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Who gets to decide whether a designer is good or not?

How do we determine whether a designer is ‘good’ or ‘bad’?

It is quite subjective to think that just because of a few people at the top of an industry (the famous Anna Wintour of Vogue magazine), designers can be made or broken.

What really determines who is good or bad?

Taste is so subjective that sometimes I wonder how they can consider ankle-cropped, flared, distressed, frayed hem jeans to be ‘subversive’, ‘groundbreaking’ or ‘SO GOOD’.

The look on my face sometimes when I read high fashion magazines or sites is one of complete confusion. If this is what women around the world are reading as a way to find their way towards being ‘in good taste’ and ‘stylish’, it can seem as though they are using a divining wooden rod and a swinging crystal in place of a GPS find their way out of the fashion jungle.

What makes it even more confusing is that major designers have a uniform, and a simple one at that.

They wear just a simple t-shirt and jeans with heels, wrap sheath dresses galore in various expensive cuts and fabrics. Karl Lagerfeld of Chanel notoriety, wears the same thing. He believes in his uniform so much that he has become an icon for his white ponytail, fingerless gloves, black thick sunglasses, and black suit, with very subtle variations, if any.

Not once, would you ever really catch them in what they’re making models strut down the runway, would you?

I can only really think of a handful of designers (mostly women) Vivienne Westwood, Diane von Furstenberg or Betsey Johnson as two designers who would wear what their models wear, off the top of my head. Or the Olsen Twins of The Row fame.

Major fashion editors also have their own uniform of what they like to wear and wear constantly, and only a few like Miroslava Duma or Anna Della Russo actually wear what I would consider ‘fashion-forward’ pieces. Everyone else, is just trying not to look stupid, particularly the French editors like Emmanuelle Alt, whose style I adore (leather blazers, skinny jeans, heels and a t-shirt? #YesPlease)

So. Why?


They’re out to get you to think what you are wearing now, is passé and you need to seriously revamp it by getting rid of everything you own and replacing it with culottes, STAT. Then 6 weeks later, culottes are out, but high-rise flared jeans are in. Wash, rinse, repeat.


For those of us who have a pretty strong aesthetic of who we are at the core, we want to play around and incorporate styles and trends in small or big ways as long as it is still flattering on us.

There are things I won’t wear (Read: Things I will never wear no matter how trendy), and there are trends that I have taken a while to take a shine to, most notably skinny pants, leather leggings and a more neutral palette overall.

But do many people know that about themselves? That they look and feel bad in puffed sleeves? Or that their skirts need to be at knee-length because any higher and they feel uncomfortable? It takes years of experimentation, and honest, raw looks at ourselves to reach that point, and even if we are there, we still evolve.


I must admit, as much as I complain, I like reading high-fashion style blogs and magazines to look at all the style eye candy. I won’t wear the pieces, and can’t understand flowered pajama pants as a statement piece to wear outside of the home (nor leggings unless they are leather), but I very much enjoy the way the model is styled and photographed.


I also get ideas about how to put colours together, like salmon pink with teal, a combo I would have never tried had I not seen it look so good on someone else before, or something they do that is a DIY thing that looks incredible:


I also would not have tried leather leggings if I didn’t constantly see others in them to the point where I think it looks … not bad. In fact, kind of badass.

Who cares if I am a mother of a toddler? Who says I can’t wear leather leggings, feel comfortable, rock them and critics be damned?

If Beyoncé and Victoria Beckham can do it, so can I. I am sort of rebelling in my own way, against this super casual culture we have created in clothing to the point where flip flops and jeans are considered 2 (Read: Why does everyone keep asking me why I am so dressed up?)


In the end, good designers are the ones we feel the most connected to, and since we would wear and feel connected to different things, it is obvious we would consider different designers ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

They don’t need to be groundbreaking though.

For the ones where I just don’t ‘get’ the designer or why someone raves over them, it is because someone else connected with that aesthetic and I didn’t.

My kind of designers are simple, luxurious labels like The Row (deceptively simple basics that are ridiculously luxurious), or Victoria Beckham’s line where the clothing is powerful, but simple. I also like something a little different in an otherwise simple looking piece as well. A twist on the side, an interesting pleat, a great print or a rock edge (a little bit of leather, studs, whatever).

It’s why for me, a good designer is not an aesthetic where it is wild, or anything too out there. I also don’t like anything too revealing (sexy is fine, showing bare skin blatantly less so). Brands like Versace, Gucci.. they don’t really speak to my style.

I don’t really like their work on the whole because I don’t understand things like tasseled high-heeled block loafers, which to me are one of the the ugliest things you can put on your feet.

I may like a few pieces here and there, some bags, or shoes, but that’s not to say I like a majority of what they do.


Groundbreakers are geniuses such as the late Alexander McQueen or the current Sarah Burton but they’re not what I would consider good for my wardrobe.

They make us feel something in their work. I watch a lot of Project Runway where you can see them create the most amazing, interesting and original pieces, and you think: Wow. Where did that come from? You fall in love with the work, then the designer’s brain behind it.

I just like them for their beauty and interesting ideas, but that’s it. Sure, I would like a watered down version of what they sent down the runway, something more wearable, but that’s about it.

His skull print scarves for instance should really be right up my alley, but it isn’t because I hate skulls and anything to do with morbidity, pirates, or death. It really just creeps me out.

So, what makes a great designer for you?


  • The Luxe Strategist

    I take my inspiration more from what designers wear than from what they send down the runway. Particularly Phoebe Philo and the guys from Proenza Schouler. The runway stuff is about fantasy, but I’m super casual.

    To me, what makes a good designer is more clear when I compare the contestants on Project Runway. The thing that separates dressmakers from designers is artistic vision and point of view. Some of them don’t have a basic sense of color or proportion.

    For professional designers, I think most of them are technically good, but I’ll only spend money on the ones who I feel I share a point of view with.

    I can also admire designers without wearing their stuff. For example, I love Dries Van Noten. His stuff is almost painterly, but his clothes also don’t work for my specific body type. But I can still admire from afar.

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