Don’t Be Scared, But: the Fashion Industry’s Changing
07.13.17
Photo by Kate Warren for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Fashion news broke earlier this week that seemed to sadden as much as it surprised: Colette, renowned Parisian boutique/industry mecca, revealed it will be closing in December after 20 years. More lifestyle emporium than retailer, Colette has served as an incubator for emerging talent and an unmissable shopping outpost for locals and tourists alike. Robert Burke captures the significance of this loss in his comment to The New York Times: “The first stop the fashion crowd would make was to Colette. The selection of brands, the way the forms displayed, the clothes and the mix of designers was inspiring. If you were carried at Colette, you were cool.” Sarah Andelman, Colette’s owner and daughter of Colette Roussaux (who opened Colette), shared on her Instagram, “Colette Roussaux has reached the time when she would like to take her time; and colette cannot exist without Colette.”

In the same week, Garance Doré explained why she “slowly left the world of fashion (I just couldn’t do it anymore)” and stopped contributing regularly to her site: “I thought my loyalty to you, my readers, had to be impeccable. I think I had such a desire to be the good girl who does everything right, and to prove I deserved the success I’d achieved, that I lost track of what I really wanted, and what really made me happy.”

As individual incidents, these two events might appear unrelated, but when viewed together, I wonder if they’re not tethered to a sense of unease within the industry. This discomfort — a feeling that something’s not quite right and hasn’t been for a while — may be externally imperceptible but is palpable within. At press appointments and previews and related events, the conversation often comes back to any of the following topics: Are print media jobs safe? Does the in-beta “buy now/wear now” model make sense? Is fashion moving so fast it’s causing designers like Raf Simons to leave storied houses? Should I get into the amorphous world of “wellness” instead?

But maybe it’s not so gloomy. Discomfort during change can mean positive growth is on the horizon. (Just think about how much your legs hurt after a particularly strenuous gym session and the resulting strength you didn’t know you had.)

“To read that Colette is closing because ‘she would like to take her time’ in spite of 2016 earnings that reached $32 million rendered a curious feeling of relief for me,” Leandra wrote on Man Repeller’s Facebook page yesterday. “This is how I felt when Raf Simons announced that he’d be stepping down from Dior. He didn’t leave because he wasn’t doing well, because the house was no longer performing. He was just tired. The pace was too fast… [C]asting aside the ego for a moment and making a decision based purely on the vulnerability of one’s gut kind of feels like the revolution that the fashion industry is so deeply pursuing.”

These seismic waves are affecting both the creatives and the consumers. Yesterday, Altuzarra became the fourth American fashion label to recently announce its decampment from New York Fashion Week to Paris. “The time feels right,” designer Joseph Altuzarra said in a statement. Could it have something to do with the pace in this city? Perhaps. But Altuzarra’s press release explained the brand’s new location as a means for expansion. Altuzarra follows in the footsteps of Proenza Schouler and Rodarte, whose ready-to-wear collections debuted at Paris Couture Week and Thom Browne, who will show at Paris Fashion Week this September.

Meanwhile, the way we consume fashion — high, low, fast and slow; content, too, not just clothes — is already changing. Sustainability is no longer a gimmick to sell but an urgent call to action. Extended captions under social media photos are the new blogs and Leandra just bought a shirt on Instagram. Man Repeller is testing a new publishing cadence, reducing our daily story count from 6-7 to 4-5.

People are rethinking how they do things and why. It might seem like a revolution, yet it’s really taking a step back into what feels right instead of running forward into what feels exhausting. Not bad at all, just different.

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  • Sarah Hassan

    I love this, because even though I initially felt a sense of dread when hearing the news of Colette’s closing, once I read the reason why, I thought, ‘oh, that makes sense! Bravo for actually stepping back and taking a breather, Colette!’ And it is such an important reminder that change can be a good thing, a strong thing, even if it is initially painful. Time marches on, and it’s okay not to want to keep with the pace so adamantly. Fashion – and the way we encounter it – will always be evolutionary and that’s what makes it exciting.

  • Babs

    It seems like the current media climate challenged everyone to engage in the same way and at the same pace, and for a while, everyone got caught in that storm? Now people are waking up to their own versions/desires, which seems like a great choice, especially in terms of supporting creativity. What I, as an outsider, don’t know as much about, though, is the commercial side. The Lucinda Chambers interview reminded me that these aren’t just artists doin’ their thangs, they’re harnessed to huge commercial companies. How will that side play out in light of this trend, I wonder? More independent brands?

  • Even thinking back on 2010 as a decade: how do we define that decade in terms of fashion? Maybe it’s because I’m still young since I haven’t even technically lived for two decades yet (so I don’t really have a “bird’s eye” view of fashion trends I have been alive for), but the 90s were easily defined by chokers, iridescent/holographic fabrics, colorful windbreakers, etc. The early 2000s were ruled by velvet two piece sweatsuits, freakishly small glasses, capris, etc. The 2010s, however? So many trends have been cycled through that we’ve begun to recycle through old ones (Y2K – or Year 2000 – is big right now).

    I personally do think the fashion industry (and western cultures – specifically the USA) is moving too fast. Sometimes change is good/necessary in fashion (diversity, for instance); it is what the industry is known for! However, I think as a society, we begin to forget what is really important when we aren’t taking a moment think about it. We get so caught up in trends/life that we fall into a cycle of over-consumption with the belief that having more or doing more is what we need. Unfortunately, we remain sad and unsatisfied (while also ruining the planet). Thus, Raf Simon’s exit, fashion sustainability, the minimalist movement, etc.

    • spicyearlgrey

      athleisure?

  • I think that’s great news that your story count is going down. I’ve been thinking lately that an empowered woman’s true mark of success is being a human “being” instead of a human “doing.” Spinning through life dulls a person’s verve and ingenuity. If you can have a little control (if you’re lucky enough to have that choice) over how you walk through each day, that’s accomplishment.

  • Chiara Settineri

    As I was reading this, I couldn’t help but (somewhat cynically) think that these shifts are more widespread than just the fashion industry — they have to do with the pace of life itself in today’s world. The ubiquity and accessibility of technology have left us so oversaturated with information that we aren’t given the opportunity to truly absorb what we are being presented with. We don’t have the time between scrolls and clicks to form personal opinions about the data we’re being fed, leaving us unsatisfied and largely uninspired. Maybe this demand for more and more content is to blame for the quick exhaustion (and subsequent premature burnout) of so many creative forces in the industry. I can’t say I really blame them — I’m exhausted trying to keep up with the collections themselves.

    • KY

      Couldn’t agree more!

    • Yes! Completely agree. I’ve noticed this lately with how I’ve been feeling about Instagram (what’s the point?) and Vogue’s online articles. I find myself saying after reading what amounts to a blurb on Vogue “that’s it? That’s all you are going to say?” I’m craving something a little slower paced and more authentic. Quality over quantity.

      http://www.shessobright.com

    • Harling Ross

      yes agreed — i definitely don’t think it’s limited to fashion

    • Elizabeth

      Very well said! “We don’t have the time between scrolls and clicks to form personal opinions about the data we’re being fed, leaving us unsatisfied and largely uninspired.” >> yes!

  • Oh my God, I can’t believe Colette is closing. I was just there a month ago. It was so full of life and people. It has the best products. The best fashion brands. I understand that the fashion industry is changing. And to be honest I couldn’t be happier. It was just too much – like a big bubble, ready to explode. I feel it’s kinda exploded, and what before seemed like an irrational, superficial entity is stepping down to something better. Perhaps more thoughtful and serene.

    I dunno. Just some of brain juice I’ve extracted from this topic lately.

    Meg @ its.meg-ramsay.com

  • Kelsey

    Hello! I log on everyday at my desk once in the morning and once in the afternoon, I have notice the decrease in stories- makes me sad! I look forward to them! I love you guys, I share your stories with my co-worker and boyfriend. Yes, my boyfriend is a huge fan. Please keep writing because I need to keep reading! I too bought a shirt on instagram this week- what is going on here?
    I loved this article thank you for calling out the changes our industry is seeing its pretty crazy! Can we start a ‘slow fashion’ line? Things artfully thought out and made with passion!

  • Maureen Krezel French

    what stuck out here is the word “EXHAUSTING”. life has become exhausting…and fashion…has truly exhausted itself…once again…the world of dressing and being dressed changes daily. The treadmill philosophy of faster, more, faster…dilutes the art of being…trend setting is cool, trend chasing is exhuasting… Its nice to see some people, like Colette can be proud, sit back and be done. (for now)

  • Patrizia Chiarenza

    “Man Repeller is testing a new publishing cadence, reducing our daily story count from 6-7 to 4-5.” Oh God no. I need as many as i can get!!

  • SpiritAndCourage

    The current state of fashion and social media – both of whom are completely intertwined at this point, it seems that one does not exist without each other – has got me wondering: what happens after trend fatigue? It seems as though we are approaching a precipice but I just can’t see whats on the other side. And not just in fashion: food, design, media? What does a post click-bait world look like?

  • Nschne

    As a 40+ woman, working for government managing our adaptation to climate change and incorporating sustainability principles into our operations and communities as a whole, I saw this article as relevant to what I experience in my field, in my work. We become our jobs, 24/7, it never stops or turns off. I could spend 80 hours a week just going to meetings, or just reading emails, or reading climate change articles (trust me – depressive at best), or responding to requests for presentations, etc. Unfortunately, there is only so much of me to go around and the merry-go-round doesn’t stop for us to get off and let someone else take a spin. Getting back to fashion and how quickly it changes and the treadmills they must be running on 100 mph applies to almost every industry. We must be kinder to others and ourselves and remember it’s OK to stop and think and just be.
    I adore your articles, Harling, and am always on a quest to be a human “being” rather than a human “doing”. Thank you for that Plumage 59.

    • Harling Ross

      Thank you, Nschne!

  • Perhaps the hectic show schedule, multiple seasons and unsustainable pace of fashion has reached its peak. At the end of the day there’s too much product produced and everyone is spinning their wheels. For what? Fashion should go back to a two season calendar. I believe the quality of work will go up and lives improved.

    There is a strong feeling of change in the air. Collette closing in December marks the end of an era as everything shifts to an internet driven economy. Hope we can keep our wits about us and remember, like Collette, that time is our most valuable asset. Glad the discussion is going there. http://www.primadarling.com

  • YS

    I see you guys as an example of how successful a media company can become when it actually cares about its readers. I thought it was really interesting that you guys were actually planning on reducing the number of articles you publish. Given that so many other media companies seem to be struggling right now I was wondering, if you don’t mind my asking, how you guys will be able to publish such a small number of articles, which arguably drive revenue for a website.

  • I love the optimistic tone in this article! I’m so sick of all these articles talking about how the fashion world is crumbling down. I totally agree that it just just changing, like it probably already did quite a few times during the course of human history. It’s just taking on a new form, fitting into our lives in a different way than it did before. And yes, that may seem scary to some, but it is not the end.

  • Alice Huang

    Sad news. Great article and well said. Sustainability is a much needed shift to slow down the fashion industry – http://meivintage.blogspot.com/2017/05/slow-fashion-and-sustainability-why-its.html

  • Grumpycat

    Looks like the hamsters are flying off the wheel. The industry has sped things up too much. I used to care about trends, but now I DGAF, because I know another will be along in about a microsecond. I’m shopping my closet until a category is totally bare, then buying just a few things.