NEW YORK — Fashion is in flux.
That was the primary theme at the “Fashion Displacement” talk hosted by the Polimoda School, a fashion school based in Florence, that took place this week at the New Museum here.
The panel featured speakers from every corner of the industry: Rio Uribe, founder and creative director at Gypsy Sport; Suzy Menkes, International Vogue editor; Julie Gilhart, fashion consultant; Aimee Song, founder of the blog Song of Style; Fabio Piras, MA fashion course director at Central Saint Martins; Danilo Venturi, director at Polimoda; Burak Cakmak, dean of fashion at Parsons School of Design, and Sara Kozlowski, director of education and professional development for the CFDA.
The talk, which was moderated by Linda Loppa, Polimoda’s adviser of strategy and vision, began by questioning the role of designers today, the heightened pressures and how quickly they are leaving positions.
“I find this very difficult as a journalist,” said Menkes, who noted that while Karl Lagerfeld’s long stint at Chanel used to be the template, it no longer is. “What I am concerned about is they make these people work so incredibly hard that they are squeezing everything out of them.”
When asked how he would feel about taking on another job at a bigger fashion house, Uribe said accepting the position would have to come with certain terms.
“I promised myself that if I won the CFDA Vogue Fashion Fund Award that I would make sure that me and my team were always having fun,” said Uribe. “So if I were offered a position where I was doing really well and driving in fancy cars as Suzy mentioned, I would always be very tempted, but there is always the question of am I going to be able to remain true to myself and true to a brand and still have a great time and have fun doing that. Because if not it’s not really worth it.”
The conversation then turned to the value of fashion schools during a time when students have access to much of the knowledge that fashion schools provide via the Internet.
While Gilhart agreed that access has made fashion education less necessary, she thinks there is a growing process that still has to happen with designers.
“There’s a human maturity that needs to happen. There’s a staying process. They need to learn how to be bored. They need to live through that,” said Gilhart. “It was a real ‘aha’ moment when Alber Elbaz talked about sitting next to Geoffrey Beene for eight years and it wasn’t easy. You go through the whole plethora of emotions and schools need to address how you can seduce kids to come to school and how you can make it easy to come to school and how you can provide the economy.”
Piras also addressed how the industry needs to work with schools in a more integrated way.
“The industry wants to have a quick and good time with us,” said Piras. “We are very dependent on the industry and they help out with sponsorships but at the same time the industry misses the opportunity to work with us. There is so much more they could get out of us.”
Another issue that was discussed was the need for a fashion show.
“If there are two words that should be banned from the fashion language, they are runway and collection,” said Menkes. I’m not criticizing Instagram in itself, but it has made so many other companies and people do this whole runway idea as though the only way to see something interesting is if it comes towards you and I find that so boring. It seems to be such an old-fashioned way of thinking.”
Uribe agreed but admitted that when he was first starting out, he thought a show was the only means to get attention for his collection. But he’s considering going towards a more intimate format.
Kozlowski from the CFDA believed that while the format needs to shift, fashion shows still serve as a launch pad for designers.
While on the topic of fashion shows, Gilhart recalled seeing Uribe’s Gypsy Sport show in Washington Square Park and admitted that the energy from the show made people want to be in business with him. She believes that feeling something about a designer is being lost because there is too much focus on data.
“I’ve been looking to work with companies that base a lot of their success on data and I notice right away that they miss that thing,” said Gilhart. “We have to be really aware and we have to be cheerleaders for the nondata because the big luxury groups and tech companies are only depending on that.”