Fashion Ennui

Am I missing something? Don’t get me wrong, I am largely content that designers seem to be tiring of the wholesale plundering of what often looks like my own private archive of Sixties and Seventies boutique design. But I am really starting to wonder if the relentless copying has resulted in a fashion world which no longer knows how to make clothes.

It even reminds me of those dark days in the late Eighties/early Nineties when most established designers rested on their boomtime laurels and gave us tedium in the name of ‘minimalism’. The only interesting design from that period, in my mind, is the work by a very few rebellious types such as Pam Hogg, Gaultier, Moschino and Westwood (and countless other Hyper Hyper-based London stars without the requisite funding for big shows and publicity).

I repeat. Am I missing something? Why are they designing this? Why are people wetting themselves over it in the fashion press and blogland? Who is buying this? Who is roused from slumber for long enough to order these collections for their boutiques and department stores? Why is Stella McCartney still in business?

I could produce this in my sleep with cheap remnants of fabric ‘sourced’ in the bins of Fabricland. There is no skill in the tailoring, no sense of a knowledge of colour usage and the overall silhouette is struggling bag lady. Actually, no, that is offensive to struggling bag ladies. They know how to throw pieces together for effect.

Now I know I am so far away from the target audience that I might as well be blogging from the moon but, from my vintage bunker, it does makes me wonder about what the target audience could possibly be?

BHS Chic, circa 1990

As someone who occasionally works as a dresser for shows at London Fashion Week, I am not coming from a position of total ignorance. I have seen them up close, in all their ill-fitting, bizarrely-made non-glory. The models and designers are always a delight to work with, but many of the hangers-on are vile. And I wonder if the hangers-on are the problem. Including the audiences and press. People are so overawed by their proximity to ‘glamour’ and publicity, they simply don’t care what is on the menu. If a designer asked my opinion (which of course they wouldn’t bother with since – to them – I am only a dresser, not an individual with a firm knowledge of fashion history and my own collection of museum-worthy frocks) I would tell them the truth. Constructive criticism. And constructive criticism seems to have disappeared somewhere along the way.

I hear Liz Jones Chic is going to be big in S/S13…

A poor collection is reviewed as “good”, with a few duds and a few shining lights. To me, the shining lights are only moderately preferable to the total duds. It’s rather like looking at a selection of party food from Iceland and finding the one morsel you might actually want to risk eating.

If our clothes tell a story, or are a reflection of our personality, then I think the majority of fashion-led people have lost their sparkle and flair. Economics? Ennui? Or increasing homogenisation thanks to social media? When icons are easily picked up, duplicated and then dropped within a few weeks, where is there left to go? Fashion innovation is starting to look like bad upcycling.

I don’t hate everything I have seen, but criticism should go where criticism is due. The entire catwalk phenomenon needs shaking up and clothes need to be better. There is nothing wrong with a signature style; a new season does not have to mean an entirely new vision. The true visionaries are the idiosyncratic outcasts with flair and a strong sense of self, and it is about time people started to realise this.

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12 Comments on “Fashion Ennui”

  1. Mark says:

    Ugh. I completely concur. The 1st photo is simply unspeakable, the 3rd looks like an 80s Doctor Who designers idea of what we’d all be wearing now, the penultimate one seems like it has All Sorts stuck to the top and that last one looks like an ill fitting 80s power suit…something that never need come back!

  2. nicoleneedles says:

    So true. I work with ‘luxury’ clothes in my day job, and I can confirm that the majority are far from luxurious. There’s so little emotion and passion in them, and very little skill. Unfortunately, there are far too many gullible customers, willing to pay the high prices and therfore keep the whole thing trundling along.

  3. Hi God you shot my adreneline up 100% I absolutely agree with your rant. However what do you expect when the web , computers are the main tool for designers.Research merely means pressing a button today . I trained in fashion design textile design and weaving at Bournemouth College of Art. Any research we did was through a library, which meant hours of work. Fashion magazines and newspapers were a Godsend, however the priority was on originality for designers anyone copying was considered the pitsand did not earn you respect from other designers.
    I had the advantage of being fluent in French, which allowed me to live my dream of working in Paris Haute Couture a designer for Maggy Rouff under Serge Matta in 1963. I learnt the importance of a detailed sketch and working with brilliant cutters, tailors, machinists and fitters and to be in complete control until the finished item. Returning to London 1964/85, I was designer Kiki Byrne, Head designer for Young Jaeger, Consortium, Maudie Moon eventually having my own label that I showed at the Paris Prêt a Porter and SIM Paris. I produced my own collections from the beginning to the end product. Sometimes this included choosing yarns/ special colours dyed / working directly with wool and cotton mills I designed most of my own textiles to obtain an original look. In other words the collections did not end up being produced in some sweatshop in China or India, which unfortunately is only too common today. I was not alone this is how designers normally worked.It was a full time job.
    Nor did we have the nightmares’ of Mary Portas dictating how to change fashion, charity shops and the high Street. David Cameron take note! And don’t get me started on Liz Jones a self obsessed anorexic or is she bulimic, who apparently writes on fashion or so she maintains. i do not demean the illness, however it is a boring rant.
    In the early days from the 60,s-80’s we had Grace Coddington, Molly Parkin, Janet Street Porter, Nike Williams, Norma Mauriceau, Michael Roberts to name a few and of course the amazing Beatrice Miller and Clare Rendlesham all grand dames of journalism (sorry not Michael dame I mean)… terrifying yes! sycophants’ No! They knew their subject and had no fear in either supporting a revolutionary design project or diminishing rubbish.
    The industries and the public’s obsession with celebrities have not helped the fashion business. It appears to be more important than the actual design. However I think we must blame the loss of our manufacturing industries, the cotton Mills, the woollen Mills , the printers etc . The constant battle with cheap labour forces all our manufacturing to go abroad. “BRING BACK MADE IN ENGLAND” and we will survive. Well done Miss Peel Pants a great rant.

  4. beltanerose says:

    I believe that we are told to like this, because it’s the easiest way to make lots of money. Every body can wear this, because it doesn’t have any form. I have no idea how to explain the patterns and the colours, the combinations are indeed awful.
    I really like your blog by the way, I have been checking it for the last two years or so and you have learned me a lot.

    Kind regards,

    Roos

  5. Oonagh says:

    Agreed. I’m so bored of all the tedious photographs of shit on the catwalk. This is why shots of people outside the shows are more interesting than the shows themselves. And the fashion journos know it, whether they admit it or not.

  6. Mim says:

    I think the problem we live in an ‘anything goes’ time for fashion. Anything goes, so why bother? I seriously think people have forgotten how to dress (not to mention iron) – take most people away from their comfort zone of jeans and they panic, and when you do get them out of jeans they confuse looking available – sorry, sexy – with looking good. Something that ‘fits’ means it’s either made of cheap knitted fabric that stretches to accommodate every lump and bump, or baggy enough to hide said lumps and bumps. When the consumer, on the whole, can’t be bothered, designers are going to maximise profits by cutting corners, not worrying about cut and hang because the customer won’t, just making something shapeless and slapping a logo on to bring in the money.

  7. Perdita says:

    There seems to be this very British (and upper class American) idea that to be high-end one must be tasteful aka extremely grey, repressed and un-sexy. I can remember having this drilled into me in the 90s. Thus it seems, to sell to high end classy people one must make clothing of that kind. It seeps down to the middle classes via Boden and Toast (ugh).

    I don’t know if it’s a kick back against the 80s or what, but the attitude is there: make it fugly, and people will think it’s ‘tasteful’ and not tacky.

  8. rubyfoot says:

    It seems to me that designers are sending ‘ideas’ down the runway rather than finished garments. The equivalent of the first rough sketch before it is refined and perfected. It’s all a bit “emperor’s new clothes” really but none of the fashion mavens are willing to blow the whistle. It would be too tragic for them (and their glossy mag employers) if they lost their front row seats. I don’t know how designers are trained these days, but I am willing to bet that the emphasis is on the look rather than technical skills. The dullest piece of limp grey cloth can be transformed into something quite wonderful by someone who knows how to cut, someone who understands tailoring. Haute couture is long gone and couture barely exists.

    • beltanerose says:

      I went to fashion school for a few months and they concentrated mostly on concept thinking and making moodboards instead of technical skills. It was a 9 to 5 / 5 days a week training, but we used to have only 2 hours of pattern drawing during the week. Not the best basis I reckon, but then again the teachers assumed that you would already have some fabric and pattern knowledge. Most of the students didn’t though.

      • rubyfoot says:

        I guess that the concept & design are the most important elements, but is it possible to be a good fashion designer without the underlying skills? Is that what’s missing in the young designers of today? Or is it simply that the Primark effect that has filtered upwards…a heady hit of disposable fashion,wear once and discard. Are the people who buy designer so rich that they can do that? If that’s the case then no wonder designers are turning out a load of schmutter.

  9. rubyfoot says:

    PS to La Verne, I think that Michael Roberts would actually relish being called a dame 😉

  10. astral marc says:

    I completely agree. I did like those three long dresses in the Dior collection though, those were rather different from what we’ve been fed for years.

    But it’s all the same, and I know from looking at these things in shops (and very occasionally trying them on for shits and giggles) that you’re also right about how badly they are made. It’s all such flimsy, horrid fabric, the seams are awful, they’re all made in the same places H&M makes clothes. The exception being Vivien Westwood who at least does good seams and uses normal fabrics sometimes, especially her wools.

    I’m so done with this. I’ve been looking at small time, green designers but the ones around me also use the same style. So boring.


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