Upper King Street continues to evolve as a design and fashion area. One of the outstanding clothing stores to open in 2011 was The JLINSNIDER Boutique. Charleston Fashion Week has put to rest the perception that Charleston is at least 10 years behind fashion. The Headwear Association acknowledged Charleston emergence into the fashion world. Friday, June 17th is Hat Day in the Sun. This is an annual public awareness campaign of the Headwear Association promoting the use of hats to protect against skin cancer and premature skin damage. 2011 was the 4th year for the event and the first time Charleston was chosen to be among the participating cities.
Despite the continuing depressed economy, small upscale clothing boutiques are flourishing. High-end stores such as Niemen Marcus and low end retailers such as Dollar Stores and Targets are doing well. Stores in the middle economic range such as JC Penny and Talbot are struggling to survive. Savvy designers conscious of the high end /low-end paradigm are collaborating with the likes of Target and Kohl’s. Missoni’s collection for Target was so popular that consumer demand crashed the retailer’s wed site. Vera Wang, who celebrated her 20th year in business continues to collaborate with Kohl’s and is designing a moderate price men’s wear collection for The Men’s Warehouse. This does not mean that there is no interest in couture.
2011 was the year for blockbuster museum retrospectives of fashion greats. Channel, Dior, Gaultier and Alex McQueen had museum exhibitions. The McQueen show, “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” at The Metropolitan Museum in New York attracted over six hundred thousand visitors. One can only hope that in the not too distance future the museum fashion retrospectives will come to Charleston.
One designer, who will not be having a museum show, is John Galliano, the center of saddest and most bizarre 2011 incident in the fashion world. A drunken Galliano was accused of making anti-Semitic remarks in a Paris café. He was fired from Dior even before his case went to court and has become a fashion outcast. Why did this happen and could this incident been prevented? There had long been tensions between Galliano and Bernard Arnault, the head Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the parent company of Dior. Was this perhaps a set-up? There is also the question of designer melt down due the pressures of the increased number of collections and elaborate shows, fall/winter, holiday, resort, spring/summer. Fashion lost brilliant designer and the industry does not seem to care. Considering the 2010 suicide of Alex McQueen and the 2011 career self-destruction of Galliano, fashion houses need to reassess how they function.