FASH­ION IN­SIDER

Is the breath­less pace of fast fash­ion and so­cial me­dia lead­ing to a cre­ative burnout,

Marie Claire (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - asks MARY CORRIGALL

De­signer burnout

SINCE THE AD­VENT OF FASH­ION, it has been com­pared to a wheel. It’s al­ways been a form of com­mer­cially-driven cre­ative ex­pres­sion de ned by rapid move­ment. Wheels, like sea­sons and trends, are al­ways ‘turn­ing’. Crit­i­cal anal­y­sis of con­sump­tion pat­terns has in­creased, par­tic­u­larly now as in­sid­ers have been reach­ing for the ‘pause but­ton’ in the face of the on­slaught of six sea­sons in­stead of three, with ready-to-wear, pre-fall, re­sort or cruise shows be­ing added to the cal­en­dar. This is ob­vi­ously a con­di­tion that has taken hold at the higher ech­e­lons of the fash­ion sys­tem yet we have all felt its ef­fects; this con­stant stream of high fash­ion has sped up the cy­cles in ev­ery high-street fash­ion chain.

The de­sign­ers bur­dened with dream­ing up all the new con­cepts, prints, colour pal­ettes and in­spi­ra­tion for th­ese gazil­lion ramp shows are feel­ing the pres­sure the most. Cre­ative in­spi­ra­tion might not be this myth­i­cal sen­sa­tion that strikes at un­pre­dictable times, but is it some­thing that can be turned on like a tap? Lee McQueen’s sui­cide and Marc Ja­cob’s and John Gal­liano’s sub­stance abuse is­sues have all been at­trib­uted to the pun­ish­ing cy­cle of fash­ion. Raf Si­mons, whose res­ig­na­tion from Dior seemed pre­ma­ture, is thought to have opted out due to the fast pace, while Al­ber El­baz, the cre­ative di­rec­tor at Lan­vin, was pushed out of the fash­ion house due to share­holder’s de­sire to up the pace and growth.

Are the spokes of the fash­ion wheel fall­ing off? Opin­ion is di­vided among in­dus­try in­sid­ers. Fash­ion has al­ways been the fastest cre­ative cy­cle. Rick Owens views this pe­riod as ‘a breed­ing ground for a golden age of de­sign.’ Karl Lager­feld might be 82 but he has cock­ily sug­gested that ‘if you are not a good bull ghter, don’t en­ter the arena.’

What con­di­tions pre­cip­i­tated this fast-paced arena in the rst place? Most ob­vi­ously, greed and com­pe­ti­tion ac­count for the shift. Tech­nol­ogy or, more speci cally, dig­i­tal and so­cial me­dia, has cul­ti­vated or ac­cel­er­ated an ap­petite for ‘new­ness’. A steady stream of new fash­ion im­ages has come to sa­ti­ate ‘the chase against bore­dom’, as Michael Kors has sug­gested.

‘It is a bit like what has hap­pened with TV se­ries, where now you get episodes in­stantly; you don’t wait for a week or a month. You want it now,’ says South African de­signer Thula Sindi. While build­ing his brand, he would some­times do six new col­lec­tions in a year. He was ex­hausted and found the sched­ule not fea­si­ble nan­cially or lo­gis­ti­cally.

‘I used to be afraid that if you don’t show, peo­ple would for­get you,’ he says. ‘But when you don’t show one sea­son and you don’t see any ef­fect on your sales, you re­alise that it isn’t fun­da­men­tal to your busi­ness.’

‘De­signer burnout’ is not sim­ply a term to de­scribe the neg­a­tive ef­fect on the psy­che of de­sign­ers, but the in­tegrity of de­sign it­self.

‘The ad­jec­tives we are us­ing to cre­ate ur­gency when we sell gar­ments, such as “must-have”, sug­gest to me that fash­ion is no longer about de­sign,’ says fash­ion mag­a­zine vet­eran Jackie Burger. The fast-fash­ion phe­nom­e­non is ev­i­dent in this coun­try, she says. ‘It is un­avoid­able, par­tic­u­larly now that we have so many in­ter­na­tional brands on our doorstep.’ Jackie sees value in the ad­di­tion of re­sort col­lec­tions; how­ever, she is con­cerned by the lack of dis­cern­ment that the fast pace of fash­ion negates in an ef­fort by com­pa­nies to ac­cel­er­ate con­sump­tion pat­terns.

The South African fash­ion in­dus­try is in its nas­cence and the pro­lif­er­a­tion of fash­ion weeks in this coun­try are not nec­es­sar­ily sea­sonal driven – they are de­ter­mined by in­di­vid­u­als, most no­tably Lu­cilla Booyzen as head of SA Fash­ion Week and Dr Pre­cious Moloi-Mot­sepe, di­rec­tor of Africa Fash­ion In­ter­na­tional, whose shows are ge­o­graph­i­cally de ned Cape Town, Joburg and Africa fash­ion weeks). How­ever, as our de­sign­ers are un­der-re­sourced few have cap­i­tal and nan­cial sup­port), the pres­sure to keep up with sea­sonal shows and com­pete with the in­ter­na­tional brands that have set the pace is dif cult.

‘I have only shown a col­lec­tion ev­ery six months but I have still felt like I am trapped in a ham­ster wheel, says Jac­ques van der Watt of Black Coffee. ‘I can’t imag­ine what kind of sup­port you would need to do six shows.’ Jac­ques took a pause last year, opt­ing not to show at SA Fash­ion Week Win­ter 2016. The Black Coffee con­sumer was con­fused by all the new looks and it made bet­ter com­mer­cial sense to re­work ex­ist­ing lines more strongly iden­ti­fied with the brand than gen­er­at­ing com­pletely new ones ev­ery sea­son, he says.

Thula only shows at the Dur­ban Fash­ion Fair once a year. He holds small cock­tail events to pro­mote new de­signs and uses In­sta­gram to com­mu­ni­cate new col­lec­tions to the pub­lic.

Jac­ques may be re­think­ing how and when to par­tic­i­pate in shows but he still sees value in them. ‘There is noth­ing like the pres­sure of show to crys­tallise an in­tense vi­sion for the sea­son,’ he says.

As de­sign­ers are at the cen­tre of the in­dus­try, it seems that ul­ti­mately, they will have to set the pace and re­claim their power back, re­fus­ing to be­come fash­ion vic­tims of an­other kind. mc

Clock­wise from top left: Alexan­der McQueen, Marc Jacobs, Raf Si­mons,

John Gal­liano and Al­ber El­baz

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