What does a fashion manifesto look like?

Anti_Fashion_Li-Edelkoort_dezeen_banManifesto|| manɪˈfɛstəʊ|| A public declaration of intentions, opinions, objectives, or motives, as one issued by a government, sovereign, or organisation.

Over the past couple of weeks we’ve been talking manifestos both in the office and with students here at LCF. With the political parties about to release their election manifestos we are waiting to see what promises these will contain and how they will affect us from both a fashion perspective and as an educators.

Manifestos have been in the fashion news too with trend forecaster Li Edelkoor publishing her anti-fashion manifesto, explaining why fashion is now obsolete and now only a parody of itself,  issued just a couple of days before we hosted a panel discussion here at LCF entitled ‘What does a Fashion Manifesto look like?’

We caught up with panellists Diana Verde Nieto from Positive Luxury and Damian and Laura Santamaria of Sublime magazine, after the event to discuss the importance of committing to values through and in their work. A dialogue that could be helpful to students on the Kering Empowering Imagination MA curriculum who have shared their manifestos with the CSF team as the starting point of their work; here are some snippets from the interview with Diana, Damian and Laura on how we stand up for our personal and community values.

Is there a manifesto that has had a big impact on you personally or on society more generally?

Damian: When I was a student in Argentina we studied the manifesto by Icograda, who, from the early 1960s had been working a lot with manifestos. One of their central tenants was that anyone who produced work for the armament industry was not to be considered a designer. For me this was empowering – it was really something to say that you can use all the tools of design but if they are not considered to be used for a good reason you are not considered by the community to be a designer. This has stuck with me ever since university.

Diana: When I was growing up my grandmother always said live and let live, that means respect yourself, respect others, respect the environment. That’s how I live and I let others live in a way that suits themselves and their values too: Don’t impose your views on others, instead be the best you can be.

How would you describe the values that shape your work at Sublime and beyond?

Laura: In the early days of Sublime we had to define our position – what we were going to cover, how we were going to carry out our mission and one thing we didn’t want to do is fall into negative associations within the [environmental] movement so we produced a list of words that were banned for our writers. They weren’t words that had a negative connotation but we thought they were badly over used.  We wanted people to think more deeply, you cannot for instance, keep saying sustainability or ethical over and over again, you have to find other ways of expressing these terms, we need to carry these message beyond just preaching to the converted. This also included our business model through to the way we organise content. We still try to be very open, something that is influenced by our design background where we were influenced a great deal by participatory design and co-design.

Would fashion benefit from a manifesto?

Laura: Fashion as a discipline or fashion as an industry, as I think they are very different? For me, fashion has two aspects, one is the design aspect and the other is the industry behind it.

Damian: At Sublime, when we talk about fashion we talk about the discipline, the design, the needs and the expression of people’s feelings, we are not talking solely about the industry, because the industry has changed a lot since the 90s and has become a fast fashion industry. We are really interested in fashion as a discipline, which is a very powerful tool of influence. From the point of view of the designer, a manifesto would empower them to believe that what they are doing is a force for good – so it’s important to have a manifesto.

How would you describe the values that shape your work?

Diana: They have to be good for the company, as well as for all the people who work there. As the founder of a company, I want all the people who work at Positive Luxury to realise their own values, and have room to work within those – being the best they can be.

In my job I always try to do the best I can, you have to have room for failure or whatever word you want to use for this, from this you can learn a lot. My dad always said the reason we have cycles is to allow something to die so it can be born again stronger – that is at the core of everything. It’s important to have room to make mistakes, and to be comfortable making mistakes and learning, without having to impose top-heavy structures that’s how you can build an amazing organisation.

Should manifestos be about actions or vision?

Diana: You start with a dream, with a vision, with a big idea of where you want to go but then you have to put how you’re going to get there. This is the really important part as everyone can have a big idea but not everyone knows how to get there because behind an idea you have to have all the tangible steps. You might also have to acknowledge that you might not be the person to realise your big idea. The key words are collaboration and co-creation, you cannot do anything on your own, you have to have people around you.

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