Fashion’s wake up call

As the industry gathered for couture Autumn/Winter 2012, two of its most compelling and intelligent designers, Raf Simons and Hedi Slimane, had just taken over two of the important Parisian maison’s: Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent. The fashion world was full of anticipation of what these men would send down the runway in their first collection for the brands. Now three years later, Hedi Slimane – heroically withstanding harsh industry critique-has relocated Saint Laurent’s creative studio to L.A. and Raf Simons announced his depart from Dior.

“The creative studio is in a designer’s head.”

Raf Simons’ exit from Dior opens the discussion around the tangible pace of the fashion industry and the increasing pressure on designers to deliver up to 6 collections a year. Designers of Simons’ generation are no longer willing to bend to unthinkable demands and restraints of global mammoth brands, placing power back in the hands of the creative director. Hedi Slimane’s decision to relocate Saint Laurent’s design studios to L.A, and Phoebe Philo’s insistence that Céline’s studio be moved to London, attest to this. As for the Saint Laurent’s relocation to LA – Pierre Berge, the late St. Laurent’s longtime lover and business partner- remained unfazed and told Women’s Wear Daily: “The creative studio is in a designer’s head. Hedi should be left to do fashion in a city he likes. Yves himself never designed in Paris, sketching at his house in Morocco, away from the pressures of the industry.”

“Where is it going? It’s not only the clothes. It’s the clothes, it’s everything, the Internet.”

Just before Dior’s big Oct. 2 show Simons told the press that he has been questioning things a lot lately and continued saying; “I feel a lot of people are questioning. We have a lot of conversation about it: Where is it going? It’s not only the clothes. It’s the clothes, it’s everything, the Internet.” He was referring to the fast pace of the industry and the overheated runway system that has reached a volatile tipping point. Influential designer Dries van Noten too, has frequently spoken out- saying; “I do two collections a year and that’s more than enough- that “there are too many collections, too much fashion and too many garments in this world.” He told the Wall Street Journal back in 2011 that “Now you can go on or blogs and there is always another collection launch, cruise, resort, accessories, and on and on and that’s a pity. For me it’s an overdose.” Similarly, Danish designer Henrik Vibskov mentioned he’d like to see the industry ‘slow things’, that designers need time to focus- but acknowledged that the world has changed and that some of the greatest artists have taken a factory pace of production to their art.

“There are too many collections, too much fashion and too many garments in this world.”

These recent developments, carried by influential designers of today, are important for the next generation of designers- and ultimately the future of fashion. It raises the question whether it’s necessary to produce so many garments and collections a year. Accustomed to Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer, resort and pre-fall collections, small or starting labels are forced to make 4 collections a year. The cost of production can run up to thousands- not being able to compete with the system’s pace and not able to carry the financial burden- making it extremely difficult for young designers to launch a successful brand. In parallel, it opens the discussion on the relevancy of (costly) runway shows. A new movement has risen, driven by young designers, prominent example being Molly Goddard– who are coming up with innovative ideas to present their collections in more meaningful ways, such as presentations and installations. These are positive outcomes that will change the landscape of fashion, strengthening its connection to fine arts- and safeguarding its artistic depth and integrity.