Tuesday, September 9, 2008

THE VELVET MAFIA.............


I received an interesting email from someone (who did not want to be named buts lets just call her JB) this morning which really made my spine tingle.......well ok it just got me thinking! JB asked me if I ever felt that there was some kind of society/fraternity/sect that watches the fashion industry from the sidelines and tries to control the way forward.........
For a second I let out a giggle but then stopped to think about this a bit more and realised that actually we do have a bit of 'organised crime' in the industry not quite the velvet mafia as they certainly lack the requisite appreciation of good taste and the savvy of just being downright fashionable in every sense of the word........

I sat back thinking of the fashion mags and their editors.......now here's something interesting. Ever notice how much air kissing is done at shows when fashion editors are around. Designers go into a state of pre-orgasmic abandon (mostly faking it!) in the hope that the wannabe Anna Wintours of this world feature their garments in their next fashion spread. Off course this is called 'relationship building' but ever wonder why some designers are just not featured? Probably because they don't kiss butt that well or they don't necessarily think that they have to bow down in reverence to these demi-gods? A designer colleague tells me a story of how he has been excluded from a certain magazine (considered to be the bastion in style in SA) because he does not see eye to eye with the editor (neither do I but then again I was never much for supporting magazines with poor circulations figures!). Were this designer to be advertising in this magazine it would be interesting to see just how much his butt would be kissed. Internationally its about who gets more bang for their buck...i.e the more you advertise the more you are the darling of the magazine and the more your clothes are featured in editorials. In SA I can count on one hand the number of editors that are actively communicative with designers and take the time to visit their studios to view merchandise.......Conde Nast, Associated Magazines (only Cosmpolitan really) and some titles at Media 24 being the most diligent in my experience. What happens to the rest?

Only recently did we have magazines feature editorial from black designers across the board. Scarily their names continue to be incorrectly spelt........go figure. With all the talk of cheap imports it is also interesting to note just how many magazines feature stores that stock this type of merchandise...........

The other part of the velvet mafia is made up of fashion council members - an interesting mix of people - some designers, academics, factory owners, media personalities, government type officials and an interesting foreigner or two thrown in for good measure. Now the good Lord should forbid that you disagree or have an opinion other then the council.(leave alone implement something that they have hair splitting meetings about over and over again ). They talk openly about transparency but remain as about as transparent as a nun's habit. All tasked with developing the industry and hell bent on showing how much they have done for the industry. If throwing millions at a fashion week is developing the industry, including selecting the designers for inclusion in the line-up then one must ask how democratic this is...........or how fair it is in plain terms? I think it is incredibly short sighted (couldn't resist) for this Oracle of Delphi to sit back and think it has all the answers to the future of the industry. I certainly don't but there are definately a few more people out there with less hidden agendas. Even if there are those who sit on this council who can make a difference I often wonder if they have the voice to do so. I do hope that at some point they realise they will have to justify their actions/decisions and that sooner or later people will demand this. After all let's also just remind ourselves its taxpayer's money that keeps this lot sitting in the front rows.

The last crowd can't really be considered important enough to be part of the velvet mafia but they do warrant mention as they do in fact put in the most effort........fashion week organisers. Now here's an interesting lot. They are divided into 2 camps and have different perspectives on who 'owns' fashion in SA. They do try hard but they have also learnt that designers don't always fall for their dangling carrots and will easily change platforms on a mere whim or for the right price. Its common knowledge that designers have been lured under the guise of being 'sponsored' to show at various fashion weeks. Suddenly just thought of that Tina Turner song 'Private Dancer'............
Anyway this lot need cash to stage events so they end up having to smile through clenched teeth and listening to sponsors/councils/provincial government/imbeciles and adhering to all the conditions....yep chances are they don't have as much control as they should have and they are relegated to being fashionable ambulance chasers.......trying to lure designers to show on their platforms. Money does talk hence the bull**** on the catwalk........

So I suppose the velvet mafia does exist in a way but its really about what importance you associate to them. I mean really would you take them seriously...................you don't really take Robert Mugabe seriously but what he has inflicted on Zimbabwe is serious enough.........so its kind of like that JB!

4 comments:

Wasima said...

Gavin i couldn't agree with you more...but let me tell you that's the way it rolls in most industries...... you'll only get as much as you prepared to give....
Letting people know what you can do without sounding conceded. I call it "Sincerity Marketing" Editors however are not interested in sincerity marketing their interests are purely in what you can do for them, never mind the circulation numbers those are mere statistical......
There's a saying "what defines a man is not how much he's made but what he did with how much he's made"

Ladybrille said...

I could not help but laugh seeing your chracterization of the fashion mafia. My experience in the state serving as fashion editor for a few publications and also running Ladybrille Blogazine, I do find designers do what to kiss butt becuase they think that's what they should do. But, on my end, I am concerned on my end about the credibility adnd quality of clothes. If it is not quality i.e. design details, creativity, shapes of silhouttes, styling etc,., I don't care how amazing everyone says you are,I will either pass or call it out depending on teh angle of teh story we are going for.

Ex - FASHIONISTA said...

You have totally captured the stupidity and small-mindedness of the SA fashion industry. As someone who has worked in the fahion idustry in SA - and managed to get out relatively unscathed, but defainatley missing a few marbles - I think it is time someone told it like it is.
Keep it up.

Arthur C said...

i haven't read this entire post.. but i would like to comment on the part that caught me.. "organised crime"..

i am a Brand Optimisation Consultant, and from the part of the sidelines where I sit it comes across like there's lots of crime in the fashion industry.. but very little "organised"..

Your fashion week events come and go.. the designers gossip like mad about each other..

a Durban-based producer of the regional fashion week even went so far as to advise one (extremely talented) designer to pucker up and smooch the gluteus maximus of the wife of a certain film producer.

Then there is AFI.. i'm not sure what's happening there, but it's not progress..