In the last episode of the most recent season of The Fashion Fund, Anna Wintour mentioned something along the lines of designers having to take on a celebrity image in order for their brands to be sustainable. Do you believe it true that a designer must attain somewhat of a celebrity status in order for his/her brand to be successful in this day and age?
When I received this question (months ago, sorry!) the first name that came to mind was Maison Martin Margiela. It’s a clichéd and obvious example, of course, but the company’s mantra of collective contribution and anonymity has generated a unique form of cultural cool. Last month, after Suzy Menkes ‘outed’ Matthieu Blazy as the company’s lead designer, the Business of Fashion published an article, claiming that if designers learned how to harness the power of anonymity then the rewards could be huge. “In 2014, we’re living in a culture where anonymity has never been more potent, or more lucrative,” wrote Joe McShea and Lucian James. Jake Woolf at GQ, however, adopted an alternative view, stating: “With Maison Martin Margiela, we’re talking about a brand that is fully committed to the anonymous way of life, and not as a PR stunt.”
Woolf has the right idea: anonymity is impossible to fake, and there are very few people in the industry who have the time and patience to tolerate designers’ quirky marketing schemes. The industry moves too quickly for such a covert and organic strategy to take form. I think it worked for Maison Martin Margiela because the timing was right—fashion as an industry wasn’t so saturated. Only in the late 90s did it really begin to speed up, when Bernard Arnault instigated a retail renaissance that called for star designers, flashy boutiques, logo-heavy designs, and garish advertising. Margiela (among others) provided relief from the bombardment of imagery and the “cult of anonymity,” as writers now call it, began to flourish.