Despite this pandemic, I thought that it would be a nice idea bringing you some truly front-row experience.
And who is better suited for this than Tony Glenville? His extensive professional career explains why Tony‘s presence is highly demanded at the main fashion shows.
And that is something that not many can boast of.
Tony’s profile is what it is because it has nothing to do with the vapid role of the ‘influencer’ and the void that is ‘likes’.
But he is not just talent. In appearance, Tony has a very personal style that does not go unnoticed.
Therefore, it is not surprising that many photographers decide to feature him in their street style images. But it’s not just the publications that take note. Many fashionistas have taken a leaf out of his book on what it means to dress stylishly with personality, individuality but above all, class.
His undeniable style, resplendent personality and his all-encompassing knowledge of the fashion industry makes Tony the ultimate fashion insider.
I met Tony a few years ago in Paris.
He is one of the few who can actually boast of being required at the big shows.
But he is not content to simply be a front row ‘sitter’. He is a restless soul and always makes time to meet those young up and coming talents within the fashion industry first hand.
He is not one of those people who you will see at a runway show with his mobile in hand. Tony takes out his notebook and pencils to capture the beauty of the designs he sees parading under his watchful eye.
He is a great illustrator who also knows how to capture the details of a collection in an excellent way where you are able to dissect a collection from the sketches alone.
Coinciding with the new temporary norm that is the digital fashion weeks, Tony Glenville was kind enough to grant us an interview from his corner of sanctuary in Mallorca.
Tony grew up with a great love for cinema and art and has always liked to draw.
And of course there was his love for fashion. So, it was only natural that he would end up studying design and fashion.
“I learned all the tasks and processes related to creating a collection. I would sew, make patterns, etc.
I entered fashion with great ambition: I wanted to be the new Christian Dior! ”
“But I am realistic, as well as ambitious; and I realized that I was very far from being the new Dior ”.
Despite this burst of reality and humility, all of his years spent in college were not in vain.
“I’ve always thought that everything you learn ends up serving you in life.”
Thus, my knowledge of fashion and design helped me to continue to be linked to this industry.
I started a professional career as a consultant in several of the most important agencies in the world.
It was a wonderful time, when I travelled around the globe, meeting designers and brands and was able to look at their business models.
I was able to learn first-hand about their ideas, goals and limitations. And since I knew very well all the work behind a design, it was easy for me to understand and connect with them.
And so Tony spent more than 15 years getting to know designers and businesses in all corners of the world, helping them make their dreams profitable and real.
But as it usually happens with talented people, the restlessness ends up winning and one day Tony made the leap towards the specialised press.
“This is how I started my career as a fashion critic.
Something fantastic that allowed me to stay connected to the industry, as well as continue to apply my knowledge and continue to learn more. ”
There is something that Suzy Menkes once told me that struck me
“Throughout my career, one of the best compliments I’ve had is when a designer told me that my review helped them improve.”
And that’s a fantastic thing. Because it generates a very special and lasting connection.
The Digital Age
I have been talking to various designers during this time and have collected their opinions about the digital format.
I believe that it is necessary to capture the feelings of other necessary interlocutors in the sector, as is your case, Tony.
Your work requires your trained eye to deconstruct the pieces that pass before your eyes. You even visit the workshops to see and touch the designs up close.
But, now, we have just attended our first week of Haute Couture online .
And I miss observing in person the work of professionals like you and -of course- the conversations in between shows.
With couture being something so tactile, how are you dealing with this new format?
“I am passionate about fashion. But I must confess that Haute Couture is in my heart ”.
So when the whole world was in lockdown, I could not stop thinking about all of the people who dedicate themselves to the craft.
What was going to happen to all those exceptional dresses if they couldn’t step on a red carpet?
Were we going to run out of creativity?
Personally, the lockdown has not stopped me. I have always believed that you have to grow in the face of adversity.
Do you think there is always a reason or even opportunity behind a crisis?
“Of course!! Crises help us activate; to be more aware of our environment and limitations.
Therefore we can be more effective and even reinvent ourselves.
I do not understand all those people who choose to sit around lamenting and blaming everything on the system, on society, …
Really, how can you claim to make your life better by holding on to apathy and criticism?
I feel that I must be active; now more than ever.
For example, during the lockdown, I have turned to my role as Creative Director in Journalism and Communication for the London College of Fashion.
During this time I have been developing a series of chronicles about the fashion industry.
And I am very excited because the students have been hooked and have been commenting and sharing ideas with me.
And how have you experienced ‘Haute Couture from a distance’ through the new platforms?
I admit that it does not feel quite right. My work requires me to be able to see the designs up close and touch them.
Imagine the exercise that has involved having to do my work from home, watching all those fabulous dresses parading from my computer screen.
It has been strange.
But it has also been a relief in many ways.
As I was saying before, one of my fears was that creativity would stop; that designers would stop creating.
When I attend a show, I don’t usually pay attention to the press releases.
I prefer to see the collection through my own eyes and process it, without any indication or preconceived idea.
So when the FHCM said that Haute Couture was going ahead, it was a celebration.
I imagine and appreciate the great effort that designers and organization have made.
Because I fully understand how difficult it can be to create in a situation like that of this COVID-19 pandemic.
So as soon as I saw your drawing on the documentary by Daniel Roseberry and Schiaparelli, I contacted you.
Plus, you have not missed any presentation. And that is something that has made me very excited. Seeing colleagues who are still involved in their passion for fashion.
Yes. I have taken each virtual show as an opera performance, full of art and scenes with wonderful props.
I was not sitting in Paris, but I could feel some of the atmosphere.
Don’t you get the feeling that this format has returned control over content and values to designers?
I agree. Most of them have opened the doors of their ateliers, even their lives, to show us the exquisite craftsmanship behind their collections.
I think that even the digital format has allowed cinema, music and art to meet again with fashion.
Beyond digital, the fusion between fashion and other artistic disciplines has been very important. And interesting.
I am sure this is going to mean the start of a new, more artistic format.
Another thing that we have not experienced in Haute Couture Online is the crowds of people and the front rows full of mobile influencers in hand.
I have not missed these kinds of ‘selfies’.
It is true! Haha (Tony nods)
Once a wonderful woman, elegant, beautiful, women who sat next to me just did not stop taking selfies.
She told me that she had more than two million followers on her social networks.
When she asked me, I told her that I had barely four thousand.
She followed me on Instagram and was taking a look at my followers. And do you know what he said to me?
Your followers are worth a thousand times more than mine. You have the whole industry following you!!
Do you think the time has come to give more weight to the curriculum rather than to the followers?
Of course! It is something that many firms and designers have been betting on.
The power of a microinfluencer can be exceptional!
Franck Sorbier told me that the pandemic has carried out a cleaning that was necessary in Haute Couture.
The online format allows you to reach everyone.
Although the format of the physical shows will return to the way it was in the early days. The golden era when they were smaller and aimed at clients and professionals.
I agree. Designers need to sell.
It is unthinkable that your customers have to be limited because the front row must be covered depending on the number of followers one has.
Speaking of sales. How do you see the future for the fashion industry ahead?
A very hard future.
The pandemic has been a great tragedy at all levels.
The impact of COVID-19 on the economy has been devastating. And it will have immediate consequences on shopping habits and behaviour.
Clothes will no longer be the first spending option. It is no longer a necessity.
We will continue living for a time with the uncertainty of whether we can travel, go to an event, a red carpet, … or something as simple as having an appointment.
Do you think this can have an impact at the design thinking level?
Surely. Fashion will be forced to adapt better to needs such as protecting ourselves and making us feel comfortable.
But you should never lose that magic that makes us dream.
It is very important that firms know how to land in a personalised way to cover the specific needs of each client and their market.
Haute Couture offers much more than a beautiful dress for a red carpet.
It offers trades, quality, local economy and sustainability.
What is your opinion of those who think that China could be the salvation of their business?
If you think the Chinese customer is going to save you in 2020, you are wrong.
This crisis will take time to recover from. And to think that China can be the salvation may be a wrong strategy.
They too have suffered the pandemic and have their own expectations and uncertainties.
There are even companies that have raised their prices in the Asian market, justifying that customers cannot come to Europe.
It is incomprehensible and can hardly bring long-term success.
I think that the reconversion of the sector must be much deeper. Started by re-educating the consumer.
We don’t need to shop compulsively and follow trends.
If we really want to teach a sustainability lesson, let’s start consuming in a moderate and responsible way.
Let’s enjoy the buying process more. Let’s investigate.
We have a lot of work ahead of us.