Christian Dior illustrated by Joseph Larkowsky for BlackBook
Living in the past is sometimes your only choice. It may not be the healthiest choice, but for many it is the way to move on, to dwell, to grieve, and to reminisce. In my own personal experience, I never dwell. Resting on ones laurels is never a desired attitude and riding the wave of your previous victories does not make you stronger in the future. Get up, dust yourself off, and move on.
The fashion industry is a paradox. On one hand, referencing the attitude of the 1920s flappers, the wideness of the flairs in the ‘70s or harking back to the days of yore to influence a peasant blouse is fine. On the other, the eternal motto of “Keep moving forward” is the overarching theme of the industry. Karl Lagerfeld once said, “I’m only as good as my next collection,” ironically a phrase he coined from his predecessor, Coco Chanel.
But when in fashion, does constantly reminiscing about the “Golden Years” become a sterile, hostile, and pointless obsession? I am writing this just after the presentation of the Alexander McQueen Spring 2015 collection; Sarah Burton has been at the helm for half a decade after McQueen’s death in 2010. The collections themes came from empowerment, Geishas, and the feminine mystique. But was it the laser cut organza dresses or the Perspex heeled, laced up boots people were talking about? No, it was the fact that she STILL isn’t Lee McQueen. These are not, I hasten to add, opinions from the versed and credible. The cries of the collection being “tame” and “unimaginative” come from online blogs and forums. In a world where everyone is entitled to a voice, many seem to use their reviews of collections to dwell on designers gone, and slate the new talent for “not being them’.
“She has no idea what she is doing. Someone put her out of her misery,” said one. This is, as RuPaul’s Drag Race Winner Bianca Del Rio would say, BALONEY. Sarah isn’t Lee McQueen, that is impossible, but she worked every day for her entire career by his side. She is the closest thing to McQueen than the man himself. Burton frequently states that she did not have the troubled and tortured life that McQueen had, and she regularly bought the lightness and beauty to the collections, whist he had a tougher and more severe edge. Sarah earned her title as Creative Director, and therefore can do what she wants. She likes it, the buyers like it, the customers like it, and Kering likes it. If they didn’t it would not be this way.
The more romantic version of the brand we see today is not a bad thing. Fashion is, sometimes sadly, becoming less vision driven and more consumer driven. This equates in tamer collections across the board, as it’s more regularly proven that “A floor grazing halter neck column dress covered in razor clam shells collected from the Norfolk coast” does not sell too well. (Expertly proven by the closure of Jean Paul Gaultier’s Pret-a-Porter collections this season, as it just does not make any money.)
Similar unneeded emotions surfaced at the Christian Dior show earlier in the week. After John Galliano’s untimely and very public fall from grace almost overnight, LVMH appointed ex-Jil Sander designer Raf Simons as the new head of womenswear. Raf is currently sitting on 14 collections for the house, after being appointed in 2011, but still, each season, he gets bombarded with abuse and an online thrashing over the ‘state’ of his recent collections. The industry admittedly took a short sharp intake of breath when he was announced as the successor after Galliano, who is by far one of the greatest Couturiers of the 20th century. But, in keeping with the ideas mentioned previously, most of the industry gave Raf a chance to do his thing. The argument here is not about taste or style, it is just the constant unnecessary comparison to something that was, that no longer exists.
We are constantly told that change is good. Change is admired. There is no point in being haunted by ghosts of seasons past. The unfortunate and untimely demise of two of fashion’s greatest minds, McQueen and Galliano are sad, and poignant, however they cannot be reversed. The world has moved forward, the fashion industry has moved forward and we have new eyes in some of the biggest luxury brands in the world. After, in some cases, half a decade, do you not think its time to let go of your angst about Dior’s new visions and relish in the memories of your “Dior Not War” T-Shirt, or the magic of the ‘Armadillo’ shoe? (And on another note, Margiela has seemed to move on from Galliano’s past entirely, appointing him today, officially, as creative director.)
I feel it is time for the unnecessary hating and shaming of these talented, creative, and visionary people to stop. Stop comparing, stop harking on, and just…keep moving forward.