Fash­ion Cor­po­rates Ac­cused Of Crush­ing Cre­ativ­ity

WWD Digital Daily - - News - BY NATALIE THEODOSI

LON­DON — How is tech­nol­ogy im­pact­ing cre­ativ­ity, and what does it re­ally take to dis­rupt an in­dus­try that’s reach­ing sat­u­ra­tion point?

Frieze Academy brought to­gether a se­ries of cre­atives — rang­ing from Kim Jones and Hus­sein Cha­layan, to graph­ics ex­pert Peter Sav­ille and sound de­signer Michel Gaubert — to ar­gue those ques­tions in a se­ries of talks held at the Royal Academy of Arts on Fri­day.

Cha­layan, one of the first de­sign­ers to in­cor­po­rate tech­nol­ogy into his work and present mov­ing gar­ments in his fa­mous “Geotrop­ics” col­lec­tion in 1999, said tech­nol­ogy’s im­pact on the arts hasn’t nec­es­sar­ily been a good thing.

He de­scribed wear­ables as “tacky” and high­lighted the grow­ing in­ter­est of hand­crafted tech­niques: “It’s such a cliché to be chas­ing 3-D print­ing now. I liked it at the be­gin­ning, but not any­more, it no longer feels ex­pen­sive some­how,” Cha­layan said.

He also touched on the in­flu­ence of the In­ter­net and so­cial me­dia, talk­ing about the “sense of en­ti­tle­ment,” that the easy ac­cess to data has cre­ated in younger gen­er­a­tions.

“Are you re­ally learn­ing by Googling some­thing?” he said, adding that so­cial me­dia and the rise of fash­ion con­glom­er­ates have both damp­ened cre­ativ­ity. Cha­layan said there is less room to­day to speak up, take risks and look for­ward to col­lec­tions land­ing in mag­a­zines or in-store, as show im­agery is read­ily avail­able even be­fore a de­signer leaves the show venue.

Sav­ille also spoke of the in­flu­ence of big lux­ury groups in to­day’s fash­ion ecosys­tem.

“There’s a new au­di­ence, and the emer­gence of a cor­po­rate con­trol of fash­ion. It’s dom­i­nated by two or three groups that con­trol the me­dia, and there­fore com­mu­ni­ca­tion, be­ing the largest ad­ver­tis­ers,” Sav­ille said. “A fash­ion mag­a­zine no longer re­flects what peo­ple are do­ing, but what prod­ucts are made and this cre­ates a pres­sure in so­ci­ety of not want­ing to be left out. The au­di­ence and the mar­ket has been con­trolled by the board­rooms of these cor­po­ra­tions — un­til they re­sisted. I’m sur­prised there hasn’t been a more ve­he­ment re­sis­tance.”

He also pointed to a shift from a need to cre­ate prod­ucts and ex­pe­ri­ences that im­proved the world dur­ing the Eight­ies and Nineties, to a need to dis­rupt the mar­ket — and break the sys­tem.

Speak­ing of his work with ma­jor fash­ion la­bels such as Burberry, La­coste, Givenchy and Calvin Klein, Sav­ille high­lighted the im­por­tance of some­times break­ing with tra­di­tion.

“As an iden­tity de­signer, I’m quite dis­re­spect­ful of iden­tity guide­lines.” He said that at La­coste, “I put these f--ked up crocodiles in front of them, there was a mo­ment of si­lence, but they laughed.

They were tyr­an­nized by their own brand iden­tity and it took an out­sider to dis­rupt that, be­cause once you’re in­side these cor­po­ra­tions it’s dif­fi­cult to ques­tion things.”

He de­scribed his most re­cent work with Burberry as “quite pleas­ant” but also made a dis­tinc­tion be­tween his com­mer­cial and cre­ative projects: “It’s not al­ways some­thing I want to do, but as things I do to earn a liv­ing, they’re not bad.”

Jones un­packed the ways he has main­tained his sta­tus as a de­signer of in­flu­ence, by way of cu­ra­tion, col­lab­o­ra­tion and a healthy dose of com­mer­cial acu­men.

“When I was young I didn’t think about be­ing com­mer­cial, but then I got sucked into it and started be­ing in­ter­ested in the busi­ness side of the in­dus­try. Now Dior col­lec­tions are dif­fer­ent, but still en­er­getic and rel­e­vant to what the house is to­day. We can still sur­prise peo­ple with what we do,” he said.

Frieze Academy brought cre­atives to­gether to ex­am­ine sub­jects such as tech­nol­ogy, di­ver­sity and the need for dis­rup­tion in art and fash­ion.

A look from Cha­layan’s fall show.

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