I recently read an interesting article on the web from the Boston Consulting Group and Business of Fashion. It focused on the plight of fashion houses recruiting viable talent to develop current brands. Nearly 70 percent of luxury brands find it difficult to place creative directors, many citing inadequate talent pipelines. One of the biggest challenges facing luxury and fashion companies today is finding, developing, and retaining great creative and business, as stated by Jean-Marc Bellaiche and Sarah Willersdorf, a partner and principal at BCG.
All across the board, in design and product development, technology and general management in fashion are gaping holes needed to be filled by talent. But the greater problem beneath this current one faced by larger retail companies and fashion houses alike isn’t easily visible to the naked eye. Companies are searching for artists that have the ability to become, stepping into a role and growing. The key word in the article is develop. Because of the lightening speed at which we absorb, post, infiltrate the internet today, many of these people lying the talent pool have no desire to be students, i.e., get developed. Because the internet makes everyone a star…plumps up a faux resume, produces incredible geniuses…and at the tip of a finger one can quickly and unanimously become larger than life. We are inundated with rockstar status IG profiles where living a fashionable lifestyle is envied and admired leading to the notion that being famous is more important than developing (being a student). No longer are there eager students, hungry for knowledge, humble in approach, those that understand the process of starting from the bottom to learn the business of fashion as a way of life. No, no. Studying has been replaced by delusions of grandeur, with the aim of cult like celebrity followers as the ultimate goal. These faux “fashionistas” (btw I loathe that word) are armed with Google, a MAC illustrator (because no real sketching required nowadays) and the latest Vogue magazine for fast imitation inspiration. To each his own. But what happens when the famously internet stars began to outnumber school education or ones who’ve taken the time to develop, i.e. paid their dues? What type of predicament will the business of fashion be left in? A quiet but massive chaotic storm is brewing in the fashion community. The gaping hole between the creative side and business of fashion exists, and not acknowledging it will not make it disappear. And until both sides in the fashion community can put aside egos and learn to work together co-existing, the future of fashion is at risk.
The evil doer often comes to harm through his own deceit.–Aesop fable
Woody Allen. Robert Kelly. Terrance “Terry” Richardson. These three men are regarded as the crème de la crème in their respected industries and have all been accused, some tried in a court of law, and found guilty by the public of inappropriate sexual behavior. All have gone to the greatest of lengths to cover and annihilate the “rumors” of accusations, even penning public proclamations of innocence. The latest scandal of the three features famed fashion and portrait photographer, Terry Richardson. Known for his explicit, often nude, images of models and celebrities, Richardson has photographed some of the best in the business and worked for top publications. His resume is quite impressive; his work well received and is name is infamous. But the allegations that appeared via Twitter three days ago published by Emma Appleton are not the first of its kind. In 2010 and 2013, Richardson, who’s explicit often nude images tend to push the boundary of sexual and appropriate behaviors, stood accused of similar conduct by professionals in the industry. Dirt was slung from both sides as Richardson and his supporters fought to discredit the voices that cried foul and defend his brand and name. As with most sensationalized internet stories, the debacle settled into dust particles as the fire slowly burned into nothingness without a clear indication of the true details of the he said she said battle. Richardson continued to work and play as, I’m certain, he felt he dodged the flaming arrows of injustice and the attempt to vilify his persona. But on Sunday, US Vogue issued a clear and concise public statement, proclaiming,”The last assignment Terry Richardson had for US Vogue appeared in the July 2010 issue and we have no plans to work with him in the future.” Quickly distancing itself from the scandal and possible storm of criticism that will transpire in the future (Vogue has recently had its share, and more of public judgment handed to them by the Kim and Kanye cover mess). What’s different about the scandal of today versus yesterday is public support. No one, not one person, has come to stand behind Richardson. The photographer himself hasn’t spoken a word except one lousy standard declaration through his publicist. The silence seeping through Richardson’s dark room isn’t good; it would appear there is some difficulty in finding influential voices that are willing to buck against the power of Anna Wintour and Vogue.
Where does this leave Richardson? Innocent, guilty or perhaps the conversation in question between himself and Appleton was blown out of proportion, it will take quite a miraculous turn of events for this situation to be favorable for him. Richardson can kiss the power his name once yielded goodbye. Yes, he will continue to work and play perhaps not as boldly, but his seat is no longer perched atop of the industry. Remember John Galliano? I do, as many others; however we don’t often hear his name anymore, read about any recent work or accomplishments. The same fate, I believe, awaits Terry Richardson.