Why Fawn Over Imperious Fashion Designers When We Have Choices?

Tom Ford lensed by Jeff Burton for AnOtherBoth Tom Ford and Hedi Slimane make the list in today’s WWD piece on John Galliano’s replacement at Christian Dior. All bets are that Riccardo Tisci will get the position but both names are on the watch lists.

Writing today in Anne Talks Business, I again made the point that the next Dior designer should express personal values that resonate. While there are dozens of fashionistas hanging on every word uttered by a chosen few designers, the cultural landscape is changing.

The Rise of Smart Sensuality Values

Riccardo Tisci observed to the Financial Times:

It’s a strange time in fashion - everything has got so big. We can get very insular, the fashion tribe - we think we’re a lot of people but actually we’re very small - but my mother, my sisters don’t understand fashion now, which is how I realised what the final consumer feels. They don’t want to buy image, they want to buy substance.”

Those values are declared in a major way on the LVMH corporate website, probably the most impressive I’ve seen although Gucci also embraces the Smart Sensuality woman: smart, sexy and with heart. Translate ‘heart’ into philanthropy that works and a willingness to get dirty trying to make things right in the world.

Both Tom Ford and Hedi Slimane have interviews today. Tom Ford is in AnOther; Hedi Slimane in The Guardian and WWD.

Their comments are an interesting juxtaposition of viewpoints on people and women, of course. Two different options on the type of designer a company like LVMH wants as the face of its brand to the world’s women.

For all the hype about John Galliano’s creative brilliance, Dior didn’t make money on his watch. Fashion is not an art gallery, and while no one makes money on haute couture and less so on ready-to-wear, a brand’s essence must motivate women around the world to buy the handbags, sunglasses and lipstick that are associated with the fashion.

No matter how talented one is, a designer must generally embrace the customer — the person who gets out her AMX card and rings the cash register. Any self-respecting designer doesn’t embrace the WHOLE world of women — or men — but there comes a point when the line of client acceptability is drawn so narrowly that a brand moves from exclusivity in its DNA to absurdly unreasonable and comical, actually. 

The situation is ridiculously amusing to see humans turning themselves inside out to please egomaniac designers who deride them. We have two perspectives on the human fashion condition today — three, if we count Riccardo Tisci.

Tom Ford’s AnOther Interview

Tom Ford is asked for five easy lessons in how to be a modern gentleman. He responds:

1. You should put on the best version of yourself when you go out in the world because that is a show of respect to the other people around you.

2. A gentleman today has to work. People who do not work are so boring and are usually bored. You have to be passionate, you have to be engaged and you have to be contributing to the world.

3. Manners are very important and actually knowing when things are appropriate. I always open doors for women, I carry their coat, I make sure that they’re walking on the inside of the street. Stand up when people arrive at and leave the dinner table.

4. Don’t be pretentious or racist or sexist or judge people by their background. 

5. A man should never wear shorts in the city. Flip-flops and shorts in the city are never appropriate. Shorts should only be worn on the tennis court or on the beach.

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Hedi Slimane photograph: YP

Hedi Slimane with The Guardian

Slimane is precise and single-minded, telling The Guardian that he was highly impacted at 15 by a book on the Russian avant-garde. “Alexander Rodchenko, suprematism and all that. A lot of graphic design and a lot of propaganda references. When you are a kid, it kind of leaves a print. It’s strong, this impression, like music.”

The entire interview seems first rate to me. Slimane talks about his love of California. There is an intersection of agreement between Slimane and Ford on the subject of wearing shorts.

Hedi Slimane with WWD

It’s Hedi Slimane’s comments to WWD today that are blockbusters, and I give him credit for speaking his mind. Once and for all, Hedi is clear — and I believe others in Paris agree with him — that fashion is not right for most people, because we don’t fit today’s mold, which is hyper thin.

When asked about the next big trend for menswear, Hedi Slimane replies:

We should drop for good this predictable story each season, about a lean and youthful male figure versus conventional men’s wear and male proportions. There is obviously room for everything….Besides, an athletic man, or whatever you want to call him, will only look good in a very classic suit, a pair of classic jeans, athletic clothes or simply naked. Forget fashion. This is not going to happen, unless you want to look like a Chippendales dancer in designer clothes.

On the subject of celebrities wearing fashion, Hedi Slimane has strong opinions as well:

Nothing looks worse than a dress or a suit on a red carpet. It is an ongoing tragedy of cheap fashion on cheap celebrities, followed by ubercheap comments. I only like designers’ clothes on models. Good models have an inner understanding of the clothes and design.

Seriously now. No matter how talented Hedi Slimane is — and we all agree that he has major talent — reality is that perhaps the more gentile voice of a Tom Ford is best for Dior? I don’t seriously think Tom Ford is headed for Dior, although I think he would do a great job.

Stop Torturing Fashion Designers

Back to those cheap celebrities like Angelina Jolie and Natalie Portman and Helen Mirren — you know the Hollywood crowd. I honestly don’t know if you want to alienate all those people from the Dior brand for the sake of fashion authenticity.

Riccardo Tisci, who explained that he took the job at Givenchy because his mother was selling her house and headed for a rest home in order to help out his sisters, resonates today. This guy has so much going for him in the humanity department.

Could someone tell me why do we hang on every word from fashion designers who are clear that we’re not right for their brand? Do we relish a snap of the fashion whip, a little thrill of abuse?

We don’t need designers having nervous breakdowns and checking into rehab because we screw up their artistic visions of human perfection. For God’s sake, let’s stop torturing these men by wearing their clothes.

New rule: don’t embarrass yourselves by buying clothes from little men who mock you. Don’t buy the perfume, the handbags or the sunglasses either because you reject the brand’s DNA.  I say that’s a great rule for any self-respecting consumer in today’s multi-choice world.

Embrace the good guys and girls, the ones who inspire you, not deride you.

Next subject, please. To think my brother cures cancer while I obsess over the imperious men in fashion and the women who loathe themselves for failing to live up to the demands of fashion monasticism. Anne