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Friday, September 20, 2013

The Saddest Place on Earth: Why designer capsule collections and fast fashion must stop

So I spent a few minutes at a local Target this morning picking through the racks of their latest designer collaboration, this time with Phillip Lim, whose 3.1 Phillip Lim line has garnered high praise and awards from critics and consumers alike. Lim's aesthetic is refined urban street chic. His take on the motorcycle jacket shows restraint while also adhering to the womanly curves of its wearer. Prices range from $150 for a t-shirt to $1700 for a coat. In fashion terms, Lim is affordable. Which is just one of the reasons that we, the hoi poloi, have flocked to Target, H&M, and Zara in droves when a designer, such as Lim, goes slumming with a capsule collection for these fast fashion outlets. 

As soon as I walked into Target, the Phillip Lim display was front and center, with ladies apparel that included elliptical-hemmed tanks, belted Burberry-inspired trench coats, floral collage vests/jackets/dresses, and black pebble-grained tote bags that looked like downmarket replicas of Lim's luxury version of the bag - all modestly priced. There were also some pieces for men, including black high-top sneakers, camouflage tees and sweatshirts, and button down dress shirts. It was all pretty sad - designer duds under florescent lighting. While I walked the rest of this parade route of sad fashion, a mother and her teenage son entered the Phillip Lim maze. She was trying on one of the trench coats, which was clearly too large for her, so I mentioned that I had seen some smaller sizes a couple of racks over from us. She thanked me, and went on to tell me about her experience on the opening day at one of these Target designer collaborations down in her hometown of Miami, Florida. The woman's leg was in a cast at the time, and as she limped along with some of the designer items in her shopping cart, a young woman approached her and snatched two items from our hobbled friend. It was a feeding frenzy! We parted, and, just then, the jagged sobs from a toddler long past their nap time rung out behind me, and I knew that it was time to go.

I made my way out to my car, feeling ill at ease, and I couldn't understand why a little fast fashion was having such a negative effect on me. I started to go through my mental catalog of favorite fashion memories. As a little girl, I would spend hours flipping through Vogue magazine, mesmerized by the clothes. By the time I was a teenager, fashion magazines were where I spent most of my disposable income. I imagined myself in those body-conscious Donna Karan dresses, or kitted out in head-to-toe Givenchy Rive Gauche, with a soundtrack of Grace Jones' "Slave to the Rhythm". I had Haute Couture dreams on a Gap budget, but that was OK. A girl can dream, and that was the great gift of fashion then and now. 

There's a wonderful documentary about Yves Saint Laurent and there's a scene with the wondrous actress Catherine Deneuve doing her final fittings for her everyday suits at the designer's atelier. And while the conversation between Ms. Deneuve and the team at Yves Saint Laurent touches on chickens and hens and breeding, La Deneuve speaks on the joys of the caress of silk on the skin, specifically the silk of the skirts and dresses from Yves Saint Laurent. Fashion of this caliber is special. And even though I choose to spend my dollars on groceries and other daily essentials and not a pair of $800 designer shoes, I don't want luxury fashion to climb down from its high place. 

Years ago on my very first trip to Paris during an uncharacteristically frigid week in December between Christmas and New Year's Day, my friend, Jenn, and I took an early morning stroll and passed the Givenchy store. It was closed, but I still insisted on her taking a photo of me in front of the store. This place was like a temple of fashion and my joy was just in seeing these pieces of tremendous beauty, not in possessing them. So, for the Phillip Lims out there, I'm going to pass on the fast fashion and the collaborations, and stick with the fantasy.