when everyone is doing it, it goes out of fashion

Fashion is perverse.

Not too long ago, the Superstar Designer was the real deal. Supermodels were known by everyone whether they cared about fashion or not. Fashion was dominated by celebrities so massive, their names were known even by those who could care less about fashion. Suzy Menkes wrote about it recently in an article that generates some mixed feelings.

The glamour of the fashion designer which had grown over the past century reached its peak in the eighties and nineties. Glamourous features about designers with elaborate pictures of their homes and features about their work dominated the pages of W and Vogue. The names in fashion were big enough to be mentioned in the celebrity and mainstream media.

The result of this? People became sold on the idea of being a fashion designer – lots of people who dreamed about the fancy homes and the idealized media adoration of the designer. More and more schools offered fashion design. There are more and more designers, more and more labels. Fashion weeks seem to go on for longer. All of the big names are holdovers from 20 years ago – none of fashion’s rising stars seems to have been able to break out internationally in the sense that they become household names with massive empires. It just seems like there is so much noise out there that no one designer can capture anything more than a niche.

That’s the multi-channel multi-media overload thing. If everyone can be a designer, what is it that makes it so special? Am I the only fashion school graduate who has noticed how blithely unimpressed people are with my hard-earned Fashion Design degree? I’m beginning to be awfully vague about my schooling background unless people are very curious.

Then there’s the other 21st century occupation that dilutes the desirability of fame – the reality television star. Now CBC is offering you fifteen minutes of fame and a chance to win the Host position on Fashion File. Sure it would be a cool job… but…

What makes something desireable? It’s something that everyone wants but few can have.

What makes something unfashionable? Something that everyone already has.
Ubiquity is killing these trends:

  • Skinny Jeans = everyone’s got’em, no longer desireable
  • Reality Television Fame = everyone’s tainted, no longer desireable
  • Actual Celebrity Fame = oversaturated, no longer desireable
  • Fashion Design Degree = dime a dozen, no longer desireable
  • Printed T-Shirt Lines = you do ’em, I do ’em, anyone can do ’em, no longer desireable.

These are things that I think have become rare enough to develop into new trends:

  • Back to the Land = everyone’s been flooding into the cities for a long time now. We’re ripe for a revival of this idea.
  • Non-Distressed Denim = it lasts longer and is more authentic, and seeing an honestly worn-out pair of jeans is a rare event.
  • Craftspeople and Technicians = when everyone is designer and white collar, suddenly people who can actually execute ideas are far rarer and much more impressive.

What else have you not seen around for a while? What can you think of that few people are doing?

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11 thoughts on “when everyone is doing it, it goes out of fashion”

  1. it’s funny but I still find being a designer desirable… i really enjoy my job, and I love where it is taking me… so I guess I disagree with you on that point… but I totally agree with the full leg pant and the undistressed jean… I know I might be old lady, but I am looking forward to pleated pants… something about a women in pleated pants seems so feminine to me. maybe it’s just me…

  2. Your post is bound to conjure up alot of discussion, especially where matters of celebrity and fashion are involved.
    I think we are in a phase or period where many of us couldn’t care less what Brangelina had for lunch, or who bothered to show up at NY Fashion Week, or which reality show contestant ends up in the tabloids.

    I honestly think that people are now actually taking a look at the state of affairs of the world and in their own countries, and thinking to themselves,” We are in a shitload of trouble if something doesn’t change soon ” and suddenly some of the things you so aptly mention above don’t seem to matter.
    At this point, I think people are asking themselves ” What can I do personally to be a part of any change ?”
    Many of us are in this “reflective” mode where it is not so important anymore to go out and drop big money on clothing or other material items. Maybe one of the reasons why many retailers have had a rough go the last few years.

    People are standing around in slow motion, not sure what direction to move in. We are definitely in some kind of cultural revolution.

  3. A return to home cooking and home sewing and focusing on our family lives rather than working 24 hours a day. I want to focus on what I love to do and be able to do it well. My goal is to move to the country and buy a large house with a large studio/garage where my bf and I can settle down and have a family. I love this crazy city but to have a house a family and be able to enjoy it all at the same time is a difficult thing to do with the cost of living. Staying here would mean working 10 + hour days and eating dinner at 9pm at night every day. My boyfriend already does this now starting work at 8/9am and coming home at 7/8pm, he’s also making good money yet we still are struggling. It’s incredibly costly to live in the city and not just financially.

    I think we will see a change in what people value and a return to simpler ways of living. We all have to stop at some point and ponder why we are here….to make money, and work non-stop while ingnoring the conditions of the world around us? We are running out of time to continue in the ways that we do.

    In fashion I think we may see bell bottoms return (I can remember during the late 80’s skinny jeans were really in but as the 90’s hit bell bottoms and wide leg pants were all the rage) also neon, when was the last time you saw neon? Chunky shoes. Most of these things I am not looking forward to returning but I can see it coming. I agree with Danielle on the natural denim I would love to see that return and a wider legged pant.

    Although I liked this way before it was a trend I am sick to death of the high waisted thick belt. I loved the look of this a year/2 years ago but now I can’t take it anymore. This is all I see at school big belt long shirt….boring boring boring….

  4. 2 thoughts:
    I am designer and I find what you say to be slowly changing. I look to people like Margiela or Maria Cornejo as a role model for my company: gets by financially, gets a bit of press, respected within the educated fashion community, is not famous. I think the evolution of the super star designer changed a lot of people’s expectations of designing. The goal is the create fashion, not to be a celebrity. As a culture we have started to confuse success with fame and I think this over saturation could slowly lead to a reversal. Designers who put the focus on their work and not their personalities or global domination will find a sense of happiness in their lives that those chasing celebrity will not.
    Most of the designers of global brands do not actually design the global part. They design the couture line, which does not make money. The diffusion lines and licensing deals bring in cash but those are really more a marketing coup then a design triumph.

    My other thought was on your hopes for a revival of the technicians of fashion. I drape all my own patterns and that is a selling point with my line. I actually know the cut of the sleeves of each coat intimately because I drafted them myself. I tried out a dozen variations to see what an extra 1/4″ would do here or there. Buyers and customers have all taken an interest in the fact that the designer actually sat at the machine to sew or took muslin to the dress form. The product is more than a sketch I drew and threw some money at.
    I hope that what I have personally witnessed is proof of a larger movement because so many of our best designers are technicians as well. Galliano is a master of bias cut; McQueen was a savile row tailor. These men are not stylists turned designers, but craftsman who elevated their craft into art.

  5. Wow, great comments everyone. I’m glad I’m not the only one feeling that a pull away from celebrity/$$$ fashion. Maybe we won’t have the same kind of international legends but the shift away reflects a sense that fame is fleeting and money is not the main motivator. What these feelings mean for fashion is a shift in focus away from big business and high luxury.

    Still, luxury is an essence that never goes out of style. Greg Climer’s work features hand-wrought detail in fine fabrics – it’s a quieter sense of luxury though… one that focuses on craft and fabrication. World domination a la LVMH isn’t the big idea for this kind of collection. With so many small houses, it seems that defining a small niche is the goal.

    Thank you everyone for your thoughtful responses!

  6. Thought-provoking post. We’ll probably all be kicking this one around for awhile.

    In terms of lifestyle, we have an awful lot of pseudo “back to the land” stuff going on out here in the Great Northwest. McMansions on 5 acres of CC&Rs –GAG! No goats or anything, just riding lawnmowers. I find the small-town, walk everywhere idea appealing. Of course, there are problems with that, too. Nobody’s perfect, so everything gets messed up to a degree.

    But, after all the workaholism, big commutes, etc, here’s the idea I REALLY hope catches on: the 4 day work-week. Oh yeah!

  7. Very good post. I agree with the idea of over-kill with fashion. My rule of thumb (being a boutique owner) is that if it is in Old Navy it will probably be out next season! But I still love watching the masses gobble up the style that we say is “in”

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