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Are the Current Pressures of the Fashion Industry Causing Designers to Crash? Karl Lagerfeld, Marc Jacobs, and More Speak


>> Between
Alexander McQueen committing suicide last year, John Galliano's drunken, anti-Semitic outburst, and Christophe Decarnin being sidelined for depression treatments, many are starting to wonder if the fashion industry and its current pressures — particularly the demand for more and more collections, released faster and faster — are to blame for designers spinning out of control. Karl Lagerfeld, Michael Kors, and more address the issue:

Karl Lagerfeld: “I see designing, running a company, like a high-level athletic activity. I don’t want to hear anything about the fragility or any of those things. If an athlete is too fragile to run, he cannot run. And this is exactly the same. You don’t accept this kind of business if you’re too much of an artist. I believe in discipline, so I’m not the right person to cry about weakness and things like this, but maybe I’m not human.”

Marc Jacobs: “You don’t think bank tellers have problems? You don’t think people in the middle of the suburbs have problems? Blaming is such a complete waste. I mean, it’s so pointless. To say, you know, my mother was absent and therefore I ran amok, it’s ridiculous. It’s a self-destructive nature, it’s a mental, physical and a kind of spiritual malady . . . people who are happy and healthy and spiritually well don’t do things to hurt themselves.”

Yves Saint Laurent's longtime business partner Pierre Berge: “I have a lot more sympathy for people who have to take the train to work every day. What a load of nonsense! No, no, no. Designers are artisans who are extremely privileged to have a poetic profession. They are not artists. We have to stop saying that they are.”

Marc Jacobs's longtime business partner Robert Duffy: “You cannot blame the industry. The majority of actors are not drug addicts, the majority of designers are not drug addicts.”

Theory founder Andrew Rosen: “I don’t see fashion as an industry being ahead of the world in terms of this issue. It’s a devastating and unfortunate condition that happens in every walk of life. It doesn’t make it better or OK, it’s a devastating illness to all those around it. Drug addiction, and addiction in general, is unfortunately part of society today. Maybe because we’re so close to our industry, we feel it more. Whenever it happens, it’s horrible.”

Michael Kors: "No question . . . I mean, I forget what season I’m in sometimes. I think every designer in today’s world, I don’t care whether you’re a designer who makes clothes that are phantasmagorical or very pragmatic, you have to figure out something that can ground you and bring you back. Whatever it is, if you go to the gym too much or you travel too much, you’ve got to have time to escape. I always tell everyone the crazy conversation I’ve had forever with actors, if they do two films in a row, and they’ve lived these characters and they’re on the set away from their friends and family, but then they take a year off. What are designers supposed to say? 'I’m tired. I’m not doing fall. Wear last year’s clothes, and maybe get some new nail polish.' It’s endless."

Photographer Mert Alas: “I’m the kind of person that I live under pressure, but I enjoy the pressure, so it very much relates to your own personality. Of course we’re all under pressure. The bus driver is under pressure. But, you know, it’s how you come out of it. If you can make good fun with it, pressure can be enjoyable.”

New York Times's Cathy Horyn: "For designers already at big houses, the pressures must reach absurd levels . . . Many people in professional and creative fields are under intense pressure, but for designers that pressure is manifested on the runway. The problem goes beyond having to produce multiple collections a year; it’s the nearly brutalizing feeling that something new and relevant must be communicated each season."

Co-President of PR firm KCD Ed Filipowski: “As a publicist, I have also taken on many times the role of ‘fashion therapist’ to my clients. Globalization, digitalization — the speed and scope of our work — has added a tremendous amount of pressure not only to the creative field but everyone in this industry. I would venture to say we are all doing at least twice as much work twice as fast as we were five years ago.”

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