Wednesday, 10 December 2014

the death of high fashion?

Okay, now that sounds over dramatic, and like something that a pale, emaciated Eastern European model with bone structure to kill for might contemplate whilst sipping an Americano beneath a delicate black mourning veil. The art of high fashion is not entirely dead, but if, in the future, people look back to find a golden age for high fashion, it would not be right now. The noughties were awful for fashion but, even then, brands were not casting rich kids to walk in their shows or using tacky parts of popular culture to try and make them relevant.

The definition of high fashion is "expensive, fashionable clothes produced by leading fashion houses." It has come to describe the artfully constructed nature of the clothes from classic brands such as Chanel, Dior and Hermes. Therefore, although such brands still exist, if they lose their glamorous appeal, can they really still be called high fashion? The appeal of high fashion, especially for spectators who check for the latest runway shows but can't actually afford the clothes (hi), is that it has a certain level of the unattainable about it. Ridiculous and extravagant? At times, of course. But above all, it's aspirational and motivational. As the late Oscar de la Renta said, "fashion is always looking forward." It is true that high fashion is very elitist and that can be problematic. It presents a level of perfection that is impossible to achieve day in day out, but it does have the power to redefine beauty because, unlike commercial, fast fashion, brands look for much more unique, potentially iconic looks.

Now, the time I guess you've probably been waiting for. The industry is not one that anyone can simply walk into (or pay your way into.) The stir and controversy surrounding Kendull Jenner has so far actually worked in her favour. She is in high demand for the greatest fashion magazines and high fashion brands because they know that Kendull is being talked about. Perhaps you could theorise that this has been approaching since the '80s when Anna Wintour took the helm at Vogue and steered it towards focusing on celebrities instead of models and consequently smudging the lines between the two. Celebrities became models and models became celebrities.

There isn't a single set of criteria for what makes a model glamorous, classy and iconic, but it is blatantly obvious to anyone who pays attention to fashion that Cara and Kendall are hardly Kate and Naomi. Don't get me wrong, I don't hate celebrity culture. I actually thought that Kimye's Vogue cover was kind of genius. It tapped into popular culture brilliantly. However, there is a difference between celebrities getting Vogue covers and them stealing the fashion spotlight away from models in high fashion shows, who got there the conventional way and worked hard for their achievements.

MM6 Maison Martin Margiela Pre-Fall 2015

That all taken into account, the outlook for fashion is never entirely bleak. There is always a constant flow of creativity as well as those legendary designers who are never swayed by transient trends. Now is a very exciting time for fashion with social media making the competition between brands more intense and therefore the creativity more avant garde. Kendull gets brands a lot of attention at the moment, but genuinely visionary ideas and techniques do as well and I think we need to move forward focusing on that as opposed to the more undesirable parts of the industry.  


  1. Kendall jenner is tall and very pretty, I don't see what's the big deal. She's more eye-catching than a lot of models lauded by high fashion to me, and doesnt photograph badly. And celebrities in general are no longer considered "special" since the internet. Btw, no, I've never been into high fashion. All that sounds elitist and snobbish to me.

    1. My main issue with Kendall is that she undoubtedly bought her way into the industry when it is such a big deal for so many other models who work so hard to get where they are. Arisce Wanzer's open letter to Kendall explains it best. You can read it here:
      Celebrities shouldn't be excluded from the fashion industry, but they should not take the place of models either.

  2. Great post dear!


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