News came through this week that the uber-cool, multi-brand store Colette in Paris would be closing its doors after 20 years of business.
Colette was always the first place the fashion cognoscenti would head to check out the latest installation and see what was new, surprising, or ahead of the curve.
It is to be replaced by a Saint Laurent store, which is none of those things.
Brands paid to be in Colette (especially to feature in the windows during fashion week), but the choice of goods was always interesting and fresh, and the launches were cool.
A quick perusal of both floors would give you a snapshot view of what was currently trending, which is what a good multi-brand boutique should do.
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Without the eye of a savvy curator, fashion can be confusing. Just walk into any of the big fashion stores such as Zara, Top Shop or H&M, and try and work out what the dominant trend is.
Blue and white stripes? Embroidered jackets? Pink flares? Mexican ponchos? All of these at once appear to be the answer. It’s piles and piles of anything and everything.
There are some discernible trends that make it through (the colour rust for example, so lovely in Europe, but god-awful in the Australian sun). But really, the experts are (reluctantly) leaving the field. It’s up to us, the consumers, to decide now.
When I think back to how the fashion system used to work, it seems so quaint, if not a little Machiavellian.
Designers visited the fabric fairs, and chose their materials and colour palette for the season. Important magazine editors flew to Europe from all over the world to watch the designs come down the catwalk and then sketched their favourite pieces.
They returned to their offices, relayed the trends to the staff, set about photographing the looks and then presented them to their readers – six months later! As a fait accompli.
The “waist” is back. Skirts are longer. The block heel reigns supreme. It was simple enough, but too bad if it didn’t suit you. It was all that you could find in the shops, and it was all that you would see in the magazines until they devilishly changed it up again six months later.
Fast forward to today, and customers are live-streaming the fashion shows and ordering looks straight from the runway.
People dressed as a cross between Marie Antoinette and bike courier, while carrying a clutch bag shaped like a goldfish, are being snapped and touted as style icons by the street photographers.
It’s your taste that counts, even if that means tinfoil leggings, a Blondie T-shirt and a Tibetan chuba.
The last thing consumers want is a privileged fashion critic on an expense account telling them what they should be wearing. People get their information from everywhere now, from Pinterest to Steam Punk festivals.
Real style has to have a large element of personal choice involved. It’s ‘in’ if you say it is.