Grace Bernal’s California Style: The Decline Of Fashion As We Know It

Regular readers of this column have probably been wondering where I’ve been off to for these last many weeks. Well, the truth of the matter is I’ve been hunkered down, much like everyone else, either at home or at work. For me, my workplace is our family manufacturing concern, which fortunately, has weathered the storm.
There are several sad truths here. One of them is that I am rarely on the streets anymore, which is where I draw most of my inspiration, just by observing what everyone is wearing, picking up on trends, seeing the patterns, watching how what some are wearing is influencing others. What I have seen is that no one, or at least very few people, are bothering much with how they dress anymore. They have been, for the most part, lounging around home, half the time, I suspect, in their bedclothes, and they will don, at most, an oversized shirt and a pair of pants or more likely sweatpants, some tennies or loafers, and make a run to the grocery store. I saw one day a man walking about downtown wearing a bathrobe and slippers! Another time, there was a lady in the frozen food aisle wearing what I thought had to be a nightie. The only thing missing was the curlers in her hair! Maybe I should have written a column about that.
Another sad truth is the wave of bankruptcies we have been hit with, largely as a result of this coronavirus lockdown.
Clothing retailer J. Crew, which operated more than 20 Southern California locations under the J. Crew and Madewell banners, has filed for bankruptcy protection. J. Crew had 182 J. Crew retail stores and 140 Madewell stores. These offered stylish youth-oriented brands. It needed $400 million in financing to remain afloat, but couldn’t get it, since it could not guarantee in the current environment that it will continue to have a flow of customers into its stores. J. Crew wanted to spin off its Madewell division in an IPO to help pay down its debt load, but creditors objected.
Neiman-Marcus filed for bankruptcy but is struggling to stay afloat. Word came this week that it may have turned a corner on raising $675 million in new financing to stay solvent to the point where it can start reopening stores.
Neiman-Marcus was an iconic chain of American luxury department stores which featured multiple high quality clothing lines for both men and women, but particularly women. In 1927 Neiman-Marcus premiered the first weekly retail fashion show in the United States. The loss of Neiman-Marcus in the fashion world would be an incalculable loss.
True Religion Apparel Inc., the Manhattan Beach-based designer and maker of designer jeans very much popular with celebrities, has declared bankruptcy.
All of this was followed with the bankruptcy filing of J.C. Penney! Will it never end?
One can hang on to the hope that bankruptcy does not necessarily mean that a company will go permanently out of business, as those seeking Chapter 11 protection are trying to stay alive by wiping out their debt or renegotiating that debt. What might happen is these companies will close the stores that are not profitable, and sustain the rest. Some will need to borrow money, and will be able to structure themselves back into profitability if they can get the funding and maintain a customer base. That is hard to do, though, when stores aren’t open.
All of this leaves me depressed. Life will go on, no matter what, but for me, style and fashion is what makes life interesting. Let us not forget what a wise man once said:
“What a strange power there is in clothing.” -Isaac Bashevis Singer

Leave a Reply