and i can't stop thinking about how it kind of connects the dots in the conversation that i've been having with myself about working in the fashion industry. or, connects them at least enough to start to see a shape. unfortunately, not enough to be able to see what the shape actually might become.
i've never been a model. i've never been as recognized or as accomplished as sara ziff, the model that is at the center of the movie. but her experience reminds me so much of what it's like to be a cog in the fashion machine.
we designers who work for someone-whose-name-you-know are just like the models that show the clothes every season- we're replaceable. we fill the slots, the positions that large companies need filled in order to make sure that a certain number of styles are designed, so that a certain number can be produced, so that a certain number can be sold in department stores and boutiques around the world.
it's a job. and it's an amazing job, and it's a fun job. but it's also a job that makes you start to wonder how worthwhile you are if you've not got your own name over the door. if the marquee doesn't have your name in lights. how meaningful are you, if, like sara ziff says- you're only "a prop in someone else's story" instead of "telling your own"?
it's almost like you're not supposed to work in this industry without wanting a name, without the drive to want to see your name up there in lights. it's not enough just to love clothing, shoes, or style. you have to want to win!
why do we all have to want to be a galliano? why isn't there more opportunity for us to tell our own story?
and then we can talk about a lot of practical reasons that it's very difficult for young designers to start their own lines (particularly american ones), but that's boring. and it involves many of the conversations about outsourcing and customs legalities, and all sorts of mundanities that are, nonetheless significant.
but i am starting to come to the conclusion that they're not as significant as many of the psychological boundaries that we've set up for ourselves in this industry. that we've convinced ourselves are the reason that we're not good enough.
because we really can't all be the head designers of a global fashion house. but does that mean that we can't contribute to a conversation about fashion? and style? and culture?
or is the only way to really count in this industry to be a butt in a seat on a design team, or a body* on a runway every september or february, supposedly working our way up to our fabulous pinnacle of being at the "top"? is the only other choice to get burned out, or used up, and give up on fashion all together?
is there no other way to be a part of the conversation?
and that brings me back to los angeles... a blank slate on the fashion landscape. home to a few large, commercial brands, yes. but also home to a number of small (tiny, even) fashion lines and companies that actually survive. who don't have to compete against the guccis and the pradas of the world.
places like iko iko:
where tiny lines share space with tinier works of art, and plants. in a weird and off-the-beaten-path neighborhood called angelino heights, where the store has been thriving for the past two years.
yes, in this economy.
sigh. it seemed pretty god damned dreamy. this is not the side of the fashion industry where the first thoughts are of profit margins, or sell-through. the first thought is of creating work that is authentic and personal.
the pressure of which, i think, is part of what killed lee mcqueen, sent galliano so far over the edge and may have been the reason that christophe decarnin was or wasn't being committed to a mental facility at the same time that his fall collection was shown in paris last month.
i don't think that we can really ask designers to do their best work under these kinds of conditions, and i am wondering if there's another way to work.
fashion has become such a huge spectator sport over the past 15 or so years. i wonder if all of the "fashionistas" out there are really interested in seeing designers put out new ideas and new concepts? are they willing to see a designer try something new, and fail? or do they just want a shiny new celebrity genre to idolize, now that tmz and other media have tarnished the image of every star in hollywood?
we can't be surprised to see our stars fall, if we set the up so high and expect them to deliver the heavens, season after season.
we all love fashion- john galliano, sara ziff and i. and everyone else who is working in the industry. i just kind of wonder why we think the industry will love us back?
so, i haven't answered the question for myself- i haven't exactly been able to figure out what role i want to play in this crazy, fabulous semi-destructive circus of an industry. but i'm glad to think about the questions, and feel like there are other folks out there who are really thinking about what this industry means to the consumer, and what it does to the people who are involved.
i'm hoping there's a middle ground, with some sanity. the likelihood that that sane middle ground actually resides in los angeles seems pretty low.
but, i'm trying to be open to finding it, wherever it may be....
edit: ok, she approached it from a totally different angle, but i think it's kinda funny that garance dore touched on some of these same ideas in her own blog today. (in a much more hilarious, and not so self-indulgent way. if you got through reading all of the above, you can just read her sweeter version in order to clean all that angst off yourself.)
*i recently learned that the word in russian for "model" is the same word as the one for "mannequin". there's no distinction made between the kind that are made of plaster and the kind that are made of flesh and blood. hunh, interesting.