Faded aesthetics, unrecognisable products: where does fashion go?

The recent death of the last great maximalist designer, Roberto Cavalli, leads one to reflect on where fashion is going. If the style is used to allow a customer to identify with a brand, today, the aesthetic boundaries between brands are disappearing. Let us try to understand to what extent


If we were reading the exit polls of the most important electoral round of the year, the results would hand an overwhelming majority to the party of the middle ways, in coalition with the party of the quiet luxury. They would mark an (almost total) defeat for the party of maximalism and for those small parties that are still too young or with too vague programmes. But we are not talking about politics. We are talking about where fashion is going and an all-predictable defeat for the supporters of excess and theatrics, especially if we think that in recent years, brands have flattened out on the path of the ordinary, following the post-Covid sentiment, now aggravated by the geopolitical situation.

Where fashion goes

It has to be said that not many designers now represent this current. A few days ago, the last great maximalist, Roberto Cavalli, king of animal prints, passed away. A few daredevils remain in circulation led by John Galliano (who also combines citations) and Demna Gvasalia, creative director of Balenciaga, who still manages to tell us stories. We are still faced with the alternation between two major parties – maximalism vs custom – but if before style allowed a customer to recognise himself in a brand, today the aesthetic boundaries between brands are disappearing. An aesthetic normalisation that has been, and still is, the golden goose of luxury, committed to the search for common products to intercept ‘the median consumer‘.

The median consumer

“The median consumer” changes from time to time, but would never dream of buying a pink leather Jackie reinterpreted by Alessandro Michele during his creative direction at Gucci. Certainly, there is a group of designers who have used maximalism as a distinguishing feature. From Demna himself, together with Rick Owens, to Daniel Roseberry for Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada, who may not be an extremist, but who has managed to build her own recognisable aesthetic, attentive to the demands of society, and who today places her two brands on the first step of the most loved (and best selling) brands.

Aesthetic Security

It costs money to buy a safe good – such as a Hermès handbag – and it is fair to assume that one chooses products that convey a reassuring image. In other words, the difference between a product (ordinary and beautifully made) by Phoebe Philo and one (extraordinary and beautifully made) by Loewe is the degree of aesthetic security the brands manage to convey. The main mistake, however, is to think that maximalism in fashion is synonymous with kitsch and coarseness when, in fact, it amounts to the ability to create stories in which we mere mortals are the protagonists. Above all, this search for common products keeps out a segment of potential consumers who have already become influential and who no longer reflect themselves in the traditional system: Gen Z.

Not feeling recognised

Gen Z today doesn’t have the buying power of the ‘average consumer’ but still buys and doesn’t feel recognised by any brand. A segment of young people who were born on social media and grew up on social media need to find disruptive products. For example, Alessandro Michele’s social appreciation has remained high thanks to those young people who hope to see a stylistic evolution also at Valentino, of which Michele has recently become creative director. The brands that have chosen to join the party of the middle ground continue to have a hard core of customers, but this model may be one step away from jamming. One only has to look at the turnovers to realise that, in addition to a ‘safe’ product, momentum is still needed. Or at least a jump.

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