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WWD's Executive Editor Bridget Foley Asks: Is Pure Fashion Dying?

Rachel Zoe's collection got a WWD Style cover and a spread in yesterday's issue
Rachel Zoe's collection got a WWD Style cover and a spread in yesterday's issue

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Executive editor of WWD Bridget Foley penned a think piece in today's issue of the industry paper positing the question: "Is fashion an endangered species?" Foley discusses the ubiquity of fashion in 2011 and the never-before-matched heightened interest in the industry—helped along, no doubt, by our national celebri-mania and the proliferation of the internet (blogs, Twitter, Facebook, digital photography, social media).

The Web provides instant access to all: live-streamed collections; the minutia of magazine staff moves (“and the latest intern upgraded to the closet full-time is -----!”); endless photos of any starlet in a cocktail dress, no matter how mundane the girl, dress or event. And all this while the blogosphere and Twitter provide platforms for a culture of self-proclaimed critical experts, some apparently knowledgeable and definitely influential in that proverbial high school seizure-of-power way.
But what does this democratization of fashion influence mean to the core of the industry—those luxury designers who've spent decades honing their art, cultivating a client base, and refining the quality craftsmanship of their offerings?

Has the drive to provide consumers with lower-priced "designer brand" products hurt the industry? She writes:

Some designers render accessible fashion beautifully. Marc by Marc Jacobs may be the smartest secondary brand ever launched, given its great clothes and a cool factor that can be had — in the form of all kinds of trinketry starting at five bucks and under. Recently, the blockbuster collaboration of Lanvin’s Alber Elbaz with H&M had ample shades of, well, Lanvin. So much so that in a December cover line, Vogue heralded, “The Perfect Party Dress (for under $250!).”...

Yet luxury houses are grappling with issues that impact creativity that have nothing to do with the high-low bandwagon. Given immediate access to fashion show visuals, the impatient public no longer wants to wait months to procure designer merch. Thus, some houses are experimenting with how to satiate the beast and increase speed-to-market. But at what price? For spring, in his quest for clothes that could be produced and delivered on a truncated schedule, Burberry Prorsum’s Christopher Bailey appeared to have watered down his typically intricate, inventive looks.

"Appreciation for pure, elitist Fashion is getting lost," Foley writes. She calls on critics to "fully report on and dissect high-end fashion, both experimental and otherwise" without, somehow, making reference to celebrity. "In fashion as in politics," she writes, "populism isn’t perfect and can elevate to iconic that based on merit may not deserve hallowed status."
· Is Fashion An Endangered Species? [WWD]