The Future of Fashion is to "Change The Current Format" says the Fashion Director of Barneys New York. So I wasn't so wrong a few weeks ago.

Friday, April 9, 2010

I'm a regular trawler on, it's my daily bread.

When I came across this article today, I was very happy because it echoes the same sentiment I had after I attended the last SAFW collections. These are excerpts of an interview the Editor-in-Chief of, Dirk Standen, had with the Fashion Director of Barney's New York, Julie Gilhart. This is part 5 of a series of interviews has had with fashion leaders about the future of fashion. This one sticks the most.

Here are my favourite bits from the interview, it's Q and A.

Does selling by season still make sense? Sure, it was cold in New York this winter, but the way people live now, a lot of time is spent indoors, in air-conditioned or heated environments. Are seasons still important?

From a psychological perspective, seasons are really important. And coming from Texas, where you don’t really have a lot of seasons, to have fall, winter, spring, and summer is really, really nice and romantic. And to build the spirit of fashion around that is really nice. In the past, it’s been the reason why you shop: “I need my spring clothes. I need my fall clothes.” I think the new paradigm is, “There are new things in the store, what do I need?” Today I have on a dress that I can wear all year round, and in the winter I put a coat over it. The rules of what you buy now are different. What we’re trying to say is, buy quality, know what you’re buying, buy things that are going to last a long time and that you’re going to wear frequently. Maybe next season you won’t buy a coat, but you buy a nice pair of boots. It’s probably the worst thing for people to say, in retail—because retail is all about consumption. But the thing is, if you define yourself as a place that has quality and integrity and always brings to the table good design and value, you’re going to get customers to shop in your place, because you’re actually really thinking about that. Seasons are now more defined for us as a chance to buy new things. It’s antiquated to say, “I’m going to buy my spring wardrobe, my fall wardrobe.” Now it’s, “I think I’m going to buy pieces that I can wear and need and can wear for as long as possible.” But there’s [still] a reality to it. You need your boots if you live in a snowy place, and you need hardly nothing if you’re living in L.A. in the summer. So there are different needs for different places.

I don’t think any of us have the answers yet, but there’s a general sense that there need to be some changes in the system.

Definitely. I think you’ll find retailers, designers, press people uneasy about the system right now. It needs to change. But [New York Times photographer] Bill Cunningham told me one time that fashion was just a reflection of the times, and I think that’s so right on. We’re in the situation right now where what has worked in the past isn’t working any longer, so we really need to change a lot. What that means, I don’t know. But that’s where the creativity of fashion comes in. We need to look at these people that are doing things in a really good way. The way the designer sees things is a big platform for us, too. Where are things made, how are things made. All of that’s becoming more important.

In terms of the changing landscape, a lot of the major dominant designers of the twentieth century, the huge brands—a lot of those guys are nearer the end of their careers than the beginning. When you look at the really young generation of designers coming through now, do you see those people building up brands like that? Or are we in a different moment now?

It’s never going to be the same. It can’t possibly, because if you really believe that fashion is a reflection of the times, the times are changing. It’s never going to be the way [it was] in the eighties and nineties and early part of the last decade. It’ll just be different. Sure, there will be huge businesses that grow out of this young group that’s coming up, but it’s going to be expressed in a different way. There’ll be more to choose from. One of the things with the big brands right now is that the customer is really reacting to them in the sense that they’re so over-marketed. [Customers] don’t want that anymore. They don’t want to see what they’re buying everywhere. They want to be able to buy something that is more special. And when they see it advertised and editorialized and on celebrities too much, then I think their reaction is a little bit not as it was. That old formula is not working. We have some of our best customers coming in the store and they’re so interested in things they’ve never seen before…It’s interesting, and you have to keep your finger on the pulse because it can shift. It can change. We’re all trying to predict stuff, but none of us really know, either. You’ve got to really keep your ear to the ground and not get caught up in everything but really be listening and aware and feeling it. You have to feel fashion. You can’t read a report and then all of a sudden say, “Oh, that’s what it’s all about.”

How important the live experience still is. Does the energy you see on the runway somehow boil down into the garment in a way that you can’t necessarily describe?

It has to be well designed. You’re not going to get excited about a show that has great music, great models, and not great clothes. But if you have all three of them, you’re like, wow, this is great, totally inspired. It’s the $64,000 question. How valid are fashion shows? If the Rodarte girls didn’t have a fashion show, would you be able to get the essence of that collection? You would look at it in the store and say, that’s really great and that’s really interesting and unique, but I always go back to that Spring 2010 Fashion Show, and I’m like, wow, I loved all that smoke. I loved the way the models looked so goth and how they mixed in that plaid and the boots were all thigh-high and strappy. It gives you the feeling that these girls have a certain power, but if you were just to look at it in a store, it’s just a dress on a hanger. It came from that source, so it’s our job to express the power behind that. That’s where a comes in, [saying] that’s what we saw and it’s kind of amazing…I love, it’s the Wikipedia of fashion…It’s really like, just the facts, ma’am, please. Here are the pictures and here’s what we can tell you about the show and here you go. That’s one of the things that has changed fashion,…it’s like Xerox and the copier. is an amazing Internet engine. You put it up there with Google and all that other stuff. It’s pretty incredible—it’s changed a lot of things.

Beyond, has the whole model, the whole way of looking at fashion shows, changed?

It’s not about a top-down dictatorial approach anymore.
That’s why I think some of the big brands are struggling right now. “What do we do?” They’re feeling it, they’re feeling the shift. And they’re all trying to figure out what to do.

The old ways aren’t working, and people are questioning things. Is that a direct result of the recent recession, or has it been a gradual process over the last few years?

The recession was just an environmental disaster. The bigger picture is that things are changing…We will recover [from the recession], but the world is changing. I’m super positive about it. I think we’re about to enter into an extremely creative time, and I don’t think it’s going to be as much about a facade and excess and all of that. It’s going to be about things that really matter, that have quality and a lot of integrity. You’ll have fun with it. It’s going to be great. Things like the recession can only help. It makes you think about what you can do with only a small amount of resources, and sometimes some of the best creativity comes out of that. There’s a lot of kids that are so well informed now, and their creative juices are working at a much younger age. Their sensibility is really great, and the ones who are born creative are going to express themselves in different ways. I don’t think any of this new breed are saying, “I want to be like that.” I mean, some of them are in awe of people before them, but a lot of them are saying, “I want to be famous for what I do.” I think if we pay attention we can make [this decade] really great. And people like you, the press, that have so much power, you [have to] ask the right questions and promote people you really believe in. The customer is reading that. What’s really frustrating is when you see things being promoted and you know the story behind it, and you’re like, whoa, that’s not true.


I hope the right people in SA are going to take note, be warned and start making some changes.

I interviewed Jacques and Danica of Black Coffee the other day for Dazed and Confused and I was happy to learn that their leadership caps are still on and they are taking on a different approach as a company, to the exhibition/show factor. Watch this space.


Post a Comment