20/02/2013

LUXURY AT ALL COSTS


Let us tell you a story or more exactly a fable. You know the kind of tale that gives you a life lesson at the end, that is supposed to open your eyes and to make you think about the society you are living in. This fable we are going to tell you is a famous one and was written by the most renowned writer of fables, Jean de la Fontaine. So are you ready for The Frog Who Aspired To Become As Big As The Ox? No, no, don't leave! We hope you were not expecting us to deliver you a literary (and pretty boring) version of this tale? Because we won't! This fable is only the best way for us to draw a parallel with a phenomenom more and more present in the fashion industry: the high-street/cheap fashion brands' will to launch more expensive and sometimes luxurious branch. Did you notice it? Because we did and it raised several questions after we read an article about the brand new H&M "idea" to launch a more "couture", sophisticated and attentive to details line. That night, after reading this article about & Other Stories, we wondered WHY? But it was not a single WHY and more a sizeable number of WHYs (along with some WHATs and HOWs). Why would customers who can afford to buy expensive clothes bother to buy "couture" and sophisticated pieces from H&M, the mammoth company? What is the point in launching such a line if they already have COS which was described as an upper H&M with sophisticated pieces? How can the customer find herself/himself in this never-ending offer from all these fashion brands that all want to be bigger as they already are? Indeed, H&M is not the only one, far from it. Topshop, Topman, Zara with the Zara Collection line and certainly many more.


Yet, according to us, collabs with young or super-established designers were highly enough. It is the best way for all these affordable brands to produce (and not create) something different from what they usually do and something exciting and desirable. No need to think about it for hours, the great collabs between J.W.Anderson and Topshop or James Long and Topman, or MMM with H&M come straight to our minds. These collabs are really interesting because these designers who are not famous for their affordable pieces become at once creators reaching the streets at a higher scale and after all, it is what most designers want to achieve. The street recognition (not necessarily a desire to be worn by everybody! of course not!) is the supreme goal and perhaps the most rewarding feeling. So is there a real and absolute need for more?

James long X Topman 
J.W.Anderson X Topshop

A priori, there is such a need otherwise, why would these brands continue in creating ways and ways to make money? Do they suffer from a kind of complex? Oh my God, we are selling cheap clothes (and sometimes badly manufactured) for the masses! So let's start a luxury line! you know, the kind of line everybody would want but that everyone would not be able to buy because of the price or because of the low availability. The perfect definition of luxury. Expensive and rare! But is it the case when speaking of all these high-standard lines? Topshop and Topman both have their luxury branch going by the name of Topshop Unique and Topman Design and they both offer something completely different in the fashion landscape. There are runway shows during the London Fashion week but that's not what makes them special. What is special with these two British institutions is the fact that their clothes are quality and produced in Great Britain. And last but not least, they give their own vision of fashion and often, propose clothes and accessories you would not find everywhere on everybody. The definition of luxury for us. Their pieces play with codes and are totally and incredibly desirable (but sold out so fast)! As far as we are concerned, when we wear Topman Design clothes we feel deeply confident and are under the impression that we own designers' clothes.

Topman Design SS13
Topshop Unique SS13

Oddly enough, that's not the same feeling when we wear COS clothes. Of course, we love COS for its minimalist and ethereal approach but when we look at the lookbooks or at the clothes directly in stores, we feel like we are looking at a cheaper version of Jil Sander. A really cheaper version. And season after season, we have more and more this impression. We can remember the beginnings of COS in France, our excitement, our desire for some of the beautiful pieces but year after year this desire has faded away and the excitement has turned into a polite ennui. As often in the great love stories... So when we read that & Other Stories will feature pure, minimalist but not rigid clothes also described as architectural, contemporary and industrial chic, what can we expect? Is it another pseudo Jil Sander cheaper but yet expensive line? Is it really necessary? Knowing that the clothes will be produced in Romania, Turkey or Italy, for the moment, we are really skeptical but we are not against changing our minds. That's the aim of fashion according to us. Something that looks uninteresting at first sight can turn into something seducing. For the moment this new H&M concept just looks like another way to grab a piece of this gigantic cake that is FASHION!


Here are some silhouettes from the first & Other Stories Lookbook:





So, what is next? In this never-ending race for money and market shares where the brands always find new ways to catch the consumer's attention, there is a risk of tiring him/her. And after all, if all these brands start launching expensive and "couture" lines with no real fashion-forward perspectives, the consumers could decide to save money to buy genuine designer pieces. The eternal question of Quality over Quantity. But if we take the time to imagine the Future of Fashion (we do not want to act as the Pythia), not a far future just in a few months perhaps a year or two, we are afraid (ok, ok, it's a crappy fear and you may think that we have über-nase concerns) that cheaper brands like C&A or Primark rush into this juicy market to produce what they will qualify as couture and attentive to details expensive but cheap clothes. Isn't it scary? Maybe scarier than Paranormal Activity.






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