Socialism creeps into River Island HQ.

Friday, 29 May 2009

A letter from a loyal reader tumbled into the email inbox with a humble request for articles on fashion that’s more in touch with what normal wallets can afford. Given that the financial markets are still going through a gloomy period bleeding helplessly as the people are clinging tightly on to their jobs and their every penny they’ve got. Although this blog strictly cover high-fashion, nothing is written in stone and there is always room for rational exceptions.

In the month of April I was invited to preview the Fall/Winter collection of a brand that might not ring a bell for anyone reading this article outside the borders of Great Britain, but the brand certainly a familiarity to UK shopper. The River Island. A people’s brand like H&M, Zara, Topshop and GAP, serving as an interim choice for dreamers hoping to one day have a £1,700 Dolce & Gabbana jacket hugging their upper body. Off course, the distance between an extravagant Italian jacket and a £25 River Island shirt is large with only a lucky few managing to close it. That is why brand like River Island play an important role in society. In touch with reality, give the public a life sustaining dosage of fashion at prices that are within arm’s reach for the majority of the population.

Not only does River Island serve affordable fashion, but their pre-view event had attractive brunette ladies kindly serving canapés of world class standard. The last time I encountered outstanding canapés like these, were at Jaguar’s luxurious press hospitality area at the London Motor Show in 2008. Grabbed with my fiddly right thumb and index finger, I indulged in mini hamburgers, seafood and deserts of all various delicious forms. To my lion appetite I enjoyed the sound track of two trendy DJs spinning upbeat tunes from the 80s which, along with the alcoholic beverages served at the bar, kept everyone on their toes across the room. Far in one of the corners were two arcade machines for anyone feeling to temporarily zoning out of the world of fashion for some classic Pac-Man game play. And yes, the machines were indeed popular.

Excitement reverberated through the entire room with a colourful palette of clothes and accessories hung on racks against the walls. Rather than fulfilling the prophecy of low-end retailers which is to provide basic wardrobe necessities with a neutral appearance, River Island orchestrated a collection of much diversity and personality. From thick cardigans and dark jackets to light fabrics for warm evening, no month of the second half of this year was unaccounted for. Different styles were thoughtfully considered too as the accessories ranged from gloomy and grungy boots to handsome loafers. In other words there were unexpectedly well designed fall 2009 offerings with some element of liking for everyone. Quality was admirable too with most pieces giving a premium feel when touched.

It was a day of tropical temperatures with the sun stinging on my shiny forehead like a floodlight. I probably shouldn’t have resorted to the vodka and lime drinks for killing my thirst because after tree glasses delusion kicked it. Staring across the room an illusion emerged of Christopher Bailey, Burberry’s chief designer, waving me in for a bottle of mountain spring water. With an empty glass of melting crushed ice in my left hand I walked towards the illusion of Bailey which was fading as I approached, and evidently vanished as I tried to grab him only to be left with a grey River Island blazer in my right hand. How brainless of me to be drawn into stupid mind games. But I swear, Bailey was in the room. Perhaps not in physical form but in spirit he was. Reflecting over the tomfoolery that had taken place a few seconds ago I clanged on to the blazer which abruptly triggered an express journey down the memory lane taking me back 5 months to the very day I posted an article on Burberry Prorsum FW09. That’s when all pieces magically locked into place. Even under intoxication I was able to experience a Robert Langdon moment while my eyes were rolling across the rail of clothes carrying heavy resemblance from Christopher Bailey’s most recent Burberry collection.

How devastating. Burberry Prorsum’s AW09 had been robbed of its virginity by River Island -- this before the Burberry garments even reach a single customer. Imitations were predominantly depicting AW09 but some familiar cues from SS09 were visible in a few pieces hung on the unofficial Burberry rack. They say imitation is the biggest form of flattery, but what if it’s the worst act of disrespect for creativity, talent and respect for art -- not to mention other people. Sadly the theme of imitation was a reoccurring theme that crippled across the entire collection as other familiar AW09 designs by the likes of Jil Sander’s must distinguished multi-colour scheme that signified his SS09 collection. DSquared also have a fair share of clothes to raise their eye brows over. Several shirts and sweaters that mimicked the Canadian duos playful knitwear prints and designs.

The amount of high fashion replication was unparalleled by anything I’ve seen produced by a respected corporation. The sight of the grand replication before my eyes was near level headed with the acts of certain Chinese car manufacturers which have enjoyed themselves developing cars heavily inspired by Rolls-Royce and BMW designs. German justice system righteously deemed a BMW X5 replica illegal in with the car manufacturer hungry to further display their fury and disgust by pursuing further legal action. That is not to say that River Island raise a red union jack on the roof of their head quarter and commence development of nuclear missiles. Much of what they presented at the preview is adequate for urban men in the market for thrilling designs at prices that don’t break the bank. Originality most crucial ingredient lacking in certain parts of the range unlike the canapés which they have all the reasons to be proud of.


Claes Schalling said...

Såg ju riktigt trevligt ut =)

Matthew said...

Is it really socialism? Looks a lot more like communism to me...

Actually, I don't really have a problem with this. There's a difference between fakes and copies. If this company was putting designer tags on the inside, that would be problematic. But using the real stuff for inspiration let's everyone have a little bit of luxury.

kelly said...

Great work man!!!

iluwfashion said...

Claes: Ja det såg faktiskt inte illa ut alls och jag är ganska intresserad av några enstaka grejer som skorna under rosa belysning. =)

Matthew: Communism can be considering applicable but it's a very strong word which why I opted for socialism which carries a slightly more humble tone.

I quite open to companies taking inspiration for each other but the lines between inspiration and imitation is very thin, especially if there is a considerable amount of it.

A Colourful Guy Drowning In A Sea Of Penguins said...

Designers, from the high end to the low end, and back again, blatantly copy and tweak each other's designs all the time. And, after one gets beyond a certain price-point, the differences between the quality of retail and designer garments are really very minimal.

The big design houses like to glorify themselves by telling us that they use superior fabrics and construction techniques. However, this superiority that they like to flaunt is an illusion, at best, and an outright lie, at worst.

Any designer/retailer, with the necessary finances, can obtain the exact same fabrics, as say, someone like Dolce and Gabanna would use. And, these fabrics, for the most part, really aren't that expensive or exclusive. They, also, have access to the exact same levels of skill when it comes to pattern making and garment construction. As a matter of fact, there's an entire group of people in this segment of the industry that will pimp their skills to whomever has the cash. So, that $500+ super-fine merino wool sweater, I bought last week, may have very well been constructed by the same group that made the $50 knock-off that I saw on my way to lunch yesterday.

At the end of the day, any successful design house or clothing retailer knows that the name of the game is "money". And, they will do whatever it takes to make money and stay in business.