Are designers going too far?
By Sophie Brassey, Third year, Philosophy
The Croft Magazine // Instant digital content seems to demand increasingly bizarre and theatrical stunts on the track. Reviewing the SS23 runways, one wonders how far fashion has to go to grab attention, and what the cost of that creativity is.
The SS23 tracks were fancy, slightly off and downright crazy – but they had to be. In a world where trends go out of style before they can even take off, designers must do what they can to hook digital audiences. With fashion’s mass production and obscene number of up-and-coming designers, sending a slightly modified version of the Bar costume down the runway wasn’t going to be enough this year – yes Maria Grazia Chuiri, we’re talking to you. This season, fashion demanded camp, and camp we got.
From spray painting a Banksy-style naked Bella Hadid, to sashaying on the runway with a much-needed snack at the gas station (see Balenciaga’s Crispy Packet Bags), the creative directors gave us a dose of theatrics to last us until next year. The sheer absurdity of some creators cough cough, kanye made us think about this new approach to fashion. Is the track down to desperate grabs of attention, or is there something much more promising on the horizon? Are these avant-garde statements brilliant or just silly?
Don’t get me wrong, there have certainly been some beautifully executed collections this season. Some of our favorites are Molly Goddard’s extravagant ruffles and tulle, Maximilian Davis’ deft tailoring for his Ferragamo debut, and Han Kjøbenhavn’s architectural genius in Milan. These designers, along with many others, provided exquisite works of art.
However, the creative directors of some of the biggest fashion houses have taken an edgy approach to recent collections instead. This meant that rather than developing the physical design of their clothes, the designers put more energy into advancing the concept behind the clothes and crafting a theatrical spectacle to portray such ideas. The use of twins at Michelle’s Gucci was a perfect example: he wanted to end the stigma that one-offs are a fashion staple, so he sent twins dressed in the same outfit down the runway.
Much of the innovation showcased on the catwalk is a ruse for the more basic garments that are produced for retail; the track is a place of absurd creativity that usually never makes its way to the workshop. But, as we all know, it becomes quite difficult to produce a “never seen before” collection. Anyone can be creative, anyone can develop an idea, and anyone can access and comment on these collections. Perhaps it’s this exhaustion of creativity in fashion that has reduced the runway to gimmicks. Rather than spending their time materializing a creative concept, designers look for other ways to draw attention to a collection. From a business perspective, they’re just working smarter, not harder: Demna’s swamp-esc set design doesn’t exactly add to the clothes, but it has sparked people’s interest in Balenciaga’s novelties.
The headlines read themselves: “Every model piled it on at AVAVAV”, or “Coperni’s Bella Hadid spray dress is fashion magic”. While these stunts were entertaining, they didn’t necessarily add anything to the collection. The Bella Hadid spray paint dress didn’t offer anything new — it boded well for a science experiment, but in terms of fashion, the dress itself was uninspired. Many of the items were reminiscent of the 1999 Alexander Mcqueen show, where Shalom Harlow stood on a rotating platform while her dress was painted yellow and black by a robotic arm. Rachel Tashjian (the icon herself) put the difference between the tracks best: “I struggled to see or feel anything other than discomfort at Hadid bending her arms and legs to the whims of these two men and their canisters”. Mcqueens 1999 stunt was a metaphor reflecting the violence that creativity imposes on its materials and its audience. The Coperni Waterfall, as far as we know, was a metaphor for how lack of creativity breeds lack of originality.
From that perspective, the SS23’s gadgets are a waste of time and headlines – surely we should be talking about something more groundbreaking? What about other collections that were skipped because Paris Hilton closed Versace?
When you really think about it, it’s a little pretentious here. There is something to be said for defending the fashion gadget. Not every show has to deliver something completely groundbreaking; looking shocking is part of the fun, and everyone loves a good celebrity appearance. The use of gadgets is not completely new in fashion and is helping high fashion become more mainstream. Perhaps we should ask ourselves what this means for the future of catwalks: how far will designers go?
featured image: © Haley Lawrence
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