Fashion is often referred to as a big game, and lately the game of choice has been musical chairs. Designers have been ousted and hired like some higher force was having too much fun stopping and starting the music. But it's not some supernatural music-controller that's driving fashion as we know it to pieces, it's the very nature of current fashion itself. Fashion is a tricky industry because of the conflict of interests it's based upon: on one hand, the purpose of fashion is solely commercial because clothes are, indeed, meant to be bought, but on the other, fashion can be looked at as just another medium for art and ideas. I personally believe that art and ideas are just as, if not more, beautiful/powerful when they're worn on human bodies. Clothes should be ideas encompassing one who agrees with them; people should wear clothes as if they were words because often they say more. But fashion is also a terrible slave to me-too-ness, a plague based off trends and "success" that will eventually bring fashion to its end.
The latest trend, it seems, is kicking out (perfectly good) designers in hope of "rejuvenating" a brand, as shown primarily by Alessandro Michele at Gucci. Admittedly, the Gucci house was drying up under former creative director Frida Giannini, so a change was indeed necessary, and hiring the then no-name Alessandro Michele was the correct and called-for decision. But just because that risk resulted in success does not mean that particular formula is the success secret for all brands.
Almost exactly one week ago, the news broke that Raf Simons would be leaving Dior after only three and a half years, and one documentary later, with the brand. Commercially, Dior has been doing fine, but creatively, the collections were always an honest effort at creating aesthetically pleasing, intelligent, and salable clothes; not an easy task. Raf was perfect for Dior, but Dior was not perfect for Raf. I personally think that Raf is artistically above Dior and would do better, as in be able to show more of his talent, at a smaller, more independent brand that doesn't cater to such a broad audience like Dior does.
While Raf's exit from Dior came as something of a shock to me, to say the least, Alber Elbaz's departure from Lanvin brought on a complete, metaphorical, heart attack. Alber Elbaz has been defining the Lanvin image for 14 years, as long as I've been alive. Although some designers' influence is clearly visible when they take over a house that's not their own, such as John Galliano at Margiela, Alber Elbaz has become Lanvin, and Lanvin Alber Elbaz. At this point they are one; I can't picture a Lanvin makeover like the one at Gucci, or the ones that will inevitably happen at Dior and Balenciaga, the latter of which will be directed by Demna Gvasalia of Vetements, the brand on everyone's lips in Paris this past season.
I can only imagine the reasoning behind many of these seemingly random departures to be either a desire to achieve the "Gucci Success Story" on the company's side, or the rejection of working like a dog on the designer's part. Designers today don't have time to properly find inspiration and and carry out ideas. They don't have to design, to create. If fashion continues in the same direction as it is, the most valuable skill for a design student to have is the ability to quickly produce fast, bombastic clothes, no actual ideas needed. Now, if I wanted fashion, and inevitably eventually, the world, to dumb down and move too fast to feel, I would hold my tongue. But I believe in nurturing and preserving potential brilliant ideas in any way possible, so I propose a change of system. Something needs to give because all the designers are. As it is, there are too many seasons and too little support. This "musical-chair" system of fashion is not working. The average tenure at a fashion house seems to be getting shorter and shorter, like Raf at Dior, or simply cut short, shown by Alber Elbaz at Lanvin. When in doubt, fashion should stick with an age-old rule of thumb: if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Fashion should fix what needs to be (scheduling, seasons, work-load, and certain mismatched pairings between designer and house), but by all means keep what doesn't (perfect matches between designers and houses.) Fashion is going through a bit of nervous turmoil, an industry-wide fear of being left behind, but if it collectively keeps its mind all will be in balance. All can never be well in fashion, but instead balance is an attainable goal to strive for.
Photos by Vogue Runway.