I came across this book because my boyfriend wanted to read about the industry I work in. After almost a year, he still didn’t read it, so I decided to not let the book go to waste. As someone who works in the fashion industry, this title is terrifying and I wanted to learn more.
Quickly I learned that this book was not about the end of fashion as an industry, but the end of an era where couture dominated everything. For anyone who wants a history of fashion, this is a great book choice for you. For those of you who just want the highlights, keep reading.
“Licensing was indeed an opiate that had greatly enriched the French houses while handicapping them for the long run” (Agins, 35).
My biggest takeaways from the beginning of this book are about licensing. When other businesses are putting your brand name on their manufactured product, you have to make sure every product meets your quality standards. The customers do not know which products are licensed versus what is created in-house. They expect the same quality every time they buy your brand.
Another piece of this puzzle is about demand. Almost all couture brands thrived because their brand image was to be luxurious and elite. When their styles and branding became available to the public, couture lost some of its allure. Why would the wealthy pay significant amounts of money to match with their friends? Simultaneously, it didn’t help that some of the branded goods had poor quality.
The logical evolution of couture was to create “a new marketing vehicle known as ‘bridge’— collections that carried a designer label but were priced at least 30 percent less than the top designer lines” (Agins, 37). These collections were and are sold to department stores that are easily accessible to the public and have a different demographic. When women who usually paid more for couture saw their favorite brands becoming house brands or available for a cheaper price, they either gravitated towards the bridge collections or away from the brand entirely.
The industry, now, is claiming there is a new movement of body positivity, but the essence of this movement has existed for decades. In Agin’s book, he quotes a Paris-based market research firm.
‘Who or what do you emulate when you try to be fashionable?’ Only 2 percent said ‘the models in magazines’ while 70 percent said: ‘No one. I just want to maximize me.’ (Agins, 44).
It is not surprising to me that women in every generation wanted the blessing to truly be themselves. Our current society of strong women have taken on this fight and will hopefully make it possible that we are the last ones to grow up feeling like we have to fit into a predetermined mold.
The next wave of change happened through marketing. When couture was at an all-time high, their shows were exclusive and fashion magazine editors were invited to see the designers’ line first. By the time the ’70s rolled around, “the designer [was] … communicating directly through national advertising and editorial and through fashion shows. The consumer sees it in many instances as fast as we retailers do” (Agins, 179).
Although this book did not give me insider information on how the fashion industry was going to end, which is what I originally thought was going to happen, I am very happy I read it. Trying to help bring our fashion industry into the future, without understanding its past, would have been incredibly complicated and inefficient. Now that we can see the mistakes that have been made, it is time to take a leap onto the next stage and fully immerse ourselves into the digital age.