The Age of the Amateur isn’t just upon us — it should hang on for decades. That is one of the expectations put forward by trend forecaster Li Edelkoort, who described the waves of change crashing on the fashion industry.
As the pandemic has prompted designers, creatives and consumers to re-evaluate their personal and professional choices, the fashion system, in turn, is shifting. While the pandemic shutdown has to a large extent pulverized retail sales, employees’ jobs and consumers’ thirst for fashion, there are other factors at play. The past few months of self-isolation have led to the discovery of individualized creativity, demand for more sustainable practices, an appreciation for handmade creations and the need for imaginative fashion presentations, according to Edelkoort.
Her plans include setting up the World Hope Forum, an international alliance designed to counterbalance the World Economic Forum. The aim is “to bring new ideas on how to design new ways of doing things, innovation in the structures of companies, brands and educational institutions, etc.,” she said. Having more powerful people, who create, could lead to new searches by companies and “growth without greed,” the trend forecaster said. A cadre of WHF ambassadors will be selected and local chapters may be set up this fall. The first forum day is expected to be held next spring or summer, Edelkoort said.
“So many things need to be reset and redone that creativity will be very needed. We need to exchange ideas and learn from each other on all levels. We need to open source ideas so that we can help other people with ways of doing things,” she explained. “What I want is for the creative people of the world to be involved with the business side. There needs to be more powerful people who create. There also needs to be sustainable growth that is taking care of the planet and the people.”
While upheaval abounds in fashion retail, manufacturing, show production and pretty much every other sector of the industry, Edelkoort remains encouraged. “It’s also a beautiful moment, because we can overhaul everything. It is really the moment to reset our profession. I’m also excited about this moment because we have this opportunity,” she said.
Here, Edelkoort discusses “The Age of the Amateur,” her new hope forum.
WWD: What are your expectations for the fashion industry with so many people being devastated by all that is happening?
Li Edelkoort: It is a very difficult moment for fashion. It was difficult before COVID-19. In many fields, we see where there was difficulty before, there is even more difficulty now. It’s almost like unavoidable things are happening, because there was nothing of interest any more in several brands. American brands especially are going to be very tested. They have trained to be basic, normcore and fast. After this, we will expect other merchandise, better merchandise — with a bit more spirit and quality. Certainly, they will have to give more time to making collections. The brands that will make fewer collections will be doing better.
WWD: How are people changing?
L.E.: People are really discovering their own creativity. This sort of forced stillness helped them to start baking, mending, creating embroidery, even creating fashion or re-creating [it], singing, making music, dancing and [making] film. I call it “The Age of the Amateur” — the idea of the creative amateur is very important. Maybe one day I will want to write a book about it. I see it going on until 2050 or so. More and more people are involved with the creative flow in the public at large. It’s a very deep current that, of course, started with things like Airbnb, where everybody becomes their own hotelier. There is more and more of this initiative to maybe retail a few dresses, have a salon, do some baking, host a dinner at your table — whatever people do.
WWD: What about consumers’ interest in fashion?
L.E.: Less interest. I’m also quite sure there’s no interest, because there are no interesting things. Interest will come back as soon as it becomes interesting. Personally, I feel a very strong draw to fashion that I haven’t felt in a very long time. I think it’s because of the lockdown. I really enjoyed my clothes more than ever…we had more time to think about how to dress. It’s like I discovered my clothes and what it is to dress. I’m ready to find very new clothes. However, I will not buy much anymore. I never did. I am absolutely slowing down because I want to find the thrill of buying.
WWD: Do you see the scale of production drastically reducing as people are becoming more conscientious about their purchases, sustainability and the back stories behind their purchases?
L.E.: The planet has become more important to many people. Even after two months of lockdown, there have been real results for the planet. The air is clean, clean, clean. The water got clear and the animals are enjoying our cities. It was a very strong visual lesson…that, in fact, the only thing we need to do is to stop producing so much product and already we can solve some of these problems. Imagine that.
WWD: What else is changing?
L.E.: A few years ago I made the anti-fashion manifesto. Basically, what we wrote then is what everyone now says. In all aspects, we need to find new ways. It’s going to be different — virtual presentations, films. So far there is no one brand that has managed to do a proper exciting thing. So we’ll see what happens in the next few months.
WWD: What about the diversity problem?
L.E.: It’s a problem in the world and it’s a very big problem in fashion. The fashion world is more behind than any discipline. It’s a very white industry. First of all, there just needs to be more attention. We don’t see enough diversity in art and design collections. There we need to take the first steps so that we create the creative Id, which is colorful and diverse.
WWD: Do you think interest in influencers will fall off?
L.E.: It is such a fickle system. It became business-as-usual, which took away from the uniqueness of the system in the beginning. In a way, it’s just consumption. If there is one term we will not want to use anymore, it is “consumer consumption.” Those words just don’t sound right anymore. We need more content, more stillness. We need much more love put into the creative process. There needs to be more care for the workers. The overhaul is vast.
WWD: Have you discovered any new designers recently?
L.E.: Not really. Of course in America, Emily Bode is the frontrunner of how to do things.
WWD: Will all the shows be virtual or films?
L.E.: No, there will be smaller shows, smaller venues, more homemade. Maybe it’s just the designer and the team. There may be more local models, because who wants to take big flights? It’s barbaric to take a plane actually [now]. In many ways, it’s like starting new. There is something incredibly cute about that.
WWD: Do you expect the museum shows to be canceled for the next year or so?
L.E.: Most of the shows are canceled. We are doing a big design exhibition in September in the north of France. But most exhibitions are canceled. It’s not all gone. It’s just that everything is on hold.