"It's the end of fashion as we
know it" says Li Edelkoort


Li Edelkoort

Design Indaba 2015: fashion is dead, trend forecaster Li Edelkoort has declared, describing the fashion industry as "a ridiculous and pathetic parody of what it has been" (+ interview).

Lidewij Edelkoort, one of the world's most influential fashion forecasters, used her annual presentation at Design Indaba in Cape Town to fire a broadside at the industry. She told Dezeen: "This is the end of fashion as we know it."

Edelkoort said her interest in fashion had now been replaced by an interest in clothes, since fashion has lost touch with what is going on in the world and what people want.

"Fashion is insular and is placing itself outside society, which is a very dangerous step," she said in an interview with Dezeen after her presentation.

Edelkoort listed a number of reasons for the crisis in fashion, starting with education, where young designers are taught to emulate the famous names. "We still educate our young people to become catwalk designers; unique individuals," she said, "whereas this society is now about exchange and the new economy and working together in teams and groups."

Other issues affecting the industry include a loss of competence in textile design, the failure to address sweatshop conditions at clothing factories; and the cosy relationships between fashion houses and magazines and bloggers, which ties editorial coverage to advertising budgets.

A new army of fashion bloggers who are dependent on inducements from the industry means that intelligent critique has been replaced by shallow coverage by what Edelkoort called "the 'like' generation".

"The new brands will never get editorial in the magazines because they don't buy advertising," she said.

"And then marketing of course killed the whole thing," she added. "It's governed by greed and not by vision. There's no innovation any more because of that."

In Cape Town, Edelkoort replaced the second half of her usual two-part visual presentation with a reading of a lengthy essay entitled Anti_Fashion, listing and expanding on the reasons for fashion's demise. She began by saying: "For me this is not easy because I love fashion. The loss of fashion is painful and I am a bit nostalgic."

Born in the Netherlands in 1950 and based in Paris, Edelkoort advises fashion companies and consumer brands around the world. In 2003, Time magazine named her one of the 25 most influential people in fashion. She was director of Design Academy Eindhoven from 1998 to 2008.

Here is a transcript of Dezeen's interview with Edelkoort:

Marcus Fairs: You're saying that fashion is dead. What do you mean?

Li Edelkoort: It doesn't exist any more. This is the end of a system called fashion and we will have to invent new ideas. For now I think we are going to concentrate on clothes; celebrate clothes. As a result we will see couture coming back, [versus creation] and in fact it's a sort of relief because many people are thinking it.

Marcus Fairs: It's the death of fashion as we know it?

Li Edelkoort: Yes it is. This is the end of fashion as we know it. Fashion with a big F is no longer there. And maybe it's not a problem; maybe it's actually a good moment to rethink. Actually the comeback of couture, which I'm predicting, could bring us a host of new ideas of how to handle the idea of clothes.

And maybe from these ashes another system will be born. And for now, when people see a nice table or a nice plate, they say, "Ah, how fashion!" So fashion has become a way to say "cool". And it's no longer addressing clothes.

Marcus Fairs: What are the reasons for that?

Li Edelkoort: It starts with education, where we still educate our young people to become catwalk designers; unique individuals, whereas this society is now about exchange and the new economy and working together in teams and groups, which happens in every other discipline, yet not in fashion.

Fashion education should be, amongst other things, the industrial design of fashion; fashion as highly industrial design. It's meant to be serial, meant to be all the same; proud to be all the same. People like to be the same because you like to be part of a tribe and then your hair, your tattoo is going to say who you are and no longer your clothes.

Fashion is insular and is placing itself outside society, which is a very dangerous step. So the education needs to be reviewed.

Then there is a problem with textile; people don't know anything any more about textiles. Providing textiles becomes impossible. So we are speaking here of endangered species.

Then there is the making of, which is done in countries where people are killed for making our garments.

Then the designers themselves are all proclaiming that they are no longer doing fashion but are doing clothes, clothes, clothes. So everybody for several reasons is concentrating on clothes.

And then marketing of course killed the whole thing. It's governed by greed and not by vision. There's no innovation any more because of that.

Fashion shows are becoming ridiculous; 12 minutes long. 45 minutes driving, 25 minutes waiting. Nobody watches them any more. The editors are just on their phones; nobody gets carried away by it.

Marcus Fairs: So is fashion dead or has it just become a ridiculous parody of itself?

Li Edelkoort: It's a ridiculous and pathetic parody of what it has been. I know because I've seen fashion shows of Thierry Mugler which would have 65, 75 models for three quarters of an hour. We would be on our chairs, shouting with tears in our eyes and the whole place would go crazy. Check Thierry Mugler's old fashion shows online. You see the difference. It moved us. It's not like sort of fashion TV, back and forth.

Marcus Fairs: You said in your talk that fashion used to predict the future but doesn't now. Has it lost touch with what's going on in society?

Li Edelkoort: Completely. Whereas clothes are in touch. They know they need to be printed T-shirts; they know they need to be nice new shirts; they know that they want to be short; to be casual. So the garments no, but fashion doesn't seem to be in touch any more.

Marcus Fairs: You talk about the return of couture. You mean expensive handmade clothes for the wealthy?

Li Edelkoort: Yeah, but they will influence all other creations and we might see the comeback of the selling of patterns of material to retailers. So we would make authorised copies of couture. So you would make an authorised Dior copy in an African fabric.

  • Dikkie Smabers

    Here we go again; another ‘end of…’.

    It’s the problem with all these people who make money from analysing, criticising, forecasting, etc.; they have to come up with something new every year just to remain in business. It is a form of fashion in its own right.

    Somebody should write a book on the history of all the ‘end of’ predictions. I think it could be quite amusing to see what has been declared dead but is still among us.

    • buddy

      Agree totally! When you have nothing to say… go for a shock tactic. So boring.

      “Fashion is insular and is placing itself outside society”

      Oh and all the one-off Eindhoven crafty overpriced rubbish you have been championing all these years is in line with what society needs and wants?

      She is out of touch and the design world needs to realise this and stop perpetuating her ‘forecasts’.

    • ahem

      You should consider providing more respect to a person who studied a discipline for so long.
      She has her reasons to think that, and have a look at what she wrote about it.
      She is not saying “fashion is dead”, but “the model of fashion as we know it is dead”.
      And to be honest, I think it was dead a long time ago.

    • option30

      She has a point though, just look the lack of quality in culture in general – esp. in films/music.

  • M. Vitruvius

    I find Ms Edelkoort a fascinating personality and greatly enjoy articles and interviews about/with her but frankly, the people who pay loads of money for her forecasts will not want to hear her saying that everything is going to be business as usual and nothing is going to change. So she really has to make bold statements and forecasts.

    What she possibly IS correct in assuming, is that some industries like the fashion industry are going to lose their role or influence but only because some other industries will take over.

    At the end of the day I will trust in the wise sayings of Yoda. The future, clouded it is.

  • George

    Silly discussion!

  • Guillaume

    I think she should consider writing astrology reports.

  • ouija

    I wish her type of ‘fashion’ would die – unaffordable, un-cleanable, unexciting clothes displayed at inaccessible shows on identically-sized models. There is a wealth of new ideas in responsive textiles, digital wearables and customisable design out there which are much more exciting than anything traditional fashion shows ever came up with. Let’s see those instead.

    • enochrox


    • Maria Ciucanu

      You didn’t understand it right, she is not referring to the same old type of couture fashion, but a new interpretation of it. I think she means that designers would work personally with customers to provide a unique garment.

      The idea is to create a more personal relationship between designers and customers where you can personalise your clothes. Who would’t like to have their favourite clothes at a higher price than something poorly made, which expires the next season?

  • NOLA_Darling

    I’d love to know what she thinks about Etsy, the ASOS Marketplace and the women’s bespoke trend, all of which allow women (fashion’s biggest consumers) to buy clothes that suit their style as opposed to ones that allow them to be “in fashion”.

    I’m at that point where I know what I like and what I look good in, and I ignore silly designer decrees and edicts about what women should wear.

  • Cornelia Boelke

    The fashion industry became an industry in its most abnormal form. It got turned into a resource wasting and labour-unfriendly multi-branched realm which is seducing people by its shiny exterior. But it needs just a little digging to uncover the ugly face of it in its huge abundance. It’s time to rethink what fashion, and first and foremost, clothes are about. They are not about an overly aggressive consumerism and quickly changing collections, clothes are there to last, to be worn seasons after seasons until you can’t fix them anymore and then you turn them into a cushion for your couch or else. Let’s get back to the real meaning of it, their one true meaning! Fashion’s variation will still be there among the favourite pieces of a wardrobe but no one needs to drown in masses of fabrics for the sake of it (spares hours of indecisions every other morning or evening or in general). Let’s rethink and let’s change it step-by-step, this process needs steadiness and people who are willing to carry it through tough times but certainly it’ll be for the better for all of us.

  • The Truth

    I agree.

    Fashion has been dead since the 1920s. Long before Ms Edelkoort was born. So there you go.

  • Eternal Optimist

    Brava to Ms. Edelkoort, brave enough to say the things that those of us with actual journalistic experience in the industry need to be saying. In the “olden days”, people with age and experience used to be respected; now they’re shunted aside in favour of bloggers who can’t spell and the likes of Alexander Wang, who generates a ton of buzz but not a ton of sales. Here’s hoping a correction occurs soon.

  • enochrox

    It’s always irrelevant rich old people who declare this. Yes, fashion is at an end… for YOU.

  • Andre

    Normcore was the end of fashion.
    Long live Normcore.

    [ download your instructions here:
    http://khole.net/issues/youth-mode/ ]

  • Claire Fourie

    Fashion is not dead.
    Mainstream fashion is dead. It’s dead because ‘everything has been done before’. They are stuck in a dead end. What would mainstream South African brands do without fashion capitals like Milan and Paris dictating what is in style and what is not? These mainstream brands don’t have the initiative to design and create their own identity. For them it’s purely about making money off people who believe that ‘this is fashion’. This is not fashion. It does not say anything about the individual. It only reads ‘thousands are wearing the same as I do’.
    Fashion is a business. Just like anything else. And that’s all people perceive it to be. Make clothes,
    sell it, and make all the money you possibly can. However that is not the truth. Fashion is a way in which an individual express themselves. It defines who you are and it even defines status. Mainstream Fashion is what’s wrong in this picture. All opinions should not be based on what’s in the media. There are still fashion designers whom want to change the concept of fashion. But mainstream fashion is making people believe that what they offer is in vogue and if you
    wear anything else, you’re not fashionable.

  • Anouk

    She is a true visionary. I am learning embroidery now with full dedication and I love it – fashion design student.

  • Leo Moriarty

    Truth hurts , eh luvvies…

  • katarina

    Funny how every post on fashion, here on Dezeen, is negatively rated and commented on by people who have no clue what fashion is. Either they are industrial designers who despise fashion, treating it like a non-essential, less worthy thing than other “functional” stuff, or they are plain ignorant and have no common interest with fashion.

    It is same thing that I as a fashion designer would state something like: black boxes in airplanes are excessive objects as we don’t have to know why a plane crashed because there is already damage committed.

  • DesignTime

    Maybe it’s just that it’s the time of the death (well, not literally) of Li Edelkoort. Having attended her last few Design Indaba presentations, as well as this current one last week, it wasn’t anything new.

  • Miquel

    My highest respect to Li Edelkoort: I think fashion is changing because the society is changing. And is changing because the people are tired of dressing the same. Big brands produce the same coat for Barcelona and Amsterdam or Paris. The slow fashion movement, with respect for the people sew and the environment, is opening doors. Customised wear is coming. Everyone has a story and will dress as he/she wants. We always dress because of our culture and customs.

  • M

    Why talk about redefinition of words when change is already going on. Why focus on big brands when small ones are on the pulse of our time?

  • pollywho

    Interesting but flawed and backwards. Fashion is nothing but teams and has been for years. She knows better than to buy into and sell the media’s “lone designer” myth. I’ve worked in fashion with a capital F for 20 years and nothing gets done without 100 people.

    Maybe that’s the problem? Teams, stylists, consultants and yes none of them are educated in fashion. Their idea of fashion history is recognizing Linda Evangelista or Christy Turlington in an old Versace campaign.

    So sorry folks, it’s already teams and people interested in “clothes clothes”. Why would Thierry Mugler want to hangout with a bunch of garmentos anyway? Or Margiela or Helmut Lang for that matter? Duh.

  • Karl

    She mentions there is a big difference between how fashion shows used to be and how they are now.
    Is it true? How have they changed?

    • thepixinator

      They used to start on time; they used to have a level of excitement and audiences were engaged, following along with the look lists and marking what they wanted to buy, instead of snapping photos and tweeting selfies.

      There were no useless celebrities in the front rows with screaming toddlers, but the most important buyers were in the front rows making note of what they wanted to purchase.

      The models were thin and fit but not death-skeletons, and they tried to show the clothes with some drama instead of stomping along trying to look nonchalant while not passing out from starvation and falling out of their ridiculous heels.

      The shows were about the clothes and not about egos.

  • Marcel Vroom

    Mrs. Edelkoort seems to have forgotten the evangalism she used to preach during 10 years of chairmanship at the Design Academy Eindhoven, when she pushed students and their designs made during the final year to the attention of press, public and producers. “We still educate our young people to become catwalk designers; unique individuals.” This was all for the reason to promote the Design Academy to its famous reputation of leading design school and her own position/reputation. She can’t complain now about the ill training of design students.

  • dw

    How bout the big stores that take blood from stones from the small vendors and take no accountability – so they get their markdown allowances from the vendor and on to the next season. It’s not about the clothes – it’s about the deal in the big-box stores from Macys to Neiman’s.

  • A

    I am always concerned when someone declares the end of something. As I recall, books were supposed to disappear with the advent of e-readers.

  • octavio di gianni

    I JUST talked about the same thing on my blog and people laughed at me. Fashion is boring, nowadays. This woman is absolutely right!

    • Joy

      That’s f**king creepy.

  • Ummo Bruns

    Is Ms Edelkoort not working on her own image by making these challenging remarks?

  • Wow, so true myself Alicia Kite and Kay Davidson have launched a company this year
    http://www.aliciakaystyle.com for the reasons you have been talking about.

    Women have lost interest in unrealistic fashion images. We run style classes to help women
    to enjoy “fashion” making style fashionable again. We have been in the industry for over 50 years.

    I was in retail for 13 years and an Image consultant for 20 years but you will be pleased to hear no talk of draping coloured scarves etc… I don’t believe that helps anyone and Kay has been a designer for 20 years.

    We help women with their style confidence so they can enjoy shopping again. They know what they want for their image and therefore taking out the confusion of Fashion.

    We have enjoyed your article and please lets keep shouting about this subject so we can get the fashion industry to understand what the public
    really want.

    • xoxo

      “We have been in the industry for over 50 years.” Well, it’s believable.

  • Cathy

    I’m not certain if I agree with her or not, but it has become clear that fashion is dead, and died around the 1990’s.

    The decades of the early 20th century all presented memorable, interesting and new fashions. The last pretty fashion emerged in the 1970’s, then the 1980’s ran off from pretty with leg warmers, cargo pants, huge shoulder pads and awful, teased hair.

    The 1990’s were known largely for plaid and flannel, begging the question why anyone would pay $800 for a Ralph Lauren plaid flannel shirt that looked like a gold miner’s wife sewed it. Then began a depressing re-hash of decent fashion; each year, the magazines circulated through the 1940’s, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. Nothing new, just reheated fashions from before.

    Today, pretty has been left in the dust, and designers seem to just want to shock – menswear for women has become women’s wear for men, trousers look like they are sewed backwards, shapes have no relation to the human body. Sigh.

    Today, we spend hours at the mall to come out wearing sweatpants. All clothing is athlete-leisure wrapped around a massive butt. Wovens have disappered, replaced by synthetic knits. All made in China. To find glamour in a washable, easy care system for today’s woman? Impossible.

  • Marina

    If the fashion system was really dead, she would be out of a job cause what is the need for trend forecasters then?

  • Nancy El

    It’s about time. Most people who actually wear clothes want simple, great natural fabrics. Matchable colours. I want to wear clothes, not advertise some brand.

  • jacobpdq

    Great point. Catch up on your Bauhaus theory and you’ll understand what she means.

  • mau

    Fashion is not dead, fashion blogging maybe yes, because of those who are blogging in a very selfish way and started to do it to become celebs and not for a genuine passion for fashion. But fashion is an industry and bloggers are not powerful.