Fashion has always been an illusion. Of grandeur, luxury, exclusivity from one city to the next. Paris, London, Tokyo. Brand names defined by its ability to garner just enough prestige to tell you to go fuck yourself. This club is not for you. This USD5200 (RM22250.80) Channel handbag isn’t for you.
It started with Haute Couture Parisian fashion. A committee of people with the sole purpose of making it impossible for anyone other than a specific few to market itself as the highest of high-fashion. These were a series of formalized rules meant to lock out the rest of the international market.
A fashion house could only be called so if they had an atelier in Paris, with a minimum of 15 full-time staff and at least 20 technical staff on the books. Clothes had to be made-to-order, for private clients and fashions show to be hosted twice a year, showing at least 50 new designs at each.
This guarded the designers and fashion houses from being competed with. It locked out all international competition because the brand of Haute Couture was that powerful an allure. All interlopers were considered knock offs. Fashion’s beating heart was in Paris and cemented by a host of laws and bylaws.
At least, that was the case 70 years ago.
The world has changed since then. Accessibility was no longer bound by what could be carted from one country to the next on prints and pictures. Fashion isn’t a tightly kept secret bound by high fashion brands dictating the colors and fabrics by seasons anymore.
The power of a name brand has weakened now that production values have escalated from 6-month productions to new designs being churned out by factories every 2 weeks. Exclusivity is no longer the winning game.
Youth has changed the way culture has adopted trends. The curve has changed, spiking from what could be copied and how fast it could be imitated by. Fashion shows are streamed live over handheld devices worldwide; what used to be seasonal has become instantaneous in ways that no one could have ever predicted. For every iteration there are 10 others reproducing, reinventing.
Brand ambassadors are no longer confined to celebrities to be admired from afar. Followers are the new consumers, ‘likes’ are the new profit margins. People want someone they can relate to, reality television they can live vicariously through. Who needs magazine pages when their daily lives are a click bait button away. OOTD is the new centerfolds. Trends are adaptable in minutes, followers as malleable as sheep.
The power of brands has changed, breaking old traditions and sinking fashion retailers as quickly as the apocalypse. Big names like Guess, Abercrombie and Fitch, Betsey Johnson, American Apparel, Sears, Macy’s, JCPenney has closed across international markets; unable to keep up with the evolution of fast fashion brands like H&M and Zara.
High Fashion Designers that used to be the be all and say all of the design are no longer names that ring a bell in the generation of today. Neiman Marcus, Zac Posen, Isabel Toledo even Isaac Mizrahi are dead couturiers that no one wants to be associated with today.
The nature of branding has evolved into a cascade of fast clicks and shared images. The design has become fluid and trending lifespans have shortened to the surging popularity of Instagram and twitter posts.
Fashion as we know it has died.
Fashion, as it could be, is just beginning.