That Was Interesting: The End of Fashion by Teri Agins

I’m not really that into proper high fashion.  Don’t get me wrong, I like to look good and spend more than my share of time walking around the shops and deciding which colors would look good on me this season and which trends are just silly (crop tops i’m talking to you).  Yet, I live in my self-confessed uniform of jeans, striped shirt, flats/loafers and a scarf.  There are subtle changes depending on the weather.  My wardrobe is not, however, what you would call the epitome of fashion.

So, it may come as a surprise that I was enthralled by Teri Agin’s book The End of Fashion.  This is not normally a book I would choose when browsing through the racks at Barnes and Nobles or Blackwell.  I would be more drawn to something that takes place in Europe or tells a more obviously narrative story, rather than an expose.

In an effort to reduce how much I spend on books, I’ve been trying to make my way through the unread ones lying around my house.  So far I’ve been pleasantly surprised by them.  My mother got this one, never read it and recommended it to me.  Perhaps it’s because I have a propensity to write essays and do projects on fashion?

Though an examination on the changes in fashion from couture to sensational business may seem a bit dry, Agins manages to weave a fascinating and layered tale from the facts.  Each chapter follows a different designer—design house in some cases—and examines how they responded to shift in fashion from the 1980’s up to the turn of the millenium.

The book was written in 2000, making quite a few of the comments slightly amusingly outdated, but still pertains to how we perceive fashion now.  Agins argues that fashion has ended because the industry has shifted from being designer driven to being consumer driven.  Houses now make the bulk of their profits from licenses, such as perfumes, handbags and lower-end products that the masses can buy.  Couture shows, and even the general fashion shows, no longer generate the bulk of the income.

There are several key cases she points out, most notably Isaac Mizrahi and the Ralph Lauren vs Tommy Hilfiger debacle, but each story and each chapter combine together to demonstrate how fashion has changed from being and art to being an industry.

Sure, everyone may now lead a wash and tumble dry lifestyle.  We may now be able to buy t-shirts whenever we want them and fashion is argueably more open; but is it really fashion?  Well, who knows.

Do you enjoy ‘fashion’ or do you prefer the now-classic uniform of t-shirt and jeans?


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