Too much of a good thing might apply to fashion as well, says Masaba Gupta. As labels get more affordable, is it taking away from their much-hyped exclusivity?
Designer labels, throughout the history of fashion, have maintained an air of exclusivity around themselves. Call it hype, criticise it if you will. But fashion has used this ‘exclusive’ tag to make itself coveted. That designer dress you bought for your anniversary; that lehenga you spent a fortune on for your sister’s wedding: you wanted it, not just because it is beautifully created and conceptualised, but also because it’s aspirational. And because you were going to be the only person wearing it.
In other words, luxury brands have always had a certain nose-in-the-air attitude towards the ‘masses’.
Yet, in the last few years, that game has changed. While pricing is partly what caused it, social media is the other big factor, with brands scrambling to get everyone’s attention.
Who is buying that $350,000 (Rs 2.3crore) couture dress ? I know one person, but that’s about it. Basically, the super-exorbitant creations don’t sustain any designer. But what of the creations that are cheaper, but still so expensive that you might have to sell an arm and a leg to afford it? There was a time when we took pride in finally acquiring something of the sort. But slowly, internationally, that desire to own such creations is on the wane.
Who is to blame? Economic slowdown? Political movements? The sudden surge of affordable designer-wear? Maybe a bit of it all.
And around the world, its effect on the biggest fashion houses is beginning to show. The biggest names are making hurried exits, or being asked to do so. Case in point Alber Elbaz at Lanvin, Raf Simmons at Dior and Hedi Slimane at Saint Laurent.
As with every other thing these days, the internet is being hailed and demonised. Some say the web has opened up global markets, while others allege it is causing consumer fatigue. Like good art photographs getting lost in a deluge of selfies, hashtags and mediocre images, fashion, too, might be going through something similar. There is a flood of new labels. And established labels are trying to compete by introducing affordable lines.
The end result is that luxury is beginning to feel like prêt. It’s common, repetitive, and thanks to Instagram, you’ve “seen” it, even if not physically on someone you know. Add to that the growing buying power of people. So that Louis Vuitton bag you spent a fortune on? Chances are you know someone else who has it as well.
Face it. That Balmain for H&M jacket you really want. It’s already on Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Roposo. I spent Rs 30,000 on it, only to earn flak on social media for copying Kendall Jenner. Even if Jenner hadn’t worn it, once 50,000 people had seen me wear it, could I wear it again?
The fallout of all this is that we’re seeing less runway pieces moving in stores. Make-up, sunglasses, perfumes and accessories are actually doing better than actual clothes.
Perhaps the solution is in custom outfits: clothes made to measure, tweaked and tucked to make it look like one-off designs.
It’s hard to tell if fashion will hold on to its ‘exclusive’ attitude, or change completely. Only time and Instagram will tell.
Gupta is a leading fashion designer. She tweets as @MasabaG