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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Interview With NY Times Best Selling Author Dana Thomas: Luxury, Creativity, and Business

New York Times Best Selling Author Dana Thomas

The business of fashion is one that attempts to balance the motivation to make profits and the desire to create art. The emphasis in today’s retail and fashion environment is more geared toward achieving the former leaving much to be desired in the creativity and quality of today's fashion. This idea of commerce versus art has been a cloud over the industry for many years and is a topic I got to pick the brain of Dana Thomas about as well as others, and I am so excited to share her thoughts in today’s post!

For those who don’t know, Dana Thomas is a reporter for the New York Times, based in Paris, and the author of New York Times bestseller Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster. Her newest book Gods and Kings: The Rise and Fall of John Galliano and Alexander McQueen, is an in-depth look at how two highly creative designers built their careers on the basis of talent and creativity and ultimately saw their demise because of the increased pace and demand of profit required by the industry. A big thank you to Dana for being kind enough to send your responses for this post, and for supporting new fashion writers. Without further delay The Interview…

1. People many times have a person or group of people in mind when writing…who were you writing to when writing your latest book? Was it a specific person, audience, or yourself? 

I always write for the general public—not the expert. I think of the plumber’s wife in Brooklyn, the elementary school teacher in Springfield, Va., the retiree in Palm Springs, the fashion fan in Missouri… People who dress, and may know the names, but don’t know the story and would like to learn and understand. 

As most writers, I also write for my editor, or in this case, my editors, because I had one in the New York and one in London. I like to surprise them with a turn, and also I wanted to make sure with my UK editor that I was getting the British part just right. She said I did, thankfully.

2. Regarding the state of the industry, you mention how fashion has changed from the beginning of Galliano’s career to now and the prime time in fashion in which he and McQueen were major influencers. In present day, there has been a rise in technology and an acceleration in the way information and access to fashion is received, which gained momentum as the McQueen/Galliano era ended. Do you feel we should go back to those times in fashion where the designer’s personality and the clothes itself was the main factor of success? Do you feel the industry needed to change to keep up with current times, but has sacrificed too much of its artistry to gain commercial success?

What I think we need to get back to is simple: integrity in business and in design; a slower pace that allows for true creativity; quality over quantity. All that has been lost since the business tycoons have taken over the industry; today, it’s all about profit, not product. The product is now the means to the end, not the end itself. The only thing the bosses really want to make is MONEY.

3. What or who in the fashion industry is currently inspiring or exciting to you?

Since I write for the New York Times as a reporter (as opposed to a critic), I’m not supposed to show bias, for ethical reasons. But I can tell you the shows I always like to go see in Paris to get a vibe of what’s coming and what’s happening design and trend-wise: Alber Elbaz at Lanvin, Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel, Valentino, and when he was there, Marc Jacobs at Louis Vuitton. I particularly think the reboot of Valentino has been particularly successful; that was a tricky assignment but the transition has gone very well. 

4. What books besides your own have you gifted to others the most or feel is a must read for fashion enthusiasts, young professionals, or those with an interest in creative industries? 

Alicia Drake’s “The Beautiful Fall,” Teri Agins’ two books, "The End of Fashion" and "Hijacking the Runway," Diana Vreeland’s “D.V." natch, and an old gem that is hard to find: Bettina Ballard’s "In My Fashion.” It’s so delightful and charmingly captures a magical era in fashion and in Paris. 

Share your thoughts in the comments! What do you think needs to change for creativity to become more of a priority in fashion?

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