The world around us is always changing and unpredictable. The only difference from the past, is the pace of change. This turbulence also means the systems that govern the world are questioned and challenged, which has become more apparent in recent years. At times, we need to realign and rethink our societies, in a way that better serves the purpose of each being (and the planet). These broken systems are also reflected in trade and industry, including the apparel/fashion industry.
A lot has been written and speculated about how the system of fashion is broken — how it may have a negative impact on new brands, the market in general, job opportunities and so on and so forth. Initially, as owner of a relatively young and emerging brand, I reflected a lot on how this would impact us and how to deal with this kind of challenges.
I realised the key is to address this ‘change’ on our own terms, not in a way that the system around us has always dictated. It is about defining our own system — something that suits the way we work and that makes sense for us. I think ‘change’ is often discussed with a negative connotation, due to uncertainty and ambiguity, but it can actually be an opportunity for the better. When I started my brand five years ago, and until quite recently, I did find it a struggle to break through the “system”. Firstly, the industry was almost like a fortress, rigid, not easy to access and mostly for the inner circle. This circle still exists, but it has grown a lot bigger and become more fluid. Secondly, the expectations were unrealistic on new designers with limited resources. Also this has improved gradually with time, but there is still room for change.
So, how can we shape a ‘system’ that works for us? Well, I believe it’s as simple as being ‘authentic’ and true to ourselves. The system always expected brand’s like us to create two to four seasonal collections every year with new ideas and designs. For us, we decided to slow down and break away from this pressure — creating collection after collection, and a constant flow of new ideas and designs, each with substantial upfront investment. As a small brand we have limited resources, and this became a constant quest for the next step, which is not sustainable. Also, every season NEW is not necessarily meaningful. At times, a design concept is not meant to be explored just once and superficially, but instead what makes it interesting is when you continue digging and refining it until we are ready for the next step.
Authenticity to us, is also about defining what it means to be ‘ethical’ and ‘sustainable’, rather than the system defining it for us, through selected buzzwords. Lately, it has become trendy to use ‘ethical’ and ‘sustainable’ with limited depth and lack of understanding. I will revisit this topic in a more detailed discussion, in another blog post.
Another aspect which is crucial to my/our work is to understand the woman I design for, her needs and pain-points, not just about me, my concepts and whimsical ideas. I can see a gradual shift from ‘consumers’ to ‘customers’, and perhaps from customers to the real ‘people’ we design for. Although, still today, the vast majority tend to buy into a brand for the sake of its name, rather than its values and craftsmanship. In the long run, as brands and platforms compete for attention, I believe authenticity is what will resonate and matter most to our customers.