What Is the Future of Fashion?
"Li Edelkoort, one of the world’s most respected trend forecasters, gave a provocative talk on the VOICES stage, presenting key excerpts from her ‘Anti-Fashion’ manifesto, a critical examination of today’s fashion industry. Edelkoort, who has advised brands like Armani and won the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres from the French Ministry of Culture, said that, as the wider world has evolved, fashion has lagged behind." BoF
We have seen the fashion industry empower people and allowed them to express themselves to the world through pieces of clothing that tell way more than what is trendy at the moment. As the great Li Edelkoort put it on her latest interview for BoF, designers today are recycling old ideas, fashion advertising is way behind, individualism prevails, there is still a lack of "fair price" mentality, retail needs reinventing and today's consumers see fashion as secondary. "Today, people are expressing themselves in a number of ways (hair colour, tattoos, jewellery) that are not traditionally thought of as fashion. There are also growing tribes of people who don’t care about fashion. For example, the tech crowd in Silicon Valley," said Edelkoort. “Fashion is not a mission amongst these nerds and their degree of coolness is obtained by loose slogan T-shirts, smart objects, paleo foods and indie music. Fashion has lost these consumers over the last twenty years and will not be able to get them back."
We have spoken to Carmen Manzano, talented London-based Brazilian muse, to understand how this generation is putting Li's suggestions for the future into reality today. Carmen is also part of Squad Agency, the first streetcasting hub for creative people in Brazil that aims at promoting real people with real talents (who can also take a nice pic).
How do you get and stay inspired?
I think inspiration for me is really organic? I am always looking for something interesting or a different way of looking even in things which are not typically inspiring. I think that makes me super curious and that is the key to inspiration, maybe?
Something super important to me about embroidery is that it is not necessarily cross stitch or “grandma stuff”, it can be super modern and technological. It’s just that the conception people have of embroidery is very limited and that is a concept I am always toying with when I get inspired.
How is your creation process?
Question everything.. I can’t say that I have a fixed creative process because everything is trial and error. So sometimes it begins with a material and sometimes it begins with an image, sometimes it begins with a concept. Then I go and I find out everything there is to know about whatever it is that I am looking at. I buy materials, I watch youtube craft tutorials, I go to libraries and find books on the subject to collect as much inspiring imagery as possible. Talking to people about how they understand whatever it is that I am studying is also very important. In a sense it’s just a very methodic way of getting informed. Then the next stage is the hardest for me because I get really scared of starting – I hate it when things aren’t finished so the experimental stage is the hardest. If I make stuff that doesn’t really work I hide tests or destroy fabrics because I hate seeing that it failed. It’s the most frustrating part but it’s also the one that opens new doors because whilst I am failing I am also thinking about all my research and how that is going to help fix things. I’ve been told that I have the approach of a product designer even though I do embroidery and this is something that is quite interesting.
Tell us about your latest collaborations with brands - Saloon 33 (Brazil), Adidas (UK) and Mary Katrantzou (internship).
This year has been a bit mental for me because I did not stop working throughout.
I started the year interning at Mary Katrantzou which was my first internship at a luxury brand. I learnt a lot about processes and design development, and how much can actually be accomplished when you have a team dedicated to a project. It also made me realize how important it is to take care of your employees and to have forward-thinking office environment and spaces (something the company cared very little about).
We have really great opportunities at London College of Fashion and this year we had a great group collaboration project for Adidas in which we were given feedback from the brand throughout. The experience really showed me how creating something commercially viable is also a really creative process, it just means that the creativity shows up in different ways. For example, my main areas of study were to develop the lacing details in two jackets. One of them was fully developed on CAD, even the patterns pieces were cut using a laser cutter and then “sewn” together with lacing on digitally placed holes. So the creativity was more about how something was made then how it looks.
Saloon 33 is a start-up brand in Brazil which is very committed to doing things right – paying small people for their work, be it freelancing, modeling, photos. So, they were my very first commercial freelance collection (thank you!) and I can’t describe how exciting it is to see people wearing my things. It was weird for me having to deal with things like “oh, the factory can’t do this specific shade of orange, so we need to have red instead” and all these limitations manufacturing imposes but overall it has been an incredible learning curve.
I know all these experiences I am sharing can be super commonplace for more experienced designers but sometimes I feel that the stuff published out there for people who are just starting (like me) are way too grand or way to fantasy for the average person to relate to. I am a bit sick of reading interviews with this “super edgy new designer who is only 17 and this or that celebrity are all wearing their stuff because they are just that well connected”. So I am giving away all these infos which are super honest and I hope people can relate to!
How do you believe fashion, textiles and colours impact: you personally, young people, society in general and the government/politics/environment?
I think fashion, textiles and colours provide people with ways of understanding themselves, their place in society and their identities better. Its impact is the same as other forms of cultural production and is tied intrinsically to them: fashion is an image, and artifact and a performance for and of change.
Is there a need for fashion to exist? What is it?
I wouldn’t say that there is a need for fashion to exist – but it exists. It’s not going to stop existing in our lifetime or the next, just like it has existed for years and years before that. The fact that it exists just because it does kinda shows that it is intrinsic, you know? It’s a form of cultural production that helps people understand and comment on the world that surrounds them. This process is becoming evermore organic in a commerce system that involves people defined by both consumer and creator-maker roles.
How do you see the industry changing in the next 10 years?
Telling for sure how much the industry is going to change is hard, but looking at the now I can see a move towards working together collectively rather than separately. It feels like everyday more and more people are taking part in the creative industries which has previously led to overcrowding now is opening doors to a big deal o democratization! Another thing that I feel is going to be evermore important is a re-evaluation of our methods of production and how science and technology can drive forward ways of making things that are sustainable, cruelty free and durable. This comes in the shape of how production in factories is done, where is done, by whom and how much power people have over these processes. It comes in the shape of materials that are used and where they are and how long they last. Comes in the shape of consumers and don’t want merely to be recognized by their looks, but also by all the lifestyle choices made by the products they wear. Clothes are also information and I think that is what the future is going to bring. Personally I find it super important to bring craft back as a way to re-invent the textile area, bringing old techniques to new light and this is mostly what my final major project is focusing – finding out where craft fits in all this.