The Fashion Industry

12/mag/2017 05:31:42 davisyellow Contatta l'autore

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The Fashion Industry: A Small Club, A Tangled Web

The fashion industry is a complex web of connections – and this might prove to be more of a liability than an asset. Yes, fashion is something of a byzantine ecosystem borne largely from the industry’s failure to look outside of its closest circle of stylists, consultants, journalists, ghostwriters, etc. for talent. The result is a significant overlap of roles – a magazine editor styling a brand’s runway show, a critic writing a brand’s show notes, or the same handful of casting directors determining which models walk in shows during a season. It also ensures that the iron-clad establishment stays in power.

As we have noted in the past, this set up tends to give rise to conflicts and as a result, a need for transparency. Yet, the notion of candidness and clarity is increasingly obfuscated because it could potentially dismantle the delicate balance – between advertisers and editors, designers and editors, influencers and brands, and still, some further variations thereof – upon which the fashion industry so heavily relies. (Note: this is in no way a fashion industry-specific phenomenon).

Fashion’s small club of connected individuals – and the routine use of the same editors, journalists, stylists, and creative directors, and the multi-faceted roles that many of these individuals assume – has given rise to another very distinct shortcoming: A glaring lack of perspective both on the runway, in editorials, and behind the scenes.

The Same Creatives, The Same Standard(s) of Beauty

It has become common place for the industry’s participants to rely on, more or less, a fixed group of creatives with little variation thereof. It is not surprising that if we are to consistently tap the same handfuls of individuals to dictate the discourse of fashion, the ultimate product will remain largely static.

This can be said of the consistent reliance on a small number of in-demand stylists. One famed stylist's clients include Alexander Wang, Sacai, Valentino, Ralph Lauren, Coach, Dior, Tommy Hilfiger, and Zara (more about Zara here). It is not uncommon for these stylists to also hold creative director roles at fashion's most esteemed magazines, as well.

The same can also be said for casting directors. Ashley Brokaw, for instance, who the New York Times lauded as “fashion's most unlikely power player” a couple of years ago, has her say on what models walk for Louis Vuitton, Loewe, Paco Rabanne, Prada, J.W. Anderson, Coach, Proenza Schouler, Calvin Klein, Raf Simons, Ralph Lauren, and others, each season.

As noted by T Magazine’s Alice Gregory:

“If you flip through a magazine, stare up at a billboard or scroll through the thumbnail images of last season’s fashion shows, chances are high that you will be looking at the faces and figures of models Brokaw has discovered and groomed. Her clients include Miuccia Prada, Nicolas Ghesquière and Jonathan Anderson. She has cast shows for Miu Miu, Balenciaga and Tommy Hilfiger; chosen models for print ads for Calvin Klein, Harry Winston, Chloé and Armani, along with campaigns for more mass brands like H&M, Gap and Zara. She collaborates on shoots with Steven Meisel and Patrick Demarchelier.”

Do note, this article is not for the purpose of faulting Ms. Brokaw or others in similar positions; if anything, brands are can likely be deemed more culpable than these individuals. They are name-checked merely to demonstrate that many of the most famed brands look only to the most industry-embraced individuals, thereby contributing to a large canon of homogenous style/aesthetics that dominates much of the runways and editorials at any given time.

Moreover, Ms. Brokaw is, in fact, merely used to representative a sizable number of individuals that operate in a very similar manner. When well-known brands limit the pool to these in-demand creatives, the natural result is uniformity and the proliferation of those uniform standards (whether it be in terms of the look garments or the appearance of models) – for better or worse.

Ethical Complications

In addition to tapping the same handful of creatives for no small number of gigs, the industry perpetuates its views by way of multi-hyphenate creatives. Consider a relatively recent Dolce & Gabbana online campaign, entitled, #DGLovesStBarth, for instance. The campaign was styled by Anna Dello Russo, a well-known street style star and the Editor-at-Large and creative consultant for Vogue Nippon. Given Dello Russo’s role at Vogue, her work in styling for a brand that is a Vogue advertiser and the subject of frequent seasonal reviews from the magazine is ethically questionable. In the U.S., it might be questionable from a legal standpoint, as well.

Moreover, one could argue that it suggests impropriety on the part of Vogue for failing to separate church and state, as such involvement could lead to preferable treatment – conscious or otherwise – for the brand from the publication as a result of Dello Russo’s work with them.

Katie Grand proves to be another interesting example. The founding editor of AnOther Magazine (and now the editor of LOVE Magazine, a Condé Nast-backed venture), Grand currently styles and/or has styled Marc Jacobs, Miu Miu, Bottega Veneta, Hogan, and Oscar de la Renta runway shows and ad campaigns (per models.com). She also styles editorials for System Magazine, the Sunday Times Magazine, Vogue Italia, Self Service, and of course, LOVE.

The circle is further closed by the corporate-backing of publications. The same handful of publications tend to cover the happenings of the industry, many of which maintain close – and sometimes, financial-based – relationships with brands, other publications, and various industry individuals. The result can – in its most extreme form – be likened to the assimilation of the free press into the role of a masked public relations outlet because, as we well know, proper truth-in-advertising disclosures are little-utilized in fashion.

This is not something that seems terribly worrying to the industry. As famed critic Tim Blanks told fashion-focused journal Vestoj in an interview for the publication’s series, What’s Wrong with the Fashion Industry, “We are all cynics in fashion now. That’s how we justify writing press releases for fashion brands, and then turning around and giving the same brand a good review in a newspaper. Artistic integrity be damned – I’m making a living here.”

Still yet, take into account the many design competitions – such as the LVMH Prize, the Woolmark Prize, the H&M Design Award, the Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation, ANDAM, BFC/Vogue Designer Fashion Fund, the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund – that routinely help identify the new “it” talent in the fashion industry.

More often than not, the same handful of editors, designers, journalists, and influencers participate in these competitions as judges, and in some cases, underwrite/sponsor them, as well. The fact that many of the same individuals are tasked with helping select these competition winners – no shortage of which have deep connections to organizations that hold a stake in the outcome of such competitions – is noteworthy.

In short: a handful of potentially biased industry insiders dictate the selection of emerging talent within the industry, thereby furthering the complexity of fashion’s intertwined web.

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