Popping in to see the Maison Martin Margiela show again a couple of days ago, I was even more impressed with its independence and boldness and yet made sad wondering for how long the honesty and originality of the founder's vision will be able to hold put against big business thinking now that he has moved out of the company he founded in 1989. It is now owned by Diesel. Already key figures, unable to reconcile the aesthetic of Diesel with the sensibility of Margiela, have moved on. And that makes me wonder if independence in fashion is doomed to go the same way it has in so many other areas of life. Is the whole world doomed to become one vast shopping mall, hypermarket or supermarket, where standardisation hides behind a facade of variety and individual choice whilst in reality every one is expected to conform to a powerful Big Brother aesthetic? Is fashion going to end up as bland as the perfectly shaped supermarket apple, with all idiosyncrasies and individuality ruthlessly excluded by the style police?
And then my feelings were lifted by the thought of couture, which I will soon see again in Paris. Having been dismissed as irrelevant for so many years, it has made a sort of comeback, although with no obvious direct impact on the fashion thinking of the millions who turn to high-street chains for the latest look. But its influence is very much there. The high street looks for ideas to couture level and always homes in on the extremists like Galliano at Dior or Gaultier, the ones who are given the opportunity to allow their imaginations to run more or less untrammelled by thoughts of economy.
For me, couture is still the wellspring, the source, of true fashion originality where the eternal verities of fashion – perfection, beauty and aesthetic subtlety (or high drama or outrageous humour) – are kept alive in a way that is impossible in most ready-to-wear, conceived to sell at a certain price and to a very targeted market. As the global depression continues - as it must until the great economies find new ways of generating wealth in the face of the collapse of the old – it seems to me that current fashion must change its ground and take on board at least some of the attitudes that are taken for granted at couture level.