Turning Point: Younger shoppers — those born after 1980 — become the growth engine for the global luxury market.
Fashion and the way we shop are constantly being disrupted. Instagram and Facebook monitor our activity and send us targeted, shoppable ads that allow us to buy items with a click. Influencers with hundreds of thousands of followers are paid by brands to wear and write about clothing and accessories in ways that encourage viewers to make purchases. Amazon now sells nearly everything: wedding gowns, car tires, diapers.
Many designers are forgoing traditional seasonality and taking a "see now, buy now" approach to sales, allowing customers to buy items as soon as they appear on the runway. All these changes can feel unsettling.
The Venezuelan-American designer Carolina Herrera discusses navigating her 36-year-old house through this new consumer landscape. Known for her classic styles, Mrs. Herrera says that while the business of fashion may evolve with the times, the core of the industry — artistry, detail and personal vision — remains unchanged. This conversation has been edited and abridged.
A. The first thing someone who comes to buy something asks is "What's new?" because fashion is all about newness. It's about having something very special that is very specific for you — to make your own. I design for the woman who desires something feminine, luxurious and special, but that also fits her modern lifestyle.
A. The digital world has changed the way people view fashion. Social media, Instagram, Facebook have never been more relevant in telling the brand story. Years ago, fashion was something very few people were involved in; now it's everywhere. With the internet, anyone can see the shows while they're happening. For example, I have an Instagram for the Carolina Herrera house that gives people exclusive access into the atelier and design process. It allows people to be more informed about the clothes.
Fashion is a dream that suddenly has to become reality. You have to wear it, which is why I always say that fashion is art in movement. It changes all the time and it changes very quickly now with each collection, but that doesn't change its allure and mystery.
A. I've always made clothes that make women look beautiful and feel feminine. Elegance never goes out of style. I always say that I'm not working in the fashion business; I'm working in the beauty business. I want women who wear Herrera to really feel confident in what they are wearing. Style isn't just what you wear, but how you wear it. It's a personal thing that is reflected in the way you live and arrange your house, your taste in books and art, and the personal stamp you give to everything you touch.
A. New York is a very important place for fashion. I am Venezuelan, but I am an American designer because I started designing in New York over 35 years ago. It's always been important for me to have an in-house atelier and to support the city and the garment district that has supported the brand.
New York is a constant source of inspiration. There is always something happening — its energy is contagious. There is inspiration everywhere if you are open to it.
A. I don't believe in trends. If everyone follows trends, then we will all look the same, and what fun is that? Fashion should be an expression of yourself. I've always stayed true to the style codes of the house and have kept my eyes open — beauty has a way of finding you that way.
A. This is a 36-year-old house. A designer has to stay true to who they are and what their house is while creating clothes for today. We are in another era. I cannot sit still and do the same things that I did in the '80s or in the '90s.
The landscape has totally changed. The world is completely different because of technology and global access to information. Fashion is everywhere now — it's on the phone or computer, it's in television, it's in films. What is produced has to be something new in the consumer's eyes.
It's a huge challenge, but it's also very exciting because nobody knows whether it's magical, it's madness or it's beautiful. Fashion is not a revolution, it's an evolution.
© 2017 Alexandra Polkinghorn
Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate