A recent blog post I wrote on future vintage got me thinking a lot about the craft/ practice of fashion design as a whole and the fact that now it seems that anyone believes they can design a fashion collection, despite no formal training. One of my favourite comments on the topic came from a twitter follower geckocomms who stated: “it's interesting no one would expect to just design a house / a plane / a - well anything, except fashion.”
So first off where did this trend begin?
Well it seems the trend for celebrities designing their own collections kicked in back in 1998 with Sean Combs/ Puff Daddy/ P Diddy’s sportswear range, which in 2010 had an annual turnover of 500million. On into the noughties we marched forward with more celebrities introducing their own fashion brands, Jenifer Lopez started her J-Lo collection in 2001 which at the time was pretty popular in the states. I have particular issues with her attitude towards her more recent (2011) collaboration with Kohl’s, suggesting that designs for the collection were based on those from her closet.
THAT ISN’T DESIGN…THAT’S COPYING
Although, these examples I’ve mentioned so far are US based, I think it was 2007 when the trend really kicked in, in the UK with the Lily Allen Loves collection for New Look, Kate Moss for Topshop and Madonna for H and M.
I mentioned Kate Moss in my previous blog post which I think was one of the most successful fashion collaborations and really saw this trend increase, unfortunately this seemed to have the effect of suggesting that design can just mean ripping off pieces from your own wardrobe. Not cool, not cool at all.
I LOVE this quote from Jeff Banks about her first Topshop collection ""Can Kate sharpen a pencil or draw a matchstick man? Banks asked. "I wouldn't put money on it. I'll bet [Kate Moss] just grabbed one of her many Prada bags, rifled through her wardrobe ... and turned up at Topshop's head office in Oxford Street for a quick hour's briefing with the in-house designers and buying staff."
A few key examples of the “wardrobe copy” (from the Daily Fail I'm afraid) - The original hacked Bus Stop dress also sends shivers down my spine, and I wrote about it extensively in my dissertation.
You can also read more about the Bus stop copy on Liz Eggleston's blog
In the UK at least I think this all came off the back of a huge surge of what I call high/low collaborations. Popularised I feel by the Karl Lagerfeld collection for H and M in 2004.
The thing is the effect seems to have snowballed to insane levels now. I can see the design merit of Victoria Beckham’s collections but examples from the past year alone are seeing the trend getting out of hand with the likes of:
Rihanna for Emporio Armani
Agyness Deyn for Dr Martens
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley for Marks & Spencer
Kelly Brook for New Look
So why do I think this is such a bad idea? There are a few reasons (and I will say I have no problem with high/ low collaborations. I appreciate that this a chance for a little bit of infiltration of high end designers down)
My main problem is it devalues the work of a real fashion designer. As a former fashion student I will tell you that fashion is HARD. Doing a degree in fashion design was the toughest thing I have ever done, I had to work my socks off to even get a mediocre grade. Not only do you have to be able to draw clothes, but you need to be able to research effectively and ideally pattern cut and actually make clothes (saying that some of the best know designers of all time ahem Dior couldn’t pattern cut, but his desing skills negated the need for this skill).
Studying fashion properly teaches you the importance of RESEARCH. Research is not copying, yes the greatest designers often take inspiration from designs of the past (John Galliano and Vivienne Westwood are perfect examples of this) but they didn’t copy. By UNDERSTANDING THE CRAFT of design they were able to draw inspiration from other pieces but make them their own.
And finally my problem that the celebrity collection seems to suggest the acceptability of copying to all.
I’ll also draw on an interesting comment recently made on Facebook by incredibly talented handbag designer Karina Hesketh (you can see her bags here) She stated.
"So many people ask me if I would make up their designs...a design is not a picture from a magazine, that is plagarism and infringement of someone elses copyright. A design is a good technical drawing accompanied by an accurate pattern with a specification sheet of stress points, cutting instructions and a host of other pointers.....it can take years to learn how to become a good pattern maker, it is the very essence of all design! "
Well put Karina
The problem is that I think the celebrity effect has caused this idea that anyone can be a designer, and, I’m sorry but this just isn’t the case. This almost gripes me as much as the misuse of the term curator… but again I’ll save that for another post.
So overall I’ll finish on this. To the celebrities out there who think they are designers, in a good 90% of cases you’re not, rather you are just a very well paid canny marketing ploy : )