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Fashion Houses, Take Notes: Hire Young or Get Left Behind

Gone are the times when one was poised for wild success after a number of years circling the drain as an intern for a fashion house.  Much like the music industry, there are new pipelines that allow a usurping of power from the dinosaurs that once gatekept every stitch of success – in fact, most of these weak points are provided by the big fashion brands themselves.  

It’s a new world, a new era…and as often as this might be said for every passing generation and trend, there may actually be some weight to those words when it comes to the fashion industry.  One may fawn over the old archival footage of a young Karl Lagerfeld and the steady prance of yet another tweed jacket; or the family behind gaudy bawdy Gucci flare, but newer generations, starting largely with millennials, have turned off the bright lights on these figures.  

Social media has lent the vigorous youth of today some agency, and with that agency, they’ve created their own fly-by-night fashion trends and hyper-aware sensibilities; although the big brands have tried to keep up, they don’t seem to naturally have an ear to the ground.  

I mean…how oblivious must you be to accidentally create a black sambo sweater, Gucci?  

Can you really blame a contractor for the overlooked nods to pederasty, Balenciaga?  

Do big fashion brands really not have a thermometer to check the temperature of the room?

So it would seem oftentimes.  And although these fashion houses are almost never in danger of an all-out collapse of the brand, they’ve taken blows in the somewhat recent past.  

Chanel saw an 18% decline in sales following Lagerfeld’s death, with the general public more apt to comment (as opposed to fashion magazines relying on advertising dollars) that Chanel’s shows were more of the same fare they’d come to expect for decades.  

Burberry, unable to move product off of shelves at list price (and apparently unwilling to take a loss, in every sense of the word, to sell at a discount) incinerated roughly $38 million dollars worth of product, which drew public backlash.  

Enter the new guard.  Through collaborations, and new staffing considerations, maybe we can leave the lighter fluid at home.

Don’t take these moments lightly.  They are anything but.  They are legacy brands reaching out to the pulse on the “streets”.  These are the people who can give the tin man a heart.  

For example, Pharrell’s collaboration with and new appointment to Creative Director at Louis Vuitton.  It takes only a cursory glance at his own brands and previous collaborations to get an idea of what he brings to the table: an awareness of the style that connects to even potential consumers half his age but also the ethics of the youth – namely eco-conscious sustainability in the production of his clothes.  Although this may come off as an afterthought in the world of big fashion (and a non-existent thought in the world of fast fashion), younger generations are actually privy to how their favorite knitted button-up from Forever 21 is going to end up actively polluting that planet once it unravels and becomes useless in 3 months.  

Speaking of which, it’s worth a mention (and digression) to highlight the opportunity big fashion brands have to step into power ahead of fast fashion.  The average consumer is more conscious but also far from economically flush.  Providing quality clothes that will last, at a solid price befitting the construction, AND are socially and environmentally conscious is a winning formula if one wants to curb the all-out assault of brands like Shein.

Returning to the question of new blood, some brands have read the room well enough to know that having representation and input from other races is not only just are viable as any other hire but might also save them from directly stepping into the same dog pile Gucci did. 

I mean, can you imagine this same moment coming out of Balmain with Olivier Rousteing at the helm?  Me neither.  Speaking of which, Rousteing’s decade under the previous Creative Director and eventual ascension to the position only boded well for the giant brand.  Olivier was one of the first to understand the importance of Instagram in fashion’s future, way before the old guard could see it’s viability when he started posting content in 2013.

The youth are truly the pulse nowadays.  They aren’t having the trends dictated to them in a catalog or on the runway dotted with Victoria’s Secrets Angels.  I mean, we saw how well that played in the recent past. 

The big brands would do well to read the writing on the wall: invest in a trendsetter; or invest in the best PR money can buy. 


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