificity of styling, rather than simply being well designed.
As consumers, we seem to be more than willing to buy products from premium brands without considering their actual worth. Every year, prices increase - but does the quality? In the 80s and 90s, listen to this, in the 80s and 90s the hardware on Chanel leather goods used to be gold-plated. 24 karat gold. This finish no longer exists on their bags, but they still climb in value.
Why are we so comfortable with accepting nothing more than the brand name for the price? If I were to buy Chanel now, I would buy vintage.
For budding fashion names in the 90s, if you grew enough you could be absorbed into a larger company - LVMH, for instance - who could in turn serve as a gateway to successful accessory and beauty lines. This is where we see such phenomena as logo-mania begin. Brands became less about bespoke design for a high-end consumer, and more about catering to a larger audience. An audience who, even though they couldn’t afford to buy a Dior gown for a party, would be able to occasionally splurge on a Dior wallet or handbag.
In the capitalist sense, this is all marvellous. More people are spending money they don’t have in order to feel, and appear, elite. But what does it mean for the base integrity of the fashion and couture industries? Would you rather have a mass-produced Gucci wallet that’ll be out of season in a few months, or a Gucci suit that you know is yours alone?
I mentioned Balenciaga with purpose earlier, in that the house Cristobàl Balenciaga was synonymous with the highest level of craftsmanship, applied to tailored couture in the most exquisite forms. The kind of work we now see channelling that same brand image of perfect artisanship is such a contrast. Few would guess what the brand was originally famous for.
Personally, I don’t want any garment or accessory just because of the label or price. Style is about knowing that a garment is the very best I can buy. It begs the question of how long this trend for large companies with formulaic output can sustain their current business models. Because I’m getting bored, and I bet you are too.