Thoughts | Democracy for All?: The Abolishment of Luxury Fashion

It always seems like my titles are trying to be controversial; but let's be serious, I'm incredibly non-confrontational.  Okay, I'm not quite non-confrontational, but I am an intellectual, and I want to pique your interest for good reason. I'm a proponent of both democracy and luxury, high-end fashion.  In many ways, my life is a bit dependent on both.  To say the least, my means of sheltering my head are dependent on the latter.  This isn't what lead me to find this as a topic, but something else did.  In my first Op Eds discussing Supreme, people brought up collaborations as a reason for camping outside of retail stores.  There are several types of collaborations, but the bulk are usually peer-to-peer and designer-to-brand.  Designer-to-brand collaborations are what lead me to this opinion editorial/essay.

We have come from a world of fashion houses setting trends and distributing those trends to the people via department stores and boutiques.  Those fashion houses would create aspirational and attainable merchandise within their brands, mostly on the accessories level, and thus people could share in that little piece of luxury.  Then diffusion labels happened.  Those are lower price collections under the umbrella but separate from the high-end collection of a particular design house.  Don't get it twisted, there has always been fashion, or product rather, for people to purchase at every price point.  Otherwise, there would be a lot more nudity in our every day lives.  As clarification, this is an entirely opinionated observation of a history that I'm not an expert on.  I just want you to see the general trend illustrated.

Fast forward to your memorable existence, maybe even your parents'.  Private labels appear on the scene at places like Wal-Mart all the way up to places like Macy's.  Vertical retailing explodes on the scene.  Dotcoms pop up with assortments that blend multiple lifestyles of merchandise and voila, present-day.  Yes, I sped through that, and it's probably full of holes; but pretend that doesn't bother you or mess up my argument in the next paragraph.

I don't think I'd be wrong in arguing that 2011 was the year of the collaboration.  When Target was showered with fashion designer love, and H&M opened its arms to its European design house friends.  Vertical retailed boomed between places like Gap, H&M, J.Crew, and Uniqlo, and growth wasn't limited to brick and mortar.  Now, the root of today's inquiry is...Should luxury fashion be democratic?  It hurts to say this as a black man, but is fashion the one place that segregation could be a good thing?

Looking at this purely as a study on luxury fashion, does the world really need an intermingling of retailers with fashion houses?  I get it, collaborative ties up create buzz, drive sales, and drive a new and welcomed bit of external creativity.  However, just through a luxury fashion lenses, is it hurting more than harming? I suppose in a homogenized social media world where news is instant and repeatedly spread around the web, what's the  difference anyway?  But where goes the prestige?  I'm a consumer and I can admit that there's no way I can afford Rick Owens or Margiela full price, but I like to believe one day I can.  I'm not sure I want to tease myself with Margiela x Target.  Then again, is cool sh*t just cool sh*t?  It's a confusing dialogue, no?

I don't know what side I fall on.  I'm not making any declaration.  There is a piece of me that wants the unattainable to be completely unattainable.  I work hard day in and day out to get to the point where money isn't a thing.  But maybe people don't think like that...well they obviously don't but you get my drift.  I just can't decide whether or not fashion should be a democracy for all.  Style is democratic and individual, but fashion, that's different.  I know the category of luxury will always exist, especially as the gap between upper class and middle class increases.  Clothing will never not be a symbol for wealth, as it is a symbol of personal expression, et al.  It's utterly confusing!

I'm curious, what do you think?  I'm still stumbling to find my thesis...these are my first attempt to get some thoughts on this matter on paper.  Don't worry, I will write more as I hone my thoughts.  For now, what do you think?