Eugene Rabkin is the founder of stylezeitgeist.com. He has contributed articles on fashion and culture to The Business of Fashion, Vogue Russia, Buro247, the Haaretz Daily Newspaper, and other publications. He has taught critical writing and fashion writing courses at Parsons the New School for Design.

Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion at the Met Museum

The 220 artifacts for Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion, the latest exhibit by the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan museum of art in New York, opening to the public this Friday, were drawn from its archives with the stated aim of “reviving [their] sensory capacities.” After all, clothes are not just for looking at; they are tactile objects, and they smell. Or so the exhibit tried to remind us, in a rather clumsy way, by jumping through some snazzy scientific hoops that I doubt an average exhibit visitor will care about. In real life the olfactory experience of clothes has to do more with their wearer, that ineffable familiar smell of your lover, for example, an experience diametrically opposed to what was offered, the smell of dead, disembodied clothes. To their credit, Andrew Bolton, the head curator of the Institute, and his staff, are well aware of this, but their attempts at resuscitating the sartorial corpses felt forced.

Op-Ed: The Avant-Garde Post Mortem

When I founded StyleZeitgeist in 2006, my aim was to build a forum for people who genuinely love fashion as a creative discipline that speaks to a wider culture. I did not mean for it to solely concentrate on the fashion that I loved, the forward-thinking, boundary-pushing, one connected to youth culture, especially music, especially of the goth / industrial / postpunk-tinged kind. But it kind of morphed into that, because it attracted like-minded people. And so StyleZeitgeist became a hub for what’s come to be called the avant-garde – the truly IYKYK stuff, a fashion subculture.

Notes on Alessandro Michele’s Valentino Appointment

Today Valentino announced that it hired Gucci’s erstwhile creative director Alessandro Michele to lead its storied house. The appointment came just days after its current designer, Pierpaolo Piccioli was let go. 

This is a curious case. Usually, big guns are brought in to fix something, but Valentino did not seem to be broken, though “seem” is a key operating word here. Just like Michele, Piccioli is a talented designer and one of fashion’s darlings – his collections are universally lauded. And Valentino’s sales seem fine. In 2022, according to Reuters, it had revenues of 1.42 billion euros, 10% higher than its sales in 2021, which in turn were 15% above the year prior. On the strength of these numbers, Kering bought a 30% stake in Valentino from Mayhoola, a Qatar government investment fund that also owns Balmain, with an option to acquire the entire company by 2028. 

Notes on Paris Fashion Week — Men’s A/W’24

Paris met us with rain and a general sense of misery, with Parisians grousing about the upcoming summer Olympics. The cold weather did put a damper on things for the first few days, or maybe it’s just me developing a lack of tolerance for bouncing around Paris like a ping-pong ball. I love fashion shows, but they seem to be less fun with each season. The sense of community is often gone, with too many celebs, influencers, hangers-on, and stans making everything feel like a circus amped to the highest degree.

Op-Ed: What the FarFetch and the Matches Deals Really Mean

Last week marked not but two major fashion e-commerce deals, in which FarFetch and Matches found new owners. FarFetch was bought by Coupang, aka the Amazon of South Korea, and Matches was bought by Frasers, a large British mass market retailer. Both deals were an embarrassment for the luxury e-tailers, valuing them at a fraction of what they were worth not so long ago. In essence, they were rescue operations. This prompted a slew of reflections from the fashion commentariat about the death of luxury e-commerce. This is wishful thinking, of course, but the two deals mark a good time to reflect on what’s going on in the retail segment of the fashion industry.

Op-Ed: Why You Feel Alienated from Luxury Fashion (It’s Not Just the Prices)

Recently I had dinner with a fashion and culture commentator who is based in Asia. He was describing the scene at a party celebrating the newly opened Prada flagship in Shanghai; how the impeccably tasteful shop was filled with young kids with too much money and too little taste, dancing to bad music in celebration of conspicuous consumption. “That’s who buys this stuff,” he concluded. And with this one phrase he got to the crux of why many of you cannot relate to luxury fashion. Simply put, if you are a person of taste, intelligence, in possession of a certain attenuated sensibility, a degree of elegance and sophistication, today you are not luxury fashion’s target audience.

Op-Ed: It’s Time for Governments to Regulate Fast Fashion

Over the past twenty years fast fashion has spurred unbridled consumerism, with disastrous consequences for the environment and human rights. In this time period, companies like Sweden’s H&M and Spain’s Zara have gone from middle-size purveyors of inexpensive clothing to juggernauts that operate thousands of stores across the world. In the last ten years they have been joined by new entrants such as UK’s BooHoo, America’s Fashion Nova, and most notably the Chinese giant Shein, which has undergone explosive growth in the past few years. All efforts to stop them have failed. It is now time for governments to step in and regulate fast fashion the way it has regulated Big Tobacco and the automotive industry.

By pumping out vast amounts of clothing in countries where labor laws are lightly regulated, fast fashion companies have become some of the worst offenders when it comes to sustainability and ethical labor practices. Shein is a particularly egregious example because its operations are centered in China, which allows it to keep its manufacturing practices completely opaque and away from the eyes of Western regulatory agencies.

Meanwhile, on the consumer end, the amount of textile waste generated by the developed world has reached truly staggering amounts. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, in 2018 Americans discarded 17 million tons of textiles, most of which came in the form of trashed garments.

Much hand-wringing has been done to lament this sad state of affairs, and much blame has been put on the companies themselves. Fast fashion firms have enabled the shift in consumer mentality that has turned clothes-shopping into an addictive form of entertainment, making disposability the norm. Some of the blame should also fall on fast fashion consumers who treat shopping as a competitive sport, buying and discarding clothes at a historically unprecedented rate. According to a 2019 report by the UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion, “The average consumer buys 60 percent more pieces of clothing than 15 years ago. Each item is only kept for half as long.”

The Universe of Geoffrey B. Small

Cavarzere is a sleepy Italian town about twenty-two miles southwest of Venice. Until the 1950s its main business was agriculture, but eventually it became a part of the fashion and textile manufacturing powerhouse that the province of Veneto grew into during the second half of the 20th Century, and that is now also dying or being transformed thanks to the two Frenchmen who are keen on buying up as much of Italian manufacturing as possible.