Saturday, September 6, 2008

Runway - Fendi: Fall 08

Large corporate fashion labels face the challenge of maintaining a certain balance with menswear. First, they must not be too adventurous so that they overly challenge their regular customers or alienate themselves from the mainstream. While, on the other side, they must be progressive and different enough to set their brand apart within the sea of retail. Most of the time, in an attempt to create the proper balance, this works against any man trying to be different. It produces results that rely on the same pieces, but change the color, material, texture, or detailing just enough to make them look new to the undiscriminating eye. If we’re lucky, perhaps they evolve the fit a little bit. In certain seasons, however, it is clear that these labels are in higher competition as the balance gets pushed more towards progress and traditional menswear is much more heavily questioned. Fall 2008, so far, has shown us a glimmer of this balance push.

When the balance shifts to progress, even runway shows that in previous years may not have been any more interesting than the latest Banana Republic line, suddenly become relevant in the design spectrum. Already, we’ve looked at examples of forward-thinking pieces in the Armani lines. Here, we see innovation within Fendi.

Although cutting-edge and avant-garde designers, like we’ve seen with Walter Van Beirendonck, create the pieces that are saved in museums, published in books, and will inspire young designers for years to come. Major lines, however, like we’ve seen with Armani and Fendi, can be excellent examples for customers and designers who want to create something new without facing ridicule on the street or in office. While artistic designers have challenged and reshaped clothing to become a powerful statement of our social state, corporate designers have challenged their teams of office-bound brand directors to do the legwork for us: pumping just the right amount of expression into a piece without straying too far from the typical man’s comfort level. Although they may not deserve the artistic esteem of other designers, credit should be provided where it is earned.

What this musing comes down to is a simple recognition of the relevancy of major corporate labels in the realm of the avant-garde…but only when the balance of these labels is shifted towards competitive progress rather than profit-making through mediocrity.

Eat up this balance shift on the runway of Fall 2008 as I doubt we’ll see the same for Spring.

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