The Future of Creative Diversity

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Anyone who has taken a media class in the past few years has heard of the word "conglomeration". If you aren't one of those people let me break it down for you.  The majority of American media is owned by less than ten companies.  Among these media giants are Disney, Viacom and News Corp, corporations that are now household names because of the media entities that they are in control of.  The moral of the story is that media experts are worried about the advent of conglomeration and its effects on the diversity of media.

Lately, I've started having the same worries about the fashion industry.

Missoni Front Row - Milan Fashion Week Womenswear Spring/Summer 2014

Style.com, that glorious resource of high-definition runway photos and trend reports, has recently been added to the list of things under Anna Wintour's control.  The site is owned by Condé Nast, whose restructuring has been brought into the limelight since Anna's appointment to a position created just for her: Artistic Director.  As Artistic Director, Anna was given some creative control over multiple Condé Nast publications, including Glamour and Lucky.  In a not-so-subtle fashion, these publications were given the Vogue treatment, featuring more luxury pieces, photo spreads and fashion-approved starlets.

So what does this mean for Style.com?  If I had to make a prediction, I'd say that the site itself will make a subtle aesthetic move toward looking more like Vogue's own online publication.  The content might adapt a voice more similar to the musings of Hamish Bowles and Plum Sykes.

These moves aren't necessarily a bad thing for Condé Nast.  After all, Wintour seems to know what sells magazines, as she consistently brings in the most ad pages each September.  However, when one person has creative control over so many outlets, everything starts to look the same.

Joseph Altuzarra taking a bow

Similar to the publication industry, the design side of fashion is going through its own conglomeration phase.  Two large corporations, LVMH and Kering, own a majority of the luxury brands on the market.  LVMH owns the likes of Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs, Dior and Givenchy, while Kering's holdings include Gucci, Alexander McQueen, Saint Laurent and Balenciaga.  While a few brands remain privately owned (Chanel) and some even publicly traded (Michael Kors), many designers need investors like LVMH and Kering to get their feet off the ground.  Joseph Altuzarra, one of the most-watched designers this season, recently allowed Kering to take a minority stake in his brand.  Even a minority stake from a corporation as big as Kering allows Altuzarra to expand his brand immensely.

The worry with this phenomenon is that the creative process will be inhibited by the need to sell garments and please stakeholders.  Yes, fashion is about selling garments.  And yes, fashion is about selling MANY of those garments.  However, the whole point of those runway shows that we wait months to see is that there will be something new.  We hope that something coming down the runway will inspire us to step out of our comfort zone, or that we'll get to see something innovative and interesting, unlike anything else on the shelves.  Sometimes the most intriguing looks on the runway aren't anywhere near wearable.

That's the fun part though, at least to me.  Seeing what the creatively-gifted can do with clothing blows my mind every season.  The fact that this could be stifled because people won't necessarily purchase the pieces is worrisome.  To maintain diversity on the runway, designers must be allowed to exercise their ability without the limitations presented by having a controlling financial backer.

Fashion is the only art that I will ever understand.  I would hate for it to become more about catering to the masses than about unleashing a creative impulse.

 

What are your thoughts on the conglomeration of fashion?  Let me know in the comments!