by Vasso Consola
I wrote this text as a reaction to the three blog entries by Ares Kalandides that were based on a research project on fashion businesses in Berlin (part 1, part 2 and part 3). A subsequent Facebook comment on fashion trends by a reader, which assumed that there’s real freedom in fashion, motivated be to write an answer. The intention of copying is not to create trends nor trends are the result of copying. Trends are the result of research and guidance. Let me explain.
Real designers have their own identity, but also the industry suffers from a growing number of fake designers – people can steal anything from anyone only by changing one small detail. Big companies do not need to hire a designer any more to label a collection. They hire models, singers or actresses while a team does all the design work, which is approved or not from another team of people. They use these personalities to promote not to design.
Also, the fashion industry is not about the designer any more. While decades ago the designer was the star of the industry, continuous recycling of trends and the need to impose those trends on the consumer – so that consumption keeps on – require different teams in different roles working together towards that one goal. Creative directors, fashion photographers and stylists have become as important or often more important than the designer. They are the ones who create the image that communicates the label to the masses. They can make a rag look like a piece of art and that is what they are paid for. For fashion investors, a designer is just another commodity. Labelling is an important aspect of the fashion business and public relation offices are responsible for it. Once upon a time a label was a warranty of good quality. Today it is the product of professional public relations work.
There are not many innovations in fashion, today. Innovations are strongly connected to technology and the evolution of human race. Big companies cannot take too much risk or rely on luck for their success. They have to guide the consumer towards a decision and that’s why they need all those services related to branding and public relations. The art of promoting is as or maybe more important than design itself. Although there are designers who experiment and push forward innovation, those are not usually appreciated by the fashion leading companies. The latter will not risk treading on unknown ground, as their goal is profit and their investment is huge. They don’t care either for the evolution of fashion or for beauty. Large companies simply have no emotional connection to their products.
The fashion industry systematically misleads the consumers to false conclusions, with the single aim of motivating them to more consumption. Deceit does not exist in the fashion business. It’s ethical to cheat. This is maybe because the real goal behind the creation of many brands is profit. And profit has no ethics.
As most things today, fashion is also facing a “dark ages” period, where everything is about profit. I believe though that the difference between fashion icons and fashion wannabe icons, is aesthetics. Knowing, understanding and feeling the real value of beauty that fashion creates is not a skill everybody shares. Like with everything else you have to plunge deeply inside it to be able to own it. You can’t have it by imitating it. Imitation is visible to the eyes of the experts. It is a failed attempt to cheat.
We could say that there are basically at least two kinds of fashion: fashion for the connoisseur and mass fashion. Today mass fashion is a big part of the industry. The majority of consumers lack the criteria (and aesthetic education) to tell good quality from bad. As a result most products depend on good marketing to persuade the consumer. Fashion marketing has bloomed and the power passed from the designer to the marketing team.
I don’t think that many of today’s designers are going to survive in the future. They never bother to ask themselves basic questions: Who needs this product that I am creating ? Is there something outstanding in my product ? Can I offer it in a price that is accessible to my followers? Although, I believe to the power of marketing I doubt that good marketing of a low-impact product can give it the chance to survive – unless it is done by a fashion giant.
As a fashion designer I very often came to that question. Am I doing good to my society. Is what I do useful for humanity? Does humanity really needs what I do? Or is it my own vanity that makes me keep doing it. Some designers hate the characterization of “product” for their designs. Lost in a false impression that fashion is about them they mislead their true role. I adore designers that have a purpose excluding their own posthumous fame. These designers have a real philosophy behind what they do and are real artists.
In this society we have first to give before we ask for rewards. We have to respect what nature gives us. By creating tons of garbage every year we do exactly the opposite. The appearance of discount stores is not accidental. They exist because production is much higher than what is need. This downgrades the value of fashion products and leads to unnecessary pollution.
The future humans will be wiser than today, I like to believe. They will appreciate the artist behind the creation, but also the good quality, which gives a long-lasting good appearance to the product. They will not be led to decisions by marketing, but they will have their own opinion through research. As for marketing, I hope that it will not be today’s brainwashing cheap machinery, but it will be replaced by another service that will respect the intellectual individual. Probably the two basic kinds of products will survive. On the one hand the product that someone will buy as a work of art and which will possess all qualities to be characterized as such and on the other hand mass-produced fashion. New technologies, such as the 3d printing, are going to be used for mass fashion. Maybe one day everyone will have a developed form of today’s 3d printer. People then will not have to go out to buy clothes they will download the pattern and use it in their own 3d printer.
We have achieved evolution in so many ways, but one is missing. True freedom from power – any power that is a result of manipulation. And fashion marketing this manipulation tells you that your value is relative to a choice that serves the interests of big fashion corporations.
 Vasso Consola is a fashion designer who lives and works in Berlin.