State of Independence – Fashion is Dead?

State of Independence - Fashion is Dead? 

by Burbo Kture

I've re-written this piece several times because it sounded too preachy. Like a reformed smoker I guess, but the sentiment is the same.

I'm a reformed 'shopper'. Yes, when the mood takes me I can shop, and I'm one of those annoying types that has bargains throwing themselves off the shelves and into my possession. "How much??!!" my friends cry. *smug grin* I'd buy pretty much 'in bulk' at one time and talk myself into the fact if I didn't like it when I got home I could always customise it. Cue clothes lying in cupboards and drawers unworn, Consume consume consume. I think its genetic. When my Grandmother goes to the shops she can spend three hours wandering around, and if nothing takes her fancy, she buys....... new tea towels! I think it's to convince herself it wasn't a wasted journey.

So, I used to shop on the highstreet and still wear the same things over and over again on a daily basis but HAD TO have something new if I was going out at the weekend. But thats not 'Fashion' or 'Style' is it? Then I started to make, or rather unmake. I first started designing clothes by way of customising, this was way before the whole vintage upcycle trend started and I did it out of necessity - I'm quite short but I have a long torso and quite broad shoulders, i was finding it more and more difficult to find clothes on the highstreet which didn't make me look like medallion man squeezing into a shirt too small, or a twelve year old boy wearing his dads suit. Along with the generic styling of high street 'Fashion', the sizes also started to become more generic as in S/M/L/XL/XXL How many times have I asked a shop assistant

"What collar size is a medium shirt?" only to get a blank expression. So I started to unpick, tear apart, deconstruct and put back together, in my size and the way I wanted a piece to sit on my body. This taught me an awful lot of respect for design, tailoring, structure and the finish on a piece of clothing. - At this point I have to hold my hands up and say, yes I am that man in Selfridges who turns all the dresses inside out and fiddles with the turn ups on the trousers on the mannequins; I just like to work out how things are made! Sorry. But this is how I learned to make clothes, and because I am 'self taught' I learn something new all the time, and I love it!

I recently read an article that was tagged 'Fashion is Dead'. It initially attracted me as I used that term as one of the tag lines for my Tee Shirts when I first started Hand printing them. The article was an interview with Li Edelkoort who is a trend forecaster for the big fashion labels. She is warning that the bubble is about to burst on the Fashion industry as we know it, not just from the top down but from the bottom up too. The big players in fashion are spinning out of control and putting more and more pressure on themselves and respectively on to the consumer: Couture, Diffusion lines, resort collections, pre season collections, fragrance, accessories, bags, home furnishings. Whats next? Toilet roll? They do all of this simply as a spin off because the irony is, they are not selling enough clothes. They also have such immense budget power for marketing that newer and smaller labels don't get a look in on editorial in fashion magazines as the editorial is all tied up with how much is spent on advertising.

Similarly the cheap end of the market has become SO cheap that clothes have become disposable items. An item you are wearing right now could actually have cost less than you spend on coffee in one day, isnt that scary? And there's SO much of it. And isn't it scary that the person who stitched that T-shirt you are wearing probably doesn't make the price of a cup of coffee a day?

Ms. Edelkoort is predicting that clothes are going to make a comeback, that the Fashion houses are hanging on to an archaic trend and business model that started in the1950s. Consumers are not interested in 'Fashion' anymore; they like the pretty pictures but Fashion is just a by-product for celebrity and wealth. Young consumers and the stylish are creating their own wardrobe and they're own look due to the explosion of the mighty Fashion Blogger. In the future I'm told there will be more renting, sharing and borrowing of clothing and an emphasis on craft and bespoke, unique design. I recently read a piece on a group who call themselves RUDE girl, from Australia. They literally trawl through landfill and find handmade, bespoke and couture clothing!! They then mix it with pieces they already have and, hey! A new look, for relatively nothing.

Theres a similar thing happening in the music business. No one makes money from releasing music anymore, file sharing sites and product endorsement and live shows are where the money is at. Again, it's moving more towards the experience rather than the ownership. Notice how many artists 'guest' on other peoples records? The new business model for fashion or clothing will see more collaboration, group working, labels where there are a handful of designers as a label community. So where does this leave the big, high end labels?

Ms. Edelkoort believes there will be a return to couture on a small scale and labels will make money by licensing patterns to high street chains.

This will solve the problem of 'Fast Fashion': Items would have to be reproduced in near to the same fabrics and by skilled cutters and machinists. Good news for Skills and Education. Good news for quality fabric producers.

The price of clothing would rise to reflect this and so people would buy less and buy more carefully: Good news for the environment. They may also have more respect for, and take care of their clothing more.

The younger generation of designers are taking a stand on this too, Meadham Kirchhoff recently stated they would no longer be taking part in London Fashion week and there was speculation as to whether there would be any more collections from them. Why? Because the sponsorship ran out. They have been the great new hope for British Fashion for a few years now, gaining massive support from more underground magazines. They don't make commercial fashion but had been seduced on to the Fashion treadmill - That costs money, a lot of money. Staging shows, Samples production and fulfilling orders. all that for a 'brand' that does not mass produce cheaply enough to make a big buck. They are now calling for a 'Revolution' in Fashion, a way to rethink the whole 'system' of how things are done.

I find myself in the curious position of being in step with this tide change. As a designer with a tiny little label, I don't want to become 'Global' I don't want a string of boutiques and a fragrance line, and I certainly dont want to be in commercials selling laxative yoghurts, Gok, when what I set out to be was a creative designer. I want to remain independent and in control of my own work rather than being dictated to for the sake of shareholders. Obviously I want to build my labels' reputation and sales - just not at the expense of creativity, independence and individuality. Too many people starting businesses today have bought into this myth (lie), that a business has to grow as big and as quickly as possible. Politicians talk of this 'Global Race'. Race for what?? I ask. Money? Power? Its the law of gravity and the way of the world that what goes up must come down. It all sounds a bit 'Quick buck' to me, and at the cost of reputation, quality and the true artistry of making clothes.

So if Fashion is dead, or dying as we know it, and the emphasis is on personal style and real quality clothing, does that mean in the future we will all have our own personal stylist/shopper at our disposal?

God knows, there's enough of them. Or will we just trust our own instinct and fashion palette and create a new movement of uber stylish individuals........I won't hold my breath on that count. Consumers have been force fed tatt and rubbish and brainwashed by marketing for so long, it's going to take a while to wipe the slate clean, to re-educate. And as for me, I'll just keep doing what I'm doing, piece by piece, wait for the world to catch up and spread my #newagenda to anyone who'll wear it.

Happy Shopping! Burbo K'ture 2015

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