Fashion month: a wrap
And so we have reached the finishing line of a month of spring/summer fashion shows in which, for the most part, we saw spring/summer clothes. A few designers showed autumn collections that are now on sale. Some showed spring collections that featured heavy coats. Most showed summer collections that will be delivered in store in six months’ time — by which time it will probably be snowing.
One day we will no longer talk in terms of seasons, but in terms of numbers, or groups or codes. But we’ll probably keep seeing clothes that sit peculiarly with the weather. Burberry showed an autumn collection of raincoats and brocades you could buy straight off the catwalk. It just so happened to coincide with a rare London heatwave. Mother Earth always has the last laugh.
But if the shifting retail story started off as news in New York (where Ralph Lauren, Tom Ford and Tommy Hilfiger have switched to the ready-to-buy model) and in London, where Burberry has embraced ready-to-buy and combined the men’s and womenswear lines, any more enthusiasm for the conversation had all but petered out in time for Milan.
By the time we reached Paris, the industry’s attention had turned to its media, and the past week has been preoccupied by the “war” declared on bloggers by the editors of US Vogue. In short, the magazine’s online editors have taken umbrage with the bloggers, a pack of “desperate” street-style stars who are “heralding the death of style” with their craven attempts to gorge our social media feeds with pictures of themselves outside shows. These women are “distressing” the real business of fashion, the online article suggested, with their “paid appearances” and “wearing borrowed clothes”.
The business of street style is a big one, no question, in which photographer and subject can be complicit in all sorts of mutually advantageous financial arrangements. A street star (with about 10,000 social media followers) can make a fortune for “supporting” a brand.
But Vogue’s ire sounded a lot like sour grapes. It was also rather disingenuous when one considers how much editorial the Vogue site devotes to cataloguing the exact type of behaviours they claim to be so ruinous. And it was erroneous: most of the women so beloved of the street-style photographers are in fact not bloggers but models, business entrepreneurs, stylists, buyers and, erm, the editors of US Vogue. I think they meant social influencers. Bloggers are, like, so five years ago.
Nevertheless, the war raged on, with commentators raging in from either side. The debate hit rock bottom when the Times’ food critic Giles Coren chimed in with the observation that fashion was “art for stupid people”. Which is neither an original thought, nor entirely false, but coming from a man who finds poetry in potatoes, I found it a little hard to digest.
The storm will pass, and in the wake of Hurricane Matthew and alongside news of sterling’s record lows, a few ruffled fashion feathers don’t add up to much. Besides, there was a real news story afoot: the robbery of the reality star Kim Kardashian West, who was held at gunpoint in the early hours of Monday morning while burglars relieved her of an estimated €10m worth of jewels. The reality star had been staying in a private apartment in the city, and the criminals made their getaway on pushbikes.
The story prompted a whole new fashion debate, about celebrity and culpability and complicity. First, Kim was lambasted for such craven attention-seeking that she must have invited the robbery upon her — her social media feeds provide all but a route map to her diamond safe. She had been too cavalier with her privacy. She had shared too much. But then it was decided that Kim is “only human after all”, and we all felt sorry for her.
Hours before the robbery, I had been seated opposite Kardashian West, her mother and her sister Kourtney, to watch her other sister, Kendall, walk in the Givenchy show. At the event staged in the gardens of the city’s natural history museum, she had stoically smiled and pouted in the frigid evening air, wearing only a snip of silk as an aggressive mob of photographers popped flashbulbs in her face. The atmosphere had felt wild, slightly unchecked and a little dangerous, which is presumably how the atmosphere always feels around Kim Kardashian West. Anyone desiring that level of attention must be mad — and I didn’t envy her at all.
Following her ordeal, the star made a swift exit from Paris Fashion Week, but her victimhood has continued to hang heavy over the city, where officials have been at pains to point out that Kardashian West’s misfortunes should not stain the city’s reputation. Paris is already having a tough enough time with tourism; the streets have been eerily quiet since the Bataclan murders and this new scandal isn’t going to help.
Speaking at a breakfast hosted by the Fédération Française de la Couture at the Hôtel de Ville on Monday, the mayor Anne Hidalgo was quick to assure us that this kind of crime was totally exceptional. That it must have been an inside job. She then went on to outline lower crime rates — robbery is down 8 per cent this year, and “there are only 20 murders a year here”, she pointed out, “compared to Chicago, which has more than 500, that makes us pretty safe”.
She then went on to speak of the importance of promoting the French fashion industry, which is worth €150bn and provides a million jobs. She wanted us all to go out there and secure its future as “the highlight of the season”. Which I have duly done.
Not that anyone needs to. Paris has been utterly ravishing these past eight days: the sun has sparkled, the city has been bathed in an implausibly beautiful light and the shows, spiced up with its new designers, job transfers and brilliant points of constancy, have been a joy to behold. Was Paris the highlight of the season? Nowhere else came close.