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03-10-2005
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Article from iht
http://iht.com/articles/2005/10/02/opinion/rdigital.php


Quote:
Digital eye at center of a fashion hurricane
By Suzy Menkes International Herald Tribune
MONDAY, OCTOBER 3, 2005



PARIS This month marks a somber anniversary for the fashion world: a decade since the newly invented digital cameras registered images of fashion shows and put them online 10 minutes after the show ended.

On Oct. 31, 1995, I wrote in the International Herald Tribune about a new initiative at New York Fashion Week: "The day of instant fashion flashed round the world in nano-seconds has arrived - without any fanfare, nor any discussion of its dramatic and awesome implications for the industry."

The following season, in March 1996, I used photographer Christopher Moore to demonstrate to readers how images on the "no-film digital camera" had been transmitted by a public telephone line. (This was before the even speedier photo communications by mobile phone.) I also discussed the arrival of "First View," the Web site that has subsequently been the subject of an ongoing court case.

Looking back from the current world of super-fast fashion, the words I wrote in 1996 seem prescient: "There may soon be no such thing as 'fashion' - meaning a new development in clothing that grows from a designer's creative intelligence, hits the runway, is bought by exclusive shops and is worn by a fashion-aware elite - before the concept is widely disseminated. Instead, everything from Helmut Lang's ribbed hip band on pants, to Comme des Garçons' floral patterns or Gucci's latest belt will be instantly available in some fast-fashion version."

Substitute the words "Balenciaga's sailor pants," for Lang, and you have today's scenario. The digital camera is the eye of the hurricane that has changed the fashion landscape.

I suggested in the article, which embraced the decision by the French Chambre Syndicale to take legal action against "theft of intellectual property and possible commercial piracy or counterfeit," that "shows that were once reserved for professionals have become public property." And I saw a solution: "The industry is faced with an unprecedented crisis that can be resolved only by radical change: by abandoning the current showings six months ahead of the selling season, or by reverting to restricted showroom presentations."

That did not happen. And the frenzy of fast fashion and the global dissemination of shows is now an integral part of the industry. In the past week, people who had not seen the Prada show, but had instantly logged on to style.com, were discussing the pink patent wheely travel bag, the bright lipstick and whether the thick-sock styling was a good idea.

The world is now fashion's audience.

On the credit side, a company with a strong and coherent vision is able to use technology to sharpen up its image. And for the public, the leading fast- fashion stores such as Hennes & Mauritz and Zara offer fashion at an affordable price. On the debit sheet is increased counterfeiting, the growth of low-priced chains and lost revenues for small designer companies.

But whatever the commercial repercussions, what about the essence of fashion itself? No one can now design a product and own its image for more than the seconds it takes to send it into cyberspace. The exterior symbol of a registered logo is the only intellectual property that can be protected.

A "smart" designer today no longer searches for fashion's Holy Grail: the classic product which enters the fashion language as a "Kelly bag" or a "Chanel jacket."

Instead the "it" bag of the season exists in order to nurture the fast-fashion culture at the luxury level. Tom Ford's Gucci system - a quick hit and move on - is now so widely accepted that Gucci Group attributed disappointing YSL figures to the lack of a hit bag.

Chloé's stylish, well-thought out Paddington bag or Balenciaga's Lariat might deserve to have a life after one season. Yet how can they, when "inspirations," if not actual counterfeits, are in every shop window across the world?

Fashion is not alone. Piracy in downloading music and movies presents a headache in other industries. But those problems are essentially commercial and do not alter the creative approach of the film director or musician.

In fashion, there is a difference between ideas that grow organically from a seed planted in a designer's mind and nurtured by societal shifts - and the instant changes forced on designers to get the copyists off their backs and keep the tills ringing. The contrast is between Alber Elbaz at Lanvin offering to women the dresses they did not realize they were yearning for until they saw them - and all the soulless copycat dresses with Lanvin-style gros-grain trimmings (not least on the Milan runways last week).

Designers themselves are ambivalent about fast fashion.

"Copying doesn't bother me, because they can copy my work - but they can't copy the way I think," says Elbaz, who is more concerned about the frenetic speeding up of the fashion cycle on himself.

"It is frustrating, because the day after I do a show I have to choose the new fabrics," he says. "What is missing is the element of fantasy - what I need is more dreaming. Otherwise there is not enough of yourself in it."

"There is a difference between global and universal," he says. "I still prefer the word "universal". I think there is something very fake about global."

Elbaz says that the digital technology is not the first to influence fashion, since the original invention of the camera encouraged streamlined dressing in the 1920s. Before that period, fashion was disseminated by illustration, which favors decoration and embellishment, whereas in the camera eye - especially during the long period of black and white images - the more graphic the better.

Coco Chanel was part of that era and her silhouettes looked as sharp and spare as Man Ray's photographs. She famously said that to be copied was a compliment, and Karl Lagerfeld, a photographer himself, has a similar attitude. Last year, he became a fashion democrat with his one-off range for H & M.

"It does not worry me personally - I like communication and visibility - but then I don't have to think about commerce," Lagerfeld says. "I like the idea of seeing it everywhere. Designers can't live in an ivory tower. And to copy well is as difficult now as it was in the past."

That may be true of Chanel, which represents the summit of haute couture and of high-end ready-to-wear. But does it apply to Prada, which might recently have focused on embellishment, but is more about linear minimalist cutting, style and attitude? The speed with which Miuccia Prada changes tack suggests that she sets out to outwit the copycats.

But Prada says that she does not find the pace of change so easy to handle.

"It's a question of velocity - people want more and more speed and companies are more and more aggressive," says Prada. "It is now a two-month cycle and if you enjoy what you do and want to be first in the class, you have to speed up a lot. "

Prada says that her company was once unique in offering fashionable accessories that changed each season, but now everyone is at the same game.

"But it is wrong to start complaining. You have to face the complexity and violence of this world," she says.

So is it inevitable that fashion continues to be viewed as part of the worldwide entertainment industry, with celebrities as key players and the designers running ever faster to keep up?

The democratization of fashion started with cable television in the early 1990s, as the start-up channels realized that show footage made for easy viewing, presented no language barrier and was cheap. Turn on the television today, from Hong Kong to Prague, and you are likely to see a fashion show.

But not much detail can be defined on a video. The fabrics are flattened, the bags and shoes swing past. It is an innocent world away from detailed digital registration of a collar, eyelet pattern, flower print, embroidered purse or platform sandal - all instantly enlarged at the click of a mouse.

Raf Simons, another thoughtful, self-questioning designer, is concerned about the effect of digitalized fashion on the creative process.

"I don't like it," he says. "Designers used to be islands - now everything is too close together."

Simons, like every other strong designer, is alarmed at how quickly an identifiable fashion look gets into the food chain. He refers to an avant-garde shop in Brussels whose sales person appears to be dressed head-to-toe in Balenciaga - except that it is always from H & M.

In his new role as creative director at Jil Sander, Simons has only a top line, with no other brand dissemination - and he likes it that way.

"I am not sure that real fashion can be for everyone," says Simons, who believes that understanding design requires a particular sensitivity and cultural awareness.

"The luxury of real fashion is that it is something private," Simons says. "It can't be for everyone."

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04-10-2005
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Quote:
"I am not sure that real fashion can be for everyone," says Simons, who believes that understanding design requires a particular sensitivity and cultural awareness.

"The luxury of real fashion is that it is something private," Simons says. "It can't be for everyone."
Interesting statements from Simons, considering his designs have always been more proletarian than patrician.

It invokes a baffling problem that increasingly plagues all forms of art: if your work is for the few who are sensitive to what you're doing, how do you reach them without compromising yourself?

If you restrict the production and dissemination of your work, economies of scale force you to charge a higher price, which immediately further limits your audience to those who are both sensitive and rich.

On the other hand, you can pursue wide dissemination in an effort to be seen by all who are sensitive to your work, and to be more accessible owing to the same economies of scale. But then the perceived value of your work is implicitly diminished, and you have to contend with the ethical issue of your work being almost entirely financed by those who do not truly comprehend it but buy it anyway because they're following a trend.

Fashion needs a revolution similar to what home recording and CD-burners have brought to music...a technology that renders economy of scale practically irrelevant. Now anyone can make an album, and make 500 or 50,000 at only a minimal difference in cost per item.

Some technology is going to have to come along that makes small-scale "micro-couture" possible, and I think eventually it will.

Designers will be able to produce for their audience, and hitch themselves to the societal trend machine only as they see fit. Instead of a seasonal collection oriented paradigm, it could enable a more flexible and responsive ongoing creative process.

Maybe that's just crazy talk, but that's me: the crazy dreamer.

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04-10-2005
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But Zamb, aren't there some forms of art that ought NOT to be widely disseminated. Why is there an assumption that wide dissemination is necessarily a good thing. I agree with Raf; he's basically saying that you can't please all of the people all of the time AND that you shouldn't really have to. Your suggestion of a technology that can produce micro-couture reminds me of Woody Allen's Orgasmatron! There's an extented metaphor/anaology I could make here but I'd better not, you probably get my point!!

I was watching the Chanel Signe DVD at the weekend, a series of 5 half hour TV progs showing the build up to a Chanel couture show. The skill of the people making the garments, from the cutters, to the embroiderers, to the shoemakers to the little lady farmer who invented her own braiding machine and still makes it for the house, is incredible, and, you know, some things just aren't meant for everyone. And some things take time, inherently, since part of their worth is derrived from that very thing.

I think fashion's equivalent of the CD/DVD in music is already here - it's H&M, Zara, Topshop.

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04-10-2005
  109
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it's a good article...thanks nqth...

and once again zamb...i have to agree with you...
but maybe it's like art...
it isn't necessarily the most talented creative people who achieve widepread recognition or financial success...
but the ones with the greatest talent for marketing...
creative skills without business skills lead to a starving artist...

this is true in politics-look at george bush...
this is true in music-look at madonna, britney spears..etc...

so the question becomes...
can you really change the system?...
or is it best to just learn how to play the game and go along with it...?

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04-10-2005
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i really despise fashion as seen as precious. fashion, like all art and design is supposed to have a pulse and a heart beat... and unlike art, it doesn't have to be put on a pedestal in some museum, but it has the gift of being put on someone's body.

i think more people should feel empowered to have a hand at fashion, but not in the typical way -- i'm not talking everybody have their own designer lines, but everyone should have the choice at turning off whats cool and hip and trendy and just feeling that they can wear whatever they please. nobody's taste is going to be completely the same, i think that is what raf was saying -- it's private because it's a reflection of each person's own story.

i think those people who are complaining about the internet and the mass exposure need to get over themselves and start getting smarter ;P

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04-10-2005
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i don't think anyone's complaining about it travolta...
but simply acknowedging that it has changed the industry forever...



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04-10-2005
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Quote:
Originally Posted by softgrey
so the question becomes...
can you really change the system?...
or is it best to just learn how to play the game and go along with it...?
I think there are other options ... look at Alaia ... he sure doesn't play the game, but he seems to be a success anyway ... he works in a beautiful way that is all his own.

Baron ... what you said is very interesting. I think when you read interviews of designers, sometimes it's clear that they're disturbed that people who don't get their work are blindly wearing it ... but this is just fundamentally how it is, in my mind ... few have eyes to see or ears to hear. If you are not personally vetting your customers, this will happen. Now I do something different, but I am content if just one, two, a handful of people, really "get" or appreciate my work ... I don't like excellence being taken for granted, but at the end of the day, it's my own view of what I've done that matters most. A good way to stay sane, I think

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04-10-2005
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Baron
Fashion needs a revolution similar to what home recording and CD-burners have brought to music...a technology that renders economy of scale practically irrelevant. Now anyone can make an album, and make 500 or 50,000 at only a minimal difference in cost per item.

Some technology is going to have to come along that makes small-scale "micro-couture" possible, and I think eventually it will.

Designers will be able to produce for their audience, and hitch themselves to the societal trend machine only as they see fit. Instead of a seasonal collection oriented paradigm, it could enable a more flexible and responsive ongoing creative process.

Maybe that's just crazy talk, but that's me: the crazy dreamer.
not at all

i think it's not even necessarily about the actual garments either, it's about the spirit of collaboration and play, and process. showstudio for instance has a lot of collaborative projects between the public and the industry people equipped to make stuff happen. the internet is a great, wonderful tool just as it is a curse. i think forums too are a step in the right direction... it's not so much about materialism necessarily, but about a discussion of what fashion is. it's teaching people to be resourceful with whatever income, or surrounding, and then growing from there... empowerment. a garment can only change one's perception of the world to a certain degree, but i think a place, an outlet for everyone to learn and explore is most relevant... maybe that's the new era of fashion?

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Last edited by travolta; 04-10-2005 at 02:46 PM.
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04-10-2005
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Quote:
Originally Posted by travolta

i think those people who are complaining about the internet and the mass exposure need to get over themselves and start getting smarter ;P
Travolta, I think I've been going on about that, but I don't think that I need to get over myself (whatever that means), and I certainly don't think I need to get smarter. Like sg said, it's there, the mass exposure thing, and I think it's an interesting thing to talk about.

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04-10-2005
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hey, didn't mean you specifically.. just meant in general. it's the nature of the game, as it's been said before, change and technological advancement. i just gets my feathers ruffled when people feel they have a sense of entitlement over others. i think businesses can work around it, i think it's more a slap to a designer's ego.

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04-10-2005
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Quote:
Originally Posted by travolta
hey, didn't mean you specifically.. just meant in general. it's the nature of the game, as it's been said before, change and technological advancement. i just gets my feathers ruffled when people feel they have a sense of entitlement over others. i think businesses can work around it, i think it's more a slap to a designer's ego.
Cool . I know what you're saying. But, my point is absolutely nothing to do with entitlement. I just think that sometimes there's an inherent worth in things that you simply can't disseminate widely. People have to be paid, they have to learn how to carry out skilled tasks, then they have to be paid for carrying them out. How do you get around that? Indeed, and this is my point, why SHOULD you get around that? This is sort of a separate subject to the innovation one anyway!

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i know what you are saying... maybe we should look at how the music industry has handled it? the parallel between music and fashion which a few people have brought up is a valid one. bands/ labels were first concerned over losing money by free file sharing, and they realized they could work with it through programs like i-tunes etc which actually gives greater exposure and in a way and gets consumer's interested by getting acquainted to music they might not necessarily listen to, and getting people to buy it. people aren't dictated anymore... the conglomorates lose power.

i think the main complaint everyone has is that we want designers to get the attention and do well if they deserve it right? and everyone else should have a fair shot? you don't even have to shell out money for a webpage these days... you can start a blog for free or have a myspace account and get endless word of mouth advertisement. industry people are using myspace as a tool to find fresh talent. use all that free exposure and the money you would otherwise put into other types of marketing and use it for labor etc etc. also, this makes designers who may already be established work harder for their status instead of just hype. it's a win win situation.

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04-10-2005
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Probably the big backlash from the ubiqous copyshops will just be a stronger demand for luxury as in "handmade/one of a kind/personal" instead of as in "just arrived". Not neccessarily meaning expensive, just unique. A homeproduced home-burn record maybe. Or a made-to-order pair of shoes.

What stabs fashion in the back today seem to be that showing two collections a year just do not suit the way we consume it anymore?

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05-03-2011
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Bump good ol' thread
I guess innovators can be found anywhere in the value chain but most especially at conceptual, design or manufacturing levels, where clothes are turned into something more than a Want or a Need, but into "real" values (i.e. garments that treat or act as health monitors for patients).

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17-08-2011
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i'm going to say that innovation is different now than it has been in the past...
and technology is part of that...

not just in terms of actual garment design...
but also in terms of how a brand reaches the public and promotes itself nowadays...

*i have to also point out that certain luxury designers that i wear are still regularly coming up with unique ways of designing, cutting and constructing a garment...
in fact...
it is one of the major reasons that i purchase their designs over some mass market brands...
**also-
they look really good on and are really comfortable to wear...
:p

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