Today’s post is an interview with one of my favorite fashion journalists and writers – Teri Agins. Teri is one of the most respected reporters covering the fashion business, an author of several books about the industry, and a featured byline in top publications including The Wall Street Journal, where she currently a weekly column, “Ask Teri“. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to chat with Teri and pick her brains on everything from fast fashion, to how to best update your wardrobe. I hope you enjoy!
Who are you? What do you do, and where do you live?
I’m Teri Agins, a veteran fashion journalist, and author. I write the Ask Teri column for The Wall Street Journal, and am also the author of Hijacking the Runway and The End of Fashion. I live in New York.
You’ve been at The Journal since 1984, and writing about fashion for the last 25 years. What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the retail industry over this time?
The biggest change has been the shift in dress code, which occurred in the early 90’s. It was a seminal moment in the fashion industry, because suddenly the suit was no longer a symbol of corporate authority. Instead, you had cheaper, more casual clothes. People could get dressed and go to work in jeans, chinos, sneakers – and this forced the industry to find new ways for people to dress up and spend money on clothes. That’s when the industry introduced expensive handbags, expensive shoes, and premium denim. All of that was in response to the whole casual dress movement.
The shift towards casual dress put a wrench into the system which it hasn’t recovered from, because when clothes are casual, they don’t go out of style. You can’t tell last year’s items from this year’s things. And you can’t distinguish anymore between who is wealthy, and who isn’t. It’s the democratization of fashion, and a huge game changer. People spend less on clothes per capita now.
How do the wealthy distinguish themselves now, if not through clothes?
They do it through logos. “It” handbags, the red soles on Louboutin shoes, signifiers like those. Designer watches. These are now the new status symbol, instead of clothes. I remember back in the late 70s, when the whole designer jean trend started – it was all about what the logo was on the back pocket on your jeans were. I can’t even remember now what design on the back pocket of any pair of jeans these days. So many of today’s status jeans are little known underground labels.
What are some other major changes you’ve seen in the fashion industry over the years?
Another game changer has been the whole fast-fashion movement. Fast fashion has allowed anyone to participate in fashion who wants to. There’s no such thing as “trickle down” anymore. It used to be that ordinary people had to wait a season or two before runway trends were interpreted or watered down for them. Now that’s no longer the case….you have retailers like Zara, Forever 21, H&M, who not only interpret the runway trends faster than the designers do – as in, they can get it to market quicker – they also generate their own trends. Continue Reading