You cannot deconstruct unless you know how to construct. - Alexander McQueen

A Local Shop for Local People permalink

“‘If every fashion school graduated one talented person each year,’ Mr. [Bryan] Bradley said, ‘I don’t think there’s room even for them in the business.’” (Cathy Horyn’s “The End of the Affair” New York Times September 7, 2006). This is a discouraging outlook for young designers wanting to make it in the fashion business as it functions today. It is possible that this opinion can be proved wrong, but as Bradley has been designing for his independent label Tuleh since 1997, he likely understands these stark realities all too well. There is, however, an alternative. Now may be the time to forego the ambition to present at fashionable courts in Paris, New York, London and Milan in order to maintain local talent and production. The following is a perfect summation by the folks at JC Report: “We believe that the future of design — at least, the most exhilarating and original concepts — is in the variety of indigenous artisans.” Indeed, cultural diversity is a precious resource that must be maintained and celebrated.

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Oaxaca gold silk embroidered dress from Xochiquetzal

Keeping it local refers to more independent control of fashion versus the current corporate hegemony. The thing I love most about exploring the world of fashion is exploring designs from around the world. It is always a delight to see what is being done in Brazil, Japan, Australia, etc. I subscribe to international magazines in an attempt to have larger perspective. This is why I was so disappointed when I saw the cover of the May/June 2006 issue of Russh magazine from Australia: “So LA The New Fashion Capital”. The LA virus has found its way there, too:

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Russh magazine May/June 2006, detail

The name of the brand game is exclusivity - people adore “cult” brands or little-known labels. Exclusivism is a powerful tool in the fashion business (or any business), and keeping design and production local is as genuinely exclusive as it gets.

To keep it local means that creating communities outside of prevailing courts is necessary for original concepts and thus more independent control over fashion. Artistic movements or schools of thought nestle into locations where they feel inspired or comfortable. Today with high-speed communications they aren’t necessarily confined to geographic locales. The design team of Carsten and Lenka Rundholz is a good example of this. They live in a tiny rural village in western Germany, working and raising a family in their farmhouse surrounded by beautiful country views. Their intent to remain rurally situated does not inhibit international production: knitwear and leather accessories come from Italy, jersey dresses from Austria and fabric dyeing is done in Japan. This is a case where an aesthetic depends on the quality of local traditional production methods for fabrics that can then be experimented on with new technologies. Rundholz says that their preference for Japanese fabric dyers is due to the mutual willingness to experiment.

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Rundholz s/s 2006

If the artistic flow is genuine, then movements or schools of thought will exert their own gravity, pulling admirers and customers into orbit. When reading about the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, I noticed that many of the school’s graduates play a part as mentors or collaborators, keeping the artistic community there vibrant and involved. Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons passes on her unique blend of artistry and innovation to her protégés, who in turn apply it to elements found on the street.

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Undercover s/s 2006

Keeping it local, in the global market sense, refers to a global consciousness. Knowing where and how garments are produced is key. It means maintaining local jobs for local artisans and passing on vital skills to do the work. It means taking part in sustainable production methods, as Peter Ingwersen of Noir and Katharine Hamnett are doing.

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One Response to “A Local Shop for Local People” 

  1. Ruby Says:

    I would note that this may be a trend that cannot find its way to the recycling bin fast enough, in my opinion. I have noticed that architecture art is suffering from the same problems as fashion art. The Walmart homogenization disease has infected our ability to embrace exclusivity. It will be back, not because we promote it, but because scarcity (exclusivity) combined with utility still drives desirability, whether in fashion design or in architectural design.

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