What is the connection between the fashion industry and the Internet? Both, it would seem, are being transformed by a radical democratization which is undermining real quality and enriching smart marketing companies. Just as "democratization" of media is undermining the value of high quality news reporting, so the "democratization" of fashion is undermining the value of style.
In Wednesday's NY Times, Michiko Kakutani reviews How Luxury Lost its Lustre, a fascinating new book by Newsweek fashion correspondent Dana Thomas. It seems like the fashion business is experiencing a similar dumbing down of quality to the Internet. Kakutani describes this as a "shift from exclusivity to accessibility, from an emphasis on tradition and quality to an emphasis on growth and branding and profits." She goes on:
But her focus remains on how a business that once catered to the wealthy elite has gone mass-market and the effects that democratization has had on the way ordinary people shop today, as conspicuous consumption and wretched excess have spread around the world. Labels, once discreetly stitched into couture clothes, have become logos adorning everything from baseball hats to supersized gold chains. Perfumes, once dreamed up by designers with an idea about a particular scent, are now concocted from briefs written by marketing executives brandishing polls and surveys and sales figures.
There are all sorts of parallels between the contemporary history of media and fashion. Both are seducing all of us. Wearing Hermes makes us feel exclusive; authoring a blog makes us feel powerful. But the consequence of each is the stripping away of quality. As Dana Thomas argues:
“The luxury industry has changed the way people dress. It has realigned our economic class system. It has changed the way we interact with others. It has become part of our social fabric. To achieve this, it has sacrificed its integrity, undermined its products, tarnished its history and hoodwinked its consumers. In order to make luxury ‘accessible,’ tycoons have stripped away all that has made it special. Luxury has lost its luster.”
Replace "luxury" with "truth" and you've could be describing the blogosphere:
In order to make truth ‘accessible,’ the Internet has stripped away all that has made it special. Truth has lost its luster.