The Academy of Art University in San Francisco recently hosted a fashion symposium with fashion designer Ralph Rucci (the only American invited to show his exquisite clothing under his own name at the Paris Haute Couture), retired designer James Galanos (who dressed former first lady Nancy Reagan and diva Diana Ross), Michael Fink of Saks Fifth Avenue (VP Women's Fashion Director), and moderated by the fabulous Cameron Silver of Decades (the A-list vintage boutique).
The purpose of the panel was to discuss the state of fashion, which Rucci kicked off with a passionate rant against the press, accusing it (us!) of helping to "ruin" fashion by placing too much emphasis on unrealistic designs that make for eyecatching editorials but have nothing, apparently, to do with "real" women and "real" fashion.
In his opinion, since no one in the audience - comprised mostly of students - was dressed in a way that remotely resembled a fashion editorial, magazines were obviously out-of-touch and irrelevant. Galanos heartily concurred, and according to his extremely narrow-minded and dated definition of what can be considered "fashion," anything fantastic but unwearable that walks down a runway is to be considered an exercise in self-discovery rather than fashion. Michael Fink noted that from his perspective as a retailer, he needs to focus on what sells. Sadly, there were neither actual women nor members of the press invited to participate, despite being the market in question and the apparent cause of the demise of modern fashion.
The fact is, in this age of too many trends, designers, and choices, the fashion press is the very reason why fashion remains vibrant and interesting to women.
Editors and fashion writers address this overload of information by sifting, editing, and curating what's worth putting in your closet. (However, so much of what is featured in the print media is an exercise in pandering to advertisers, that fashion lovers are increasingly turning to bloggers who are still considered less beholden to advertisers and more likely to actually publish their honest opinions.)
In addition, "unwearable" clothing and editorial spreads feed into the fantasy element of fashion: yes, it's a business, but it's one founded upon creativity, both of the designer, and of the wearer as a means of their self expression. "Crazy" clothes fuel people's imagination, spark ideas, and, ultimately, help keep fashion interesting, aspirational, and in demand.
- Lesley Scott
DEBATE UPDATE - fashion bloggers weigh in:
The Manolo weighs in on whether the press is to blame - an excerpt: This point is exactly correct, that yes, much of that which is sent down the runway is unwearable by anyone other than the 14-year-old Belorussian anorexics, but the process of presenting such fantasy clothes does much to shape and reshape our perceptions of what is beautiful...Query: Why do fashion magazine show us gangly, Ukrainian middle-schoolers in Dior couture? Why do car magazines spend enormous amounts of time reporting on test drives and specifications of exceedingly expensive and exotic super cars? Answer: For the same reason, because we are entertained and motivated by such images. And because we aspire to have beautiful things (clothes, cars, homes, art) that reflect what we perceive as our inner persons. The magazines do not create this desire–as it is inherent in all of us–instead they merely seek to shape and direct our desires towards that which its editors value and advertisers wish us to acquire.
The Runway Scoop asks: Are Fashion Designers Out of Touch? I don't believe that designers are out of touch because some of their clothes can't be worn by "ordinary" women. I come from a philosophy that thinks fashion is indeed art. Yes, I've been known to critique some runway shows and have said that some collections are "unwearable", but that doesn't mean that the fashion isn't nice to look at. If anything these collections provide the inspiration to think outside of the box and be more innovative with our creativity.
fashion, evolved.: Nothing annoys me more than when people complain that the fashion they see on the runway is "unwearable". Fashion IS an art form. It's not supposed to all about what to wear to the office party. Besides, there are plenty of ready-to-wear lines that people can and do wear every day-- and that smaller clothing stores knockoff and sell all the time. But the really outrageous, creative stuff is what makes fashion sing to me. It's about using the human body as a canvas! The ultimate form of self expression! Not everyone can and would drive a Ferrari, either--but you can sure appreciate it for what it is.
BeautyGuerillas.com: Grrr this is really annoying. Firstly, I am sure that the students sitting in the audience would like nothing more than to be wearing the clothes they see on the pages of Vogue. Secondly, the thing about fashion is that it is not a practical necessity - clothes are - fashion on the other hand is all about fantasy and aspiration. Thirdly, the press feeds off designers - we are sent the clothes from companies, we represent what is on the market. If the fashion industry was to start producing something else then the media would respond to it - that is what the press is there for. We give readers social/cultural commentary. People fall in love with fashion for its creativity, originality and use of imagination. Not because it suits everyday living and our 'real' mundane lives. OK, I've stopped ranting now...