NEW YORK — In typical Li Edelkoort fashion, Tuesday morning’s launch for New York Textile Month at Saks Fifth Avenue’s flagship was an immersive experience.
After discussing highlights of this citywide initiative, Edelkoort recapped her fall trend forecast, reminded attendees to pick up the extensive NYTM catalogue and then led everyone to the newly remodeled fourth floor to highlight innovative designer items. Edelkoort, The New School’s Parsons School of Design Dean of Hybrid Design Studies, is also a proven trend forecaster through her own company Trend Union.
Saks vice president and fashion director Eric Jennings said afterwards, “Going from the forecast to the textiles to the fashion shows to the retail — it’s just such a fascinating exercise to see how this whole exercise works.”
As of now, 77 events are scheduled to be held in an assortment of major museums, galleries and institutions to celebrate textile creativity and textile awareness. With the help of Willem Schenk, Edelkoort helped to orchestrate the inaugural event in a matter of months.
Attendees were among the first to see the 208-page NYTM “Talking Textiles” magazine, with articles about Threeasfour’s experimental designs, the reMUJI project and CABan by Tomorrowland and Mii. The photography-heavy $55 magazine will be sold at select book shops and museums.
The interest in a greater range of textiles will hopefully bring garments to the forefront of fashion, after years of being eclipsed by accessories, she said. Accessories and footwear have become so dominant for a number of luxury labels that apparel only accounts for about 3 percent of their sales, whereas it could be 25 percent, Edelkoort said.
Making the point that major houses are redirecting their focus to enhance apparel sales, she said, “Most luxury houses would rather sell a bag than a garment. A bag is $3,000, $5,000 or $9,000 and requires such a small space [in a store] whereas a garment comes in three or four colors and three or four sizes.”
While examining the textiles used in a variety of designer items, Edelkoort started with a Burberry lace trenchcoat to emphasize how the use of textiles can affect the design of a garment. Helping to renew interest in textiles also stands to strengthen jobs in the sector while preserving artisanal trades.
Emphasizing how fashion is facing a time of great renewal, Edelkoort said, “Everybody’s in a panic. They don’t know when to do fashion shows, how to do fashion shows. Is it men and women separate or together? Gucci took this very fancy young man [creative director Alessandro Michele] out of nowhere and he turned the brand into the superstory of today. But it’s not going to last because it’s so special. They’re in a panic about their future and other people are worried that they’re not fancy enough. People don’t want to go to stores anymore. They’re really not interested in shopping.”
Through her role at The New School, Edelkoort said she is consulting with students at the University of Marseille to try to develop “new scenarios to create new brands but not by using the economic model that we use now.” They are taking into account what’s happening with Uber and Airbnb.
“Young people don’t want to do it all alone. They want to cobrand. If they don’t know how to do something, they just ask somebody to do it with them,” Edelkoort said. “The generation of Ralph Lauren and [Giorgio] Armani, they learned to make everything for everybody and that now feels so completely old-fashioned. Why would you make a sneaker if you don’t know how to do it? Ask someone who knows how.”
Edelkoort said all the money that has poured into fashion has resulted in a focus on the bottom line at the expense of innovation. “Fashion is the industry that is profiting from innovation, so if money gets to fashion, then it dies and there is no fashion. That is what is happening.” She added, “We are in for 20 years of reversal and reinvention. Thank goodness for the economic crisis or that wouldn’t have happened.”