Don’t Be Scared, But: the Fashion Industry’s Changing

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.

Harling Ross

Harling is a writer and was most recently the Brand Director at Man Repeller.

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