Friday, 3 June 2016

does fashion really need to exist?

Rodarte Fall 2016 (via footwearnews.com)

I recently read an interesting article on Washington Post about the existence, or lack thereof, of Rodarte. Rodarte, the 10 year-old brand designed by sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy and named after their mother's maiden name, has scores of fans all over the world who admire their ethereal designs. However, their clothes are very rarely seen off of the runway, as if they only exist in their own elegant bubble of aesthetic perfection. But how influential actually is the brand?

Meadham Kirchoff Spring 2015: the brand's last collection (via vogue.com)

Brands that lack business savvy often burn out quickly, no matter how large their cult following is. Meadham Kirchhoff, who went bankrupt in 2014, are a prime example of this. Their iconic collections made them instant fashion industry favourites but, like a shooting star, their brand shone brightly then disappeared. So, the answer is yes, probably. Fashion does need to exist outside of its own sheltered fantasy world.

Balmain Fall 2015: using celebrities to sell clothes (via forbes.com)

It's a sad state of affairs when a brand has to focus on business more than the integral creativity that should be at the core of fashion. Building a successful brand more often than not involves selling out and using social media stars as models and creating clothes that will realistically sell or be a success with it-girls. (See: Balmain, Chanel, Calvin Klein.)

The Mulleavy sisters designed the costumes for Black Swan (via glamourmagazine.co.uk)

However, Robin Givhan's article suggests that brands should be awarded for their financial success rather than for their artistry. If Rodarte's clothes are barely worn or seen, do they deserve so many awards? I think yes. Otherwise we'll end up only rewarding corporate sell-outs. A number of Givhan's points seem contradictory, leaving us questioning, not whether or not Rodarte actually exists, but if the article actually should? Givhan raises interesting ideas, but of course Rodarte exists. We talk about the brand. We see their collections online and on social media. They designed the costumes for Black Swan and helped Tavi Gevinson's blog become a success. They have clearly had an impact on the world, no matter how small it may seem compared to global luxury brands.

Alessandro Michele Gucci Fall 2016 (via pinterest.com)

It is extremely difficult for young, independent brands to strike exactly the right balance between creativity and business. The brands that manage this tend to be large and well-established. People will pay attention to Gucci no matter what, allowing creative director Alessandro Michele to experiment and create really beautiful collections and campaigns. Fashion is art meeting business. However, Rodarte lean further towards the art side, with their clothes being shown in museum exhibits, but rarely being purchased by ordinary, albeit wealthy, people.

Mermaid vibes at Rodarte Spring 2016 (via dazeddigital.com)

Couture has existed for decades, without successful sales. No one is questioning whether it exists or not. It is one of the most important parts of the fashion calendar. However, Rodarte does not show couture. It shows ready-to-wear; only two collections a year. With more and more pressure on designers to keep producing, it is almost humble of Rodarte to show only Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter collections. We are in the midst of Resort right now. Some say the industry has become over-satiated with collections, but Resort sells more than any other. Perhaps if Rodarte increased their collections and marketed them differently then their sales would increase. However, their brand is said to be financially stable so there is no desperate need for them to do this. It is refreshing to see a brand following the traditional fashion calendar. It allows us fashion fans to keep up.

Star Wars dresses at Rodarte Fall 2014: Rodarte is not isolated from popular culture (via wmagazine.com)

Rodarte's most spectacular pieces are sold at almost couture price ranges. Therefore, we only see them on the runway. Maybe we see them once again on the red carpet, picked out by celebrity stylists with an eye for unique beauty, but after that it could be argued that they cease to exist.

Viktor & Rolf Fall 2015 couture in Elle Italia (via sameornot.cc)

Similarly, it could be said that other industry darlings, Viktor & Rolf, could not "exist" as well. Remember their fashion meets art collection with models walking out wearing framed artwork? It was an instant social media hit with fashion fans. It was later modelled by Magdalena Frackowiak for Elle Italia in what is possibly one of the best fashion shoots ever. However, after that it has not been seen elsewhere. Did the brand make back the money it spent on this couture collection? Probably not. Couture rarely does make its money back. That collection definitely existed. It provokes a reaction from many people and revived complete originality in an industry that tends to copy the past.

Rodarte Fall 2016 (via i-d.vice.com)

What is at the beating heart of Rodarte, is a desire to return to the original art of fashion. There are no 90 piece collections, with less than 20 memorable looks, sent stomping down the runway. We will not see their dreamy designs draped over every other celebrity it-girl as they dodge paparazzi on their way to the shops. What Rodarte do is special, and if they can maintain it then it proves that this breed of fashion did not all die with Alexander McQueen. 

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