Despite running the risk of losing all of her clients, trend forecaster Li Edelkoort has written a 4,400 word antifashion manifesto and has taken that case to Los Angeles and New York.
Meant to help define a game plan for the next decade, the newsletter-style document details “Ten Reasons Why the Fashion System is Obsolete.” Edelkoort’s company Trend Union has sent copies along with its fall 2016-17 forecast to more than 100 fashion brands internationally and several hundred others were shipped off to international media outlets.
In an interview, Edelkoort insisted that she loves fashion and that penning the manifesto was “a very painful and melancholic” experience, but one that she felt compelled to do. And her clients have stood by her. More than anything, she hopes the analysis will provide a way to reset the fashion machine and move forward. “If we continue the way we are now, all is lost,” she said.”I just think the audience at large is losing interest.”
Some of the impetus for the manifesto stemmed from a moment of happenstance. Edelkoort said that while on her way into Barneys New York’s Madison Avenue store, she heard a woman, who had just left the store, say to two friends, “There’s nothing here.” That declaration coupled with the fact that they had just been in a store with “15,000 items or something, alerted me in the most incredible way. It’s like the yogurt boulevard in supermarkets. There are so many types of yogurt now that consumers can’t choose.”
Edelkoort first presented her manifesto in South Africa during Indaba, where Rosita Missoni was among the crowd of 300, and more recently in Stockholm, where she opted to address a similar-sized audience seated as opposed to a standing lecture. She argued her case on Los Angeles at the Museum of Contemporary Art Friday and she will also do so in New York on Wednesday at The New School’s Parsons School for Design.
If there is one message readers should take away from Edelkoort’s manifesto, that would be, “Stop the greed,” she said, adding that the quest for money is killing creativity and the fashion system. The way she sees it, designers are being squeezed like lemons to design too many categories. Edelkoort’s aim is that designers, manufacturers and retailers will be recharged to put more energy into new products. “I am excited and optimistic. Once you get over everything, it’s pretty exciting,” she said.
In her view, the fashion world still operates in a 20th century mode, “celebrating the individual, elevating the “It” people, developing the exception…in a society hungry for consensus and altruism,” Edelkoort wrote. “While all other disciplines such as dance, art and design have acknowledged the need in their students to cooperate and form groups, teams and couples, it seems that just only fashion is left behind.”
Her opus concludes that the designing of garments has to change and become more involved, more knowledgeable and more inspired. “Historic, folkloric and uniformed sources of inspiration will feed the teaching of other ways to design and conceive,” she wrote.
Not all gloom and doom, Edelkoort praised Isabel Marant, Agnes b. and APC for designing clothes for “the working, dancing, traveling mother of several children.” Men’s wear is another bright spot and will only continue to become stronger due to men’s increasing interest in fashion and accessories, she said. And the revival of couture will only continue in her opinion. Chanel earned high marks for buying the Barrie cashmere knitwear mill as well as other artisan factories that work on its collections.
Among her numerous claims is the contention that we are facing the possibility of a world with just denim, nylon and jerseys for the rest of our life, since fashion schools are having to adopt a commercial model due to decreased financial support from most governments.
Edelkoort also made the point that even though the factory tragedies in Bangladesh killed hundreds of workers, the arrival of ever-cheaper high street chains will only increase the number of underpaid workers living in dire conditions “while merchandise is becoming indecent in price.” Beyond that, low prices indicate that these clothes are meant to be thrown away, “discarded as a condom…teaching young consumers that fashion has no value,” she writes. “If you look at Zara and some of these other stores, their prices are almost what the American market calls ‘bridge,'” she said.
In terms of presentation, she wrote, “All beige at Harrods, all navy at Dover Street, all bright at Barneys…difficult for the average consumer to even recognize the brand.”
Some of Edelkoort’s other arguments include:
- The dominance of marketing within major companies is manipulating creation, production, presentation and sales. And “the repulsion of risk has become a dominant feature,” Edelkoort said. “Isn’t it weird that in a zapping society fashion ads are betting on the same horses, stability and repetition?”
- The genial humor and knowledge of some of the best fashion journalists of international newspapers is rapidly replaced by uninteresting generalizations by a younger generation, articles that are opinion pages instead of critical assessment from a professional point of view.”
- Monolithic shops, dedicated to the ownership and craftsmanship of one item only, will become a new way to sell clothes, not fashion.
- Consumers choose, create and design their own wardrobes, and share, rent, lend, transform and find clothes on the street, mixing last year’s basics with next year’s must-haves.