Global and local: the fashion conundrum

From Manish Arora’s international appeal to the youthful French twist at Atlein and Jacquemus, designers conquer the language barrier.

Since the autumn collections and my usual travel hopping – most recently from Belgium to Lisbon to Marrakesh – I have been pondering the fashion conundrum. How can a designer be both local and global?

The big brands’ concept of presenting identical shop windows in each city has faded slightly. Yet there is still a sense that to make it worldwide, there has to be an international look. And this so often produces a brand bland – a disaster for lesser-known labels. Without a vast budget to promote sales each season, and, crucially, a money-spinning accessory line to fund the clothes, how can designers keep a personal identity?

The struggle is tough enough for small but established brands where designers have name recognition but not the budget to back that up – although the success of Dries van Noten, for example, proves that consistently good design can find a place in a crowded industry.

For those starting from scratch, the struggle for recognition has been helped by digital development. Who could have imagined a decade ago that a fashion-student start-up could offer clothes online across the world? Or that local success stories from Australia or South America would spread through the international market?

But the reality is that there is no golden path to success for individual designers – and that many of the most talented new arrivals are sucked into big brands looking for talent. Two cracking good shows – from his own JW Anderson line and from LVMH-owned Loewe – have taken Jonathan Anderson from London’s East End to worldwide success, illustrating the fashion dream of all fledgling talent.

I studied four designers – two from India and two from France – to gauge the international stories.

Only a year ago, Manish Arora was jazzing up his colourful show with a dog whose fur was dyed blue. This season, the show was held in an elegant mini-palace on the Champs-Élysées in Paris. And the designer raised his game as he launched his first fragrance, “Ready to Love”.

Over the past 20 years, Manish has used skill and humour to weave together a personal style that had initially seemed to both accept and to laugh at the tropes of Indian style: the gaudy colours, the over-the-top decoration, and patterns on the wild side.

But there womens sweat suits comes a moment when a successful fashion designer breaks through the barrier of time and place and becomes universal. Manish has achieved that, not so much masking his Indian heritage but absorbing it. The opening outfits for Spring/Summer 2018 were streamlined and casual, with wrap dresses that were gently patterned.