Vanity — All is Vanity: Designers Change Image In the New Game of Fame

Fashion designers are going through a major makeover moment. Here’s what’s driving them to the workouts, facelifts and other redo’s.

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Photo By WWD Staff

WWD Image

Photo By WWD Staff

NEW YORK — According to the old-school rules of the runways, designers should open a collection with their strongest look of the season. But these days, it’s the very last look that counts the most — when the designers themselves take their bow.

Can it be just a coincidence that designers have suddenly been talking nonstop about their diet plans, their face-lifts, their new hairdos and workout regimens? Not when Donna Karan looks 10 years younger, Narciso Rodriguez has become a six-pack and Tommy Hilfiger is sporting a buzz cut. It’s a delicate issue, for sure, but let’s face it: Fashion designers are going through a major makeover moment.

In a world where observations on the delineation of famous people’s “before” and “after” have become something of a journalistic sport, where celebrities of all kinds are facing microscopic scrutiny of their personal behaviors and appearances, it only makes sense that designers would start to feel the pressure, too. After all, designers are celebrities in their own right, tied into their brands as the physical manifestation of a lifestyle or logo, like Tom Ford is as sleek and sexy as Gucci, and John Galliano is as mercurially theatrical as Christian Dior.

But fame, as they say, is a bitch. The nature of being a celebrity has shifted enormously over the past decade — thanks to the diarrhetic propagation of information channels — making the Who Wore What, When and Where, endlessly accessible through the internet, style magazines, television stations, reality programming and supermarket tabloids. So the celebrities face constant pressure to keep up.

“Fashion people have to look at themselves on television and in pictures all the time,” said Michael Kors, who has maintained a sunny persona that’s been fairly consistent throughout his 20-year professional career. “Sometimes it’s hard to see yourself as what you are, so you reinvent yourself. It comes down to being vain, and we’re constantly under the microscope.”

Kors is a Star-reading, Bonnie Fuller Fan Club member who, thanks to her publication, can deliver the blow by blow on Barbra Streisand’s post-op face-lift perp walk, just like millions of celebrity-obsessed Americans across the country. That infatuation has actually helped him better understand the public curiosity that trails him as a fashion designer. Eating at Da Silvano recently, a woman approached Kors on behalf of her daughter, who recognized him from a television interview. Retelling the story, Kors put on a phony southern accent, and said, “‘My daughter knows that you’re a designer, but she can’t remember if your name is Michael, or if it’s Randolph.’”
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