By Alireza Massoumnia
Throughout history, fashion has always evolved—not only in style but also in accessibility to the masses. Just as the invention of the sewing machine during the first Industrial Revolution affected the speed and ease of garment construction, today’s advanced technology is pushing fashion to new heights in both affordability and quality, making it easier for consumers to obtain the most current fashions at affordable prices.
And technology isn’t just making production faster and cheaper. Now that high-fashion runway shows are immediately and widely available on the web, so-called “fast fashion” companies can produce and ship similar products at a much lower price and at a faster pace than the original designers. It’s true that high fashion and fast fashion cater to different types of customers, but it’s important to realize that each influences how the other is perceived.
Fast fashion brings new challenges for designers, who not only must (as usual) stay relevant to the ever-changing world of fashion, but also must keep their products desirable and different in this new context. As a designer, I find these challenges exciting. It has made me approach the creative process much differently than I did before. From the moment I pick up a pencil to the final result, I’m pushed to be more creative and to think outside the box. I’m more interested in the elements that make a high-fashion collection special, from craftsmanship and exquisite textiles to innovations in shape and construction.
However, this way of thinking is neither new nor unique; it has always existed for designers whose creations have stood the test of time.
In the winter of 2006 I was fortunate enough to be able to go into the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute archives and do hands-on research on 10 pieces from Christian Dior’s 1948 Zig Zag and 1954 Lily of the Valley collections. In those few hours, I realized how much thought and creativity had gone into every piece. In each garment, every detail had a purpose, from darts to seams. All the components were special—demonstrating a unique vision while at the same time pushing the boundaries of tailoring of the era.
That experience forever changed how I see fashion and made it clear to me why some creations are kept as treasures in museums around the world. It also made me appreciate and acknowledge contemporary designers such as Azzedine Alaïa and Rei Kawakubo who have always worked in this way.
My hope is that the flood of inexpensive, on-trend fashion options will be a wake-up call for high-fashion brands—helping them see, as I did, that fast fashion creates a greater opportunity than ever for unique and exquisitely made clothing.
Bio: Alireza Massoumnia is a New York City-based fashion designer who was born in Tehran, Iran, and grew up in San Francisco and New York. After earning a degree in fashion design he spent several years honing his skills with women’s wear brands in San Francisco before launching his own collection in New York in 1998. For seven years, the Alireza collection garnered great reviews and editorial coverage in many U.S. and international publications, including Vogue, W, Bazaar, WWD, and Elle. Since 2005 Massoumnia has worked with some of the most iconic names in fashion, such as Calvin Klein, Thierry Mugler, Zac Posen, and Isaac Mizrahi, as well as creating costume designs for stage and film.
Click on any thumbnail below to open a slideshow and view larger images of couture details from vintage Christian Dior garments in the Historic Costume & Textiles Collection at Ohio State University. Photographs by Lian Dziura (CCAD 2012).
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