I can’t help but think that the memorial for Lee McQueen is as much a memorial to creativity and the future of fashion, as it is for a much loved and revered creative genius.
I was in a vintage shop recently, talking with the owner, who, like any really good and authentic vintage fashion dealer/merchant, is actually in the contemporary fashion business, much like Alexander McQueen was.
I say this because fashion is a never-ending cycle that always takes on a modern interpretation of vintage – there will always be a demand for ‘the original.’ I had, apparently, just missed Tommy Hilfiger’s people who picked up about $100,000 worth of ‘design inspiration’.
Designers have always looked to the past for inspiration. There’s last Fall’s 80’s revival, and Top Shop of course has built it’s business on openly re-creating vintage looks. None of this is new information, but with so many disposable copies ‘in fashion’ you have to wonder, what the vintage market will look like in 20 years from now?
It’s nearly the end of Paris fashion week as I write this, and frankly this whole season has been a bit of a safe blah for me, with only a few creative stand outs among the Pugh and Balmain inspired collections. I think, in the shadow of Lee McQueen’s death, I’ve subconsciously raised the creative stakes for everyone else, not only in terms of fashion design, but also in everything the brand does. It’s not enough to design great clothes anymore, how the themes and inspirations of a collection are brought to life and shared, (now that fashion shows aren’t industry insider events anymore,) matter more than ever.
The thing about McQueen’s shows was not only how he challenged culture and our imaginations, but also how seamless and easy he made marketing look. It didn’t feel like marketing. And that is where many brands fail. (I’ll explain how and why in my next article.)
His Spring 2010 show, Plato’s Atlantis, or, frankly pick any one of his past shows, they still feel like something that has never been seen before, was an exercise in creative foresight and a perfectionism that ensured everything communicated an idea. Not a theme, an idea. There’s a difference.
In an inspiring interview with Nick Knight for SHOWstudio, McQueen explained, “It’s not about tricks…my shows are a form of entertainment more than anyone else’s show, it’s not just a commercial platform, it’s what keeps me interested in the evolution of fashion, otherwise I find it banal.”
He goes on to explain that his approach is to “Push creativity as far as I can and then edit.” Most brands fashion or otherwise, ‘edit’, code for dumb down, before ideas have a chance to evolve. This is important because it holds culture back, and my fear is a culture with less people like McQueen and Margiela to push us, and more brands that default to ‘tricks’ instead of thought provoking ideas.
Which is why vintage dealers/merchants are an important part of contemporary fashion culture. The really good one’s, the one’s with a creative eye for well-made clothes by designers who challenged and pushed peoples imaginations 20 or more years ago, are the one’s inspiring us to not look like everyone else today. And they know now what we’ll be wearing in 20 years time, putting a whole new spin on the cult of the pre-order.
It’s possible we’ll be wearing McQueen’s Plato’s Atlantis collection, because there’ll be nothing else quite like it.
Vintage is the future of fashion.
Long Live McQueen.
Gill writes about the business of fashion for Mpdclick – a leading commercial online fashion trend forecasting service. To discover more, please visit www.mpdclick.com.
Gill is the co-founder of The Joneses. Contact her at Gill@thejoneses-nyc.com