Marc vs Mary-Kate

16 February 2010

On the NY fashion week schedule this week you will find Michael Kors, Donna Karan and Marc Jacobs. You will also find Alexa Chung, Gwen Stefani and Victoria Beckham. Sarah Jessica Parker has taken a seat on the board of Halston Heritage. And journalists were talking of skipping the Marc by Marc Jacobs because it clashed with Ashley Olsen’s show for The Row. What is going on? I’ve a feeling we are not in Kansas any more, Toto.
 
John Galliano may have eaten baked beans cooked on a Bunsen burner on the floor of a friend’s house while he struggled for a place on the Paris catwalk. Christopher Kane worked off a shaky kitchen table in Dalston with only his sister to help. But some lucky fashion wannabes these days spring fully formed onto the NY catwalk.
 
This has been playing on my mind since watching the Victoria Beckham show. I don’t get the whole Victoria Beckham/style icon thing. Only four years ago she was all short shorts and hair extensions. And her collection always seemed a bit ‘salad cream’: you know it’s not authentic but you want it anyway. But she’s a try-er. You’ve got to respect that.
 
But watching her show, it occurred to me that struggling talent is not the point here. That may once have been the only key to fashion success. But, just like in the music industry, and whether we like it or not, there is an alternative. This is an age addicted to speed and immediacy. And this is all about overnight success.
 
Victoria Beckham is backed by Simon Fuller, a former partner of Simon Cowell, who manufactured the Spice Girls and is behind Pop Idol. So if talent from out of nowhere can be groomed to dominate the charts, it can be groomed to take over the fashion floors of department stores in the same way. In fashion it helps if your ‘out of nowhere’ talent is already a household name. Then all you need is a hand picked (and talented) team to back her up. And hey presto! Press plaudits and chiming cash registers follow. It’s the story of our age.
 
Victoria Beckham’s dresses were good. Ashley Olsen’s The Row is really cool. Alexa Chung scored a hit with her collection for Madewell (part of the J Crew family). Gwen Stefani is on her 4th year with LAMB and said, "basically whatever I'm wearing right now, that's what I design," These girls are all sharing their own wardrobes, which is another element of success. There is a clientele out there who is gagging to look like their style icons. But are the ‘designers’ the real deal or simply the SuBo’s of fashion: hugely marketable commodities with something to sell. Whether they are around in another ten years tweaking their toiles and talking to the press will be the ultimate test.
 
Isn’t this the way of the modern world. The purists may not like it. But  wasn’t Tom Ford’s intention to make a movie greeted with all kinds of scepticism? And now it’s an Oscar contender. I probably need to lighten up a bit.

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