When a designer sets out to create a collection, they don’t do it at random. Several ideas have already helped form their vision, defining the contours of their freedom: market expectations, materials and their cost, the feasibility, and the time that each piece will take to produce all compete with the fashion weeks looming on the horizon. Inspiration, that moment of breath, develops as the process progresses, but only dominates it at the end, when things have already taken shape and are waiting for the spark, the final touch that will sublimate them.
If the creator runs a large, established house, they must also dive back into the archives to draw a thread to the present. The detail they then focus on will allow for identity and recognition while avoiding redundancy and creating what will later become the house’s heritage.
At Dior, Maria Grazia Chiuri, turned her back on the Bar cut invented by Christian Dior at the end of World War II in support the emancipation of women. The Bar was a peplum style that allowed one to sit on a bar stool with attitude. For Spring/Summer 2022, the artistic director of Dior has chosen another era of the house, that of Marc Bohan, whose geometric volumes and square shoulders she has reinterpreted.
Another example, Olivier Rousteing, Balmain‘s artistic director, introduced black velvet in all his collections, a fabric dear to the founder and his right-hand man Eric Mortensen. The classic Balmain codes found in Rousteing’s collections are chiffon transparencies, suit blazers, pearls, furniture patterns, cane, raffia, ironwork arabesques, all revisited in a new spirit.
The dimension of dreams
Then comes the time of communication. There will be a text, a manifesto that will inspire the photoshoot and the collection film and provide the media with concepts and ideas to help convey the collection’s spirit to the general public. Fashion needs words and stories to bring collections to life and place them in the dimension of dreams. Fashion as a seasonal diktat has not existed since the turn of the century. There is no one left to order the length of the hem or the shape of the shoulders. On the other hand, true trendsetters are those who succeed in creating desire. That also requires a good story.
Fashion shows last at most fifteen minutes and sit between a before and after where the brand deploys all the codes and messages of luxury and opulence. But how many details do we retain in the end? We certainly have an overview that inspires admiration or disappointment, but the real test for fashion media is what we call the “press kit”: photos, film, and, above all, text. Because while WeTransfer is downloading the portfolio, we’ve already read the text and got a feel for what the creator was aiming for.
The scent of objectification
We have seen exciting collections fall like a sad soufflé because of uninteresting texts, filled with meaningless words and sentences. What does “femininity” mean, for example, when you want to define a line of clothing? What was the creator’s intention? Do they consider that a woman is never good enough and needs their talent to be “womanly”? Did they design their dresses only by thinking of the big client that no one talks about: the man who carries on his arm the archetype of the male fantasy woman? A trophy dressed to impress? Isn’t there a scent of objectification?
What does a press release mean that sells a collection adorned with rare furs? That innocent animals have been killed and skinned to make a collar, cuffs, or buttons?
What does a collection mean that twists the icons of some civilization and appropriates them to turn them into curiosities, or worse, humor? A few years ago, we saw a big fashion house present in a Gulf country’s burqa masks adorned with pearls and bags in the shape of jerry cans of petroleum. The press release touted a “revisited Orientalism”. We know many who weren’t amused at all that day.
We’re walking on eggshells. Activism is, on all fronts, gaining strength, pushing the boundaries, creating new taboos without nuance. Remember, it was thanks to Peta’s determination that the reckless use of fur was finally regulated. Telling the story of a collection requires brainstorming that takes into account all the socio-cultural mores of the moment. Otherwise, beware of the flop!