x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Fashion Talk: Style is seasonal, and so are the big names

The fashion world is now littered with unknowns, because there is no way to get to know everyone before the scene changes completely.

About three months ago, for a nanosecond, it actually felt like I knew every fashion designer worth knowing on the planet.

As in past, present and future, in terms of rising stars and recent college graduates tipped for great things. Finally, I thought to myself, experience counts for something. I can stop asking, "Who?"

Just as I was feeling slightly complacent, the superbrands began playing musical chairs and, perhaps sensing the sudden calm, an entire football team of new names suddenly clambered on to the fashion superleague.

I think this is what happens in fashion. A time of stability that never feels like it's going to end is followed by a period of rapid change. Bang. Bang. Bang.

Now, if you aren't asking "who?" when you are referring to a designer behind a brand, you feel like something is wrong. "Who" was certainly the buzzword in Paris during haute couture (and not just because the Dr Who actor, Matt Smith, was sitting in the front row at some shows). It's more as in who is going to get the creative directorship of Christian Dior (following the poorly received couture collection designed by Bill Gaytten, the right-hand man to John Galliano for 23 years).

Or, who is Bouchra Jarrar, the resounding star of the week?

While in Paris I found out who had designed the flamboyant gold bomber jacket Beyoncé wore at Glastonbury.

It was Alexandre Vauthier (who?). Vauthier was one of several young couturiers (Iris Van Herpen and Rabih Kayrouz were others) who were uncharacteristically embraced by the rather sniffy French establishment, the Chambre Syndicale, who were joining in the latest who's who game themselves. Vauthier only created his first couture collection in January 2009. Having just dressed Beyoncé for her forthcoming album, I suspect he won't be a "who" for too much longer.

With so many new names entering the fray, older ones inevitably will disappear, especially those whose names trigger a "who?" with a younger crowd.

To whom am I referring? Azzedine Alaia for one. What with no cameras allowed at his show and the entire US Vogue team opting to fly to London for the premiere of the final Harry Potter film, he could well be a who's-been.

While in Paris, I kept running into Claude Montana. When I first started out in fashion, Montana was considered a fashion king. To see him quietly sipping café crème alone and (I liked to think) enjoying the slow pace and anonymity of retirement on the Rue de Rivoli, seemed a fitting denouement.

If ever proof was needed of fashion's short-term memory, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli, the design duo at Valentino with unfeasibly complicated names, are a case in point.

In just two years they seem to have virtually eradicated the perma-tan hero and founder of the Roman fashion house from fashion history.

Although you could hardly call it a household name, at a recent lecture I gave to fashion students from FIT in New York, the Valentino brand (in its new incarnation) was the outright favourite with young twenty-somethings.

Their non-starry personas were considered attractive. Which got me thinking, could the days of the designer diva be over? Recent appointments of unknowns back up this trend.

The new "who's who" of fashion is littered with unknowns such as Olivier Rousteing, newly appointed at Balmain; Umit Benan at Trussardi; Alistair Carr (I remember him from a show at London Fashion Week, I think?) at Pringle and a Chinese duo Ling Lui and Dawei Sun (pass on this one) at Cacharel.

This might not be a bad thing, either. It doesn't feel like so long ago everyone was asking me who Sarah Burton was. Burton silently and seamlessly has helped usher in a new low-key era that feels right for now. This could go beyond fashion too.

To ask "who" no longer means you don't know your onions. On the contrary, it's cool to be part of the great learning curve. Here are some whos you may want to know about.

Thomas Sangster, 20, the young British actor poised to become as huge as Daniel Radcliffe when he stars in the new Steven Spielberg 3D movie, The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn; the singer Jason Derulo and, of course, Harper Seven, the fourth addition to the Beckham brood.

Fashionwise, Piers Atkinson, a milliner who has created the cult "Mickey Mouse-style" beanie; JW Anderson, whose midi is the thing of waiting lists for autumn/winter 2011/12 and Reed Krakoff, whose leather dress is tipped to rack up more magazine covers than any other in the next few months. Ah yes, "who", suddenly sounds very "new" indeed.