The fashion world has been buzzing with gossip, speculation and press releases the past few weeks. First, Alexander Wang left Balenciaga in July. This was upsetting news, but the fashion world could handle it. There was time to adjust and say goodbye during his last show for Balenciaga during Paris Fashion Week in September. Shortly after Fashion Month, Raf Simons announced that he would be leaving Dior. About a week after that, Alber Elbaz announced he was leaving Lanvin.
The common consensus is that Simons chose to leave Dior, but Elbaz was forced out of Lanvin due to conflicts with the corporate end of the business. Alexander Wang also left for personal reasons in order to focus on his brand, Alexander Wang, full-time. Wang and Simons both lasted all but three years at their respective houses, but Elbaz has been at Lanvin since 2001. It is interesting that Elbaz was seemingly forced out of Lanvin because he played a crucial role in reshaping the brand’s identity during his time there. After a creative slump and lack of success in the market, Elbaz entered and completely transformed the brand.
There must be a balance between being a successful business and letting the creative juices flow. Simons, in an interview with Systems, said there is “no incubation time for ideas, and incubation time is very important”. When a design house is expected to have so many collections out per year, it becomes more about quantity over quality.
From the designers perspective, it is difficult to crunch creativity to fit into the business mindset. That being said, with the amount of press and positive attention that comes with each fashion week of the year, obviously designers must present each time. The real reason fashion weeks became semi-annual events was so magazine editors could pick out new pieces to feature in the coming months’ issues, which still happens today. Fashion Weeks are a huge component of the business of fashion. And today, with bloggers like Chiara Ferrangini and Kristina Bazan, having an outstanding fashion week collection is even more influential because now, collections are being featured on Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, fashion blogs and fashion news websites like Man Repeller and WhoWhatWear, drawing more attention to the industry than ever before.
These three leaves are signaling a larger problem in the industry. There is a lack of creativity, placing too much energy on the quantity rather than quality of the designs, brand image and fashion shows. Especially at the highest levels of haute couture, fashion should be representative of something larger than simply beautiful garments. It should be representative of an important idea, message or theme. In order to keep these messages significant as well as the collections being well made and unique, the designers need “incubation time”, as Simons called it, to let their ideas process rather than the constant cog-in-a-machine mentality of churning out four or more collections per year. If other designers also feel this way and this trend of leaving continues, the fashion industry will be even more unstable. While designer cooperation is important in order for a successful business, the business side of fashion must collaborate and compromise with the designers in order to keep the industry from completely falling apart.
In our current world of 24/7 media where everything has increased in pace, it may be necessary to apply this same logic to our lives. In our rapid paced society, sometimes we have to step back and actually think before acting or making a decision. Fashion, in many ways, is a representation of something larger than just clothes to keep us warm and covered up. Maybe now, the fashion industry is giving the world a heads up to slow down and focus on the meaning of our actions beyond just completing them.
Super interested in this topic? Check out this round table discussion from Man Repeller on this topic. I LOVE everything Leandra Medine and her wonderful team at Man Repeller do, and this discussion was no exception!
What do you think about the fashion world’s recent departures? What do you see for Dior, Balenciaga & Lanvin’s futures? Do you think there is a larger problem in the fashion industry? Comment below!