The Fashion Industry Can't Ignore The Real World Anymore



Now that NYFW has officially kicked off, we'll all be inundated with collections, trends, models, and gossip for the next seven days. It's an exciting time for Manhattan, a time when the city's lifeblood is pumping at marathon speeds to maintain its title as the cultural center of the world. And as such, all eyes will be on the runways. Yes, the designs will be critiqued and all of Anna's actions will be gossiped about over the digital airwaves, but there's another conversation to be had as we click-clack our way towards Lincoln Center: Just how "real" is the fashion industry anyway?

Like science fiction, fashion isn't just about pretty fabrics and knock-out beauty looks; it's a business and art form. On a deeper level, it reflects the current state of affairs buzzing through the zeitgeist — the wealthier the world feels, the glitzier the runways. During the recession, the collections were dark, heavy, and (relatively) free of extravagance. But, the world we've had reflected back to us in previous seasons has been far from reality. On the surface, the runways have, as the Washington Post reports, become extremely whitewashed. The diverse reality of the consumers is still hovering in a limbo that, when employed, is more for token use than a considered one.

Beyond race, the dialogue regarding a model's weight and age have still not reached a solid conclusion. Progress is being made politically, and more locally with the CFDA's Health Initiative, but even that is a purely voluntary commitment much like the means of production that designers choose to employ. With the echo of last April's Bangladesh factory collapse ringing in its ears, the industry is slowly coming to terms with the relative importance of being transparent when it comes to its processes. Even as designers like Anna Sui and Nanette Lepore work to save New York's garment district, the majority of Americans don't care whether their purchases are made in America or not. The industry is still inclined to outsource items, rather than employing local artisans to breathe life into their designs.

Change is happening, however. With Eden Miller's plus-size show premiering this week at Lincoln Center, the industry will have to face the reality of the real woman. Initiatives by the CFDA and New York City's Economic Development Corporation have established a fund to help struggling American factories gain momentum again. It might be too early to predict the exact impact, but Spring '14 will be a telling season for the industry. Will it begin to brace itself for the wave designers like Miller and the CFDA have started, or will they continue to front change without following through? As reality is often a rude wake-up call no one wants to hear, a wise move would be to ride it, but we won't find out until we get to the flip side. (The Washington Post)

fash1Photo: via The Washington Post.