Alas, these past few days in New York have reminded me, time and again, that the fashion industry isn’t simply deeply insecure, but it’s also not terribly creative. Consider the disappointing Donna Karan relaunch, which never felt right even if the whole thing was earnestly well-intentioned. Sure, the clothes were pulled from the archives of Donna Karan’s Donna Karan, but the quality of a garment made by apparel manufacturer G-III, the current proprietor of the brand, doesn’t match the caliber of the materials used in the ’80s and ’90s. Karan declined G-III’s offer to come on set for the campaign shoot, presumably because she knows that nostalgia done wrong is never chic. One friend wished the company would let this beautiful brand have a dignified death, rather than diffusing it into meaningless oblivion.
The day of Donna Karan, I had lunch with a handful of ex-magazine editors who now work in the corporate world. We mostly talked about Zac Posen’s new job at Gap Inc., which led to spirited conversations about the impossibility of turning around a brand like Gap—which, let me remind you, is not part of Posen’s remit. The problem, we all agreed, is that it’s nearly impossible to restore some brands by leading with heritage. The sort of sad, but nevertheless impressive, success of Abercrombie & Fitch provides insidious evidence of the grim reality. Abercrombie’s revival is driven by good product that is entirely divorced from its Bruce Weber-era DNA.