The fashion industry: Just how fucking awful is it?

February’s issue of Glamour features an interview with the fashion designer Jonathan Saunders. It is, shall we say, illuminating:

“It’s reactionary,” says Jonathan, of the process of designing a new collection.

Too bloody right it is.

“Last season was about a very prim, buttoned-up, put-together woman.”

Riiiiiight.

“That smart woman is still at the core of what we do, but she’s now showing more skin. And I think she’s a little younger.”

Hmm. So Jonathan Saunders designs for an imaginary woman who ages in reverse. Brilliant. And yes, I suppose it’s just a “look”, not a person. But isn’t that the whole problem? It’s not about people, and yet there’s this discomforting pretence that it is, that it could even be about you, if only you weren’t so crap.

Fact is, I like clothes and I like buying different things to wear. Nonetheless, I think fashion, as in haute couture, is pants. Only the fashionistas wouldn’t call it “pants”. They’d call it “a pant”. They’re like that, you see.

Denying the existence of pairs – a smart trouser, a sexy shoe, a smokey eye, a scarlet lip – is just the least of high fashion’s crimes. The whole thing is such a blatant con that I used to wonder what it is I’d missed. But I’ve now decided there’s nothing to miss. It is just unremittingly awful. Here is some of the evidence:

1. Fashion designers are rubbish at designing clothes

I work in publishing. I do not insist all books I work on have the same trim size, same number of pages, same number of images, same font size etc. It would make life easier for me if I did, but I’d feel I was cheating. So why do fashion designers get away with designing clothes for only one body shape? Because the clothes “hang better”? But that is most definitely cheating! It’s not designing clothes, it’s drawing rudimentary pictures and then demanding that other people’s bodies shrink and stretch because you’re too unimaginative to think of the scaffolding and art required to make tits, arses, tummies and thighs look great, too. A complete travesty.

2. High fashion is all about being rich and showing off about it.

It just is.  It’s not about being daring or creating a look that’s new. It’s just about poncing around saying “look at how wealthy I am, scummers”. Look at these Tommy Hilfiger adverts – just look at them! You know every one of these people would look down on 99.9% of the human race. And Moschino Cheap and Chic – what’s all that about? That stuff isn’t cheap! Or is the fact that I think it isn’t proof that the title is an effective shorthand for “not for the likes of you”. And as for those clothes which appear in magazines with the price listed as “on request” – what kind of bollocks is that? It always sounds like “if we like the look of you, it’s 50p, but if you look remotely unappealing, it’s a million, trillion pounds”. Maybe one day I will “request”, just to annoy them. Oh, and then there’s that thing where the richer you are, the more fashion stuff you get for free, often in random goodie bags as a reward for going to charity gala dinners. That’s hardly fair. I braved the streets in a panda mask for WWF and no one even gave me a Primark voucher.

3. The pressure to be “fashionable” makes children feel rubbish

Why are we in thrall to something that makes most kids feel crap? There is only ever one kid at school who has the right accessories and it’s always the one person who actually deserves to feel crap.

4. Fashiony people pretend to care about “issues”

Like “I really care about eating disorders and exploitation, so this year I’m having models who are very very thin as opposed to clinically dead”. Or “I really care about the ethical sourcing of fabric, which is why my clothes are extra-expensive this year, what with them being 100% organic, as confirmed by the children in the sweatshop”. Or “I am against all forms of bigotry and oppression on the basis of how a person looks, which is why I have one black person in the midst of all the white people telling you which clothes you have to wear”. This is such errant nonsense, I don’t know why they don’t all self-combust before getting to the end of a sentence. And in an industry that is apparently all about image, it’s odd how antisemites and racists so easily rehabilitated. Why isn’t that bad for the image?

5. The trendiest people just wear black stuff

What is that all about? How can you be telling everyone else what to wear when all you ever put on is a black polo neck and skinnies? Whenever fashion photo shoots include shots of the stylist or designer, you can’t help thinking it’s all some big trick they’re playing on the model, just to make her look as incongruous and ridiculous as possible. It’s mean. I often wear black stuff, but if I were in a situation such as that, I’d put on a silly hat at least, just to be polite.

6. Everyone pretends to “mix it up”

Then they say stuff like “I like to mix up some classic pieces with some odds and ends I picked up on a flea market in Paris”. Or “I like to mix up colour blocking with double denim to add that extra edge”. Or “I like to mix up one or two investment pieces with a couple of bargains from New Look”. This is all a way of pretending that being “fashionable” is to do with being creative and inspired and not to do with being wealthy. No one should be fooled by this. Today I am “mixing up” a stripy dress from White Stuff sale with an M&S cardigan. I consider this to be pretty fucking directional, but will they notice? Will they hell.

Well, that is the end of my lunchtime rant. And I do accept that attacking the fashion industry is like shooting fish in a barrel. But why is it such a big barrel? And why haven’t they all suffocated yet?

14 thoughts on “The fashion industry: Just how fucking awful is it?

  1. I think this is probably my new favourite rant of yours, and I’m not just saying that because I’m hideously unfashionable and live in jeans and a t-shirt.

  2. Making me laugh out loud in the middle of the library is both wonderful and terrible. The fashion industry is such rubbish, as you’ve clearly pointed out here! It doesn’t even make people look good – normally they just look ridiculous.

  3. One of the few benefits to being fat is that I never have to pay any attention to this stuff. I will never be able to fit into high fashion, and the places I buy clothes from actually design their clothes to fit a variety of body shapes. I’ve never realised it before though, so thanks for the revelation!

  4. As much as I love fashion, I can’t help but agree with most of your statements. It does itself no favours using malnourished models and what it conveys to children is abominable. That said, haute couture is a true art form. It has been sullied in recent decades by ‘ready-to-wear’ catwalk shows and ‘designers’ popping up all over the show. Designers, in my head, are magicians such as Cristobal Balenciaga, Christian Dior, Valentino Garavani, Alexander McQueen and most recently, Raf Simons. They make something that’s not just beautiful in 2D but glorious in 3D. Yes, they prices are often extortionate but some of these pieces are akin to artworks of the old masters in that the imagination, and the creativity just pours from them. Put it this way, in the same way that you can’t buy Dior in Primark, you can’t get a Van Gogh in Ikea.

    The market is now saturated with mostly sub-par pattern-cutters who call themselves ‘designers’ it detracts from the real talents and leads to blogposts like this which are hard to disagree with. In the same way that the ‘supermodel’ era has long since passed I think we need to admit that the real boom in haute couture has crawled into a fur coat, and died.

  5. Love it! My favorite point was number one, it would be way more talented if they could design clothes that look good on all sizes, rather than just skinny. Well said.

  6. Absolutely love this! Brilliant and very true!
    I used to be a lot more interested in fashion but since acquiring a couple of kids my priority is more about can I tumble dry it, which is pretty incompatible with high fashion, or even slightly-middling fashion…

  7. You’re on the (chunky/vintage look/double-breasted) button. My favourite point is number four. It’s so transparent and hideous. Thanks for your rantings…and yeah having kids certainly does knock any navel gazing interest in keeping up with fashion. Today I’m mixing up the christmas themed ‘robin red breast’ pyjamas with clashing purple socks…..

    1. Today I’m mixing up the christmas themed ‘robin red breast’ pyjamas with clashing purple socks…..

      Quite how Anna Dello Russo is considered edgy and you aren’t is beyond me.

  8. This really is a feminist issue -and we are largely to blame. No tailor would last a month if s/he couldn’t make a fair stab at making the three-too-many-lunches-at-nobu businessman look as if he ran a couple of marathons every morning.

    But women (OK some) pay huge sums to be made to look ridiculous / hideous because “it’s the fashion this year”. There is high-quality tailoring for women out there but WE have to demand it and leave on the shelves anything which could only possibly look OK on an teenager older than her BMI. If it won’t sell it won’t be sold.

    1. Whenever I go in shops I find myself editing out all the things I can’t wear because I need a bra underneath. Still it is an improvement from the days when I’d half kill myself editing my body to make it fit the clothes …

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