Burberry, Britain and the goal gain theory
What fashion can learn from the Hollywood writers strike
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I write this on Super Monday of London Fashion Week. It’s been a stellar weekend so far, with the city living up to its hype as the creative crucible of the fashion world. Dylan Jones, newly installed editor of the Evening Standard, wrote a paean to LFW in Friday’s paper that was completely, jingoistically over the top. Compared to London, he wrote, Paris is “stuck in the past”, Milan is boring and New York “not over burdened with talent”. You’ve got to admire his enthusiasm, but what with Brexit, royal funerals, dire politics and economics, London needs to surface with a bang. Already it looks like it has: we’re ready to celebrate our creative talent again!
There has been the wild and the whacky (inflatable rubber pantaloons anyone?), but there has also been exquisite beauty (Erdem, Simone Rocha).
Also, with relief, some thoughtfulness. Daniel Lee, creative director at Burberry laid out his vision to Tim Blanks at Business of Fashion and had this to say:
“I think we’ve moved on from the period in fashion where it was led by, say, a silhouette or an aesthetic or a stylistic sense of putting things together. What people respond to is a singular object. My role is to distill the essence of the brand into that object.”
End of the trend? The furious way we cycle through trends now is dizzying, just in one tiktok day I counted Y2K, Tomato Girl Summer, 90s throwback, Clean Girl, Cottage Core and Normcore. Enough! What we want instead is well thought out objects of singular beauty. And not too many of them.
But while the Creative Directors have the memo, the Growth Officers don’t. This week Gucci, Tom Ford, Prada, Versace, Maxmara and literally hundreds of other brands will stage shows with thousands of designs that will all go into mass production. Plane loads of journalists, buyers, influencers and industry types will travel from London to Milan and Paris to peruse them, in one big collective action designed to superboost the industry into more growth.
Wouldn’t it be great if collective action could be channelled towards something more responsible? Fashion is extremely good at collective action. It can coral its followers like sheep and has huge ability to inspire change. Collective action is actually very fashionable right now, with labour movements unionising everywhere from Hollywood to the NHS. Strikes are not fun for anyone - least of all those striking - but it is the only way that workforces can come together to force change. When Drew Barrymore broke cover last weekend to bring back her chat show, cries of “Scab!” rained down upon her.wrote a great Stack on this, about how the argument Barrymore put out in her defence - girl’s gotta make a dime - cannot stand:
The self interest of fashion groups in relentlessly pursuing their growth goals over the collective harm this is doing the planet, their workforce and customers is comparably selfish. At Gucci, Alessandro Michele reduced the number of collections from 5 to 2. At the time he wrote: “Now we know that too furious was our doing, too insidious was our ride… This is why I decided to build a new path... away from deadlines that the industry consolidated... and an excessive performativity that today really has no raison d’etre.” New designer Sabato de Sarno has had that number of collections restored. At Jacquemus inflating a giant plastic handbag in the middle of the ocean was considered a good idea. Nobody wants to stifle creativity, but we, as a collection of fashion lovers and consumers need to register our dissent.
Aswrote of the success of the Hollywood writers strike:
“I’m so used to seeing Americans advocate for self-preservation and personal ambition that it’s almost disorienting to see so many stress the philosophical importance of solidarity and throw their weight behind the idea that what’s advantageous for one group of people might actually harm the common good.”
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