x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Fashion Talk: When luxury brands come with too much baggage

How I wish it would return to the days when a fashion show wasn't merely a tool used by men in suits behind brands to flog bags.

The breakout show of the prêt-à-porter spring/summer 2012 collections for me was Givenchy. This ticked all the boxes about what a fashion show should be about: inventive designs with a real message. Not a phoney showpiece orchestrated around the brand's real money-spinner: shoes and bags.

The latter, as we know, ultimately reaps in serious profits for luxury houses, some of whom have the cheek to even call themselves a "fashion" house when in fact accessories fund day-to-day operations.

Riccardo Tisci, Givenchy's designer, is perfectly acclimatised to our times. A modern designer who gets the importance of perfume and "lifestyle" branding and yet strives to produce something new in terms of clothes each season.

Watching the show felt like opening a book and finding a storyline with a refreshing viewpoint. It had a riveting start, posed a few questions along the way and answered them by the conclusion.

Most of all it felt good not to be blown away by accessories, besides of course the shark's-tooth necklaces. What a difference to see no silly oversized bags or gargantuan heels. Instead, realistic handbags and glossy wearable sandals that stood up to, but didn't overpower, clothes.

In the nicest possible way - no offence Riccardo - but these were afterthoughts, as accessories might be with a chic wedding ensemble. Why should the focal point automatically hover around a woman's feet? It's simply not right.

Admittedly, he had Gisele Bundchen's legs on show in tiny shorts, but how nice that the shoes didn't get the last word.

Is it just me or have you also grown tired of super-accessories? Leather goods have had it too good for far too long. Reading reports about the 74.2 per cent leap in profits at Prada, or 69 per cent sales at Mulberry or how Hermès has been valued at £24.5 billion (Dh139.2bn) just goes to show that the luxury Titans have a one-track mind. Who are they kidding? Nothing bags a luxury brand more cash than a handbag.

But isn't it about time we buried the "it" bag? When you hear Stella McCartney's chief executive proudly telling the clothing industry newspaper, Women's Wear Daily, that the 34.4 per cent year-end profits rise in the UK arm of the brand (which concentrates on lucrative licenses such as eyewear and perfumes) owes much to the Falabella, the non-leather bag that costs as much as the finest calfskin, then something is wrong.

How I wish it would return to the days when a fashion show wasn't merely a tool used by men in suits behind brands to flog bags. There, I've said it.

Was it a ploy that Bill Gaytten, John Galliano's acting successor in his own-name brand, took inspiration from Mary Poppins, the fictitious nanny whose signature was a roomy carpetbag?

Models on the catwalk crashed into each other carrying lumpy, unglamorous holdalls that ruined some beautiful diaphanous gowns. Why?

I feel a tipping point is imminent. How well I remember in the early 1990s watching shows on the Milan catwalk and being mesmerised by that unnerving breed, the supermodels, so much so that clothes became utterly irrelevant.

It was a danger designers addressed. Linda Evangelista and company were suddenly shooed off the runway in favour of Eastern European girls you barely noticed.

In Marc Jacobs' first collection for Louis Vuitton in 1997, he shocked onlookers, not for the first time, by not featuring a single bag on his runway. How times have changed.

I sat opposite Kate Moss and Kristen Stewart at the Mulberry show in London, and next to a journalist from America who hadn't even realised Mulberry did clothes.

The designer Emma Hill's spring/summer 2012 clothing range was rather lovely but to my mind, totally ruined by the overload of bags that came out with every single outfit.

I'm impressed with modern thinking design houses such as Valentino. The creative directors, Maria Grazia Chiuri and PierPaolo Picciolo - who invented a certain cult bag while they were at Fendi - developed a line of accessories in perfect harmony with their revitalised brand. Extremely elegant yet decadent. Their hand-painted python boots and Rock Stud bags epitomise the understated luxury of the house.

Bottega Veneta's woven bags under the direction of Tomas Maier have an artisanal quality to them that is timeless, arty, and yet exclusive.

Iconic fashion accessories started out by being like this. But I wonder, could they ever go back to being this subtle? It's rather like asking Lady Gaga to tone down her look. But if she'd only look at what Riccardo did at Givenchy, she'd look very 2012, even in 2011.