The Genteel
July 30, 2014
Home

Erin Ridley

Luxury boutiques are cropping up in malls in cities big and small; high-end labels are offering low-end creations at retailers like Zara, H&M and Topshop; and, little by little, premium boutiques are morphing into sales-churning online shops. The democratisation of high-end fashion, especially via e-commerce, is changing the luxury landscape as we know it.

By Erin Ridley

Add a comment

Erin Ridley

Madrid Spain
http://www.latortugaviajera.com/

Erin hails from the San Francisco Bay Area, but has called Madrid home for the last four years. While she got her start managing marketing in the tech offices of Silicon Valley, her life and extensive travels abroad eventually steered her down a different path. Now a freelance writer, she covers everything from travel to fashion, and everything in between. Follow Erin on Twitter @TortugaViajera.

Eco has become fashionable, and the public appears to be buying it - in more ways than one. But with the concept of fashion essentially depending on the turnover of tastes, is sustainable fashion here to stay or will it just move to the back of our closets?

Clothing that was once considered to be multi-seasonal and of good quality is increasingly becoming disposable and cheap as a result of turnover-driven companies and style-seeking shoppers. However, in a bid to break the cycle, many consumers are now turning towards a slow fashion philosophy. Erin Ridley takes a deeper look at the industry and the psychology behind the shift.

Loewe has long been a cornerstone of the Spanish high-end fashion market, yet it remains relatively unknown elsewhere. Not only is the brand surviving the serious economic troubles in Spain, but it seems poised to gain global popularity due to its under-the-radar appeal.

Largely phased out by photography, fashion illustration seems to be creeping back into popular culture, showing up in catalogues, magazines and even on the step-and-repeat backdrop of this year's Oscars red carpet. Could our love affair with the craft be on the rebound?

Come late spring, Spaniards will again begin to queue up outside Antigua Casa Crespo, a shoe house in Madrid established in 1836, to replenish their stock of alpargatas. As sure as the Spanish summer sun burns, the tradition continues; just as it has for 150 years.

Whether produced in a foreign country, or piecemealed together in your homeland, the story of our clothes is nebulous at best. But the company Fashioning Change continues to make that story more transparent, with the launch of their "ethical knockoff" clothing line, KCA.

Given our environmental awareness these days, you'd think our culture would be prime to start thinking about clothes the way we do our reusable grocery bags. But something is holding us back from taking that next step - the DIY step - making me wonder if the movement toward homemade fashion is as realistic as some might hope.

How socially responsible are the brands you purchase? Fashioning Change is helping people source an ethical wardrobe with a clever platform that appeals to a savvy mixture of consumer vanity and goodwill.

Over the last 50 years, global wool production has dropped to its lowest level. Reduced prices have even driven some farmers to resort to burning or burying their wool, because any other use would be uneconomical. Only a few years ago, these shifts signalled a dreary future for the industry, but it seems the time is right for a woolly resurrection, of sorts.

From pre-packaged fashions to perfect-fitting pants, new businesses are successfully exploiting the inefficiently tapped niche that is men's fashion. But what appears to be a fix for the male aversion to shopping might actually be a symbol of bigger cultural shifts. 

Lately, grey-haired octogenarians have been replacing fresh-faced teenagers in street style shots and advertising campaigns. With the public smitten by the more mature looks and the industry following suit, one wonders why ageing and fashion have - until now - been such odd bedfellows in the first place.

When in Madrid, style mavens and adventurous trend dabblers know to go to the often-overlooked clump of traditional barrios, which are centrally nestled between Gran Vía and Alonso Martínez. Here, residents push boundaries socially, as well as in their fashion and lifestyle choices. Erin Ridley guides us through Madrid's key shopping hotspots and hybrid hangouts.

Young, experimental, exploratory: all words that could characterise today's Iceland - and not just their recovering economy. With designers turning out inventive pieces ranging from Reykjavik harbour-inspired pants to a piecemealed polar bear rug, the fashion industry has emerged as a key player in the country's future.

The buy-one-give-one (BOGO) business model used by TOMS is becoming just about as fashionable as the shoes themselves. On the surface, it would seem the risks of this benevolent business approach should be few. But the road gets a little rockier when one considers whether the well-intentioned freebies truly lead to a better, long-term future for those in need.

When it comes to wearable technology, nothing has stuck since the watch. But as our dependency on technology increases with each passing software update, appealing and "intelligent" attire might just be seasons away.

When it comes to Olympic uniforms, the link between fashion and the ultimate sporting contest is stronger than you might expect. Spain learned this the hard way, but it's no laughing matter: something as seemingly trivial as an outfit might indeed play a role in whether a team ever makes it on to the winner's podium. 

Five decades of fundraising for black charities, millions of dollars spent on haute couture, and a tribute at The Met in 2010 with guests including Bill Clinton, Anna Wintour and former White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers relaying a message from President Obama. It sounds like the résumé of an icon - and indeed it is - but one you may know little about.

Despite having recently dismissed London Fashion Week as not really his "vibe," former Oasis front man Liam Gallagher and his three-year-old label Pretty Green are hitting luxury fashion runways at London Collections: Men on January 7. 

Recently appointed creative director of Yves Saint Laurent, Hedi Slimane, will change the company's infamous and revered name to Saint Laurent Paris in order to push the elite fashion brand into a new era. Erin Ridley explores how much of an influence a moniker actually has in the development of a business.

When it comes to travel in more conservatively dressed countries, determining appropriate attire isn't always easy. Do you put local fashion values above your own? Does your own comfort come into play? With many eastern countries westernizing, how does one - especially a woman - make right and respectful fashion decisions?

The Local Wisdom research project takes ethical, eco and slow fashion one step further, through what is termed "craft of use." The philosophy encourages us to develop longer-term relationships with our attire so that it becomes more meaningful, and ultimately more sustainable.

Since 2008, Madrid-based ERTL&COHN has produced all manner of menswear, from buttery leather shoes to made-to-measure suits, with three types of men in mind: a New Yorker, a Londoner and a Milanese. Erin Ridley explores how the brand is demonstrating its agility in a tough economy.

About Us

The Genteel unearths the forces shaping global fashion and design through the lens of business, culture, society and best kept secrets. 

More about us

Our Contributors

A worldwide collective of contributors currently form The Genteel. On a daily basis our team dispatches thought-provoking and insightful articles from the streets of Oslo, Toronto, Beirut, Moscow, United Arab Emirates, Seoul and beyond.