"To be irreplaceable, one must always be different", said Coco Chanel. But with the current vogue for 'reality dressing' being played out on the streets and down the catwalks, it seems that it's 'indifference' which is the order of the day.
Many industry critics have bemoaned the fact that following the latest round of runway shows, it's clear that next spring/summer will again be a season bereft of new ideas. Apparently, trends are few and far between as understatement and utility continue to rule the runways. But if fashion is a reflection of society today, aren't we, the customers, to blame for this blandness? Are designers simply giving us the wardrobe staples we want to wear?
Life today for many of us doesn't call for a constant stream of statement pieces in here today gone tomorrow styles. Our wardrobes are now increasingly being filled with functional, 'forever' pieces that reflect our fast moving lives. Practical and comfortable are the new buzzwords, and we are coveting clothing that can take us seamlessly from morning into night.
We're also increasingly looking to other women for our fashion inspiration. The days when designers dictated the length of our hemlines and height of our heels are now long gone. Fashion bloggers, street style stars and the selfie ('real women in real clothes') are our new points of reference.
Our 'aversion' to the avant-garde isn't new. It's an industry fact that the more commercial, i.e. wearable, 'resort' or pre-collections designers produce consistently outsell their more fashion forward main lines. And designers' taking their inspiration from 'the street' isn't a new concept either. Punk, for example, is constantly being repackaged and sold back to us in more stylised forms. So, it's no real surprise that the everyday sweatshirts and trainers we are now all sporting are being given the luxury treatment, and certainly no coincidence that the understated, and modestly priced, Mansur Gavriel bucket bag, the bag du jour among bloggers this year, was swiftly followed in the stores by more elaborate, and costly, designer versions.
But if the focus up and down the high street is now firmly on 'wearable' fashion - the tag line for GAP's new season advertising campaign is 'Dress Normal' - are we paying the price style-wise?
It seems strange that many of us are choosing to 'blend in' when the opportunity to express our own personality through what we wear has never been greater. The increase in global travel, growth of online retailing and rise in social media means that we all have access to a huge number of brands, and influences, wherever we are in the world. And while the era of the unifying trend may be over, this certainly doesn't mean the end of great fashion.
Individual brand identities are still strong. And in the absence of designer diktats we are free to buy into whichever style appeals to us at any given moment. However, while this new fashion freedom appeals to those of us who have a clear sense of our own style, it falters for those women, many of my clients and customers included, who feel rather lost without a lack of direction.
Taking the time to understand who we are and determine how we want to be seen are essential steps to carving out our particular niche in the world of fashion. And it's the clothes that give us confidence, while being comfortable to wear, that are the key to nailing our own unique 'signature' look.
While our lifestyles may now call for a more casual approach to dressing, this doesn't mean that those special pieces we all own have to remain on the sidelines. 'Saving for best' is now a much-outdated concept, and part of the fun of fashion today is incorporating something special into our everyday to create that irreplaceable point of difference, à la Madame Chanel.