But then, I thought, Coherence.
Time was when Chanel was where you counted on bouclé and braid, Pucci's signature was a swirling, audacious colourway, and even prêt-a-porter designers like Holly Harp delivered an identifiable aesthetic. Clients were loyal: Audrey Hepburn in Givenchy, Catherine Deneuve in Yves St. Laurent.
When the alpha dogs rotate by the year, the house looses its focus, but more significant for average consumers is that our entry-level designers, so "influenced" by the big names, are cut adrift, their North Star dimmed. The racks end up crammed with trousers cropped at odd lengths and limp, long sweaters that make women look egg-shaped.
Few department store labels show coherence, save exceptions like Eileen Fisher's relaxed rectangles, and in the loftiest reaches, Phoebe Philo's disciplined luxury at Céline.
You might think, "Not my problem; I just want a camel v-neck I can wash." But one day, you might be in a bind like my friend Jill, who enlisted me to shop for a dress for her daughter's informal daytime wedding this weekend.
Jill, 64, doesn't enjoy shopping (which may be why she left it to the week before?); she's happiest in her garden in swimsuit and wellies. She ruled out sleeveless, dislikes prints, and has problem feet which require flats.
At the department store, those criteria disqualified 85% of everything. Jill was utterly unmoved by the four dresses she tried: "What if I just wear my black palazzo pants and a top?" Daughter on phone: "NO". After an hour and a half, we gave up.
On the drive home, we noticed the 60% off sale sign at the George Rech boutique, and I asked her to make one last stop. Triumph! Here's her dress, a sapphire silk which matches her blue eyes exactly!
She said it would not be a one-occasion numbershe'll wear it to a New Year's Eve fundraiser party, and pack it for an upcoming trip to Napa Valley to celebrate a brother-in-law's 70th.
pearl beauties from Beladora:
For shoes, she already owns heels for a brief photo session and ordered Badgely Mischka jeweled flats for the restaurant reception:
Rech, characterized by a clean-lined but feminine style, good fabrics, and that little extra detail, offered coherent, chic and well-priced (given the sale) choices. (Womens' sizes will find similar at Marina Rinaldi.) Coherence reduces time and prevents the error of choosing 'the best of the bunch' from among a dizzying array, even though nothing is really great.
Next time that I'm the friend riding along, I'll suggest we go to one or two boutiques who provide a certain perspective, and skip the department store sea of dresses.
It's not so much that individual designers should stay put, I realized, as that their brands need an identity, so women know where to head. All those style books say "figure out what's you and what's not"; designers should follow that principle for their clothes.