Photography by Karina Twiss - From left to right, top to bottom: Err… Me, Tim Blanks (Editor-at-Large Style.com), Jo-Ann Furniss (International Fashion Director, Interview Magazine Europe), Imran Amed (Founder of Business of Fashion), Valentine Fillol- Cordier (Fashion consultant and former model), Madelaine Levy (Editor-in-chief of Bon)
I've been away all day so have left the previous question on craft as PR fluff or genuine useful information fester for a bit here but I did say that I would post some highlights from the very long and worthy Style Council discussion from the current issue of Bon Magazine. Just to recap, five HIGHLY esteemed professionals in the industry and not so professional me got together in a room one day and basically bleated at each other on topics such as the 'weird' fashion week that was A/W 11-12, the ridiculous pricing of clothing and err… why pocket hankerchiefs are the new tits, with Tim Blanks presiding over the rabble and doing some potent questioning.
Here's where you can also step in and say "Hold on Mr Blanks/Ms. Furniss/Ms. Levy, I WHOLLY disagree…" if you want to and by the by, this is only 1,000 words out of 10,000 …. so it's worth picking up the issue if you can find it to devour the whole discussion.
On the subject of 'Gentleman-ly' and super sartorially correct menswear dressing…
Jo-Ann Furniss: It's (menswear) is really boring again! It's that whole fascination with a gentlewoman's wardrobe. In a way it reminds me of Loaded in the 90s, It was "Look at the tits, ha ha ha, oh and we're being ironic." But it actually sold because of the tits, not the irony. That gave birth to FHM. So you got this cavalcade of horrible magazines. And the irony was getting in the way of sales, so you just got tits for ten years. This is what we're getting now, only it's the gentleman's wardrobe, instead of tits. Pocket handkerchiefs are the new tits! Sometimes I like a bit of conservatism – it represents a kind of diversity. it's like the Arts and Crafts movement. But we can't go back in time; we've got to go forward. And pocket handkerchiefs, like tits, are holding us back!
On the subject of taste and its relationship to money when talking about consumption of luxury goods in China…
Valentine Fillol-Cordier: There's a lack of distinction between sophistication and luxury. it's not because of luxury that you're sophisticated and you have good taste. I find it so unnerving. You can be poor and have tons of taste. So you cannot give in to this kind of thing – you can't pretend to have lots of taste if you're simply buying all that shit and spending tons of money.
On the subject of crediting teams in fashion houses…
Susie Lau: It works differently at every house. It always astounds me how much influence a first assistant has for instance. And when you look at a collection with that knowledge, you're like, "Oh I just can't think of it in the same way; that it's all down to that one designer." I think it's better to have more acknowledgement of a team effort. There's nothing wrong with a creative director taking on an editing/filtering role to get the right result but it's interesting how, with some collections you can dissect them and attribute certain aspects to different people on the team – or collaborators. What I'm saying is that this idea of a sole so-called creative genius in a house can be a bit misleading.
On how Giorgio Armani bucks the conglomerate trend…
Jo-Ann Furniss: Actually, Armani doesn't need to keep going. He owns EVERYTHING!
Tim Blanks: Armani answers to nobody.
Imran Amed: But what will happen when he is no longer able?
Tim Blanks: There are license for things like perfume and eyewear. "I'm gone but the sunglasses will live on!"
Jo-Ann Furniss: I think we forget how weird Armani actually is. What he did in terms of fashion changed everybody's perception – with something quite strange and difficult. Now it seems normal, but it is not. Armani was a revolutionary designer; now we take his aesthetic for granted.
Tim Blanks: Completely revolutionary. in the 1970s, he destructed unstuffed and changed menswear as radically as Chanel changed womenswear with her jersey dress in the 1920s.
Jo-Ann Furniss: I equate Rei Kawakubo with Armani. She's the Japanese Armani, and he's the Italian Comme des Garcons. People don't realise it, they've got so used to it.
On the different types of designers…
Imran Amed: I think you see two types of designers. You see the ones who are trying to showcase what they do in a way that's going to catch the attention of some talent scout or designer. But then you also have the ones who are seriously thinking about building their own brand: people like Alexander Wang and Phillip Lim. They've thought commercialy about their businesses not just creatively.
Madelaine Levy: But these people may well be auditioning too, hoping to be sold to Gucci Group or LVMH or Richemont once they've built up value. That remains to be seen. But as a consequence of entrepreneurial designers building their brands, the business is, at least for now, becoming a lot more fragmented: more houses, not all of them as big as the old ones.
On the ridiculous levels of pricing of fashion…
Tim Blanks: I think the pricing in fashion is absolutely ludicrous. It makes me laugh that I used to think ¬£60 for a pair of bondage pants at Seditionaries was the living end.
Jo-Ann Furniss: I spoke to designers about this, and they said they have to have a higher price point because the buyers say it won't sell unless it costs more.
Madelaine Levy: But I think the future, at least to some extent belongs to the mid-price brands like Alexander Wang and Acne.
Imran Amed: Think about the past 15 or 20 years: what new, big brands have been created from scratch? Very few. The ones that manage to create substantial buisnesses all belong to that medium price point. Tory Burch, Alexander Wang, Phillip Lim – that's what people are buying. Even for the major houses, ready-to-wear is such a tough business to make work.
On haute couture…
Jo-Ann Furniss: That's the thing with haute couture. I used to be "Oh, shut it" when people would say "I cried at that show." And then I went to couture week and the first thing I saw was a Jean Paul Gaultier show, and I was like… (makes gasping sound). The feeling in those clothes, you feel the effort put into it. It's the most bizarre feeling.
Tim Blanks: They're a sensory experience. You can hear those clothes, too.
Susie Lau: That's why haute couture still exists, not as a business necessarily. But as a representation of fashion as an ideal.
On the speed of fashion…
Tim Blanks: For all its speed, fashion is a lot kinder to legacy and heritage than any other business i've worked in. Definitely much kinder than movies and publishing. And it respects the voice of experience.
Jo-Ann Furniss: There's a weird kind of etiquette. It's actually a very formal etiquette. Who sends thank you notes anymore? The fashion industry! People send flowers! Nobody does that, unless you fucked up somehow or you're briging somebody. But in fashion you send flowers because it's nice. There is also a respect for the people who have laid the foundations for things.
Susie Lau: Which is also why there is a resistance to change. I'm baffled by the dichotomy in fahsion that embraces change in some ways but hates it in other ways.
Imran Amed: I think you can operate on multiple speeds in fahsion now. you can be operative in that really high-speed daily fashion way, and then every six months you get your favourite biannual publication. I don't necessarily think of it as a dichtomy. I think it's just about training our brains to enjoy both, and get the best.