Wednesday, 17 March 2010

The Age of Fashion

One of the sharper comments I received about my blog concerning the age of some members of the judging committee for the CFDA Awards has brought up an interesting ageist point that has caused me to think rather about the future of fashion (but then I would, wouldn't I?). The writer points out that I am a fine one to talk if I believe that FASHION FRINGE IS FOR DESIGNERS AGED AROUND 27 and yet dedicated to nurturing YOUNG talent. The clear inference for a lot of fashion followers is that the age of fashion credibility is slipping ever lower.

It is a sobering thought. If people in their twenties are no longer considered young in fashion terms, does this mean that designers will also soon be teenagers? After all, there is a sort of logic in people from the same age group as the buying public being the ones who know the market best. Certainly, I think fashion that spans a wide age group – ie most of a woman's life – is doomed. The high street is already showing us this, because one of the characteristics of youth and age is that we all think almost entirely in our own age group and ignore or dismiss those outside it. It's hard to imagine a teenager designing clothes for a woman over 35 living an affluent life; in fact, it's just as hard as the septuagenarian designer in Paris or Milan trying to capture the mood of the streets … and we all know how disastrous that is. Even more worrying is the fact that, by definition, most teenage designers will be without any training at all. Give or take a once in a lifetime chance, how many good designers is that likely to produce?

But even using the word good begs the question. What we consider good design at this point is trained in us by looking and wearing clothes designed in a certain matrix with which we are all familiar. And that can certainly change.

What does all this mean? The death of designer fashion as we know it (and maybe even as an entity at all, I think), as young women begin to view the way they dress exactly as young men have for the last twenty years, as something that owes a lot to groups – often ethnic groups – and rarely influenced by the catwalk. In fact, the opposite. Knitted beanies and jeans hanging off the butt were copied from the runways, not conceived on them, after all. Urban clans, already strong among young men across the globe, are being joined by girl gangs. They're by no means all aggressive or anti social, but in both cases how the group dresses is as esoteric and crucial as the way women followed the daily fashion changes at Versailles. And for the same reason. The obsession with minutiae is a sign of the disengaged mind.

So what of the young professional woman? Where will she dress? Increasingly in the high street, and more cheaply, surely. Why spend a lot of money on status products when the real status is wearing a uniform that shows you belong?

So, in different clothes, the punk parade of conformity will continue until the arbiters of taste are so young they aren't even able to articulate their opinions. Now that's democracy for you – or the horror of the Brave New World.


  1. Colin, perhaps this post should be re-titled The Death of Fashion? Sad that many women should feel ‘doomed’ to a life spent aspiring to ‘fashion’ as portrayed by the media and on catwalks. In my opinion, fashion is being polarized into several areas:

    1) Catwalk/installation – fashion as an art form, not necessarily for wearing;
    2) High street – wearable, cheap, disposable, influenced by catwalk or practical requirement, resulting in uniform style/grunge;
    3) As you like it – eclectic, but timeless style, that’s a mixture of contemporary and vintage, with quirky personalized touches.

    We each have the choice to follow the herd (and the media), or to wear what feels individually right for us. Age is irrelevant and is all in the mind. True style is ageless – and, thank goodness, there are some wonderful older female role models like Dame Vivienne Westwood.

  2. I believe Esteban Cortazar (formerly at Ungaro, and resigned rather than having a cokehead starlet for a collaborator) started showing his collections at age 14? And there was, in fact a 19-year-old named Pedro Lourenco who showed his collection in Paris this Fashion Week. It was, if I recall correctly, quite well-received.

    I hardly think teenagers are going to become 'designers' en masse, though- training takes time, involves technical skills, and is not something that can be ignored if one hopes to make a success of it. Stylists might get younger and younger, certainly- their role doesn't require formal study. But the most influential designers today are far from being children- Miuccia Prada might be in her 50s, but has still managed to make a pretty decent success out of her clothing lines, including Miu Miu, which is technically her 'younger' range!

  3. I have to agree with Blue Floppy Hat on this.

    The internet has had provided easy access for the young to know more about fashion and at the same time gives them the oppurtunity to expressed themselves.

    Isn't developing fashion sense at a young age is commendable?

    But this does not necesserily makes them a trendsetter or future designer.

    I may agree with you on the previous post, but this's too far of a stretch.

  4. It's a moment. Bloggeratti. Fast Fashion. Those words belong together.

    Banksy said at the Barely Legal Show in Los Angeles, sorry painted on a pink TV that was sold to Dennis Hopper, "Someday we will all have 15 minutes of anonymity."

    Rae Kawakubo was interviewed by W Magazine last year (I know, print) as her fast fashion collection for H&M was being shipped. She wondered why anyone would copy her since her things don't sell well.

    Technology is here too: 3D streaming live at Burberry. I remember being unkindly tossed out of Versace by Santo for needing to use polaroids to work the order properly. We dropped the line. That was a rougher time.

    And Michael Kors, who is American classic in the Bill Blass vein, has a show too.

  5. I agree with Susan
    " As you like it – eclectic, but timeless style, that’s a mixture of contemporary and vintage, with quirky personalized touches"

    As a lady well past 'a certain age', and without the energy and chutzpah of the 90 year old you featured recently, and lacking the figure that modern fashion requires to look good, I just enjoy some of the current styles from the sidelines and continue to wear what I have worn for the last 20 years. Good fabrics and bright colours take one a long way, even if the styles are classic and 'boring'.
    As to the yoof of today making serious fashion statements ... well Colin has said it all ....
    However, a certain Mr Galliano hit the headlines at a pretty young age, and seems to have done OK. Ditto a certain M. St Laurent.