Have fashion houses run out of ideas?

Words by Bianca O’Neill

Images via RTE & Fashionista

The yearning for media attention is overshadowing genuine design.

It seems that innovative design just isn’t enough these days. 

Lately, with every runway out of Paris or London, comes a headline-grabbing look, or a random accessory made purely to garner media attention. Last year it was Gucci’s head-as-a-handbag, and this year it’s monogrammed box kites and balloon dresses.

Virgil Abloh debuted his Spring 2020 menswear collection for Louis Vuitton in June and unfortunately succumbed to the lure of an Instagrammable gimmick. Though edgy, his designs gave way to theatrics as his models were weighed down by garments adorned with oversized accessories. 

The effect was a runway overwhelmed by floral wreaths and wearable bags, and though it seemed a likely comment on consumption and excess in the industry, the sentiment was diluted. The ridiculous addition of box kites tacked onto some models’ backs reduced the idea to nothing more than a headline. After all, that’s pretty much what every website reported on – not the clothing. 

It all begs the question: why obscure the couture?

Dior’s couture show last week attempted to address exactly that confusion but fell victim to it instead. Maria Grazia Chiuri, the atelier’s creative director, opened the runway with a t-shirt emblazoned with the quote, “Are clothes modern?”

Despite the irony in a logo tee opening a couture show, the reference was to designer and architect Bernard Rudofsky, who made the argument that since much modern clothing is uncomfortable and impractical, the designs are inherently antiquated.

What followed Chiuri’s bold and obvious attempt to set the tone for a practical, modern runway was neither practical nor modern. Instead, a model donned a dress in the shape of a miniaturised shopfront. Yes, Chiuri had proposed a huge, cumbersome dollhouse-sized box – a replica of Dior’s store on Avenue Montaigne in Paris – as the answer to postmodern fashion’s problems. It made no sense as an answer to Rudofsky’s question.

Similarly, oversized inflatable balloons which transformed into, quite frankly, average-looking dresses at London Fashion Week earlier this year were more publicity stunt than they were fashion design.


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Delivering a beautiful collection of clothing is one thing, but why must we take away from the real design intention by adding a ridiculous, last-minute addition in order to snap up a few Instagram shares?

It speaks of what runways have become: a public show of brand identity in order to drive coverage. I suppose the only thing left to ask is whether all those people on Instagram are ever going to buy a Dior dress – or whether Chiuri’s snatch at a headline has, in fact, left its real customers a little cold.

Follow Bianca’s fashion coverage over at @bianca.oneill.

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