How can the fashion industry decentralise power?
The power in fashion is held in three places, the multinational super-brands who control the notion of what “style” is during any given season, the factory owners who control production and garment workers and of course the various fashion councils for each nation.
As we won’t have an industry without the fashion houses, and I doubt the workers will own the means of production any time soon, that only leaves the fashion councils as an opportunity to bring change, but it’s rare that having a single body holding the majority of the power, funding and influence in any industry turns out well for employees or consumers.
Don’t worry, this isn’t going to turn into some low rent Orwell style rant. Personally I think Orwell is best left to 6th form common rooms, Isherwood’s Berlin novels & The Condor & The Cow speak more of nations in flux and upper class experiences of poverty than Down & Out In Paris & London ever will. I except that promise not to rant became a literary rant instead.
Anyway back to our topic.
I doubt that many who attend fashion weeks or play an active part in our industry will ever embrace trade unionism, though I encourage every garment worker t unionise, a discussion we’ll return to another day, but this is the crux of the issue, we need alternatives when it comes to leadership, representation and direction.
We need counter balances and checks of agendas and the status quo, we need bodies to keep pushing each other forward, and that comes from the motivation of competition and delivers real change. There is no better reason to stay relevant and pro-active than the risk of a futile, moribund existence on the fringes of our fashion community.
It isn’t the fault of the BFC that they hold so much power and influence, it’s ours as an industry, we’ve accepted a destiny with only one body to represent all that we do and anywhere we’re going. The world is changing, communication has become easier, but outside of fashion weeks and those awards (another discussion we’ll return to at some point) I barely hear anything from the BFC.
How can there be nothing to communicate, Brexit, the elections, climate change, factories that are literally killing people, the carnage of the High St and the fashion economy, these are just a few of the topics where silence is absolute or at best barely interrupted.
Right now this isn’t a body that is representative of a huge swath of issues within the industry, it is a body that represents a handful of designers, a few media titles and given how it’s increasingly having to take designers to Paris & Milan for sales showrooms, it appears it’s run out of ideas on how to make LFW & LFWM true economic & commercial hubs for the UK industry.
We need voices from across the industry, the small labels outside of the bubble the retailers who don’t have a knighthood and most likely never will, we need voices from across print and digital media, each part of the industry needs support and to be heard.
If we are to have a fashion council it needs more seats at its table, or it needs to embrace being the at the centre of coordinating groups from each sector of the industry. I know there are many that think I’ve been calling for the abolishing of the BFC, quite the opposite, nothing would make me happier than to see it playing a role in this industry supporting it’s base, and a body that is both progressive and commercially aware. But change always starts with honesty, and these are y own true feelings.
As ever these are my feelings, but I’d love to know what you think, to use this as a debate starter, and if you are from the BFC, I’d love to discuss this with me.