We are currently in the middle of the international collections – fashion’s biannual, four-ring circus, where designers stage catwalk shows that rival P.T. Barnum and Cecil B. DeMille in the spectacle stakes. The purpose? Simple. To sell. Clothes, sure, but perhaps more importantly, to sell the image.
The theatre of fashion itself seems to excite nose-to-glass excitement. Example: this month director Frédéric Tcheng’s documentary Dior and I goes on worldwide release, charting the creation of Raf Simons’s first collection for the fashion house in 2012. I wonder how it will be received by an audience who aren’t mired in the industry, as I am? (And have been, ideologically, since about the age of 13 – when I began reading about the odd, alien landscape of an industry that I am now lucky enough to work in, and continue to love.)
Dior and I manages to expose the seams of a couture house elegantly, without ripping them apart. It’s worth a look because it’s loving, but not sycophantic, as so much of fashion is. It also emphasises, subtly, the enormity of the machine of Christian Dior, one of the largest fashion houses in the world. Its revenue, in 2014, was approximately £22.42bn.
That’s often forgotten. Fashion is, generally, given short shrift. Despite being the second largest employer in the United Kingdom (797,000 jobs, according to the British Fashion Council) and those multiple-billion revenue figures, it’s not seen as big business. Actually, the world fashion industry is worth a trillion, and employs millions. Fashion, however, is perceived as risible by the pompous – or, as an editor commented to me during Milan Fashion Week, “a bit of fluff to liven up the pages”.
Fluff. That’s a label I loathe – but one, I think, that fashion is guilty of branding into its own backside. Fashion rarely trumpets its global importance as an employer and income-generator, probably because these facts aren’t terribly glamorous.
But fashion affects the clothes people wear at every level. And it makes a lot of money, not a lot of fluff.
Dior and I is out on 27th March diormovie.com
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