24 November 2014

@jeou's inbox of Q&A

Sometimes on Tumblr I get asked questions that I either answer or forget to answer - also it's been a while since I've posted on here because I've been finishing my exams (and my first year of university, hurrah!), so I thought it'd be fun to compile a handful of what I've been asked and to try to answer them here. The industry is ever-changing, I must say, so even as I looked through and answered some of the questions, I was learning things too.

  • Do you believe in fashion as an academic discipline? (x)
Not going to lie, there’s this atmosphere in the industry where people think they’re honestly, really saving lives because fashion is extremely, mostly, justifiably, VERY important! These devoted people believe that fashion is key to all academic success because wearing the right pair of shoes will ultimately yes, not only make one feel beautiful but also bring one the academic success or that job position hoo-rah! Even I, while working and studying towards this industry, consider it as a fun hobby and over time have taught myself that fashion is important in some aspects, but there are other priorities in life. I’ve moved from the idea that ‘fashion is the most important thing in my life’ to ‘fashion is fun, artistic, but it’s definitely not going to help with world peace.’ I don’t think a piece of clothing can be cultivated academically by itself because it's an object produced mainly  for consumption but, in a way the industry itself thrives on its colourful, cultural and artistic history of how it came to be and who wore what to make it so successful. That definitely puts 'fashion' into a sort of academic discipline. So to answer, I'm quite half-half about it - in the end though whether its just a materialistic industry or it really has some kind of academic backside to it, you can’t deny that its a global empire that people religiously depend on. Some people swear by Vogue, so it's not impossible.

  • Any thoughts prior to John Galliano becoming apart of the Margiela team? Are you looking forward to his debut as creative director?
I had this question in my inbox for a really long time (and there were multiple versions of it too) and I just couldn't bring myself to answer it properly. I think when the news first broke out that Galliano was returning, I was already really surprised, so when there was news of him joining Margiela, it was like a double slap to the face and I really couldn't believe it. I've learnt about Galliano as a very eccentric and creative, over-the-top kind of designer that could almost rival McQueen with exquisite designers and runway shows so he left me with the impression as a very colourful man, and I've learnt about Margiela as a very unanimous and quiet house - very little is known about them apart from their very bold, simple work with a smooth aesthetic. For the very two different aspects of the industry to be clashing together was (and sometimes is) something that I can't fathom but I feel since the industry does move fast that it'd be okay for this to work. Just maybe. I suppose I am looking forward to it.

  • Do you think fashion can be considered a form of art? I appreciate fashion in an arty way but i always feel like it's more of just a way to sell? like commercial art. (x)
Art can be anything depending on the type of person you are and what you’re looking at. In the case of fashion, I think it is. Fashion can be seen as viewed art and bought art; basically aristocratic art VS commercial art; Couture VS Ready-to-Wear (RTW). I believe, while RTW is more for the masses to be viewed, commercialised and bought, the art that one can find in fashion deals with the ability for designers to create pieces that are to be viewed for the purpose of beauty - an aesthetic, a masterpiece (See: Alexander McQueen, no doubt). An individual piece can take up to 300 hours of only hand-done work by over 100 seamstresses/workers in a house. The effort for one dress is incredible. That is definitely art; Dior, Chanel, McQueen, definitely. One can look at it from a business perspective too if they're not interested the creative aspect of fashion, whenever a designer makes something for Couture, it’s usually a massive loss for the house, however so much time and effort taken to make a piece that usually doesn’t get sold because it’s not wearable (sometimes some pieces are too much for even red carpet events, so it ends up being archived or put on display at museums for a set amount of time). Look beyond that designers, buyers and businesses and you get photographers - the world of fashion has enabled any individual with a camera to be able to capture someone wearing something amazing and that’s considered a form of art- street-fashion-art. Over the past few years being a photographer at runway events or even outside the shows have become so important because it helps to continue this culture of fashion art, the art of not just wearing the latest trends but creating an identity. I think it ranks up pretty well in the world of painting, sculpturing and performing arts.

  • This is something I've always pondered about fashion. I understand that higher end brands provide better working environments and overall create a better garment, accessory, etc, and they might use higher quality materials but I've always wondered if their products are "worth" it. There is this article of clothing I really love, but it can be replicated easily so it'd be $500 vs. $70. Do you think the material is where the worth comes from or the quality of work done to it or is it the buyer? (x)
I believe this is a never-ending issue that people like to debate about fashion and whether it’s just a greedy/shallow industry or not, I can see why people who aren't interested in the industry would think that. Wanting to buy a Birkin for $20,000> seems ridiculous, no? However I think (some) people don't consider that a piece's worth comes from both the production and the buyer.
I personally believe the reason luxury item is so expensive is the time and dedication it takes for the creative director and their team to create one garment. time equals money, and the fact that a luxury item is made in a designer house of not offshore means that it’s legal work and like you said, better working environments and better workers with exceptional skills. None of that horrible child-labour or badly paid third-rate issues.
It’s a whole combination of things that rough up the cost of a product. If a bag is work $3,000 - already the production cost would be around $1,500. Other contributions like raw material, R&D, fulfilment, Couture production and sales staff contribute another $1,000. Then there’s the advertisement where companies will buy out pages of Vogue (and other acclaimed magazines) which would probably be around $500 just to be on the front few pages (or the back cover.) So that’s one reason why something would be so expensive, considering the item you want is $500 means a lot of time and effort was put into it. Also, i observed that the more expensive something it, the more prestigious and desirable it becomes to own it. That’s why luxury houses aren’t shy with their prices because they know customers who really want to affluent the luxury of an item will buy it regardless of the price. In addition to marketing and production costs, prices also  relate to taxes and different set prices in different countries. (It just has to do with the economy and how different nations are holding up.)
I always tell people in the end though, although its up to you to buy x or y, consider its quality over quantity - something that costs you $500 will last you 10 years while a duplicate of said item that costs $70 will probably last you 5 months.

  • Why are the prices of designer items going up? I read that a Chanel bag used to be around $4000 but now it's almost $8000. Doesn't this mean it's going to be impossible for people to even consider buying it, doesn't this mean the industry will die out?
Scary to think that a Chanel actually used to be affordable but now it's not really worth the money (in my opinion, but some people will still buy it.) It's weird to think that in this day and age with the global economy on a downhill that the prices of luxury pieces are still going up without a care for what's happening financially. The main three reasons with some answers appearing in the previous question, is probably cost of raw material, rising labour costs and high demand of products.
- There is no doubt that as the human population begins to increase every day, heck, every hour, that raw materials for our survival are becoming increasingly rare to find - rare means that they become more expensive. I won't even sugarcoat it to say one day we really are going to run out of natural cotton and crocodiles to skin. In addition to the raw materials, production has become a lot more expensive these days too. Just for design and manufacturing contributes to the price of the product, making it a lot more expensive than it should be.
- Rising labour costs where long hours need to be made up with salaries and this means increase of luxury items to make profit for the workers and companies. 
- Of course we can't forget high demand and that perceptional thinking of individuality and desirability. Like I explained before, there are people who will pay the price and companies know this. Consumers with the mentality that an expensive item equals exclusivity will always be around to help luxury houses make profit so as long as they pay up, prices will keep soaring.

  • Thoughts of Kim Kardashian and her photoshoot for Paper Magazine?
I don't even think about her tbqh with you.

  • Opinion on the use of fur in fashion?
Ah there is nothing more debatable and controversial in the industry as the topic of fur. I feel like some people think that the topic of fur is just a black or white answer but I think there's a line in-between that gets annoyed just because people either want to be pro-fur or anti-fur and not think any further. I know that fur is far from being the only animal material used (wool, leather, angora, silk etc... the list goes on) and that these materials can be both ethically sourced from and unethically.  Even just thinking about fur makes my head hurt because think back thousands, no, millions of years ago when the first people were living. Without the technology we have today, they had to literally take the fur off wild animals to wear as clothes to keep warm - are people going to call them unethical for wanting to survive? Then you think, fast forward to today where people can claim to be anti-fur and that's fine yes, but they'll go home to and dig into dinner with chicken, beef; some kind of meat. I myself, I eat meat and occasionally wear leather and maybe sometimes I pet fur coats just for the feel, so for me to say I'm against fur 100% would make me a hypocrite, and I don't like that. It makes me sad though to know that countless animals that had to die for ... you know, a Prada coat or something.
My opinion on fur will always be unsure, I always think that it's best to think alternatively for fur, or any of the above materials that source from animals or raw materials. If it's not really worth to skin an animal then... don't. Faux fur, as chemically-induced and unsustainable as it sounds, actually could really take off to be a trend. Wear ~fur~, save animal lives. It's hard to defend the industry on this one.

  • If you could change one thing in the fashion industry, what would it be?
For sure, it'd be to break down the very obvious (but slipped under the carpet) racism. One of the reasons I even considered, like ever, to want to work in the industry was to break away the racism. It's a big goal I want, but I want to try at least. I think it's bad enough that the industry deals with backlash about models being too thin and showcasing something negative to young girls and boys, but then bam, something bigger: racism. Flip through any fashion magazine or skim through a runway show and you will see the shortage of models of colour and its like... wow. You'll probably be lucky if you see five or six models of colour, let alone one. The damage lies with producers, directors, casting leaders, even designers being lazy and saying 'models of colour don't fit x designer show's aesthetic'. Fuck aesthetic though. In and out of the industry, there's this general belief that the ideal beauty, the ideal success, the ideal lifestyle revolves around being white - not being a model, or a person of colour with an ethnicity, but to strive for the ideal 'white' person. There are so many issues where models of colour must compete twice as hard against each other for a editorial shoot or a runway spot that could easily go to white model and it induces this pressure to work harder or be dropped on the spot. I wrote about racism in the industry earlier on this blog and I suddenly feel like after answering this, I know I'll have to work twice as hard to make this goal successful, but I aim to do it. Models of colour are so important for the continuous success of this industry.

  • I'm not sure if you'd be able to answer this but give or take, do you think the fashion industry has any big obstacles that they have to face or will have to face in the future? 
Well, I can try to answer it with the best of my ability. I think the main obstacle and the only one I can think off is that the industry has to prove its nobility. With the technology of mass production and machines that do everything, old skills that can't be produced by machines go to waste. Quantity has overtaken quality and production has taken over impeccability. It's sad to know that as consumers of the industry change, the industry leans on marketing and advertising who only care about profit profit profit. 

  • Opinion on celebrities who suddenly become designers?
I stay indifferent, uninvolved and I guess, loyal to actual credible and talented designers who know what they're doing.