Fashion is all business

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Heard Dana Thomas on radio WKNY93.9FM talking about her book “How Luxury Lost Its Luster” and her thoughts on the commercialization or corporatization of the luxury goods industry like Louis Vuitton, Givenchy, Dior, Balenciaga, Valentino, Celine, etc.

Ac.Stet just loves the way Thomas enunciates these Frenchy names with just the right intonation, the stress at the right places and a certain Euro breathlessness at the end of every invocation.

So now Ac.Stet knows the following:

–> Valentino first had its suits made by women in Cairo, Egypt.

–> The Prada store in Soho, NY cost US$40-million to build? Other luxury stores cost US$20-million each.

–> That deconstructed movement you witness at the turn of the millenium by the likes of Lanvin, Balenciaga, Chloe and Christian Dior? Was it romance? Was that art? Was that clothedom? Thomas debunks all these romantic notions. It’s all business, she says. Instead of paying an assembly line of seamstresses fold a seam, hot-press it and invisible-stitch/top-stitch/French-stitch it into place, designers leaved them in situ and save thousands of labor dollars.

–> While copycats used to watch fashion documentaries on TV and teach themselves how to sew a suit like Valentino, luxury companies are now sending tailors to China to teach Chinese peasant girls how to sew exactly the same way as the ateliers in France and Italy.

Not all is lost, though. Thomas was happy to report that at least some luxury brands are still holding on to the romance and exclusivity of couture-quality goods. When you walked into Hermes, you don’t walk out with a handbag, you walk out with a receipt. What happens after the point-of-sale is that Hermes ateliers fix up your choice of leather, shape, cut and embellishments and hand-make your bag the way you want it before having you collect it at the boutique or have it shipped to your indicated address.

But er, to Ac.Stet, Hermes is more a leather house than a fashion house – despite the installing of Martin Margiela and Jean Paul Gaultier in its pret-a-porter department.

So that romantic notion that Thomas still holds onto does not exactly qualify in the overall positive outlook of Clothedom in the near future.

Read da boook.

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~ by acrylicstetson on September 7, 2007.

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