Who makes Fashion?
Whilst reading the review of the Azzedine Alaia’s retrospective by James Bush at the Palais Galliera in Paris, I was struck by the Grand Couturier humility when he states “I make clothes, women make fashion.“
Azzedine Alaia is famous for his unconventional approach to fashion. His fame and success, the respect garnered through his long career certainly allow his carefree attitude towards many of the industry practices. He is famous for not following the official fashion calendar for example, and showing his collections at his own pace, only when he feels they are ready.
Azzedine Alaia’s clear vision enables him to set the agenda. It would be justified however to question whether he is a ‘garment designer’ rather than a ‘fashion designer’ as he claims?
‘La mode’ French for fashion, like the English word means ‘a way of doing things’. Fashion really is ‘the trend’ and Alaia is correct when he says that women – and men – make fashion when they choose to buy and wear certain clothes.
Costume Society of America explained it clearly: “Fashion is a social agreement … the result of a consensus of a large group of people.”
So where does it leave ‘fashion designers’?
To succeed fashion designers must sell their garments. In an extremely competitive market they must go beyond basic product design and create clothes that their market will want to buy and wear. This means that the style and aesthetic of the different garments constituting a collection must be coherent and consistent but also in keeping with the evolving taste of the public.
Fashion designers must research and understand evolving aesthetics and create concepts, clothes and images which will be desired by their clientele.
Designers of garments become fashion designers when they are able to stimulate the public’s desire. It is only when garments are desired, purchased and worn that they become fashion.
To conclude I will use a final quote usually attributed to Yves Saint Laurent: “Fashions fade, style is eternal.” Yes, like desire fashion fades, as for the idea that ‘style’ understood as elegance and good taste, is ‘eternal’ … well that could be the subject of a new post!