Why Do We Bother Debating the Merits of Designers?
- Words Skylar Bergl
- Date April 20, 2017
For better or worse, we live in an age of constant content. It feels like every week, new prestige TV shows premiere, breaking news exposés are published, award-worthy movies hit the theaters, anticipated albums appear out of nowhere and hyped-up clothing drops. Even if you do your best to avoid the incessant news cycle, you’re bound to get hooked at some point. One devastating byproduct our new, always-on world is that the time for true, considered digestion has been whittled down to roughly zero. By the time the fire gear you ordered actually hits your doorstep, something new has already been released. Our enjoyment no longer comes from owning the item but from the rush of the purchase itself.
Meanwhile, the echo chamber around everything moves the needle from classic to trash with seemingly nothing in between. With fashion’s more exclusive reputation, you might figure that brands and designers wouldn’t fall victim to this philosophy, but it has clearly had an impact on them as well. Lately, the fight for relevance—even for luxury brands with decades of history behind them—has shifted from creating something desirable to continually vying for time on the consumer’s radar by releasing new items at all times. It’s now harder than ever to find a signal in all the noise.
This is especially true when you consider the revolving door of designers at big name houses, mid-level labels finding their stride and even young upstarts looking to make a name for themselves. The sheer number of companies, personalities, and news happening in the fashion landscape makes for a breeding ground of discussion about who is killing it and who is, well, not. It can be tempting to take part. But the truth is that these debates often boil down to “who is better” and are, more often than not, completely fucking useless.
Of course, that’s because everything about them is inherently subjective. There is no secret code or algorithm that the fashion Illuminati uses to determine which designer is the best. Instead, we reserve the right to decide on our own and, most of the time, your choices will not line up with mine. And that’s a good thing.
Still, with so much competition happening at any given moment, it makes sense to try and cut through the paradox of choice and pay attention solely to the best. But when it comes to fashion, these debates veer dangerously close to “my dad can beat up your dad” territory. It doesn’t matter whose dad would actually win in a fight because there would never actually be a fight in the first place.
This is also ostensibly why no one really gives a shit about the fashion industry’s numerous awards. For movie stars, winning an Oscar can put them on the map. For many musical artists, a Grammy can feel like a statement:
I've arrived. But when it comes to fashion, the winners have likely already carved out their spot and are well on their way to success. Plus, the breadth of talent within fashion spans so wide and is so diverse that it’s flat-out impossible to adequately represent everyone's varied styles and influences. There’s too much to consider to even come up with coherent criteria to judge a fashion competition. It really feels like these organizations do it just to say they did it. Meanwhile, singling out an individual designer above the rest is to ignore the plethora of bright areas across the industry.
The best part about having so many designers to choose from is that we don’t have to choose just one—they are not, and will never be, mutually exclusive.
Can you compare Tom Ford to Dries Van Noten? Or Rick Owens to Thom Browne? Or Junya Watanabe to Gosha Rubchinskiy? Of course. No one is stopping you. You can review their resumes, peruse their collections and wear their product, deciding with your wallet who is, in fact, better. But why would you? They’re each brilliant in their own ways. You can have both Tom Ford and Dries Van Noten if you so choose. So why does it matter who is better?
Or maybe we should just get these designers to fight it out and see who comes out the winner. My money’s on Rick.
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