PARIS, France – The process of writing this season’s wrap-up left a somewhat bitter taste in my mouth. Looking back, several of the most salient themes from this round of fashion weeks involve unsavoury behaviour, gossip and highly unprofessional comments from some of the industry’s most important figures.
Whether it was John Galliano’s inexcusable anti-Semitic rant captured on video for the whole world to watch, the scrum of increasingly aggressive street style photographers hunting editors down like game before the shows, or the distasteful comments made by Patrick Thomas, chief executive of Hermès, regarding the stake built up in its business by LVMH, it seemed everywhere you looked this fashion week members of the industry were behaving badly.
With all the whispering, gossiping and backbiting going on, it’s surprising that anyone even noticed the clothes. So, let’s start with the clothes then!
1. OUTERWEAR EVERYWHERE AND A FEW FASHION PRINTS
Outerwear was everywhere this season, reflecting a growing understanding amongst designers that coats, jackets, parkas and ponchos get lots of wear and are the first statement of individual style, and therefore deliver a big bang for the consumer buck. Joseph Altuzarra, Alexander Wang, and Burberry’s Christopher Bailey were amongst the designers at the vanguard of this outerwear moment.
Thakoon showed one of the best collections of the season in a gilded hall at New York’s Plaza Hotel, with stunning contrasts of mismatched prints inspired by Masai tribes. It felt like we were in Paris, which I guess was the point as the collection also looked to French aristocracy for visual cues. The offsite location stood out from the increasingly chaotic spaces at Lincoln Center and Milk Studios. Ambience and atmosphere count for a lot when you’re trying to create a mood and put on a real show. Bravo Mr. Panichgul.
Rodarte and Proenza Schouler also delivered stellar collections, demonstrating the continued evolution of their own special design signatures. Proenza Schouler’s Navajo knits and prints were a knock-out, while Rodarte showed their second consecutive highly creative collection which one could actually envision hanging on a retail rail – and selling.
Although there were some great fashion moments in London, overall, the week was not as strong as usual. One notable exception was Mary Katrantzou, whose signature digital prints delivered massive runway impact in a tightly focused collection that for the first time expanded to new categories like knitwear, a smart way to expand her offering beyond dresses.
Jonathan Saunders’ collection of colour-blocking (and the surprise introduction of menswear!) proved he is definitely now back on firm footing in London after a hiccup during the seasons he spent in New York. And, Giles Deacon put out a focused fetishist collection that showed his more serious, sombre side. Indeed, for many an editor, his was the best show of London Fashion Week, and that hasn’t been something we’ve heard for awhile.
Ann Demeulemeester’s show in Paris was a beautiful vision of primal female warriors. Lanvin was gorgeous, as usual. Céline showed off the on-going evolution of Phoebe Philo’s “new minimalism,” with a more graphic and colourful show. And Rick Owens brought a kind of couture quality to his singular dark aesthetic of carefully constructed clothes.
2. THINK BEFORE WE TWEET
It seemed like just another fashion month, and then, with the high-profile meltdown of John Galliano, everything changed in a matter of hours. Soon, the fashion gossip mill was in a frenzy, turbocharged by Twitter which made the whole situation more ugly as the days went by and speculation about Galliano’s successor intensified after he was first suspended, and ultimately dismissed by LVMH.
A tweet by Derek Blasberg from backstage at the Katy Perry concert in Paris, citing an anonymous source which ‘confirmed’ the widespread rumour that Riccardo Tisci would be named Galliano’s successor set off further speculation on websites and blogs, who sometimes took Mr. Blasberg’s comments as though they had come straight from an official Dior press release. I found at least one website that took the Tisci rumour and reported it as fact, without any mention of the source at all.
But Mr. Galliano wasn’t alone. Rumours about the futures of Stefano Pilati, Hannah McGibbon, and Christophe Decarnin dogged designers and lit up the internet throughout Paris Fashion Week, creating a virtual feeding frenzy of immense proportions. We were an industry feeding on ourselves.
So dear fellow members of the fashion Twitterati, let’s think before we tweet. Careers and businesses can be impacted by what may seem like an innocent bit of speculation on Twitter, but can quickly turn into boldfaced headlines on major fashion websites, a hugely destabilising force at the most critical moments during the fashion calendar. We are all still learning how to use this powerful tool responsibly.
3. STREETSTYLE PAPARAZZI
Over the past few seasons, the number of photographers outside the shows has ballooned as interest in street style photography (and street style stardom) has soared. It’s been an amazing phenomenon to observe as many previously behind-the-scenes women such as Yasmin Sewell, Caroline Issa and Taylor Tomasi now provide inspiration to hundreds of thousands of fashion lovers around the world, appearing in outfits that are often more interesting than what is on the runway.
But the rapid rise of street photography also has a darker side. The ‘bloggers walk’ in the Jardin des Tuileries, site of many major Paris shows, is now completely out of control. Indeed, it’s become increasingly difficult to tell the difference between the aggressive paparazzi who stalk Hollywood celebrities outside bars and clubs and a few of the bad apples amongst the hordes of photographers that accost editors as they come in and out of shows.
Several street style bloggers told me confidentially that the competition is extremely fierce for getting the best photographs, which can then be sold on to global editions of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar each for as little as $200, but up to $1000 or more.
Word to the wise: if you build a relationship with the women you’d like to photograph, and treat them with a bit of respect, you’ll be much more likely to get a great shot where they look their best and aren’t running to avoid you. Chasing them around, getting in their way, and coaxing them to come out of their cars is a sure fire way of alienating the objects of your fancy.
The best streetstyle photographers are streetsmart and dashing figures who build passionate online followings for these fashion personalities through the power of their photos. They compose beautiful shots that are flattering to their subjects and still interesting enough to spark a conversation, reflected in the hundreds and hundreds of people who chime in to say what they think. And most of all, they are gentlemen (or gentlewomen.)
4. CONSUMER PARTICIPATION