ART BEYOND REMIX AND REMAKE
Fashion design: art, haute couture, a collaboration between a megabrand and a prestigious fashion house or a set of cold-shoulder crop tops for Missguided.com? Never has the concept of fashion design been so colorful, existing on multiple platform for multiple budgets. When Coco Chanel ran into Paul Poiret and met his judging gaze in the light of her black dress, he asked her with a side of irony about whom was she mourning. She dramatically responded: “You!” and went on to become who she became, while Paul Poiret’s lack of keeping up with the post war modern woman led his once legendary fashion house to bankruptcy. Today, Karl Lagerfeld, who has been designing Chanel’s collections for decades, always insists on looking forward. If decades of experience reveal a statement such as this one, is the key to success in modern fashion design to only focus on the future?
The presence of controversy is more than undebatable in modern fashion and especially in the case of fast fashion. It’s the race between speed and sustainability, such as making sure that a garment makes its way from a drawing onto a store’s mannequin in a heartbeat, meanwhile insisting that the fabric must be second hand in order to decrease overconsumption. What best resumes today’s general customer’s attitude is Vetements’ stylist Lotta Volkova’s bold yet crystal clear statement: there are no subcultures anymore, it’s all about the remix. Wearing a Nirvana t-shirt can have more to do with its grunge lookbook concept than Kurt Cobain’s lyrics. The remix is also present in fashion design, when prestigious fashion houses and designers collaborate with fast fashion megabrands. For years, fashion designers such as Olivier Rousteing from Balmain to Alexander Wang and Karl Lagerfeld have collaborated with H&M on special collections sold out in a matter of seconds. Meanwhile, more and more articles appear on the subject of defining luxury fashion – is a Gucci bag luxury if you see every fifth pedestrian in the street wearing one? The question whether some brands will focus on sales with lower prices or keeping a brand’s luxurious renome is a debatable in the case of many different houses.
There is also the controversy between helping aspiring fashion designers to put themselves out there. On one hand, Central Saint Martins has been one of the most prestigious fashion schools for years, yet a survey published on the Business of Fashion revealed that the students thought that the school could do better or more in the sense of preparing them for post-graduate career success. More and more programs and competitions have been established to improve this particular flaw, yet has the rise of online sandwich-priced somewhat overtaken the opportunity? It has certainly made it more difficult for young designers to stand out and perhaps justify their merchandise to some customers? Is that 200€ blouse made from used material? Great! So is this H&M blouse you can get for 5€ in the sale isle or 19,99€ if you allowed yourself a splurge and bought it a few weeks earlier. If you’re on a budget, you can still allow yourself to have a wider variety of outfits in your closet, the latter being considered a luxury prior to the 2000s. This leads to the artistic value of fashion design, which is forever present in the concept of haute couture.
The presence of Haute couture in the midst of online retail and fast fashion often raises the question of whether or not haute couture is slowly dying as a concept. It isn’t as much about money that it is about the customer’s habits. Haute couture is fashion in its most refined and traditional form and asking about its death is as asking about the death of diamond jewellery or classical music. Seeing five people hand-tailoring not a dress but a piece of it is one of those things that continues to mesmerise me, or a clip from the documentary where Olivier Rousteing’s immaculacy driven interns dyed a sample dress yellow with highlighters because using real fabric dye they later used on the real dresses would have cost more than twenty-thousand euros. It is in these moments that I find comfort thinking that old school fashion design or haute couture as an art is not dying – on the contrary. All the while, the merging of creativity and technology never fails to surprise me and can also be adapted with the evolution of haute couture, such as when Raf Simmons decided to print Ruby Sterling’s paintings on the fabric of his collection. The solution was elegant and tasteful yet refreshing.
While online sandwich-priced retail is thriving and a solution for those with a tighter budget wanting more options on a daily basis, haute couture is a concept for aesthetic lovers. It is comforting that there are and will be solutions for both parties – those budgeting and the art lovers and in an ideal world of the future of fashion design where the remix still remains, sustainability is the closing loop seamlessly in between the two.