Excitement, freshness and ethical actions: Fashion in 2018
2017 is drawing to a close. How will the fashion industry be moving forward into the new year, and the future?
As the houses shuffle and reshuffle designers, with new and old, famous and unknown names coming into the mix, discussion around the role of the designer will continue to be a feature of the year ahead. One major international house recently had a brilliant reception to a collection that was designed by the in-house team. They told me, “we are considering very carefully how we go about the next stage”.
Will big-names continue to dominate the role of designer? Or, will the industry take an approach that focuses on the contribution of the entire team, not one designer-figurehead, changing our ideas of what a fashion designer even is? As the fashion seasons move ever more quickly it is becoming a monumental task for one figurehead to understand a brand and put that understanding into collection after collection – and make it sell. This idea of the designer could also leave the consumer feeling short changed. Talking about a team of experts puts a consumers’ desire back at the centre of the brand, not the new designer name.
It seems the small and local is also winning over the huge and corporate, where a constant reshuffling of designers does little to enhance their brands, even slowly eroding consumer confidence in the brand signature and heritage. These new niche brands – along with their designers from specific cultures who understand their clients and their lives – are focused on their work, without the spotlight.
Will the industry take an approach that focuses on the contribution of the entire team, not one designer-figurehead, changing our ideas of what a fashion designer even is?
The fragrance industry has also started to embrace the ‘celebrity’ perfumer working solely for one brand. Like fashion designers, perfumers tend to have their own style and favourite materials. It can be a match made in heaven - Jean Claude Ellena’s work perfectly suited the Hermès signature and heritage. But now that he is retiring can, and more importantly, should, Christine Nagel emulate the Hermès fragrance style or bring her own style into the brand? Much like in fashion, is it about the brand’s signature or the perfumer’s signature?
Eponymous brands have been created by some of the world’s most talented perfumers and these brands are a fabulous way to celebrate a perfumer’s signature. But some still work, in a very visible way, for premium mass fine fragrance brands which seems to dilute their own label over time. Much like in fashion, is it time to celebrate the team of creative perfumers that tirelessly work in collaboration to understand a brand’s signature in order to create the perfect fragrance?
Here in the UK, we produce brilliant fashion and style creatives, but will this continue as the arts slip from educational agendas? Creative education is severely threatened with the arts are at the back of the queue as far as development, funding and careers are concerned. Renowned critic Sarah Mower and others are pushing to save our creativity in our education system from the early levels through to post-graduate. Mower is guided by her concerns that everyone no matter their background should be able to participate in the industry.
Ethical and environmental issues remain topics of concern and are a constant in business considerations. This year also saw a rise in awareness of how the industry treats models, exposing how the entire construction of our views on models – their health, rights, dignity and role within our industry - needs careful evaluation. However, little is still done regarding the conditions under which our clothes are produced. Factories and worker exploitation remain a hidden source of shame for much of the industry.
So, in 2018 we will watch the big brands struggle, the new names sparkle, see a new designer at Burberry, and see how the new editors at Vanity Fair US and Vogue UK get on. We will hope for excitement and freshness and ethical actions in all things stylish.
Tony is Consultant Creative Director to London College of Fashion (LCF), University of the Arts London. He is Couture Editor for Luxure magazine, and his prolific career in fashion journalism has seen him covering the major fashion scene, haute couture, and London and Paris Fashion Weeks, as well as working with NOWFASHION, Schön!, Antidote, Lash, Narcisse and Renaissance magazines. He is author of the books Top to Toe, a guide to men's grooming and New Icons of Fashion Illustration. He also works closely with Fashion Scout and is a judge at Graduate Fashion Week.
Image: Manish Arora, 2017