Just like the conventional mass media is losing traction due to fresh independent voices and the multitude of content, so do flagship fashion houses: they lost their relevance for the modern consumer who needs more than they can offer.
— What a beautiful suit!
— Thanks. I got it online just for 40 euros from some guys. They make them in India in small batches. They’re eco-friendly, too!
— Have you seen men’s fashion weeks recently?
— Yes, and it’s terrible. Are they even aware of any clothes except blazers? Or that other colors exist, not just gray and beige?
The conversation above succinctly sums up the latest men’s fashion month. Sure, some companies experiment with colors and cuts — Balmain is a prime example; yet in general, designers resort to turning runway into dance performance just to hold viewers' attention.
They do deliver some spectacular shows though: here’s Off-White's step
, contemp from Marni
, and stunningly beautiful butoh from Undercover
— for your viewing pleasure.
However, when it comes to clothing itself, there’s nothing to write home about. Oh, are Dolce & Gabbana reimagining mountain man’s pastoral look? Oh well.
It is generally believed that a poor choice of menswear stems from the fact that womenswear leaves more room to express oneself and to play — the view that proved to be backsliding not only for the industry but also for the consumers.
For starters, the idea of separate men’s and women’s fashion weeks carries little credibility. It is contradicted by male models walking the runway during women’s week, and vice versa.
The separation fails not only on the runway, but outside of it as well: street fashion has a big percentage of women wearing conventionally "men's" apparel, and some, albeit much fewer, men dress in conventionally "women's" clothes.
Why it works this way is easy to deduce: while men’s fashion is considered neutral, women’s is still objectifying — and, if trying out femininity is risky for a man in every way, a woman, by integrating elements of menswear, can gain a sense of security (with oversized clothes) or even of higher social status (power dressing).
In this context, Jacquemus could have had the upper hand in men’s fashion: this year, they announced the first mixed-gender collection. Yet, what they actually presented were just women wearing dresses and men — breeches.
One mixed-gender collection is certainly a step forward. Let us get back to it when men wearing ruffled dresses stop being a Paris fashion week’s joke and become commonplace.
At a glance, dividing fashion into men’s and women’s seems to be instrumental in keeping the industry profitable. Yet in the long run, it becomes detrimental not only for the industry but for the consumers as well: it does not reflect reality anymore. To add to that, fashion houses, toying with philosophy, aspire to at the very least provide a social comment, and at most be the society’s tastemakers — so it is high time they take a clear stance. If they do not, the potential buyer will keep drifting further away from them — we have every opportunity to do so now when alternatives are on the rise.
The consumer wants the product to be beautiful and unique, and if you can’t distinguish between
Burberry and Zara, what’s the point of fashion houses in the first place?
Presently, top-of-the-line fashion houses exist by common agreement, as a part of a consensus that feeds on itself; they do not generate new visual ideas — it’s the same process deconstructivists consumed of the 80s and 90s.
When the only thing that lets the consensus stay afloat is the fact of its existence, the whole thing becomes irrelevant.
When the user stops seeing value in the establishment, they start to generate the product themselves; it already happened with conventional mass media that’s being rapidly replaced by YouTube and Telegram channels. The same is happening to the fashion industry.
Today we can create our own sweater design and print it out on a 3D printer, or purchase a beaded blazer from a no-name Indian manufacturer — how can we get excited for the same turtlenecks that fashion houses produce twice a year?
Thanks to the modern technology and decentralization of the process in general, the manufacturing practices that were once labor-intensive and time-consuming have become less so — which, in turn, means that the consumer can purchase original and well-made things directly from the manufacturer, without utilizing the established channels or consulting with well-known authorities; people more and more treasure the object itself, not as a symbol or some sort of identification, such as the fashion houses' products.
Is it actually possible?
Can the formal consensus be generating value all by itself? That would explain why fashion houses are still able to stand their ground despite never generating new ideas.