Celebrate with us a Q&A of 4 NYC based (responsible) designers that have sought independence from the fashion rat race. (And are doing awesome.)
What happens when designers are forced to keep pace with the fashion industry, to create designs based on a future that is easily presented in real time by fast fashion houses? They quit…the fashion race that is.
We caught up with four New York City based designers who opted off the fashion calendar for their own reasons and found an independence they aren’t willing to give up ever again.
Carrie Parry: I had been searching for a sustainable business model that supported a “race to the top,” contrary to the typical fashion business model of “racing to the bottom.” I found that by operating exclusively online and through alternative retail strategies, we were able to shift the cost structure away from retail and bring the value to our customers and makers.
It’s also always been important to me to have a relationship with my customers and artisans and I wanted to have the opportunity to further explore our supply chain and take our customers along for the journey.
Carrie Parry: Consumers want to buy pieces that can be worn when they see them in the media and most of us desire pieces that can be worn now and worn year round. I believe that the fashion industry’s system of showing collections six months prior to shipment and selling collections out of season is no longer a fit to today’s culture and weather patterns. This is one of the reasons we transitioned to selling seasonless pieces.
In addition, by moving away from seasonal collection we can instead create considered, more durable better- crafted designs that have integrity. It’s also increased flexibility in our production because we can develop and produce during the off-season in order to bring the factories consistent work and manage inventory smarter to prevent waste. Like consumers, we as designers have the opportunity to use our purchasing practices for good and I feel in order to make real long-term sustainable progress we must really work together and part of that is to slow down the pace of fashion.
Kai D: The fashion calendar is not realistic for me because it forces me to make two collections (Fall and Spring) a year which exhausts all my financial resources and does not allow me to do pieces that are more specific to the time of the year. The consumers are constantly looking for something fresh and new. To produce only two collections a year is missing out on opportunities to introduce new ideas on a regular basis.
Kai D: Also, the calendar doesn’t relate to the actual weather pattern and how the consumers want to shop, the Spring collection usually won’t sell until April and gets marked down by June. The winter collection hits the floor in September when the weather is usually very warm. By the time the weather transitions into lower temperature, the winter collection has to be marked down. It creates a vicious cycle where the retailers need to bring merchandise to the floor much earlier than needed to keep the stores fresh but the season correct merchandise has to be marked down.
Study NY: When I started Study in 2009 it was with a collection called The Square Project, a collection of zero waste garments made using squares, and it was intended to be more of a research project than a collection – hence the name, STUDY – but I was quickly absorbed into the fashion system and therefore the calendar.
It took until now for me to realize that I didn’t have to subscribe to anything, and I could create my own calendar. While I’m not the first designer to choose to work outside the traditional fashion calendar (producing seasonal collections), it has become increasingly obvious to me that not only do the production methods used by fast fashion companies as well as the fabric choices designers make have a huge impact on our environment and the socio-economic well-being of other human beings, but our consumption has gotten so out of control that a statement needs to be made.
By eliminating collections from my business model, and only producing a few garments every month, much closer to the season and when I feel there is a need for them on the market, my goal is to limit the availability of the brand to customers and hope they will carry these consumption values to other items. I only produce what I believe is beautiful and wanted. I believe consumers are starting to demand this change and are seeking out beautifully made, long-lasting quality garments that eschew trends. Fast fashion will reach a plateau very soon and send customers back to wanting original but less temporary items.
Artists & Revolutionaries: I have always believed in a season-less attitude towards clothing. I love layered looks and feel that cotton, silk, and linen can be worn anytime of year.
I became a clothing designer in part, not to work in a structured environment or have to follow rules so this keeps me on track with that concept.