x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Fashion goes back to it roots

As WWD announce impressive profits at LVMH and the fashion shows kick off in New York, we take a look at the trends on the catwalk.

When New York Fashion Week kicked off on Thursday, fashion felt in a good place. WWD, the clothing industry's authoritative newspaper, had just announced some good news: LVMH reported profits had risen 73 per cent in the past year.

The New York schedule was near bursting point, crammed with store openings and parties, and this being the second outing at its new "home", the Lincoln Center, things weren't quite so unsettling.

There was perhaps another reason for the confident mood and seeming group sigh of relief emanating from American designers.

Of the big four fashion capitals, (Paris, Milan and London being the other three), New York always takes the flak for consistently failing to churn out the desired number of dynamite trends the industry demands.

Here, designers are renowned for giving the world classics, or at least twists on classy, easy separates. When it comes to kooky "out-there trends" you can count the designers doing them on one hand.

This season, however, instead of being looked down upon by more adventurous (but poorer) capitals, there is growing confidence that New York will be applauded for doing what it has always done best. As they say in this city, no kidding.

Recessions have a knack of getting rid of the clothing equivalent of dead wood, and this one is no different. It is about to expunge a phenomenon that has hung around persistently for almost a decade: fast-fashion trends.

The January haute couture shows were unanimous in their verdict. There were no, as in not one, not any, universally agreed-upon trends. Designers have finally leapt off the hamster wheel and appear to be getting their breath back.

What began at the Paris couture shows looks set to continue throughout this ready-to-wear season. After years of zealously following trends laid out by the industry's leading fashion forecasters, to the detriment of their own signature design handwriting, they are rebelling.

I spoke on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour last week about the confusion surrounding fashion at the moment, triggered by too many trends in the spring/summer 2011 season - none of them very convincing - and the sheer lack of any at the haute couture season.

I explained that the trend for having so many trends (do keep up) and so fast was a measuring stick of our global culture. Although we've been virtually spoon-fed fast-fashion trends for a while, this cannot continue.

Not so long ago, fashion used to be about the style of the (individual) clothing house rather than the 1970s being back in (again).

I also pointed out that by Chanel being "very Chanel", which by definition would be very different from Givenchy or Gaultier, this was in fact positive for the consumer.

What is the point in 350 designers all doing the same maxi dress along with Primark and Topshop?

Catwalks, henceforth, are predicted to cease to be a tool for designers to boast about how they can keep abreast of endlessly changing trends and be more about coming up with something that differentiates them from rivals.

Will clothes get more classic or wearable as a result? Actually, quite the opposite. In the current climate, designers in all clothing markets must come up with something exceptional to appeal to the (financially frazzled/trend-weary) customer, which perhaps explains the explosion of limited-edition ranges in chain stores.

How telling that Alexander McQueen, as in the label, has risen like a phoenix from the ashes of what could have been oblivion because, rather than make it go the way of so many bland brands, following trends and not being true to the creative house style, Gucci group did the reverse.

By utterly ignoring whatever else was going on in fashion (as it turns out, not much) it has succeeded in giving the brand one more chance of life. What a pity McQueen, who hated fast-fashion, wasn't around to see it.

As the late designer eerily predicted, fashion in the modern world is no longer just about clothes; it includes gadgets and lifestyle purchases. So where does that leave clothes? Perhaps with a little more room for art and design.

The insider view is that designer clothing must go back to its roots in order to move forward. Thanks to live streaming, you don't even have to be an "insider" perched front row at an exclusive show to witness it.

What are you waiting for? Switch on your computer and watch, without having to obsess about all those silly trends.