Sounds weird? I have to agree.
I happened to read a rather interesting article in the Spiegel magazine tonight which is no, not the Mirror people read in the UK, but happens to have the same name if you care to translate it. It’s the only piece of print news I read regularly, mostly because they spend humongous amounts of time on thorough background investigation and are dedicated to a kind of independent journalism that is rare to find these days. Also, I love reading more than ten pages on the same subject.
Anyway, I came across this long interview with the ex-chief publisher of the Vogue and shockingly enough started to read, although the whole fashion biz is one of those things I am not interested in in the slightest. But I like interviews on people’s lives; they tend to present different perspectives that we’d otherwise never brush in our own life. Also, my bathwater was still warm and fuzzy and I had no more articles to read otherwise.
Riiiight….it appears that Miss Roitfeld was chief publisher and a designer for the Vogue for 10 years and had a blast. For the most part. Not so much during the second half. Less and less towards the end. A lot is currently changing in the world of haute couture, less freedom and more pressure, which is why the lady decided to quit and kiss the Vogue goodbye. Here is an English extract from that interview:
Roitfeld: For 10 years, it was a hell of a lot of fun. But, toward the end, it unfortunately got less and less fun. You used to be able to be more playful, but now it’s all about money, results and big business. The prêt-à-porter shows have become terribly serious. The atmosphere isn’t as electric as it once was, and they now have about as much charm as a medical conference. But it takes just one good fashion show to get things exciting again.
SPIEGEL: If fashion can tell us anything about the age it’s created in, what do you think current fashions tell us?
Roitfeld: Today’s fashions don’t let people dream as much as they used to. Twenty years ago, fashion was a promise – something that was part of your life and perhaps enriched it, something that reflected a particular era. If you look at advertisements these days, all you see are handbags. They aren’t about dreams anymore; customers are buying objects now, not dreams.
SPIEGEL: Is that why you left Vogue in January?
Roitfeld: Ten years is a long time – and especially 10 years in a gilded cage. They were wonderful years; but, sooner or later, birds want their freedom again.
SPIEGEL: Your French publisher said the time for being provocative and trashy was over.
Roitfeld: I’d put it this way: Fashion needs glamour, provocation and broken taboos.
SPIEGEL: Was it your decision to go?
Roitfeld: Absolutely. And at the perfect moment. The French edition of Vogue had never been more successful, had never had more readers or advertisers. And it had never made as much money. For 10 years, my American publisher, Jonathan Newhouse, let me do what I wanted, even when he thought it might be crazy. But it couldn’t have gone on for much longer.
SPIEGEL: Is this the end of era?
Roitfeld: Creativity needs space and a willingness to take risks, but businessmen don’t like risk. What’s more, designers are coming under more and more pressure. Today, a dress can’t just please the women in Paris; it also has to please those in Beijing, Tokyo, Moscow and New York.
SPIEGEL: Is globalization making fashion more boring?
Roitfeld: At the very least, it’s leading to a lot of compromise. But globalization is only one factor. Today’s designers no longer have to create two collections a year; they have to create four: spring, summer, fall and winter. And some fashion studios also add haute couture twice a year. Who can possibly manage all that? Good designers are artists; they’re fragile people. [Source]
Ring any bells? If not, try the following experiment: substitute all the words highlighted in red with the following replacement words:
Prêt-à-porter shows = PR/game conventions, fashion = games/MMOs, handbags = item rewards, Vogue = Blizzard, French publisher = investor / Activision, Jonathan Newhouse = Michael Morhaime, dress = game, women = gamers, collections = content patches, haute couture = major content patches / special promotions.
And then let’s assume Roitfeld = Ghostcrawler. Maybe few years from now. Or let’s assume he joined Blizzard in 2004 and this is 2014. In any case you get the point.
The point of all this being…
The point is: it’s happening everywhere. Grey suits calling the shots. Grey suits finding their way into anything that has grown a little successful on its own through genius, vision and hard work. Investment, bigger business. You pay, you have more say. Even if you really shouldn’t. Roitfeld is just one example of when the world of art clashes with the world of more money.
The globalization claim is rather interesting in this context; after all MMOs live of being online and global. At the same time, the point the interview makes still applies: there’s a huge pressure today to please all markets world-wide, every type of audience, every type of player, maybe even on several platforms. Catering to all of that with the same game is a monstrous attempt that matters zero to the individual player. The pressure to produce (quantity) on game designers is high, the freedom restricted by so many demands. Risk taking is a big no-no. Cloning WoW is boring but safe(r). When it comes to business, globalization is just another word for capitalism.
And MMOs are business.