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Here it comes, the designer fatigue

FAUX REAL - Karen Bolilia (The Philippine Star) - March 6, 2015 - 12:00am

In a recent interview with Suzy Menkes for Vogue, Marc Jacobs declares that young fashion now “just looks like a cliché: salad oil in the hair, Frankenstein shoes and the trappings of punk and all these other things.” Marc is also “appalled by the whole social media thing.” Marc Jacobs post-Vuitton is inevitably older, definitely wiser, and decidedly… cynical?

It’s a bit tough trying to reconcile this Marc with the vibrant Marc who, in his younger years, was one of the first designers to embrace celebrity culture, name a bag after a blogger a.k.a. Bryanboy, and is still a long-time collaborator with stylist and Love magazine EiC Katie Grand, who, by the way, ships the Kardashian-Jenner clan — total social media byproducts if we ever saw one — almost as hard as Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing (it’s a tight race).

The shade Jacobs threw isn’t without grounds. Maybe he’s just tired. Fashion is exhausting these days. Designers are expected to release four collections a year — spring/summer, fall/winter, resort/cruise and pre-fall —sometimes even couture, and for some, for two houses. While Marc Jacobs has escaped the trappings of a dual (actually, triple for him) fashion citizenship, having left Louis Vuitton and delegating Marc by Marc Jacobs to Luella Bartley and Katie Hillier, Marc now has the time to focus on his namesake label. The same thing cannot be said for Raf Simons, who is currently at the head of Dior as well as his own brand. In the same week the somewhat grumpy Jacobs interview was released, he spoke to Elle about his boredom with fashion. “Fashion is now pop, where it used to be a niche. It moves with such speed,” he admits. “Sometimes it leads to a lack of depth. The mystique is gone.” Simons went on to liken his job as a fashion designer to a lawyer’s, and the press-shy maverick resigns himself to the truth now: that fashion is about commerce, and that “That’s okay.”

Speaking of commercial. While Kim Kardashian, in her Margiela bodysuits and Lanvin coats, has gained fashion insider status by way of divine intervention a.k.a. Kanye West (Jesus walks, Jesus talks), several designers seem to be just over it. They just want to do their jobs well and not have to Instagram backstage. They don’t feel the need to document or explain everything they do. Jacobs, Simons and other veterans in the game belong to a different generation, pre-Internet, or at least at the cusp of it — and perhaps this is why they are at odds with the times. They aren’t as keen on it as, say, Alexander Wang or Olivier Rousteing, and to an extent, even Simon-Porte Jacquemus. The tension comes from the velocity at which things have to move. And how they’re supposed to move. I personally do not believe that these two designers cannot keep up, Kardashian or otherwise. Remember: Marc Jacobs was the first to put grunge on the runway back at Perry Ellis and did the designer-artist collaborations before everyone else caught on, and Raf Simons brought the rave/techno culture overground (and still does). A lot of the codes they introduced before can still be seen now. They are instinctively subversive and progressive, and in a way they will always be ahead of the times. But the sheer mass of demands that chase after them can weigh anyone down. They can and will adjust, but not without side-eyeing this whole circus.

Fashion now is a whirlwind of PR, because society no longer functions without any sort of hype or controversy or selfies. It’s not just about the clothes anymore; today that’s no longer enough. Soon Dior and I will be released, a documentary on Simons’ first couture show with the storied house, and Marc Jacobs has already put Kendall Jenner on its campaigns. You have to be a brand: a wound-up, calculated idea of a self — dimensions to gnaw on and layers to peel — because in a hyperconnected world you’re expected to dazzle and awe. Because this is what happens often now — anything that catches on like wildfire, or is considered a hit, is watered down by money, or assimilated into a corporation. Fashion is a business. And many designers have to answer to large conglomerates like Kering and LVMH, for behind every on-point trend you wanted to wear is a practical CEO. He is also most likely French. Or Jewish. But this is perhaps something Bernard Arnault and Francois-Henri Pinault fundamentally understand about fashion, or the arts in general, and something for us to remember, too: businessmen can support, incentivize, and even fund culture — but they cannot create it. Men like Marc Jacobs and Raf Simons do.    

ALEXANDER WANG BERNARD ARNAULT AND FRANCOIS-HENRI PINAULT DIOR AND I FASHION JACOBS KANYE WEST MARC MARC JACOBS OLIVIER ROUSTEING RAF SIMONS
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