Anonymous said: In the last episode of the most recent season of The Fashion Fund, Anna Wintour mentioned something along the lines of designers having to take on a celebrity image in order for their brands to be sustainable. Do you believe it true that a designer must attain somewhat of a celebrity status in order for his/her brand to be successful in this day & age?

I agree. I’m writing a post for The Style Con about this very topic so I don’t want to give too much away at this point, but if the recent “unmasking” of Matthieu Blazy as Maison Martin Margiela’s lead designer has demonstrated anything, it’s that anonymity as some form of cultural cool has become a thing of the past. Is it just plain pretentious now? Do designers, as Anna Wintour says, have to learn how to market not only their clothes, but themselves?

I’m really fascinated by this whole idea that designers must become celebrities in their own right. There are some designers who would have been celebrities no matter what, like Stella McCartney, the daughter of a Beatle. And there are designers like Tom Ford and Marc Jacobs who became celebrities because the timing was right, and they made such bold statements with their clothes and catwalk presentations that the public simply became fascinated by the fantasia. Marc also modelled in his own Bang fragrance ad campaign. Designers like Karl Lagerfeld, on the other hand, have such incredibly overbearing personalities and say the craziest things that becoming a celebrity was inevitable. Then, of course, there are celebrities who move into fashion design because they already know how to market themselves. Victoria Beckham is now winning design awards over Tom Ford. It’s depressing, yes, but that’s the kind of industry we have now.

Think about some of the designers who have reached celebrity status (or, to a lesser extent, “industry darling” status), and how social media has propelled them. Would Fausto Puglisi have become creative director of Ungaro had Anna Dello Russo not worn his gladiator dresses everywhere? The street style beasts, like, invented him. Would Jason Wu have been hired by Hugo Boss if images of Michelle Obama’s dresses hadn’t been sent all over cyberspace? What about Alexander Wang at Balenciaga? J.W Anderson at Loewe? Did anyone care about Loewe before he joined? I’ll leave it at that. My article will be published on The Style Con next week!

PS. As Alexander Fury said, it helps if the designer is good-looking. Matthieu Blazy is superbly handsome. *heart eyes*

Anonymous said: what do you think about tory burch?

She’s great. I mean, her designs aren’t going to change the future of fashion, but I don’t think anybody ever expected her to become so successful in such a short amount of time. Especially by selling something like ballet flats. The luxury fashion crowd sort of turned their noses up at her, and then she became a billionaire while they went broke making art…and it was sort of like, “Oh.”

vogueltalia said: Hung! Thoughts on Lemaire leaving Hermès?

Let’s think of Hermes like a pop group—Destiny’s Child, perhaps? Beyonce would be the Birkin, Kelly would be the, well, Kelly; and the other member(s) would represent all watchstraps, scarves, and small leather goods that bring in money. Ready-to-wear would be a back-up dancer that does its own thing in the background, making some interesting moves every now and then (and perhaps a camera will zoom in during the most impressive moments) but never the star of the show. This is a bizarre analogy, but you get the idea. RTW is never going to be a hugely important part of the Hermes empire.

Alexander Fury pretty much said it all. It’s just the next round in this game of fashion musical chairs, but Lemaire’s successor is going to have to accept that their RTW will forever play a supporting role to the leather goods and scarves. That’s the business model of Hermes (I wrote an article about how their Birkin and Kelly bags are constructed, if anyone wants to check it out). The designer, then, doesn’t really matter. Hermes isn’t Balenciaga, which needed a designer with cool factor like Alexander Wang. It’s not like Dior, either, which needed someone sensitive and cerebral like Raf Simons.

I am glad that Christophe Lemaire has decided to leave Hermes to focus on his own label (for the record, I’ve always LOVED his work, especially for Lacoste). Does Hermes deserve a full-time designer? I’m not sure. I can think of only two reasons why designers like Lemaire might accept a second job, on top of developing their namesake label. The first is for prestige, as working for Hermes automatically gives you credibility as a designer (that’s why Rick Owens joined French fur company Revillon). The second is simple: extra income, extra capital, extra opportunities to develop your first brand, the one that carries your name. Now he’s got both!

This turned into a longer answer than I’d expected. Sorry, I really need to learn the meaning of brevity. Anyway, I think a designer like Rick Owens would be cool for Hermes. Strange, but cool. He does amazing things with leather. Phoebe Philo, too. The Internet would explode.

Anonymous said: Even with the rise in attention on menswear, do you believe that it's still true that menswear designers need to branch off into womenswear as well in order to be successful?

Um, sort of. I can think of a few designers who make womenswear which is nowhere near as successful as their men’s lines, like Thom Browne and Paul Smith. On the other hand, there are designers who started in womenswear and have done really, really well in menswear, like Comme des Garcons (although I think the Shirt line makes more money than Homme Plus, or any of their billion other lines) and Prada. There are also designers who have produced menswear and womenswear concurrently with an even-ish level of success, like Rick Owens (I’m talking about his mainstream runway career). Finally, there are brands that have stopped menswear entirely, like Miu Miu, though it’s arguable that Miuccia Prada was simply exhausted…

This is a difficult question to answer because you need to qualify “success.” Are you talking about financial performance and profit? If so, it’s possible for menswear labels to survive without making women’s clothing, but probably only if you’re a specialist label like Zegna, Brioni or Canali. I can’t imagine most brands would survive. The ultimate reality is that clothing doesn’t yield much profit for either womenswear or menswear; designers need to sign licensing deals to become successful in the oldschool sense, ie. household names. I wrote about licensing on my Wordpress blog—click the link! 

Anonymous said: is haute couture dead ?

Ergh, I’m sorry but I really hate this question. It’s moot. It’s just as pointless/annoying as asking, “Is fashion art?” because fashion writers never bring up anything new or interesting, and yet insist on continuing the conversation simply for the sake of it. We always talk about couture in crisis (or convalescence) in January and July, and it’s so repetitive. The Business of Fashion, for example, recently published an op-ed rather bluntly titled "Can Couture be Modern?" that discussed some of the ways in which couture might be considered modern, eg. Chanel’s couture sneakers and Raf Simons’s relaxed approach to historically rigid dressmaking. I get it. It’s great. So what?

I haven’t written about couture since February of this year, when I wrote "The Couture Circle Jerk" for The Style Con. I stand by what I said. I’m more interested in preserving and protecting the techniques that make couture possible, rather than the institution of couture itself. But of course the French love their titles, and couture is the greatest “fuck you” to China, where industry is booming but haute handcraft is never going to catch up (three cheers for French imperialism!). The best way to preserve couture technique is to work it into ready-to-wear, in the way that Mary Katrantzou and Lesage have collaborated, while keeping prices relatively affordable. I think it’s possible! Not sure how, exactly, but I’ll let the Chambre Syndicale figure it out.

Also, it’s become a worrying trend in fashion journalism to let socialites (I’d written this as socialists, lol) and couture clients have more page space than is necessary. Yes, I understand that they’re constantly in close proximity to the clothes, but I’m always skeptical when I have to read too much of a rich woman’s gabbling. Daphne Guinness in this Alexander Fury article, for example: “It was 200, 300 years’ worth of families that knew how to make lace, knew how to sew. These are industries. These are jobs. This is not just about rich people putting on something so that they can look better than everybody else.” Daphne’s family is made of money and she’s never had to work a day in her life. What does she know about having a job? Why don’t we hear more from the women who actually make couture? They’re contracted to work for hours on end, and yet they have to keep their opinions silent. Do they think couture is dead? I’ve love to hear their thoughts. That would give all of us some fresh perspective.

Anonymous said: how do i become a fashion designer?

Uh?? Go to fashion school?? Learn how to sketch and sew and drape and all those basic skills.

Also try:

  1. Working in retail. All my friends who are fashion students work with clothes on the selling floor. It will help you figure out whether you’re really cut out for the job.
  2. Intern, intern, intern, intern, even for designers whose idea of fashion is completely different to yours.
  3. Work in the industry as an assistant. I’ve never heard of someone starting their own brand straight after graduating without having at least 2-4 years of experience under another designer.

Or you could try becoming a successful singer/actor/reality TV star and skip steps 1-3 entirely…

attitude-existentielle said: I've just read an article on the anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse and it was all about how consumers can revolutionise the industry by being conscious of our consumption. But how is it the consumer's responsibility? It's all very well to tell everybody that they should only buy a few good quality, expensive items every year to decrease demand, but realistically the middle-classes struggle to do this. Furthermore, price doesn't seem linked to where clothing is made anymore?

Hmm, I think you’re talking about the Fashion Revolution initiative (you should all read about it in this op-ed). Generally speaking, it is our responsibility as consumers because we’re the ones who are legitimizing fast fashion when we hand over cash for clothes that were made in inhumane conditions, by workers who take in measly earnings just to survive. But the point of the initiative is not to shame the people who do shop at these retailers, because, as you said, the idea of sustainability privileges a certain kind of consumer—the kind who can afford to pay $90 for an ethically-sourced, locally-produced t-shirt. Likewise, it wouldn’t make sense to boycott these brands entirely because those who will be hit hardest are the poor workers whose livelihood depend on our massive consumption.

Forever 21 is now selling $4 tees and $8 jeans, which I discussed briefly in this blog post (pardon my crude self-promotion). Don Chang, founder and CEO, has said that this is what “customers seek.” I studied marketing (“studied” is a bit of a stretch, actually) for a semester three years ago, and I learned that price can be directly influenced by what customers are willing to pay for a product. If they demand cheaper clothes, and if the demand is consistent and aggressive enough, results will come. Voilà, $8 jeans! I think we can agree that these prices are WAY too low to be ethical (think about where they’re cutting costs!), and the customer is to blame for that. We—and I use this pronoun because we’re all complicit, not just the Americans—are all to blame for how bad it’s gotten.

I won’t pretend like I have the answers, because I simply don’t. But if I had influence in this, I’d ensure the more equitable distribution of profits so that workers in developing countries can live and work safely, earning enough to at least cover necessities. Zara made US$1.3 billion in profits in 2011, most of which went back into the company, not to the workers. Let me make one thing clear: cheap clothes ARE NOT bad; exploitation of disenfranchised workers IS bad. The point of the Fashion Revolution initiative is to work toward a careful balance. Is there a way to reconcile consumers’ desire for affordable clothing with workers’ right to humane labour? I think so, and it requires a complete system overhaul. There is definitely enough wealth generated from sales of apparel to ensure healthy working conditions, but, ya know, people are greedy like that…

Anonymous said: Hi hung! I was wondering if you'd be reviewing dior's cruise collection? I'm only asking bc I live for your posts, the vitriol in the met gala one was PALPABLE. you're really such an incredible writer I can't wait for you to run the fashion industry!!!!!

No, sorry, I won’t be reviewing the Dior cruise collection. I haven’t even bothered to look at it on (is it worth it?). This year I want to take a different route with Antwerpsex, and writing snarky reviews just doesn’t give me the same thrill as it used to haha. I basically came to a point where I was, well, embarrassed by my reviews because they were so superficial. I think I have more to offer than that. I’ll review a small number of shows during the main collections (big ones, e.g. Chanel, Prada, Louis Vuitton), otherwise…nope. But I have other posts in mind! I’m finally getting back into a routine of blogging regularly yay :-)

Anonymous said: what are your thoughts on normcore?

I’m not entirely sure what it is or where it came from (it sounds like something you’d be able to read on urbandictionary), and I can’t say I’ve given it much thought before. In a moment of weakness I read Alexa Chung’s interview with Fashionista, in which she called normcore offensive because it invalidates her/her friends’ personal style: “It’s weird when you’re just existing and people outside it gather you up and take away any unique vibe you thought you had.” My eyes just rolled so far to the back of my head.

Anyway, as I’ve mentioned a few times already, I contribute to this great website called The Style Con. Cat Smith, a contributor from London, explained why normcore is bullshit in this really interesting article about normcore and its relationship with able-bodied privilege. Essentially, the “stylised blandness” that is the essense of normcore can only be accessed and activated by a very privileged few, namely, people who only need to change clothes in order to blend in with others. Unfortunately, in our culture, if the nature of your disability is conspicuous (because you have a wheelchair, for example), or you wear religious garments, or you’re fat/heavy/obese/whatever people say these days, you stand out. As Cat Smith says, the normcore trend relies on the idea that all bodies are the same, or more importantly, are valued the same…which just isn’t true. You should really, really read the article!

highkeygay said: the face uk, the face us or the face australia which is your favourite and why?

Definitely the Australian version. Despite the fact that the judges aren’t as internationally recognised (I live in Australia and I had never even heard of Cheyenne Tozzi before this—apparently she’s also in a “band”), the contestants actually LOOK like models. My faves are Sarah (Calvin Klein exclusive material), Yaya (I feel like Riccardo Tisci would LOVE her), and Nikolina (romantic feline features mmm). And the girls all get along, which is nice to see. I like seeing camaradarie, as opposed to cronyism, in the fashion industry. The UK contestants were irritating…I can’t even remember any of their names, not even the winner’s. This season’s US contestants are HORRIBLE. Ray and Amanda need to leave immediately. You can find 50 Rays and Amandas in your nearest Urban Outfitters store.

Also, Lydia Hearst is an embarrassing mentor. She’s really sweet and her intentions are good, but she needs to stop pretending that her career (I use this term loosely) has been anything but well-hushed nepotism. I still laugh over that story she told her girls: “I was booked on a shoot with other models and one girl got sick and I got the cover” (or something like that). I just did a quick Google search of Lydia’s major magazine covers and they were mostly Harper’s Bazaar, ELLE, and Marie Claire…which are all published by the Hearst Corporation. Okay, Lydia.

P.S. Americans have the most annoying accents holy crap