When the team reached the shores of Madasgascar where he now modestly lives, they found him sitting on a hammock located at the veranda of his humble home in the solitary island off the coast of mainland Africa. He was combing the hair of his four-year-old granddaughter who was wearing a red Hippeastrum over her right ear, it was one of Madagascar’s indigenous flowers. One of the team members waved her hand to say hello, and this father knew the interview scheduled via email weeks ago was about to start. He led the team to a nearby table in the veranda.
It was mid-afternoon in the lone island, the sun shining so bright forming shadows. But the story he shared was sun-kissed – by darkness.
“The death of fashion is imminent,” the 72-year-old former designer who now lives with his two daughters and five grandchildren said. “I don’t see fashion shows, and brands like Alexander McQueen, Prada, Gucci and even Versace being looked up to in the future.”
Choosing to remain anonymous, he himself had a share of fashion experiences before, starting as a sewer in a fashion house in Milan and eventually being able to feature his collections.
“Brands of McQueen, which I admired before, among with many others are not going to last long,” he said. “There is a new generation of buyers who find more value in technology, food, investing and other matters, but not fashion. The patrons of these high fashion brands are nearing their old age. One of my grandchildren, 12 years old, once asked me, ‘Who is Versace, grandpa?’ I just laughed it off, because she was born Italian but cannot even pronounce the brand, and I said, I just made the right decision of leaving the industry as early as I can.”
He further said that fashion shows are now losing their value, and that no matter how designers try to pick up on getting the sales up, “the road is sloping downwards.” When he left Milan almost five years ago, after paying recent visits to places like New York, Hong Kong and San Francisco, he said everything is different, seeing malls choosing to highlight brands for the younger generation more than the high fashion ones.
“I have been to this mall and true enough, there are hallways intended for high fashion brands and usually are almost empty because of being too expensive,” he said. “But now, I felt another kind of the emptiness around the shops. That people don’t recognize them anymore.”
When asked if magazines advertisements do not work to publicize the high fashion brands, he said, “Since I became familiar with Instagram, it’s now difficult.”
‘No value in fashion’
He painted a grim picture of recent fashion shows and described how some of the shows are now being run in derelict houses, old buildings and used warehouses.
“The glamour is losing its grip,” he said. “Because more and more people are now aware of dressing up themselves beautifully without getting inspiration from fashion shows, these shows are now of no value, like an old wooden pony ride now placed in the attic. They now prefer playing the game called Candy Crush.”
He cited the recent Gucci fashion show held in New York, which he found out via Twitter, and said the trademark of the Gucci brand built over the years can still be seen, but said that this is “not what people are looking for.”
“Today, wearing clothes has to be realistic. Gone are the days when we admire fashion because they are filled with fantasy. But have you asked yourself, ‘are we ever gonna see these clothes on the street?’ Never.”
He also answered questions on his thoughts of high fashion reaching the leading economies such as Dubai and China, as Vogue’s Anna Wintour is reported to have her eyes on the Chinese market.
“Value is the important thing here,” he bravely pointed out. “The people in these places are known to have so much disposable income. How much of a burden is to buy a Gucci dress and a pair of high heels? That’s when high fashion becomes a thing that deserves a space at the flea market.”
Fashion’s dirty laundry
This former designer started his clothing line because of his father, who was given a scholarship to study in a prestigious fashion school in New York back in the 1930s. He wanted to continue the family’s tradition in the industry.
“I became a designer mainly because it is a family tradition, my father wanted me to go on and I was also interested in it,” he said. “But the times before are different from now, and so I chose to live a better life.”
There was a long pause and some moments of silence after he said this. By that time, his wife, 70, served some local fish and peanuts on the table. He chewed on a couple of grains before continuing.
“Fashion thrives on sophistication and more often than not, inauthentic class which is far from reality,” he explained. “Prostitution exists in the fashion world. I have witnessed it myself and I hope the world will look into this. My son was 17 when he started modelling and I gave him much independence that I trusted him to know his way. He lived far from where I lived, as he lived much of his life in London. But one day he told me, ‘Papa, I’ve had enough. I also want to begin a family and I don’t think I can make this dream come true if I remain just a model.”
The team saw the former designer shed a tear. His son modeled and became part of photoshoots under famous underwear brands in Europe.
“This was the turning point when I decided I needed to give up this passion,” he said, his voice cracking.
Now, his son lives happily with his wife and their only daughter in a US state.
“One of the reasons why I can see the death of fashion coming is because the dreams made by high fashion are now coming alive, and when they do, that’s when the essence of fashion stops,” he said. “Many of my dreams have now come to reality, which gives me no reason to create more designs from fabric mostly sewn by those we treat as slaves. I hope the world wakes up with me. And I am happy to finally retire to a place where beauty is not skin-deep. And I love seeing my granddaughter wear something from H&M.”