Everything in fashion comes from nature and, mediated by labour, becomes the materials, products, services and systems that make fashion the 7th largest industry in the world. That industry is made up in the main, of micro and small businesses, with designer-entrepreneurs whose ideas and practices are the zeitgeist of shape and style. They represent localities, skills, resources and cultures of making, wearing, acquiring and caring for clothes. They are also part of an industrialised fashion system that is completely out of touch with the times in which we live. This system involves overstimulation of the market, over production and short-lived wear based on an undervaluing of the nature and labour involved.
Having worked with micro and small businesses for over ten years in our work at CSF, we have seen visions, practices and processes undertaken by fashion designer entrepreneurs that might, if recognised, create a zeitgeist in practice and values based on their alternative approaches to fashion design and business. Such businesses offer the potential to shift the fashion system from one that contributes to our current ecological and social crisis to one that contributes to prosperity in ecological, social, cultural and economic terms. We have partnered with fellow researchers at Middlesex University and Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity who are exploring how entrepreneurs can develop alternative enterprises that solve environmental and social problems, while providing “good work” and beautiful products. We are also partnering with fellow researchers from the Open University and a social science research colleague at London College of Fashion. Together, we are exploring how fashion designers can challenge conventional practices.
This research is Rethinking Fashion Design Entrepreneurship: Fostering Sustainable Practices. We are speaking to fashion designer entrepreneurs who challenge the status quo and we are keen to hear from you if you are a designer working in this way. If you are able to spend a few minutes sharing your ideas and challenges in a short online survey, this would be of great value to this research, and, we hope, provide a means for new practices and models to be acknowledged and recognised. Over the next two years, this project will examine the challenges faced and possibilities opening up, to develop a range of practical approaches to support designers who are creating new products, services and systems for fashion that can delight, inspire and contribute to us all being able to prosper and thrive.
This research project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and led by Sandy Black and Dilys Williams, working with Agnes Rocamora at London College of Fashion, University of the Arts, London and with Fergus Lyon, Andrea Werner and Ian Vickers at Middlesex University’s Centre for Enterprise and Economic Development Research and the ESRC Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity and Claudia Eckert and Phillipa Crommentuijn-Marsh at Open University.