Pride and Prejudice in the Fashion Industry
Updated: May 9
I love fashion world for its dynamic creativity and infinitive possibilities. However, there are also certain things I cannot agree with in this industry.
Arrogance and prejudice being one of the examples. Living and breathing in an industry dependent on spotlight, dazzling visual presentations and beautiful people, the insiders tend to scrutinize everything, including who are qualified to work with them. Take my personal experience as an example. when I first started my fashion career, my earlier experience in the cosmetics industry was questioned by people around me- did this girl really know fashion? After successfully building my reputation and experience through managing accessories products, I would like to extend my profile to my true love ready to wear. Then another question comes- well, you might be good at accessories but, without seeing ready-to-wear management black-and-white on your CV, there’s no prove of your capability to manage this category. And some more: a multi-brand company may challenge the qualification of candidates from mono-brand and vise versa; in my latest interview, I was even challenged by the interviewer for a certain skill as I was not the one who executed it 100% by myself yet with the help from other team members!
Don’t get me wrong- I totally value and respect the formal training in the fashion world, and fully understand how the management skills vary from one role to another. It is just that, when recruiting people myself, I am not convinced by only formal training and black-and-white experience on CV. Personally I believe that potential and a broader life experience also matter to a degree as the inspiration and creativity do not come from one source. To prove my point, here I am naming few fashion designers- either without formal training in fashion schools or with different focus in their early life- who shine for their talent and all sorts of experience.
Miuccia Prada- designer to Prada and Miu Miu
Ms. Prada was pursuing PhD in Political Science by the time she had to take over the family business established by her grandfather. She was a member of Italian Communist Party and involved in the women’s right movement in the 70s in Milan. That nourishes her to be a thinker and gives her design a protesting spirit- against cliché, doll beauty, banality! Passionate to culture, history and art, she is inspired to create the famous “ugly chic” style by mixing old and new, pretty and ugly. Her collection is clever, difficult, complicated and interesting- and the most copied by other designers today.
Rei Kawakubo- founder/designer of Comme des Garçons and the department store Dover Street Market
Studied Fine Arts & Literature and took a degree in “the history of aesthetics”, Rei Kuwakubo is the most influential designer to her younger peers. Her design is visionary and original: she’s famous for challenging the established notion of beauty through deconstructed garments (draped around body, featured fray, unfinished edges with holes, asymmetrical shape), which creates enormous statement. Personally Kawakubo likes to have input in various aspects of her business- graphic design, advertising, shop interiors- as she believes that all things are part of one vision and strongly linked. New York Metropolitan Museum just had a exhibition- together with Vogue magazine- to pay tribute to the designer and her brand in May 2017.
Tom Ford- ex-creative director to Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, founder/designer of his eponymous brand
Art history, acting and architecture- these are what Tom Ford dabbled before stepping into the fashion world. To him, fashion is the right balance between art and commerce. His design is famous for its powerful sexiness and ultimate glamour.
Carol Lim & Humberto Leon- Co-creative directors of Kenzo, founder & designer to Opening Ceremony
The fashion retailer duo- a management consultant and a design director- established a trendsetting boutique in downtown New York. Since 2011, they take the rein in Kenzo as the co-creative directors and successfully revive the declining brand. They mix street elements with the brand’s traditions (prints, worldliness & travel) to revamp the brand with young, fun and cheeky spirit.
Vigil Abloh- founder/designer of Off-White
One of the rising brands that I pay lots of attention recently. The designer Abloh studies Civil Engineering and Architecture in school yet becomes a multi-hyphenate: graphic designer, DJ, architect, and art director to Kanye West. The brand Off-White is established in 2012, which is a reflection of the designer and his lifestyle. The design is a sophisticated mix of street wear & high fashion, and daily influence of travel, music and culture. It is said that wearing Off-White “says you log your time between airport lounges & VIP sections, hanging with models & rappers, and making shit happen.” Abloh is nominated for the prestigious LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Designers in 2015.
Aside from these well-established designers, nowadays more and more models, bloggers, celebrities turn designers. It may be hard to predict whether their brands would succeed or not, yet for sure the fashion industry will further boom thanks to the join of these unexpected forces. Showtime!
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