mardi 3 février 2015

Couture is dead, long live the couture!

"Well, this is a turn of the fashion wheel I did not see coming: A season after Jean Paul Gaultier announced he was closing his ready-to-wear line to concentrate on couture, the Dutch designers Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren, otherwise known as Viktor & Rolf, have followed suit."
By citing Vanessa Friedman in her new article in the NYtimes fashion,
Viktor & Rolf Hop Off the Ready-to-Wear Treadmil, I am announcing you that Viktor & Rolf, a few months after the Jean-Paul Gaultier's identical decision, quit Ready-To-Wear to focus on their Couture collections.
And they are not alone! Although Givenchy stopped presenting couture collections in 2013, Riccardo Tisci announced last week that the House would be back on couture track for soon.

The trend is surprisingly reversing... After a decade of renowned houses closing their couture ateliers at the benefit of the much more profitable and global ready-to-wear market, - Balmain (2002), Yves Saint Laurent (2002), Christian Lacroix (2009), Givenchy (2013)- , now show the desire to go back to their roots.

Actually, if Vanessa Friedman says she did not see coming it, I have to say that I personally kind of foresaw that...

Jean-Paul Gaultier's decision highlighted an embarrassment that does exist in the fashion industry, and that a lot of designers don't dare to speak about. I could not help but thinking about Alexander McQueen's suicide in 2009... Even if it's of course exaggerated to accuse the industry for that.

This is what I could call the burden of the fashion's pace. 
Ready-to-wear do not only rely on Autumn/Winter and Spring/Summer. Now, customers, used to Zara weekly replenishment cycles, always want more new collections, novelty, quickly, very quickly.

It means that designer add to their calendar a Pre-fall collection, and for some of them a Cruise collection. Chanel even adds to that its special "Métiers d'Art" collection. 
And I don't even speak about brands that also develop men's lines!

"In other words, all three designers acknowledge a truth that is oft-complained about by fashion observers sotto voce, but rarely acted upon: The pace of fashion these days makes it impossible to have any new ideas, so everyone is stuck churning out same-old same-old. Something has to give, and what gave, in both cases, is the industrial side of the business."
It was sure, after that Jean Paul Gaultier pointed that by his decision to discontinue his ready-to-wear line, that other designers would dare to do so. 

In the french magazine Glamour (March 2015) you'll find an article called "Prêt-à-portable" (= Ready-to-wearable), underlining another dimension of this issue : season after season, designers struggle to propose something new or truly innovative, creative or a bit crazy.

Silhouettes are more and more common, proposing to the customers a look that is easy to imagine in their own closet. Glamour also speaks about " Ready-to-buy"...

Couture is the borderless (or almost) world of creativity and craziness. This is the possibility for designers to draw an unique $20 000 outfit. Couture is a very specific market with a very limited targeted segment. We are speaking about a 1% (and even then!) clients accounting for 95% of revenues, while the costs of handcrafting and of keeping an atelier and are substantial. 

In my opinion, for designers such as Viktor & Rolf, or Jean-Paul Gaultier, that's a good thing. 
You could see in their ready-to-wear collections that they feel kind of "limited" by something. 
The "Ready-to-wearable" phenomenon is not for them. Moreover, they show a path for the ones willing to keep alive couture in the 21h century.

On another hand, some designers are made for that. Glamour quotes Phoebe Philo : "clothes should be made to be worn in real life", Hedi Slimane's work at Saint Laurent, Nicolas Ghesquière's new approach to Louis Vuitton... And I agree. I am happy to see a kind of"normalization", but I am also so happy to see that some designers dare to drop Ready-To-Wear if they don't feel comfortable with the new constraints of the fashion industry. 


Saint Laurent
Céline Resort 2015
The last fashion weeks, we have seen a lot of denim, a lot of "easy" silhouettes, that can inspire anyone in his/her real life's outfits. Silhouettes go back to basics, the economic crisis had an impact on how we approach our closets. Consumers have a more pragmatic vision, and designers tend to have a more business-oriented one. We also saw the birth of brands such as Vetements, claiming a total return to the essence of clothes, proposing completely neutral and timeless pieces. The recent trend of what magazines call"normcore" is also a sign of this phenomenon... You know, this old tee shirt/mom jean/sneakers style, trying to say " I don"t care about fashion fads" and at the same time "I don't admit to actually be a fuc**** hipster".

I could write a lot about that subject. 
But by way of conclusion, Viktor & Rolf's decision brings us to think about a lot of issues that the fashion industry faces right now. It is still a young "industry", changing and restructuring itself every season, and the rules of its game are never the same for the designers.
This declaration highlights also the need to re-think our way of consuming, besides the way of producing... The industry only answers to our demand : if we always ask for more, they will always offer more. Maybe this "back to roots" is a path to explore for a more sustainable model for the fashion industry...

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