Azzedine Alai casually mentioned that the pace of the fashion industry is running designers to the ground as he declined the offer from Dior to replace John Galliano. The fashion designer made most famous in the 90’s doesn’t seek to justify Galliano’s anti-semetic rant caught on tape, but the fact that Bernard Arnault, CEO of LVMH which owns Dior, dumped 6 new projects on the ex-head designer before Dior’s fall from grace, may have something to do with it. What one creative mind could design four collections for him, four collections for the house, four for men, and four for women, all in one year?
Stores that provide haute couture look-a-likes to the masses may be fueling this ouroboros of consumption in two senses. For one, stores like Zara take existing clothes, de-construct them and manufacture them in a way that sometimes suit the public better. With the economy as it is, even the most discerning shopper does a double take past the windows and picks a piece, for a relatively low price, that they won’t use extensively. Commitment and originality thrown out through the same storefront window.
Another fuel to the fire are discount lines. Soon, Karl Lagerfeld, hated by Azzedine Alai, will be releasing a discount line to Macy’s — the harbor of such humble lines as Rachel by Rachel Roy, and the Material Girl line from Madonna & Co. These add another expectation that may load onto the already overflowing plate of designers. Lagerfeld, who handles Chanel and Fendi, in addition to his own line and his past-time of photography, is the perfect example of the ideal multi-talent. Does his role re-establish the standards for designers: expecting them to be both artists and machines?
The opportunity to begin slowing down the industry, and salvaging the sanity of designers, has passed with the most recent recession. Not to say that it is over, but things have not been as damaging. It was the perfect time to slow down, since spending had decreased and store sales have dwindeld. It could have created a new culture. Instead, it spawned a discount line to scrounge for pennies and drain creative juices.
And so the cogs keep turning.