Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Great Paradox of Fashion

Photo: property of luciano barbera

“Lose your mind and come to your senses” –Unknown

Much of what confounds the every day fashionista is the debate being waged within the fashion community over labels; where the industry is divided between have and have not’s. Those believing the fashion community to be exclusive, tout labels in order to hyper-saturate the fashion community and media with brand names, effectively causing what I call ‘designer inbreeding’- keeping the fashion community from naturally evolving over time in response to trends and innovation by inundating the media and social forums with the pre-selected fashion aristocracy.

Let’s consider first the background of labels; what they mean and where they come from.

Historically, labels were a standard of quality, pioneered by Charles Fredrick Worth, an English tailor of the late 19th century who first began sewing his name into garments he designed. His work began the era of Haute Couture; where tailors would pre-design garments for their clients first as sketches, then if a client approved, the tailor would begin work. A couture garment is made to order for an individual customer, and is usually made from high-quality, expensive fabric, sewn with extreme attention to detail and finish, often using time-consuming, hand-executed techniques. The look and fit of each peice took priority over the cost of materials and the time it required to make.

If you were to compare the original work and craftsmanship of tailors like Charles Fredrick Worth to the mass produced, over priced, garbage that now consumes the general fashion world, I’m sure Mr. Worth would be rolling in his grave. I highly doubt that Pamela Skaist-Levy or Gela Nash-Taylor, the original founders of Juicy Couture, have handcrafted anything in your closet. In fact, I’d be hesitant to presume either knows what’s being sold within JC now. The illusion that ‘bigger labels mean better quality’ has persisted and misled the general consumer since its deviation from its origins, and the fashion community as a whole has failed to openly communicate this.

It can be argued that the general quality of designer labels is above average and falls into what’s called the ‘ready-to-wear’, where designers don’t individually design garments, but selectively pick fabrics and design cuts with quality and exclusivity in mind. This is generally true and not something I dispute. However, when it comes to labels, there are designers whose quality and costs are dramatically overrepresented, and most of these companies are a part of the fashion aristocracy I mentioned earlier. Want an example? Take this year’s newest LV bag and a Kooba purse to any leather expert and ask him which is made of higher quality leather. Not only will you find the Kooba bag to be of higher quality, but best of all, a Kooba bag will run you at max 800 bucks. Here’s another one, close your eyes and have a friend let you hold any Jcrew T-shirt in one hand and compare it against a Gucci T-shirt in the other. See if you can identify which is which or notice any discernable difference. The only difference you’ll fine is one’s 20 bucks on sale and the other is 120 bucks on sale.

It’s time the fashion world came to its senses; using them to feel and see what’s better, and not what we think SHOULD be better. Just something to consider.


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