Tuesday 21 January 2020

Honesty as the new black: Have fashion designers gotten too big for their boots, and lost respect for society at large?

TOKYO, JAPAN - MARCH 23: Designer Karl Lagerfeld attends the Chanel Party on March 23, 2012 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images for Chanel)
TOKYO, JAPAN - MARCH 23: Designer Karl Lagerfeld attends the Chanel Party on March 23, 2012 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images for Chanel)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - APRIL 13: Coleen Rooney attends the John Smith's Grand National - Ladies' Day at Aintree Racecourse on April 13, 2012 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Danny Martindale/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 08: Heidi Klum and Roberto Cavalli attends the amfAR New York Gala To Kick Off Fall 2012 Fashion Week at Cipriani Wall Street on February 8, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)
Roberto Cavalli's fashion tweets
MILAN, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 27: Anna Wintour attends the Roberto Cavalli Milan Fashion Week Womenswear S/S 2011 show on September 27, 2010 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Antonio de Moraes Barros Filho/WireImage)

Aisling O'Connor

Did someone put something in the spring water? Well, some measure of truth serum has seeped into the systems of some of womenswear’s top designers. Out of touch, outrageous, and outlandish are the comments being spewed forth from the minds and mouths of fashion tastemakers Karl Lagerfeld, Christian Louboutin and Roberto Cavalli.

The public was aghast in February when head designer and creative director for Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld, laid out his honest opinion of recording artist Adele. Already well-known for his frankness, Karl mused to Paris Metro that, ‘the thing at the moment is Adele. She is a little too fat, but she has a beautiful face and a divine voice’.

In a time when entire national fashion industries are banning size zero models, plus-size modelling is on the rise, and luxury retail is challenged by the economic downturn, it is foolhardy to criticise a woman with a huge global fan base for her size.

The outrage at Lagerfeld’s open criticism of Adele’s weight was widespread, with calls to boycott Chanel products. Karl swiftly issued an apology and since Adele has been photographed carrying an array of quilted Chanel bags – do the math.

After the ‘colourful’ fashion parade that is the Aintree Racing Festival in recent weeks, Coleen Rooney tweeted that she was delighted to be back in her Converse, having worn six-inch-plus heels for three days running. Coinciding with that little nugget of celebrity ‘real-ness’ were the bizarre comments by designer stiletto king, Christian Louboutin.

Not content with being the one of most recognisable women’s designer brands on the market, and his creations being worn by the likes of Victoria Beckham and seen as ‘the’ aspirational accessory, Mr Louboutin told Grazia editor Paula Reed that he doesn’t care about the pain and difficulty the wearers of his shoes have to endure.

Renowned for his red lacquered soles and 120mm minimum platforms, Christian said to ladies complaining about the fall-out of fashion fetish-wear, ‘I really have not so much sympathy…High heels are pleasure with pain! If you can’t walk in them, don’t wear them’.

Who is to know if the Louboutin brand is at its peak? What goes up must come down, and I’m not just talking about the young ladies teetering on their €600-a-pop shoes, akin to stilts.

The lack of appreciation and sympathy for the customer leads one to wonder, do designers really understand women? It’s difficult to tell if Christian is just a hard-core artist, or if he feels a sense of entitlement to a customer base, without having to be gracious or respectful.

Following Loubi’s foot-ish wear remarks, can’t have been easy, but master of exuberance, Roberto Cavalli managed to pull a few doozies out of his hat.

Lover of opulence and embellishment, Roberto’s design aesthetic walks a fine line between garish and sexy-chic. Cavalli’s work is centred on glamorous silks, sequins, animal prints and luxurious furs and hides.

In his frank interview with La Repubblica last week, the Italian couturier revealed what he really thinks about American fashion, and the editor-in-chief of its magazine mecca.

Now, who would have thought that a man that dreams in leopard print would be horrified by classic American minimalist apparel? Roberto believes that this simplistic attitude to fashion is, ‘almost fashion, it’s terrible and you almost can’t even look at it’.

Not content with ragging on the pared back perspective of American design, he lays blame on the ivory tower of US Vogue. He says that American fashion, ‘has been driven by a great journalist, Anna Wintour, who wants all women to be like her and to dress the way she does’. Ouch.

As a seasoned professional with a huge celebrity following, Roberto really doesn’t have to worry about Wintour’s reputed power in the fashion industry. The amfAR Gala which opened New York Fashion Week in February was a glittering affair, with Heidi Klum, Elizabeth Hurley Julianne Moore, Cindy Crawford and Jennifer Hudson - to name but a few - all in heavily embellished Cavalli gowns.

In the wake of his comments Cavalli didn’t follow Lagerfeld’s lead; he took to Twitter to rant even further about the political landscape of fashion. According to Roberto, Wintour doesn’t attend his shows because he does not advertise in US Vogue. This is a good point but perfectly understandable. She only has so much ‘Anna’ to spread around and she must be seen to show loyalty to the designers who bolster the magazine.

Cavalli’s ‘thoughts’ ran over into the comic with a digression into the profile of French fashion houses designers, ‘Where is the franch fashion? No one disigner is franch (sic)’. That really is a good effort for an Italian 71-year-old ranting in English on an iPhone.

In some ways it is refreshing to hear the opinion of a public person unmitigated by PR people, but what do these comments say about those who are instrumental in shaping how we dress. The sense of an over-inflated ego and lack of respect for peers, customers and impressionable followers is what shines through.

If we think of fashion designers as artists who are navigating their way through commerce, perhaps the by-product of the pressure to edit down a creative vision from sketch to runway to retail, is some opinionated overspill. On the other side, perhaps the younger generation isn’t the one that has gotten too big for its boots and lost respect for people.

Aisling tweets @ashinyoconnor

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