Vivienne Westwood Red Label show during London Fashion Week AW14 at  on February 16, 2014
Vivienne Westwood Red Label show during London Fashion Week AW14 at on February 16, 2014

Alexander Fury: It’s not about who you are, but where your customers are from

The nationalities that really count in fashion are of the people buying the clothes

Alexander Fury
Monday 22 September 2014 18:29
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With all the rumblings about devolution and revolution, there’s more than the usual focus on nationality. When it comes to fashion, it’s also thrown into the context of the transcontinental, transatlantic traipse around the four fashion capitals. We’re in the midst of that at the moment. Milan ends today. Tomorrow, Paris begins.

I’ve written about nationality before, in terms of designers and labels and whether it really matters. It matters to some, of course – I’m thinking specifically of Vivienne Westwood, who talks of “English” rather than “British” when it comes to herself and her work, despite her taste for tartans. Jean Paul Gaultier is quintessentially French. He’s on the mind because he’s showing his final ready-to-wear collection in Paris on Saturday. In the past, he’d created out-and-out odes to the city: his Frenchness is an essential part of what he does, and who he is.

However, the nationalities that really count are of the people buying the clothes. Many of this season’s collections have been a mixed bunch, a ragtag bag of conflicting references and contrasting statements. It seems designers aren’t proposing a unified vision. Rather than saying, “This is what I want you to look like,” the plaintive wail is more like: “Here’s some stuff. Buy some of it. Someone. Somewhere. Please!”

Jean Paul Gaultier during the Haute Couture autumn/winter 2014 show (AFP)

That everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach works for some designers. Karl Lagerfeld’s Chanel ready-to-wear shows have always been about hurling out ideas like confetti – some good, some bad – and seeing what people react to. However, this season, it’s interesting to dissect them and imagine which area will be buying what. Because it won’t all be everywhere.

Chanel's ready-to-wear autumn/winter 2014 fashion show

The embroidered and patchworked furs are destined for Russia; anything short, printed, sensuous, reminds me of Italy and Brazil; and there’s a specific cocktail-dress shape, slim over the thighs to just below the knee, perhaps long-sleeved, with odd, strategic cut-outs over areas less likely to sag and crêpe, with a whiff of the Upper East Side. You can be as specific as that.

Where’s the evidence for this? It’s in the street. As you’re hauling yourself between these cities, you realise that the people outside the insular bubble of fashion change. And honestly, they’re the people who really count. The customers. And regardless of what I think about a collection, they’re the ones who are always right.

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