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Instead of Fashion House Musical Chairs…

Why not repurpose the resources expended when putting a new designer at the head of an existing design company? The idea is to empower them by making the collection their own, even until they grow old and retire, much like for the designers who created these businesses. While the existence of the major luxury houses was made possible by Coco Chanel, Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Cristobal Balenciaga, their names now keep a kind of shadow over the design world. To take this approach would be a bigger gamble, maybe, and there might be some precious years in between where the decision makers, head hunters, chess players, don’t get it quite right (any designer at Paco Robanne since 1999) or it goes terribly wrong (John Galliano at Dior) later on, those seasons will either become undesired vintage, or the museum collection's rarest of all gems.

Dior by Raf Simons

Celine by Phoebe Philo

Louis Vuitton by Marc Jacobs

Hermès by Whoever’s-After-Lemaire?


When I first made this suggestion to a friend, I was a bit more radical about it. (Ditch the Dior entirely and just call it Raf Simmons, for God’s sake) but the re-branding that would require is too momentous for any business, understandably. So simply change the label and change the attitude and expectations. Consumers will learn from us, if we show confidence, speak of longevity, and write reviews that show excitement and must-haveness.

And it really does get tiresome, the goings on back behind the scenes and in the board rooms and calculating the bottom line. If you consider the designer a commodity, they will feel it and want to leave. But, my theory is that if you treat the designer like the creative genius that he/she is (or that you must believe he/she to trust them at the helm in the first place) and give realistic goals and realistic critiques and surround them with a team who understand how to bring out the best in them and make the machine run smoothly, they will want to stay. And they will make you money. Premium salaries can be sedated a bit and drama and law suits can be avoided and this confusion that is a melting pot of lost identity, on the part of the designers and the brands, can instead begin to define new and pure distinguishing factors. Otherwise, once the lineage of all the houses begin to look the same, we'll just end up with more cross-referencing, more archive replicating, and more firing and more hiring (with ever elevating salaries and expenditures) if something doesn’t give.

Not to mention it is TOO much to have designers splitting their time between their own design businesses while also acting as the head designer or creative director for a major global brand. This can be 16 collections a year, give or take a couple of seasons, endless travel, and two teams to's just too much. The two can be one and the same: their own label, for all intents and purposes, and the major global brand.

Also, is it ridiculous to anyone else that the most common metaphor for this shuffling around is that of a children's game? Musical chairs is fun and all, but it's not an exciting spectator sport, especially when the game is rigged by those who have money on the outcome. 

The most important things needed for this change:

New Main Labels. (I’ve already taken the liberty of creating a few. I’ll send the invoice later, thank you.) (So, Check.)

A handful of Designers who have proven themselves over and over again no matter the name on the roof over their head (Check.)

Design houses that want consistency in their image and trust in the loyalty of their customer (Check.)

The closest thing towards this new system would be the dramatic and controversial revamp of the Yves Saint Laurent label, now Saint Laurent, under Hedi Slimane (I was recently trying to find it under the ‘Y’s on…oh yes, the name had a face lift). There are so many different ways this brand redesign can occur, and the right designer with the right team could work a magic in the fashion landscape if we just let them create without restricting them. Phoebe Philo or Alber Elbaz could be considered close in second, as the Céline label, for example, was all but dead until she made it the most forward and coveted (and expensive) collection of the fashion season. Why in the world is it not called Céline by Phoebe Philo? And even if it’s not on the label, and she is much less in the public eye than, say, Alexander Wang, she certainly has come to personify the look that she creates each season. 

If Ghesquiere had been able to make Balenciaga his own, the story might not have ended like this.

This does negate the prediction that the era of designer as celebrity coming to an end. But, for real, when the departure of a head designer from a luxury company is still making all the major headlines is this really going out of style?

Then again I could get behind that movement, too…We can talk about that later, though.

Either way, let's quit playing games. 



Species : Homo Effingo Modus

I took liberties with the naming of this species, but in all forms, the word fashion comes from the meaning "to make"  


These are two fashion cartoons on the Fashion crowd as a species all their own. Rough drafts, as all incomplete projects are.


This was a concept just tapped into but recently revisited. I'm excited that a full series is to come out at fashion week September 2014.



Copy and Paste Culture: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Well, companies are looking at new ways to capitalize on that flattery: Create or take part in desirable narratives, and make them shoppable. I like to believe that as individuals we make choices reflecting our own desires rather than those of others. But advertisers will be there every step along the way to tell us that our sense of self will be more complete if we buy whatever it is they are selling. And today advertising is so integrated into our sensory experiences that the line between creative content and paid content is practically indistinguishable. Media, which basically runs on advertising dollars, is one of the most vulnerable industries and it has been forced to evolve.

We opted out of commercial breaks only to get our regular programing saturated with product placement. We opted for free access to the news, only to find advertisements and sponsored links scattered like land mines across the page. We have traded transparency for convenience. 

In Hollywood, costume design has always been a great source of inspiration for designers and shoppers alike. And now with the rising legitimization of television alongside film, certain prime time characters are becoming popular sartorial references. With this rise of TV icons, the concept of Shazam-ing (yes, it's ubiquitous enough to be verbified) is being applied to fashion as well. But rather than wait for monthly magazines to tell us where to find the real-people-priced version of Gwenyth's latest red carpet dress, we want the information now. This trend began via shoppable runways, videos (Barneys and Nowness), and online editorials, and is now coming to a TV near you.

Conceptually, shoppable TV is a cool idea. But mostly it raises many concerns. Some of these are brought up in this Fashionista article, like preserving the creative license of the costume designer, a logistically reasonable way to provide the information, and the fact that people aren’t watching shows in real time. Transparency is a real issue in regards to which the format and messaging is key. While it seems like a great tool to know exactly where to go buy that great office wardrobe from the Good Wife, for example, the format of the medium leaves too much ambiguity between the creative prerogative and the sales pitch.

Beyond the ethical issues that would need to be addressed, this idea of prefabricated wardrobes from a celebrity or television character removes the allure of fashion and commoditizes it. It would be one thing if these movies and shows were introducing viewers to designers and products that are hard to find or unknown and ripe for discovery. But the job of costume designers is not to tell you where to shop, it is to develop characters through clothing. And the reality is that most of the sponsored content we see in media comes from big brands and distributors that are accessible to a vast audience because they are the most actionable, and they are backed with the most advertising dollars. 

It begs the question that so often comes to mind as technology tackles new frontiers: Just because we can do it, should we? 

Isn’t it better to take inspiration from what we see, rather than try to replicate exactly? In literature when we copy and paste it is called plagiarism, in art, forgery. In fashion, to copy and paste is not a crime but it does feed a biassed branch of consumerism. Fashion is one of the greatest means of self expression. To curate one’s identity by emulating someone else is to be deprived of that privilege. There will always be a distinction between leaders and followers. The danger here is not in being a follower, but in choosing your leader, and making sure its a person or a cause you truly believe in, not just the one that is convenient.



Sci-fi Fashion

There is a reason that the inspiration of fashion designers from Sci Fi films appears on the runway, then gets seriously desaturated before reaching the street. Some images below are examples from research for the Fashion & Tech event planning coming up this year, and for an upcoming piece breaking down the elements that we can take home, and those we should leave at the cinema.




Another Tick on the Measuring Stick: 2013

You’ll see articles and lists from almost every blog for the next few weeks on how to stick to your New Year’s resolutions, or what kinds of resolutions you should make if you want to be ‘X’ kind of person. But rather than looking at this day as a time to fabricate change, I prefer to look at it as a means of assessment, a unit of measurement. Imagine each year as a tick on the measuring stick. Marks growing higher and higher on the wall. Some years you grow a centimeter, other years several inches. It is an erratic system that is never identical between individuals or predictable within oneself. However, unlike the growth analogy where we have little if no control over the rate of our body’s vertical climb, we do have control over the growth that the New Year’s measuring tape evaluates.

Our lives look rather strange in yearly snapshots; imagine it as an infographic assessing the previous 365 days from different angles, with different hypotheses and with different quantifiers. For example, think of your professional life and personal life as two pillars that strengthen each other by growing side by side. If one becomes neglected, the other risks blowing over. Strength is not always in the sum of two parts, but in their equilibrium. And so there is an active participation required in cultivating that balanced growth.

This principle is never more true than in growing a business. When a year goes by, a business goes through the same kind of self-discovery as an individual. As with any moment of assessment, it is a time to address pain points, improve communication and strengthen infrastructure. This can also mean eliminating time wasters and inessentials. It is a moment to realign ones practices in the direction of reestablished goals, and to reinforce core values in so doing.

In the year 2013, Starkweather made great progress in many ways, ultimately leading to an important pivot that will take place during 2014. These alterations are all a function of customer feedback, recommitting to essential founding ideals, and a better understanding of where Starkweather fits into the market. This pivot takes into account the short and long-term goals of the company, and the customer’s best interest. There will be a lot of exciting news in the coming 12 months. We look forward to sharing new products, new projects, and now collaborations with you, and receiving your feedback in the coming year.

Here's to hard work, and new horizons.

All the best for a happy and prosperous 2014!

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