The final part of this essay is a short case study which is intended to demonstrate the kind of empirical analyses which might provide some answers to Davis’ question: What does the shortened hemline or double breasted suit mean to those, who, cautiously, are among the first in their social circle to adopt them? How do these meanings, elusive or inchoate as they may be, relate to the meanings that proceeded and will follow them in the fashion cycle? Why do some new meanings (read fashion) ‘click’ while other ‘fizzle’?
Part of my work as a designer with the MaxMara group has been on the ‘Weekend by MaxMara’ range. Weekend is MaxMara’s relaxed cousin, an informal collection which uses ‘classic’ inspiration, that is to say our research usually focuses on reinventing or modifying categories of garment which have recognizable generic features, such as aran sweaters, duffel coats or safari jackets. The customer prioritizes an essential aspect of ‘correctness’,
Academic works in fashion
Even bourgeois respectability, but with a slightly progressive, ‘modern’ interpretation. The look is hard to define, but easy to recognize and very widely understood; the collection sells around 500,000 garments per season worldwide. I have chosen to give Weekend as an example of my work, in this instance, because I wish to highlight the ‘sub-catwalk’ products that do not figure largely in academic works in fashion, rather than to talk about the more glamorous MaxMara line.
Weekend is clearly not an avant-garde or couture collection, its commerciality is plain to see, and yet with coats retailing at around £400 it is not High Street either. The example I have chosen is intended to illustrate the creative and rational processes which lead to the development of a relatively simple fashionable garment, to indicate the great subtleties of meaning and its derivations, in a way that academic work on fashion has not fully recognized.