Why the CEO of the CFDA Doesn't Think Fashion Is Art

Jessica Schiffer

Fashion often gets a bad rap for being a purely superficial industry, but the reality is that there’s a lot of artistry involved as well. And, usually, no one wants to make this clearer than the people directly involved in the industry themselves. So it was pretty surprising to discover that the CEO of the CFDA, Steven Kolb, denied that fashion is art in a new interview with Redef:

“Fashion, in my opinion, is not art. People can say, and I have these conversations a lot of times, ‘Oh, its so artistic. It’s so creative.’ Sure, it has artistic flare and it definitely is a creative industry, but unless it has some commercial success, then I don’t think it has success. Making clothes just for the sake of making clothes that either hang on a rack or in someone’s closet but never actually end up on a consumer in a store, I don’t think that’s success. I think that the creativity and the commerce need to be together and I think that is something that American designers are not shy about. Fashion’s a business so you have to sell clothes. I think there’s no shame in being a commercial brand and being successful commercially.

I know lots of times runway is editorially driven to get press and attention, but what the buyers are buying might not even be what’s on the runway. It might be the more commercial collection that buyers are going to see in the showrooms or after shows, so you have to be creative in your business, but you have to be commercial to be successful.”

Kolb definitely has a point here—there’s more to truly successful fashion than artistic value—but his stance that fashion is not inherently an art is likely to ruffle a few industry feathers.

Read the full interview over at Redef. What do you think—is fashion an art, or not? Sound off in the comments!

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