Most brands remain encumbered by capital-intensive, long-run manufacturing processes that sharply narrow their creative range. Within the dominant industry paradigm, being too creative can kill you. Thus, in order to survive as a business, designers must clip their own artistic wings, and pray to God their “safe” choices sell, rather than wind up on clearance racks, or in bonfires.
There aren’t any designers I’m aware of who are innovating not only with the designs of their clothes, but also with the means by which they design in the first place. No one is seeking to build, for themselves and for others, an entirely new medium of design, a purpose-built tool for thought that could augment their creativity tenfold.
Very few designers, perhaps only higher-ups at the largest of houses, are able to exercise one-hundred-percent creative control over the design of their garments’ trims. Due to sourcing costs and difficulties, off-the-shelf zippers and shank buttons are tolerated as a fact of life.
The shift to e-commerce, and promise and power of the direct-to-consumer experiences, have largely materialized as a race-to-the-bottom. And while a few tech-leaning firms have pioneered innovative methods of distribution, seemingly, or in at least one case, explicitly, at the expense of sartorial novelty.
To this day, the point of sale remains the point of termination for the lion’s share of brand-customer relationships. Despite a years-long craze over “ownership,” where obscure cryptography algorithms managed to work their way into the zeitgeist of the fashion industry, there are still no new ways of owning clothes that feel non-extractive to consumers, let alone worthwhile and engaging.
No existing brand is verifiably sustainable, through-and-through. Fast-fashion’s sins in this regard are legion, and well-documented. But even brands the purport to be “conscious” in regards to sustainability offer mostly marketing smarm and fig-leaf initiatives. They can’t quantify the environmental effects of their entire supply chain. They can’t assure you completely that some kid chained to a desk didn’t sew your sweatpants together.
There is nothing new under the sun. Brand “collaborations” , seeking to magically multiply the surface area of profitability for all parties involved without actually creating anything new, like cheapskates at a vice squeezing the last atoms of toothpaste out of a tube. Very few brands are actively forging new stories and making new meaning.
Season after season, the latest crop of wunderkinds pump out collections, but for houses not in their name, and at the behest of shareholder profits. Very few have both the talent and the wherewithal to helm their own house; fewer still to ascend to the pinnacle of “face of the brand.”