I am a lover of women's shoes and their designers. I love the art and artistry, the architecture and the incredible quality and ease of wear of a well designed shoe. Everyone knows all about Manolo and Louboutin. Some even know Zanotti, Paciotti, and Rossi. But there is one Italian who most do not know; GML or Gianmarco Lorenzi. He is every bit as good as all of the others but for some reason hasn't captured the imagination of the public. I would love to help change that so I present a taste below and if Gianmarco or any of his team happen to read this I'd love to help in a more meaningful way... :)
I have a radical new idea that will revolutionize fashion as we know it. If a blouse costs a designer $50.00 to make, they then charge $100 for it wholesale and the retailer charges $200 for it. Everybody doubles their money and is happy. Of course I'm being catty because that was RTW for about eighty years but somehow that is now considered passe and poor business. The modern approach to business seems to be to maximize profits not by innovating, expanding, and out performing your competition but by maximizing margins by putting the hurt on your labor and suppliers. Pay as little as possible and charge as much as possible. The problem with this equation is of course obvious as you are damaging the very people your business depends on. Please don't misunderstand me, every business should be as efficient as possible and do everything they can to keep the costs of goods and services low. But that's a finite space, if you force your suppliers or workers to accept lower incomes their product or quality of work declines as surely as rain falls.
Wayne Fall '12
The rise of E-Commerce has made this problem worse as there are now a myriad of sites and stores that have every conceivable variation of giving designers money other than just buying their clothes and selling them. "We'll make you create a collection out of your own pocket and then when pieces sell, even though we can't point to a track record of great sales, we'll give you 60%!" Or, "even though our record of converting hits to sales is around 5% we get so much traffic you should sell though us!" I always tell the designers I consult for that you should only do any type of consignment for your first two seasons. After that if your work has had over 80% sell through the boutique is giving away profit by not buying wholesale from you. I hear from designers all the time how boutiques and sites talk about "supporting" designers but will do anything and everything to avoid paying wholesale on time. You want to support a fashion designer? Buy the damn clothes wholesale. If you can't, don't go into business till you can.
What happened to America's predictable love affair with rebellion? Based on the past timing of reactions against excessive conformity and repression that happened in the 1890s, the 1920's, and then the 1960's & '80s we are due or overdue for a revolution of thought, actions, and style. It's likely that the events of 09/11 and then the the economic collapse of '08 pushed back the "cycle", just as the Second World War delayed it in the 20th century. If that is true, then the next revolution may not occur until the economy improves. Or perhaps the frustration and disappointment with the failure of so many economic and cultural systems will cause it to happen anyway. In either case the longer it is delayed the more far reaching and "violent" it will be when it arrives.
Shauntele Fall '12
When I say "violent" I mean in it's impact on profits and reputations for and of those groups, organizations, and individuals who were perceived as being part of the "problem". When such waves of change have settled down they tend to reveal that they have severely damaged the institutions and individuals that had been leaders just years before. It's important to understand that these revolutions in fashion are caused by more important revolutions in our culture. The sportswear movement that benefited Claire McCardell was a direct result of the growing independence of women and then their entry into the workforce during the Second World War. Dior's New Look was born of a war weary hunger for a new take on luxury and glamour in a recovering Europe, Halston after the sexual revolution etc... It's equally important to remember that fashion still mostly means women's ready to wear. When we look for cultural changes that will change fashion we must focus on what is happening to and for women.
Tatiana Inglis Fall '12
What has happened in the past is that a few specific retailers will recognize ahead of all others that there is an untapped hunger for change among their clients. That with a small amount of prompting those customers will passionately embrace and promote fresh and innovative designs and designers. The new styles and the designers that create them then spread like wildfire and the major boutiques and grand stores quickly find themselves in an adapt or die moment. Any brand or store that is tagged as "behind" will rapidly see their sales decline. This has happened so many times in exactly the same way that there is no reason to believe that it will not repeat itself and I believe it will do so soon. So look around, what is happening in the lives of women that will cause them to desire fashions that represent change?
One of the approaches to design that has always held much sway over my soul is intense detailing. For a designer to pack an enormous amount of work into a tiny space and avoid clutter or gaudiness is a challenging feat and one that I applaud whenever I find it. I certainly found it in jewelry designer Lydia Courteille. Lydia Courteille creates work that is entrancing and enthralling much like the genius of Rene Lalique. Unlike Lalique however she seems to delight in creating almost bejeweled pointillist pieces. Enjoy and stare!
Design of the Day 07/01/12 Zero + Maria Cornejo Resort '13
The amount of visual interest that Maria Cornejo created in this design is incredible. The texture of the fabric, the white "stripe" in the center that is defined without borders, the horizontal ombre, the unique shoulder and semi sleeve combination, the list is long.
There is a very tangible tension that every fashion designer will quickly encounter if they enter the ready to wear market. The need to sell your designs is paramount to your ability to grow as a designer. Money buys you time, space, and resources to improve. You must sell your clothes and the way the market is now you must do it immediately. The fact that the majority of retail buyers will not buy a designer in their first few seasons, unless an overwhelming PR buzz has been purchased, leaves emerging designers and even some veterans in a precarious place. Contrast that with the truth that creative people need to be in a comfortable place in order to be at their most inspired and productive. Further, younger designers don't have a great handle on any aspect of their own aesthetic or even their creative process. The two opposing forces of creativity and marketability collide intensely and constantly as a designer is making their collection. As I've argued in the past the fashion industry and the media that covers it must shoulder the burden of creating and maintaining the space for it's own future to develop and prosper. In fact to fail to do so is to create a future of endless retrospectively inspired and tired commercially motivated fashion.
Calvin Klein Resort '13
But even if there is the creation of an industry supported attitude or place for how we handle young designers that does not address the thorny issue of how every individual designer deals with the rigid demands of the marketplace and yet still creates unique and wonderful fashion that satisfies themselves. Every designer must solve that on their own, some to a greater degree and some to a much lesser degree. Many designers natural and genuine creativity is more acceptable to the market than others. That just makes the process easier but it doesn't remove it. Over the past eight years I have seen thousands of collections. Born of that experience the conviction has arisen that there is a sweet spot for every designer that can not only be hit but can over time be expanded. Every designer can and must find the space in which the needs of the market are perfectly balanced against the pure artistic vision that the designer was inspired to create. That is the meaning of a successful design; it both pleases the creator and creates a desire to be worn.
The promising Bach Mai from her BFA collection for Parsons
The only way for each individual designer to find that superior space that allows them to function at their best is to constantly create and experiment. Humans only improve by doing, creators only improve by creating. But the current market demands that you sell from collection one. Which means that with the notable exception of their first season every RTW fashion designer has a maximum of 26 weeks to figure it out to the best of their ability, and often on their own. There is no secret to this or brilliant pearl of wisdom I can offer. The fact that experienced designers actually get comfortable with that is kind of a miracle. It must be done, it can be done, and it is done well hundreds of times a year all over the world. Which means, yes you also can and will do it. Just put your head down and let it happen, struggles, triumphs, disasters, and all. Get to it and I and others will keep working to give you time and the space to do it in. If you care about fashion in this city and in this country, that's your job. At least that's how I see it and try to live it.