Gucci. Pre-fall?

A while ago I had a major (third) interview with the advertising team of a major photographer whom I have always loved, but whose aesthetic, if being honest, is a long way from what I usually find stimulating. Think Vogue next to Sang Bleu and you’ll get a hint of what I mean.

Sang Bleu Magazine - one of the best to come out during my lifetime

Sang Bleu Magazine – one of the best to come out during my lifetime

I left the interview thinking I did pretty good overall, but with hindsight I know now I won’t hear back from them. This entry is about that hindsight and about the question which made me realise I wouldn’t be a good fit for their team.


 

To sum up the run-up to the interview, I did a hellava lot research and prepared a suavely designed presentation/proposal for a campaign, complete with moodboard, styling references and model options. I know this went down a treat, because they admitted they were impressed with the detail and the logic of the proposal, as well as the options I had chosen for the models. A neat trick I learnt during my photographer PA days is that when prepping for other photographers you have to try and put yourself in their shoes and think what they would like to see when deciding on casting or floor patterns for the shoot. Give them options. Not too many, as most artists are lovers of many things and can get easily confused, but a good enough range so it doesn’t feel like you just plonked the first five “boho” or “goth” girls you came across which fitted the brief.

I delivered my presentation in good time, didn’t use my notes and smiled through most of it. What went wrong then?

Rookie mistake. I spent a lot of time rehearsing my delivery and the potential connected questions I might be asked after but forgot to check THE NEWS. The marketing director didn’t have a lot to ask about the presentation because, as I mentioned, most of the side questions I had made sure were touched upon in the actual presentation. But at the end of it all, he just asked me, casually: “What do you think of the new Gucci Pre-fall campaign?” And that was that.

I couldn’t lie. I hadn’t seen it. It had just come out that morning. I didn’t want to babble so I just admitted to not having seen it and we moved on to other questions, which is why I thought it was all fine.

Then I got home and of course, curious, I checked the campaign. Wanted to see what it was all about. Photographed by Glen Luchford and styled by Joe McKenna. There it was, in all its glorified normcore beauty. I can see it. I understand, some weeks on, why people are still talking about it. It’s unglamorous and relaxed, it has all the right colours for a pre-fall collection. But I keep looking at it and because I can’t help rolling films inside my head, I have this vision of the art direction, from the perspective of one the female models in the shoot. It goes like this:

“Had some friends over, we had some rosé. I know you’re not supposed to like it, but we were still kinda hanging from last night so we needed some sugar. That boy came over too that we all slept with once. He’s such a d, always hangs out with his top off. We had some hash, dressed up from my Mum’s wardrobe and then took some shots on our iPhone. Sent them by accident to the CEO of Kering. They want to buy them for an ad campaign or something. We had some more wine to celebrate. I hope I won’t regret it.”

So you just gonna hang around with no top on?

So you just gonna hang around with no top on?

You see, I’ve never had a problem with pared down styling or natural, beautiful, window-lit photography. It has a place of its own in advertising because we’re still selling by the marketing research idea that people want to imagine themselves in those clothes and anything a bit too over the top will repulse top buyers who are proven posh traditionalists with little taste for the avantgarde. The problem there is of what we’re trying to sell. Expensive, slightly underdesigned clothes in a cheap, underdesigned environment. It’s screaming: we know it looks cheap, but you know it’s expensive. And while it’s a fresh take from the usual “we know it looks expensive. it’s because it is.”, I’m still struggling to see the appeal. American Apparel has done this before with a lot more sex appeal and a little more tonal grading.

This is how I knew I wasn’t going to get the job. The reason they asked me about this campaign wasn’t because they were mean and trying to test me (okay, maybe a little bit). They wanted to see if I understand the current advertising environment when it comes to selling clothes. They were saying, quietly: We loved it, do you get it?

And I get it, but I don’t love it.

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I got 99 Problems. LCM is one.

I’m supposed to be doing these “tongue in cheek” reviews of LCM shows for the people who follow me on Facebook and I enjoy doing them especially seeing as some of you have taken the time to tell me personally you read them even now in their third season. But I need to express some concerns, having seen all the shows now.

1. The way I work them out is by looking at each collection from 3 points of view. Firstly, I look at it from the point of view of my mother. She’s 43 and doesn’t know much about fashion, but appreciates good taste. I measure, as such, the level of good taste and overall vibe of a collection. Then, I try look at it from the point of view of a builder who has no clue what a drape or a dart is. This helps me ground the collection in the real. What would happen if we took the look onto the streets? What impression would it create? Lastly, when I have decided on those two, I look at it from the point of view of a 24yo who has finished a BA, has a studied interest in fashion and dress codes and loves wordplay. That’s when I create the 3/4 word description. The problem I’ve faced most this season is that I had to stop myself from just writing “seen this before” for half of the shows for fear of coming across as rude or ignorant.

I then started thinking of what the real issue is, why my system doesn’t work. It seems we have a lot of fashion design at the moment, and that’s cool. In terms of good design, I believe what normally makes it with the industry is good craftsmanship (a sense of style and good use of materials/techniques) combined with an idea (or theme, or a new type of man) that should shine through without us having to read the invites or show sheets.

Fashion shows, in effect, should be a proposal. A way of saying “we looked back on stuff, and looking forward, this is what we think you’ll be wearing”.

Now, a lot of the designers are good craftsmen. The Lou Dalton cuts were impeccable as were the fabrics at Matthew Miller. Many of them have an easily recognisable personal style. One can tell a Christopher Shannon from a Nasir Mazhar without a 101 in Fashion. Other designers (and the stylists they work with, because we must give credit where credit is due) are really good at creating a story, a hook. We look at Sibling and Agi & Sam and want to know more about that man. Or want to avoid him. Regardless, they’ve created a new type. Now, of course, fashion should be about the clothes, you may say, but the problem I mentioned occurs when designers innovate on only one level. Each season, they push forward their personal style. Or their craftsmanship. Or the pizzaz of the presentation. And you can do that for one season. Or two. Until it gets boring. Then we look at the collection and we think, it’s not bad, but is it the sort of person I want to be in the future? Wasn’t I the same person in the past? Will I not stay the same if I wear the same clothes? And some might be okay with that. I, however, am not.

But let’s not be reductive. To me, the fact that my system is not working anymore doesn’t only mean that there is a sort of problem with the industry. My system was created after the industry, therefore it might be the system that needs an upgrade. What we’re really seeing is a change in the way fashion is produced and marketed. In design, we’d call this a period of vertical innovation. The creation of a product based only on small modifications done to an already existing product. What we’re not seeing much of at London Collections Men is lateral innovation. Game-changing design. Like Hedi Slimane’s skinny trousers or most of the shoes Raf Simons ever created. Craig Green is arguably doing a good job of it, the mention here being that the sort of fashions he creates are not easy to transfer from catwalk to one’s personal wardrobe because they are elaborate designs which cost a lot to produce, and therefore are not accessible to mid-range buyers who usually circulate the high end stuff. So instead of a system that relies on extracting the feel and idea behind a collection in a couple of words, maybe a system that mentions strong (highly innovative) ITEMS of clothing should be used to better represent the designer. But keep in mind, that is only so that I will be able to say something else than “My mother and I and the builder ’round the corner have all seen this before.”

2. Moving on the other thing bugging me this season, it would appear that the Association of Stylists and Stylemakers of LCM had a get together and decided unanimously that fringes and Mick Jaggeresque emo haircuts are back in. It’s not really surprising, seeing as after the ’90 the ’00 seem like an obvious choice and also the ’70 remain, somehow, a long-lasting influence in fashion, season by season. It terrifies me. What with Fall Out Boy having a comeback and the bowler hats in the KTZ show á la “I write sins, not tragedies” we’re in for another season (at least) of childhood nostalgia. Milk that cow again.

3. We need to talk about the elephant in the room. And by elephant I mean Mr. Galliano. A lot of conflicting feelings there. A lot of confusion as to whether we like it because it’s a comeback or because it’s actually a strong, cohesive collection. I have been following people’s reactions on Facebook because a lot of the people I know had something to say about it. A graphic designer and art director I know posted a photo of Anne Frank with Galliano’s logo across it, saying “They should have left Galliano to rot.
There should be no place in Fashion, or anywhere else for bigotry, xenophobia and hatred.” It’s true that some people have never forgiven him for his comments and in all fairness, why should they? We hang people for a lot less.

An Italian fashion designer who works for one of the big Italian houses posted “Don’t get the whole fuss bout Galliano’s Margiela Debut, glad he is back but the collection looks like a messy CSM BA show!” Harsh, but if we take a step back and look at some of the looks individually, we may start to see what he means.

What really stuck with me though was Roberto Piqueras’ comment. He said “John Galliano coming out to greet after Margiela couture’s show… was fully unrespectful for Margiela’s concept of anonymous. ‪#‎livingfortheapplause‬”
I admit I didn’t know this, but all of the above mentioned, what was the point of him coming out at the end of the show? Everyone already knew it was him designing the Artisanal collection. The gesture lacked humility. To fans of the brand, it was insulting. To people who still blame him for his comments, it was a confirmation of the fact that he wasn’t hiding in shame no more. And that, I fear, is how you taint a brand.

Dashion

I know we’re not supposed to fashbash because Suzy Menkes told us so but I find myself in situations where I feel someone SHOULD say something and then no one does. If no one does we’ll forever stay this way, dumb & retrograde.

So I will.

I follow FuckingYoung on a daily basis, partly because it’s the only online menswear resource that does its job of providing us with fresh content regularly and partly because I have them on Facebook and they just seem to be doing a very good job of making their posts pop on my feed. And because of that, I often click their posts and I already know their types of entries so I compare them but only against each other (look book versus look book, editorial vs editorial, model presentation vs model presentation, etc.)

Tonight I came across this: ELVINE.

elvine_fw14_lookbook_fy20elvine_fw14_lookbook_fy6

 

Lookbook with vague editorial vibes,

sophisticated clothes for unsophisticated behaviour

as they put it. I looked at these photos, looked back on all the look books I have seen before, here and on other sites, and couldn’t help but think: there’s so much wrong with this. So let me tell you.

Dear people doing dashion*, if you’re gonna do a bog standard collection of basics in which the most advanced design detail is a reverse-point pocket flap on a bog standard furlined parka, please consider the following:

1. do not try to edge it up using ethnic models or cool guys with beards that exude bohemian nonchalance (no one is fooled)

2. do not use a letter as an emblem that is already associated with bigger, more successful brands ( see Études)

etudes

AW14 look from Études

3. do not make white T-shirts with wide spaced sans serif all caps fonts in black printed on white cotton with generic, mundane slogans; we’ve seen 100, we’ve seen them all.

4. do not use more than 8 colours in the overall colour scheme, especially if the collection is not that big

5. FAILING ALL THE ABOVE sell us a story, a lifestyle, something to dream about

And that’s really the point. I’m not even saying they are bad clothes or that the photos are bad or the styling is off, but you’re trying to sell us things we’ve seen before at prices we’ve never seen before and you’re kind of hoping that no one will notice what you’re up to because people will buy into what they’re used to if it’s wrapped in visual cliches. The most upsetting thing, however, is that you are doing that without even trying to wrap it all up in a lifestyle proposal.

Sophisticated prices for unsophisticated clothes. Or what was it?

The lifestyle we see in the photos is the lifestyle we’ve seen ever since the dawn of American Apparel ads in which the models are somewhat clothed, the same lifestyle we see most “urban” brands try to replicate (more about this in another post) except these clothes are not even urban. They are at their best studied basics.

Admittedly, you did good on the lack of elasticated hem on that bomber jacket, good tailoring on the suit (except it only suits skinny people, which means that at least you had a target market in mind) and good proportions on that denim panelled shirt.

4/10. Next time try better, fail harder.

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*dashion is not a mistake, just what i call dull fashion