Did anyone else read Li Edelkoort’s interview on Dezeen? I also listened to her interview on The Business of Fashion where she reiterates many of her thoughts about the impact Covid-19 is going to have on the world.
If you don’t know of her, Li is one of the world’s most influential trend forecasters. For 45 years she has worked with leading fashion and consumer brands, predicting tastes and demands.
She’s pretty provocative but also highly intuitive; the interviews are worth a read/ listen.
The key aspect I took from her is that a reset is coming. A shift in the way we live, work, create, communicate, consume, travel and socialise. It’s an enforced version of slow living; savouring what we have in our lives, as opposed to the last few decades of fast consumption and turnaround.
We’ve experienced elements of these changes in recent weeks, but the thought of aspects becoming part of a sustained lifestyle is interesting. What if there were fewer flights… would we explore our own shores more? Take trains to go on holiday instead of planes, spend more time at home? Discover our local communities and the makers within them. Will we value what we already have more, enjoy family time, food, nature… instead of constantly thinking about what’s next. It’s a nice thought.
Regardless of how these predictions ring out, Li’s thoughts are honestly a breath of fresh air to me. Our fast paced society brings anxiety, stress and insecurities, fed by technology.
Talking of technology, however, I’ve seen some inspiring examples of businesses and creatives innovating and collaborating – some are even seeing results that surpass the pre-lockdown days.
Take for example The South London Makers market which started at the end of 2019. They held 2 physical markets in December 19 and February 20. When the lockdown came into effect, rather than cancel their March market they made the decision to take it online and hold it on Instagram. The market was promoted as a ‘live event’, launching details of the makers at 11am on Sunday 29th March. This clever decision meant their market became national rather than just local, bringing them 600 new followers and more sales than at the offline markets.
Many artists I know have engaged with a new online initiative – Artist Support Pledge – started by artist Matthew Burrows, where artists list works for £200 or less. When they sell 5 works, they commit to buying another artist’s work. Initially set up as a way to create a small dynamic marketplace to support artists’ income, The Art Newspaper reports that in the first week over 9,000 ‘pledges’ were made equating to £9million of sales.
Li predicts the continued rise of handmade and local cottage industries. People will learn and relearn skills that will be valued by others. She calls this The Age of the Amateur. As I write this, garden centres have backlogs of orders for seeds as people focus on growing their own food and I’ve lost count of how many friends (myself included) are making sourdough bread at home.
VALUE IN FASHION
Value will be far more inherent in the items we cherish and already own. Li feels we’ll be going cold turkey over shopping. Less quick fashion fixes, more well thought out, considered investments. Not necessarily high end, but perhaps we’ll be buying 1 or 2 well made dresses a year (from ethical companies with properly paid workforces and environmental credentials) instead of 5 or 6 ones (from a cheap factory with underpaid labour and an unsafe workplace that is polluting its local river).
I – and many others – made a conscious decision to slow down our consumption back in October 2018 following Stacey Dooley’s revealing documentary Fashion‘s Dirty Secrets. My appetite for fast fashion just isn’t there anymore. Craftsmanship, well sourced materials and an ethical approach to both workforce and the environment are standard requirements from a brand these days.
Independent brands and retailers have been gaining in popularity over the past few years, as a backlash to fast fashion and the homogenisation of the high street. We’ve always celebrated creativity and individuality, I just feel that we lost sight of it somewhat.
One of my favourite purchases in the last year or so have been a pair of handmade bronze earrings by Studio Rua, a business started by Ruth Leach in Sept 2018. Inspired by ancient jewellery, Ruth handmakes each piece using a wax carving technique. Each piece is clearly handmade, featuring imperfections and thumb prints. The handcrafted aspect is extremely desirable to me – each and every piece is unique.
Take also, the brilliant Paynter Jackets, a business run by Huw and Becky (also founded in 2018). Based on a vintage design for a French workwear jacket, they founded their business as a made to order model with limited production units, thus generating sales before stock, minimising waste and creating demand. Their first release had 2,500 people on the wait list for just 300 jackets. They’ve now made 3 limited editions, which have each sold out within minutes. Their success is down to a brilliant product, yes, but also a transparent approach to business, putting the environment and community at the heart of what they do. Their social media is full of behind the scenes content showing the design, production and fabrication processes – not a single ‘influencer’ in sight. They won’t make the millions (billions?) of profit that some of the fast fashion brands do (did?), but I’m pretty sure their passion and ethos will ensure they’ll weather the Covid-19 storm and protect their niche.
It’s certainly an interesting time and like so many others, I hope this enforced pause teaches us to value many things more – our keyworkers, our health system, our privilege as a first world country – and to bring about a more rewarding life.