Thursday, 21 January 2010

Can Skills Save Fashion?

The high street swallows up so many good ideas, cheapens them in so many different ways and manages to convince women that buying shoddy quality is what buying fashion is all about. A comment from Penelope on my blog about technical skills (read it here) points out the difference between how Princess Diana's clothes were made and how her relative Barbara Cartland's were: nothing to do with taste, everything to do with knowledge. Barbara Cartland's skirts fell properly; Diana's did not. It's all in the cut and sew.

We need to keep the skills of fashion creation alive. The clothes designed for the spring and summer are more relaxed and informal, in fabric as well as cut. The formality of winter clothes comes from the way in which fabrics like wool or velvet behave under the scissors. We cannot lose this. But already it is endangered. Seventy percent of fashion now is about dresses. Even couture houses often don't bother to show coats or jackets, preferring huge ballgowns which have no meaning except when remade in white to become wedding dresses. A highly successful house like Elie Saab shows no tailoring at all, and yet is considered a bona fide couture house.

This is a problem for designers. The good ones know very well how to cut a perfect winter coat, but it takes time and skill … and what is the point if nobody wants to buy it? And the reason nobody wants to buy? The age of fashion has dropped and continues to do so. Women in their early twenties or late teens clearly don't want to dress formally. And yet…

And yet, whenever there is an exhibition or a glossy new book devoted to high fashion from the past, there is always a sigh of longing. What is the sigh for? Glamour, allure, sophistication and all the things current fashion is not especially interested in because designers feel there is not a big enough market for them. Time for some joined-up thinking in the fashion world, perhaps, to try to bring grown-up women back to high-fashion clothing once again?

1 comment:

  1. Dear Colin,

    The way the industry is set up at the moment it is virtually impossible for a designer to develop any skills whatsoever.

    When one leaves college, apart from the very few who are swept off their feet into the bigger fashion houses, you either work for a big company and join their button design department.

    Or you set up your own label after many seasons of free apprenticeships, in which mostly one learns very little about designing or making clothes and learns more about their employer’s food preference…

    Ones destiny, should you choose the first option, is probably to be a manager of technical sheet designer team and collect thousands of miles in your frequent flyer programme from back and forth travels to the East

    If you choose the second option you will turn into an expert debt collector, financial analyst, and quality controller; and if you are very lucky you may even have some time to design your collections.

    Maybe the first few seasons will be full of creativity and new ideas but as business grows ones attention diverts to the mundane task of keeping your business above water, a heroic task which only very few are able to survive.

    Designers desire, even the little ones…(and I will confess to be culprit of such crime) to aspire to be players in the global market has been on of the main reasons why we have seen such demise in skills.

    Only when quality and product become priority over branding, profit and growth, then maybe we will see designers abandon their quest to conquer the world and get back to the drawing table and sewing machines and start making beautiful clothes again…

    Designer's quest should be for perfection...not expansion....

    Thank you

    Silent Storyteller