Fashion And Late Modernity Cultural Studies Essay

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It is true that it is possible to see how the idea of beauty transforms over time through fashion. Undeniably every style, every trend, every dress is beautiful in its own way and in its own time. However fashion is not something that is created by an individual, it is a process of collected work of self-creation and self-expression through time. (Steele, 1998).

These days many people are interested in both current fashion trends and in styles that already gone. Often media provokes an unexplainable mystique and fascination people feel about clothes of our own century.(Mulvagh, 1988).


Chapter 1

Fashion in the1960s -1970s

It is a well known that before the 1960s Paris was undoubtedly a capital of world fashion. What a surprise or even a shock an unexpected and fundamental shake-up was that took place in the structure of fashion. From that time a great number of various possibilities that are connected to a range of aspects of people's lives would substitute for a traditionally established single trend of fashion. Exactly at that time independent youth fashion was born which was free from mature older women influence. In fact it was completely opposite trend - a girlish or a childlike style that reminded the way people used to dress in the 1920s. One of the principal features was a shorter skirt which over time turned into a mini-skirt (1965). In terms of menswear the main transformation was lightness as well as the spread of jeans. (

Mini dress, Mary Quant, 1964. Museum no. T.353-1974

Fig.1 Mini dress, Mary Quant, 1964.

The Sixties changed not only the length of a skirt but established different criteria for taste. In the street satin hot pants, platform soles and ankle straps, denim jackets and diamante glitter were frequently seen as a protest to high in other words Paris fashion. The idea of a wail-dressed woman as a standard of beauty was often laughed at. ( McDowell, 2000).

The idea of rebellion against high fashion was accessible for everyone: varying from completely controversial trends to more subtle ones. For those women not ready for an absolute and sharp change a completely new world of second hand clothing was presented which was attractive not only in terms of everlasting opportunities of original garments but also in terms of its low prices as well. ( McDowell, 2000).

The 1960s was a decade of extensive change throughout the fashion world and that period produced ideas that are modern even these days. Moreover there was a massive shift in preferences. Now young people's tastes and views at fashion became significant. Women clothes were getting looser lines and skirts were getting shorter. Next huge impact came from London pop scene where music and fashion styles were closely connected. A new look was called the mod look promoted the idea of simple geometric shapes. For example the flared A-line dress, skirt or coat was very typical for Britain, Europe and the US. Other features included slim fitting style and brightly colours. At that time London had an incredible influence throughout the world. (

Later on a well known look of hippy crossed the Atlantic and appeared in the streets of Europe. Hippy style was originated in the US due to designers' experiments with colours and textures. Everyone was so fascinated with ethnic influences that it led to a considerable widespread of these trends among even the most fashionable people. (

In the end London started to lose fashion dominance. It did not set a fashion direction any more. Step by step the image of swinging London and the mod look, which were undeniably an international phenomenon, vanished. In other words hippy revolution killed it. Therefore flower power started to flourish. The English fashion industry started to fall apart while the American one was conquering Europe. (Steele, 1998).

At that time shops became a vital element in popularising new fashions. In London for example the King's Road and Carnaby Street were completely changed. Boutiques, which were selling new stream outfits, took over. These shops were entirely different alluring their customers with easy-going staff, self service and some distinct charm, which was simply opposite to traditional clothes shops and newly built chain stores that were appearing at high streets.

That was time when designers of clothes and textiles celebrated modernity. That was era of new shiny materials, colourful prints and quirky shapes.(

As time went by fashion creation that has always been linked to haute couture was changing and step by step moving closer to ready-to-wear.

In early 1960s many people believed that Paris-based haute couture along with prestigious Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture was falling. However, it survived, providing a platform for admittedly deluxe and untried designs that preserved techniques and crafts, including fine embroidery, millinery, ribbon, glove and button-making, which would otherwise have died out. ( Mendes, 1999).

One of the reasons for its survival was realisation with further implementation of the idea that haute couture and street style can actually come together completing each other.

Not many French designers succeeded in combining the artistry of the couture with the inspiration of street style. Yves Saint Laurent was a unique and essential figure of that time. It was him who realized before anyone else that haute couture would mark time if it wasn't contemporary.(Berge, 1997). Probably that is why he was so successful. In 1966 Saint Laurent said: 'My trick is to bring the couture up to date but still not make it look boutique' ( Steele, 1998: p. 279). Indeed his clothes were hip, but still wearable, although not many could actually afford them. As it happens views about his works varied. At that time US retailers applauded to his collection therefore Saint Laurent managed to replace Balenciaga as American designer eventually. On the other hand in 1970 Blair Sabol Writing in the Village Voice said that: 'Saint Laurent has been ripping off the kids' street gear for years' ( Steele, 1998. p. 279).

Without a doubt Yves Saint Laurent is the most consistently celebrated and influential designer of the past twenty-five who was able to stimulate the couture's rise during its harsh times of Sixties and at the same time to make ready-to-wear reputable.

At that time in the world of fashion the couture was a symbol of the old way and that was exactly the thing the young did not want. They wished a rebellion against it, they desired the most outrageous clothing styles there and at that moment. Impatience was in the air. Hence ready-to-wear manufactures no longer had time. Street clothing designers did not have time to cull their ideas from the couture, they were trying to offer the best latest affordable clothing to meet the most extreme public requirements. And that clothing could have been found in the boutique and the street.( Milbank, 1985).

Step by step Paris haute couture was becoming worn out to outsides. Many people saw it as if it was fading its colours and losing both customers and influence. However French fashion was alive as any when before. The United States and Britain inspired French fashion designers and filled them vitality. Young freelance designers of ready-to-wear were a refreshing breeze to deteriorating French fashion. They were obsessed with British and American pop cultures and it was contagious even for the couturiers. In particular Saint Laurent did pea-jackets and pop-art dresses and Cardin used industrial zippers. ( Steele, 1998).

A verdict was announced. Haute couture is dead. By 1968 some couturiers did agree to kill the haute couture meaning that was time for change. Others claimed the necessity to design for public, general masses. Saint Laurent stated that "..the Haute Couture a relic of the past."( Steele,1998: p. 282).

In fashion the sublime (and often sublimated) ideal exists as a residue. While the

patina of an artwork may well contribute to its standing, the transient character of

fashion makes us look forever towards change and requires constant adaption to

newly establish yet often unspoken laws. Any possible paradigmatic value is literally

worn off; and whereas the moral code of a particular society enables us to

appreciate an earlier art form, a glance back at fashion reveals it only as outdated

and old-fashioned, never "sublime" or "ideal" in a classical or humanist sense. "One

just wouldn't wear that today," we say, and it is precisely the physical element in

clothes, their interdependence with the human body, that seems to defy any analysis

of fashion, any systematic attempt to explain the phenomenon. ( Lehmann,


However Yves Saint Laurent did not destroy haute couture, but attempted Saint Laurent to reflect the trends originating in the street. As for many couturiers of that time for Yves Saint Laurent the couture was still something to look up, something still worth cherishing whereas the ready-to-wear became their bread and butter. He was trying to demonstrate that the couture and ready-to-wear are completely different in its nature and therefore their purposes are like chalk and cheese. Some ideas are quite plain and straightforward to be used in the couture others however are entirely opposite. They might require lots of skills, care and time which seem impossible for ready-to-wear clothing. ( Milbank, 1985).

That was probably one of the reasons for haute couture survival. Magic and charm brought by Paris was essential as it would be the same. The Paris couture was believed to be a world fashion laboratory showing fashion industry new directions. This was a place where experimental styles might launch new fashion trends. Consequently in order to find fashion's next direction manufactures, buyers and journalists from around the world came to Paris ( Steele, 1998).

Slowly but surely Paris started to recover. A rise of new industry -le prêt-a-porter brought its vitality back. Saint Laurent was the first couture to open ready-to-wear boutique independent of his couture house. He understood that fashion had to explore new horizons. That deep realization actually gave Saint Laurent a huge advantage over Chanel and has been the era he has lived through.(Steele, 1998).

Although in May 1968 everything changed again. Everything turned upside down.

Practically everyone else would plunge into the abyss. It all led to clothing designers who actually did not come from the world of haute couture. These days ready-to-wear is very profitable and successful business and forms the mainstay of clothing sales. On the other hand there are around 3000 clients for haute couture in the world who still wish to pay lots of money for clothing from haute couture collections.

collection. Nowadays, it is ready-to-wear that forms the mainstay of clothing sales.(De La Haye, Shelley , 1994).

In the twenties century Madeleine Vionnet's bias cut is the perfect example. And

there have been many adjustments in attitude, such as Chanel's adaptations of male

dress for women and the historic borrowing of Vivienne Westwood. Rather than

denigrate these designers, such examples point to the sheer difficulty of being

original in fashion. Not only does most of industry-not to mention the majority of

customers-not welcome innovation, but designers frequently do not know how to

produce it. Fashion of the past fifty years has exhibited little more than stylists

change as designers have followed repetitively curtain lines and created individual

fashion statements within an existing matrix. ( McDowell, 2000).

What binds together this triumvirate of such disparate talents is a similar approach

to women, a belief that fashion must always be subservient to style, and an

undeviating modernity. All three are totally opposed to the nostalgia and revivalism

that dominate much of fashion at the end of the century; if they quarry any past, it is

their own individual past. They look for no new approaches, no new stimuli. Their

design attitudes are as unchanging as a novelist's style. They use them to answer

new questions created by changed attitudes to sex, the workplace and the role of

women, just as designers do in the automobile and industrial design fields.

(McDowell, 2000).

The 1970s was a difficult period for the fashion industry around the world. That was time of hippies' anti-fashion attitude along with the rise of feminism; consequently it all led to rejection of any fashion authority what so ever. Moreover the recession and the oil crisis played a crucial part in lowering enthusiasm for consumerism. As French fashion journalist Marylene Delbourg-Delphis says, in the 1970s in France, as in America, people were obsessed with clothes that was rather wearable and functional than artistic. Women wanted freedom from the supposed "despotism" of fashion. In fact, however,

"The diktat changed its form," by seeming to become "optional." Yet at any given

time certain fashions prevailed ( Steele, 1998: p. 42).

Fashion during this period reflected a constant search for novelty. Style became

more mercurial. Consumers had two options: to identify with the look or, more

importantly, the reasoning of a chosen designers-conceptual dressing-or to play a

frivolous image game-a reaction to the sobriety of the early seventies (Mulvagh,


Because of the era's dominant anti-fashion sentiment, clothing messages in the

1970s were more multifarious than ever before. Androgyny was a major theme in

women's fashion; so was Retro. There was a trend towards sportswear separates,

and also the emergence of the "dress-for-success" movement. Younger people

tended to favour wild styles, like hot pants and platform shoes, and they continued to

evolve music-related styles as various as punk, funk, glam rock, and disco. The

influence of Paris also varied from year to year, and even season to season.

(Steele,1998: p. 283).

For most of the seventies everyone had fun being as individualistic as personal

courage allowed. Eclectic, and sometimes amazingly inventive, dress combinations

emerged, breaking decades-old rules about mixing patterns, fabrics and colours. A

free-for-all promiscuity became the norm, to be quickly copied by commercial

designers. Protest was annexed by the very industry being protested against-as all

successful fashion protests are. (McDowell, 2000: p. 468).

Pre-empting the moment when punk clashed with the Queen's Silver Jubilee,

Vogue used the A-word. 'You'll be wearing a positive anarchy of costume both

cleverer and simpler than anything you've worn in your life, 'said Vogue in its first

directive of the 1970s. 'You are one of a kind, unique in fashion. Forget rules- you

make them, you break them.' Anarchy arrived after a process of wild experimentation,

the shock of glam rock, the rise of platform, the plummeting of skirts and the ultimate

role reversal: men wearing make-up. The 1970s opened with a celebration of

decoration and ended in a sinuous body line. Anarchy simmered under the surface,

exploding mid-way, with a flash of perpendicular hair, safety pins and bondage

trousers. By January 1970 one thing was clear: the spacesuit was not going to take

off. ( Watson, 2003).

Creative vigour produces creative heroes and the measure of the strength of this

alternative approach to fashion is not only how quickly it ceased to be viewed as

alternative but also how rapidly its major practitioners became world stars. This

happened not as a result of aggressive publicity but because women approved of

this approach and said, 'Yes, this is what we want. Give us more. 'The role of creator

of women's clothing changed during this revolution. No longer a purveyor of the

extraordinary, as the couturier had been, the designer elevated ordinary clothing to a

level of designer excellence it had never reached in previous decades, when mass-

produced, ready -to-wear clothing was through to lack the luxury and elegance of

the products of the couturier's salon. Designer was the word preferred by the new-

wave creators. They eschewed 'couturier 'as elitist and old-fashioned. (McDowell,


Having tested freedom, women would never go back. The designers who meant

something to them now were people like Betsey Johnson of New York, in many

respects a loose cannon who has proved to be a persistent, although minor, star. As

early as the mid-Sixties, she had picked up the vibes of the young and hip and, by

the Seventies, her designs for Alley Cat were a cunning mix of New York funkiness

and post-CarnabyStreet cool. (McDowell, 2000: p. 468).

Though the classics were by no means abandoned, by 1976 the big look-large,

layered, peasant-inspired dressing -dominated Vogue (meanwhile, punk stalked the

London Street). Since the silhouette was entirely figure concealing, some heralded

these comfortable clothes as a triumph of feminist dressing. In the wake of

International Women's Year (1975) was fashion at last in tune with feminism? Even

the uniform of the committed sister, the baggy boiler suit, was glamorized by the

fashion industry.( Mulvagh, 1988).

Main Body 2

In the '00s, fashion, and indeed the Arts in general, looked to the past for

inspiration, arguably more so than in previous decades. Vintage clothing, especially

from the Sixties, Seventies, and Eighties became extremely popular and fashion

designers often sought to emulate bygone styles in their collections. The early '00s

saw a continuation of the minimalist look of the Nineties in high fashion. Later on,

designers began to adopt a more colourful, feminine, excessive, and 'anti-modern'

look. Name brands became of particular importance among young people and many

celebrities launched their own lines of clothing. Tighter fit clothing and longer hair

became mainstream for many men and women. Rap music also had a considerable

influence on popular fashion, in the early part of the2000s.


Yves Saint Laurent, Ralph Lauren and Giorgio Armani, all free are distinguished by

their determination to break old hegemonies and improve fashion not only for the

elite but for all it is easy to forget the scope of their protest. Yves Saint Laurent

literally recast the form of female dress for the second half of the twentieth century.

Ralph Laurent developed the concept of the luxury of minimalism. Giorgio Armani

gave women's dress an ease and elegance that was based on the logic of their

lifestyle. In a sense, all three have become victims of their skills. They so completely

understood what was required in modern dress that their revolutionary approaches

have been entirely integrated into the mainstream. Although many fashion historians

become overexcited by localized -even parochial-social protests like punk or short-

lived fads like grunge, it is important to remember that Saint Laurent, Laurent and

Armani created the bricks from which the huge modern ready-to-wear edifice was

constructed, and they did so by running counter to the mainstream. Their importance

cannot be overstated. Saint Laurent, Laurent and Armani are almost universally

recognized names thanks to large publicity budges and extremely efficient press

offices. But that is not what makes them the most influential designers of the second

half of the twenties century. Saint Laurent, Laurent and Armani are not even always

the most interesting or stimulating designers showing in any one season. Many

would put John Galliano, Jean Paul Gaultier and Dolce&Gabbana ahead on that

score. Nevertheless, the fact remains that even now, as the twenty-first century

begins; more women in the world wear clothes consistently inspired by Saint Laurent,

Laurent and Armani than by any other designers of the past twenty


Today, moreover, celebrity, one of the main forms of expression of the spirit of the

markeocracy, is just as undemocratic as the old aristocratic systems, for more often

than not celebrity resides in gifts, such as beauty or a talent in the entertainment field,

that are in large part the product of birth. (Breward and Evans, 2005).

Fashion has never held to such a rigorous approach, modern designers have

cherry-picked their way across the centuries with little regard for stylistic integrity. At

no period has this tendency been stronger than in the last forty years. But, in fashion,

every trend has a countertrend, usually working simultaneously. For a Vivienne

Westwood, we have the countercheck of a Giorgio Armani. John Galliano's

exuberant historicism is balanced by Donna Karan's cool minimalism. Those

gathered-together fashion folk could argue for hours over which side most fully

reflects the spirit of the age but, in truth, only time will tell. ( McDowell, 2000).

The same could be said for Galliano's female fashion. It became too easy to dub

him an impractical dreamer, on his own plane, beyond help, rather than finding ways

of manufactures his clothes as he wished them to be made. He was ahead of the

pack, but he wasn't that far ahead. Even now, with his name apparently secure and

his reputation as the only new designer of true stature to have emerged since Yves

Saint Laurent freely acknowledged. There is still a feeling that Galliano creates

clothes merely to gratify his fantasy world. ( McDowell, 1997).

Nobody can pretend that Galliano's career has been smooth-flowing. Through he

may graze the Elysian fields now, the fashion world has been prepared to see him

face ruin in the past, capable of doing little more than beating its collective breast

and saying, 'Poor John. A genius -but so uncommercial.'( McDowell, 1997).

Gilles Lipovetsky has argued that fashion is socially reproductive, training us to be

flexible and responsive to change in a fast-changing world:' fashion socializes

human beings to change and prepares them for perpetual recycling.' The kinetic,

open personality of fashion is the personality which a society in the process of rapid

transformation most needs. No longer derided as superficial, frivolous or deceitful,

fashion thus has an important role to play, not merely in adorning the body but also

in fashioning a modern, reflexive self. (Evans, 2003).

Galliano's impact on the fashion industry, apparent even in his first show, have

been electric. It wasn't. Instead, it was ignored. Journalists became excited, retailers

were interested, but the industry itself -the manufactures, chief design executives

and financiers, sitting on a moribund structure which, in real terms had hardly moved

forwards for a hundred years- was too lazy, complacent, and involved with making

instant, easy profits to address the Galliano challenges. 'Impossible to put into

production,' the pundits said, while admiring the radical new approach he was


They were right. Galliano's cut was quite impossible to mass-produce using

existing technical knowledge and experience. But the failure of the industry-and it

failed itself as much as it failed Galliano-was to leave it at that point. Nobody was

courageous and forward-thinking enough to realize the challenge and address it by

finding techniques which would make it possible to manufacture such exciting

clothes for a mass market perfectly ready for them. Instead of saying,' Here is the

future, we must find a way of making it possible,' a whole industry turned its back

and maintained a manufacturing stasis. ( McDowell, 1997).

The result we all know. John Galliano was the most forward-thinking and original

menswear designer of the century. His endless requests to include at least some

men's designs in his collections were rejected as self-indulgence. The denial was

akin to cutting one of his creative veins, in a spurious blood-letting in order to make

him think more 'commercially'-for which we can read 'prosaically'. ( McDowell,


It's true that 'postmodern' eclecticism and diversity are evident in the proliferation

of styles produced by designers every season, but when these are boiled down to a

more limited range of trends to be reproduced at every level of quality form the

diffusion line to the high-street knock-off, the end result is more uniform and in any

case does nothing to dislodge the pre-existing uniform of jeans, combats (or similar),

trainers and fleeces. The idea that one's dress might express one's unique identity

seems naïve these days. (Breward and Evans, 2005: p. 13).

According to Breward and Evans stores along Oxford Street -Zara, H&M, Byrite,

Selfridges, Next….piled high with the same things. They are offering something the

windows, wearing their clothes. You can stop and look at these images, and up there,

by themselves, out of time, the clothing and their wearers' look quite distinct. On the

street itself, the people hurried past. The pavements are crowded and there is little

time to observe what they are wearing. And, people don't seem too concerned about

showing what they are wearing to other anyhow. London isn't designed to do this. It

is wet, the streets are dirty, the pavements are too small, the traffic is too close, and

the other people move you along as they proceed to where they're going. As with the

tube, here, the context in which people are wearing their clothes does little to

facilitate the relation of display and observation that would be required to understand

the connection between what people wear and their identities. The gap between the

way in which images in the shop windows operate and the people moving past on

the street seems vast. In this weather, who would want to stop and observe for

longer? Again there is the contrast between Oxford Street and the images in the

shop windows. In the images the weather conditions are always appropriate for

whatever is being photographed. ( Breward and Evans, 2005: p. 15).

Our idea of sartorial fashion might be based on economic circumstances (that

fashion industry), on aesthetic consideration (what "looks good"), or on sociological

observations (what is worn at a certain time, in the certain place). We arrive at this

concept through personal observation or with the help of the media. But fashion's

inherent transistorises will always defy its definition proper. The moment we think we

have found an explanation for its erratic behaviour, it has passed us by and taken on

a different look or form. We might learn what constituted a manner of dressing in the

past and inquire into its relation to the present, but to grasp the transcendent and

fugitive quality within this particular cultural expression, we are always left

speculating about its changing future shape. ( Lehmann,2000).

Money though has, in our moment, become its own sumptuary law of course.

Money, rather than formal status or hierarchies, sets the parameters for what people

can consume -what clothes they can afford to wear. As is evident with so many

other social processes, money, rather than any other set of values and meanings,

has come to dominate life. Money comes to replace other sources of meaning.

Money is all that matter.( Breward and Evans, 2005).

According to Breward and Evans looking at what the people were wearing in Brent

Cross shopping centre and it seemed to fit with and confirm this sense of

placelessness. People would be dressed like this I Cite Europe, in a mall in Los

Angeles or Tokyo. In shopping centres across the world our clothes would all look

about the same. How then did what the people wear here function as an index of

their individuality? Perhaps it was the case that people across the world all felt like

distinct individuals in the same way? Maybe, they had the same sense of their own


Maybe -and the world felt very flat, empty and boring.

What was there to understand about the clothing worn in Brent Cross? Did it have

anything to do with the identities of the people there? And, if so, what identities did

they have that could be traced in trainers, jean, and sweatshirts/ Perhaps through

what people were wearing was indicative of the type of individuals they had become-

adrift in a world of consumption, without direction, context and meaning. Perhaps

clothing did reveal everything after all. (Breward and Evans, 2005: p. 13).

Fashion design is a practical craft. What it can achieve is circumscribed by lifestyle,

current moralities, technical methods and, above all, the limits of the human body

and its range of movement. Because of these limitations, fashion often spends more

time looking backwards than forwards. The roots of much modern fashion lie in

rediscovering, recreating and recycling the past. The fashion industry in the second

half of the twenties century seemed to have been more interested in plagiarizing and

plundering past eras than in attempting to solve current-and, more importantly,

future-problems. Like architecture, it is far too often consumed by longings for a

romantic historical past. As ReiKawakubo of Comme des Garcons has said, 'From

the point of view of finding possibilities, architecture and clothe-making share much

potential. ( McDowell, 2000).

Interesting methodological points arise from this. A casual observer in the public

realm will not be privy to the context in which these clothes are eventually embedded.

Where are the people on the tube going to? Where will the shoppers of Brent Cross

and Oxford Street wear the clothes that they are shopping for and who will see them

doing so? Maybe the flaneur, in order to understand fashion, needs to be less of a

disinterested observer wandering at random and more of a peeping tom gazing

through quite specific half-drawn curtains. In this sense all fashion is becoming more

like traditional menswear in that it is all in the details. The difference between Armani

main line and Emporio may not be readily observable to those outside the specific

consumption community that values Armani but can be both seen at a glance and be

highly significant to those within it. ( Breward and Evans, 2005).

Fashion in the twenty-first century is fast moving, heterogeneous and inclusive. It

has a vast and omnivorous audience. This is largely the result of the

communications revolution brought about by the Internet's universal availability,

improved international trading arrangements and technological advances in

hierarchies. ( Mendes and De la Haye, 1999: p. 274).

According to the US market research company NPD Group, while women still

boast double the share of the online clothing market than males, online men's

fashion sales are growing at 13% per year, well ahead of women's at 10%. This

constitutes a significant slice of the overall online market for clothing and accessories,

predicted to grow from €41 billion today to $73 billion by 2016.


Online fashion seems to appeal to male desires that have been thwarted by the

bricks-and-clicks approach, which tends to focus on women. Successful online

fashion outlets attract male customers by providing innovative services like

recommending items based on personality or home delivery of a selection of items

so that the customer can pick which he likes best. Men may be a more profitable

target sector because they are more likely to want to get shopping done quickly,

whereas their female counterparts often shop recreationally.


So how could this new multi-channel experience look? It's anyone's guess right

now but if you map product purchase and against experience it feels there are some

obvious choices to remain on the high street serving the "shopper experience".

Although purchasing clothes online is becoming more acceptable and highly adopted

the tangible nature of the goods and social aspects of shopping lend themselves to

the high street. The idea of more fashion retailers providing experiences where the

shopper spends more time in store trying and reviewing products to create a social

opportunity is sensible. Coupled with access to quick service restaurants and fast

dining experiences would create a more social high street focused on richer

purchase experiences. (

High fashion might be booming, but high street fashion Indies are fighting for their

lives. In the first six months of this year alone almost 1,000 fashion independents

have closed their doors for the last time according to the Local Data Company. Long

seen as space where star designers of the future are nurtured, as well as bringing

diversity to counter homogenous high-street looks, high street fashion boutiques

have been lashed by the harsh winds of recession.(

Mixed clothing Indies have been the hardest hit, shrinking almost 4% in the last six

months with the damage extending as far as some of the most fashionable streets of

London. On Kings Road, for example, the elegantly dressed mannequins that posed

in the window of Mimi are no longer there. Only empty fittings and bare walls are on

show at the recently closed boutique that had been open since 1997.For many in the

industry the disconnect between a fragile high street ecosystem and the success of

UK fashion powerhouses suggests big problems in the longer term.


Combine the benefits of online, high street retail and out of town retail and you

begin to see the multichannel retailing experience has already begun to unfold. We

believe that online will not kill the high street but the high street will kill it if it doesn't

recognise and understand its shopper's context, journey and needs all together. All

stores whether it is online retailing or physical retailing should fulfil their shopper

needs after all that's what drives sales and profits.

So is it difficult? Focus on shopper equity rather than consumer and deliver relevant

value across relevant channels. Long live online retailing, physical retailing and the

high street! (


Designers propose, consumers dispose. That last twenty-five years of the twenties

century witnessed a tidal wave of ideas at all levels of fashion as designers

desperately attempted to engage the hearts and minds of women to the extent that

their predecessors had. Designers have now become both as fecund and as

unfocused as nature. With a biblical sense of plenty, they spill their creativity seed

with extravagant largesse twice a year and then must leave it to the public to decide

what, if anything comes to fruition. But today's public is very different to the one that

dress designers of the past had to please. With no structure and very few rules to

guide them, modern designers have found themselves faced with millions of women

echoing Andy Warhol's comment, 'I like boring things'-by which they mean clothes

that fit a life, rather than impose on it. For most women the theatricality of high

fashion is entertaining-and even, perhaps, moving-but inconceivable to

wear. (McDowell, 2000: p. 468).

We all dress the same: this I find misleading as despite the relative uniformity of

modern fashion we do not all dress the same. Contemporary fashion is far more

heterogeneous than suggested, as two examples illustrate. We no longer have

singular seasonal colour trends. Season after season, that black will become the

new black, but this clearly has not occurred. The new skirt is any length you care to

choose-as long as it is in the shops. Despite arguing this I can share a sense of

boredom with modern fashion, but I attribute this to the bricolage of fashion history,

which currently passes for directionality. We have seen all the new looks before.

( Breward and Evans, 2005)