By Fiona Tedds, New York Editor
It has become more obvious than ever during this pandemic that the current fashion system in unsustainable, and no longer serves the world we inhabit. This has been evident for some time, with fast fashion wreaking havoc on the industry, and designers repeatedly stating that they were under pressure to produce too much.
But along with Covid-19 came a big opportunity for a revamp, indeed for a revolution, one that allowed an examination of how resources are used and also took a long, hard look at how the demands of living today should be reflected in production as well as in design.
The original fashion calendar dates back to the 1940s and over the last eighty years has become a whirlwind of shows, staged across the world, with a goal of getting the consumer to buy more. But major players in the industry, particularly modern designers, repeatedly pointed out how out-of-touch the system was, with them showing clothes that didn’t appear in the stores for another six months, only then to be discounted shorty after. Adhering to the traditional fashion system seemed increasingly futile, ‘the worn-out ritual of seasonalities…,” as Gucci’s Alessandro Michelle referred to it.
This period of enforced isolation has also provided a time of reflection and contemplation for many, with thoughts about what is not only better for us, but better for the planet. Locked in our homes with our belongings, including our clothes, thoughts have turned to the real emotional value of items, not just the monetary, those that are infused with history and infused with memories, those that really stand the test of time.
An Hermès bag is a very luxurious example of such an item, but during a recent conversation with scholar Lyn Slater, also known as the fashion influencer ‘The Accidental Icon’, Slater described the painstaking work she had learned about what goes into the production of such a heritage piece. From the sourcing of the hide or skin, to the craftsmanship of the one, single artisan, who after training for years, “…makes the bag from start to finish, so that [they] can have a sense of ownership and accomplishment” in the coveted piece.
Hermès was founded in Paris in 1837 as a harness maker, and as the business grew and become synonymous with luxury goods, their mission fundamentally remained the same: “…to create objects that withstand the test of time and to forge lasting connections with the surrounding world.” This desire to set themselves apart from ‘fashion,’ to honor the resources and the makers in their methods of production, including providing services that restore and repair when a product is older or damaged, this is a business model that makes sense in this new world.
It might not be an Hermès bag, it might be a simple, but beautiful sweater from a thoughtful, sustainable brand that comes a much lower price point. Whatever it is, it is time for a change, time for a new vision with new methodology. If Corona has brought us anything, it is the impetus to examine what we really value as we move forward in the world.
Hermès, Lyn Slater