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Endangered Species: Fashion Directors

March 5, 2009

[source: NY Mag]


This LA Times article made me a little sad:

What the Fashion Seers Didn’t See Coming by Ruth La Ferla


Basically, because of our current economic hardships the fashion industry is recoiling in on itself and going into defensive mode–exchanging vision and cutting edge creativity for safe bet trends that bring in secure sales numbers.

That loss of clout is the inevitable result of cost-cutting measures that have retailers skimping on progressive looks and labels in favor of those with a more overtly commercial caste. “The priority for these stores is to save money and provide better profit margins,” Mr. Davidowitz said.

I guess in a way it’s a positive direction for fashion to become more egalitarian. The ever-widening gap between high and low fashion has been the target of much criticism. Fashion elites sitting atop luxury empires are probably as out of touch with the everyday man/woman as the hated Wall Street bankers that are getting pummeled by the media these days. In my opinion, it is both refreshing and regretful to think that fashion might become more pragmatic and less fantastic:

In the current issue of Harper’s Bazaar, Julie Gilhart of Barneys New York discusses the new spring season, exhorting readers to buy pieces “that will last for seasons to come.”

Practical, yes, but the inevitable loss of imagination and general fabulousness is a bit tragic. I’m just a sucker for frills and sequins and beautifully impossible-to-walk-in shoes. But:

These days visionaries need no longer apply. “Today it’s the merchandise manager who carries the weight,” said Marvin Traub, a retail consultant. “He has an eye to the numbers.” A merchandise manager, who might also go by a title like “chief buyer,” is invested with the authority to visit showrooms, allocate funds and determine which labels will find their way into the store. “

Instead, they’re bringing in and promoting the business school grads, also known as the anti-creative types.

“The role of fashion director has changed to the point that someone out of Wharton business school might have a better opportunity for growth and success than someone with an eye for fashion,” Ms. Olexa said last week, as she prepared to clean out her desk. “

Sigh. I know that in the light of joblessness, foreclosures and bankruptcies being sorrowful about the fashion industry’s struggles may seem frivolous. But fashion is nothing if it is not inspired and it’s just sad to see that inspirational vision choked by the need to survive in a drowning economy.

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