London Fashion Week is drawing to a close and there are a number of looks and launches that I, as a size 14-16 clothes-loving high-street shopper, am intrigued by. British designer Mary Katrantzou showed colour, clashes, prints and retro detailing. Preen’s show was a fierce hybrid of the feminist and the feminine, with plenty of references to The Handmaid’s Tale. And Lidl has just launched a collection in collaboration with Heidi Klum. Do you want to take a minute to read that again? I did. Lidl, the German discount supermarket chain, which is known for offering low-cost alternatives to premium brands, and is marketed as an affordable alternative to more established supermarkets, has worked with Heidi Klum, the legendary supermodel and celebrity, who is famous for being one of the very first Victoria’s Secret Angels.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the only thing Klum and Lidl have in common is their Germanic heritage, but their shared values were apparent when Klum explained her decision to launch the collection: “Who can afford Chanel? Their business mainly exists with glasses, wallets and bags. A lot of people can’t even afford that. And how many people can get the glasses? I mean, what per cent are we talking about? Four? Maybe less than that. I making real clothes for real people. I’m going to every woman out there. I am in the supermarket. When she buys her eggs and her steak and her butter, she can also buy this blazer.” I don’t think it matters that Klum’s life and routine is probably significantly different from a typical Lidl shopper's. She has taken the elite, exclusive concept of glamour and done as much as she can to make it available and affordable for any other woman who wishes to participate in it.
I’m particularly interested in the fact that Klum’s Lidl collection has launched during Fashion Month (after London, the fashion industry moves on to Milan and Paris) and as we gear up towards awards season. Just last night, we saw a sea of pictures of the most slender, beautiful women in Hollywood at the Emmys, wearing couture that costs four or five figures. We know that the biggest fashion houses compete to dress famous stars for red-carpet events, as it’s such a huge publicity opportunity for their brands. Yet Rachel Bloom, the writer and star of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, told E! News that she bought her own dress from Gucci and plans to resell it through the US high-end consignment store The RealReal. She explained: “[Designers] loan to very few. Pickings are still slim for non-sample-size ladies.”
Gucci might believe that they have the greatest impact on the fashion industry by being selective about who might be seen wearing their clothes, but it’s Lidl who is doing something truly revolutionary
I’m confused. For the sake of publicity, Gucci will lend an outfit to those who fit the narrowest of criteria – the incredibly slender and incredibly famous – and this is ultimately a PR exercise, supposed to make the brand more profitable and successful. Surely that success depends on the people Klum talks about connecting with the campaign, and being inspired to buy glasses, wallets and bags? As Klum points out, even the price points for accessories are prohibitive for the vast majority of people. It’s thought that Wallis Simpson coined the phrase “You can never be too rich or too thin” at the start of the 20th century, and it seems that it’s still true in the world of fashion. You’ll never have the money. If you do, you won’t have the right body type. The philosophy of luxury fashion is that women are never, ever enough.
I believe that fashion is a form of art. Still, surely it’s only interesting and relevant when it serves and empowers women? In the UK alone, the fashion industry’s direct value to the economy is thought to be £26bn. (That’s £6bn more than sport.) Gucci may want us to think it begins with them and ends in Chanel, but it starts and finishes with us, every single time we choose an outfit with care, and want to feel positive and proud. High-end designers should have us all at the forefront of their minds, instead of making us feel as though we’re not worthy of being their customers.
High-end designers might believe that they have the greatest impact on the fashion industry by being selective about who might be seen wearing their clothes, but it’s Lidl who is doing something truly revolutionary. Even if you don’t like Heidi Klum’s collection, you can go to the shops and know you have the right to experience glamour, luxury and fun. It’s fashion that no one wants to exclude you from. Fashion is completely pointless when it’s reserved for the few. It can only properly exist when it inspires, and it needs to be seen and widely worn. If you truly love the spirit of style, maybe the supermarket is the place to be. Perhaps your money is too good for Gucci.