I’m not a fashion guy; I’m a tech guy. These days I’m what is politely known as a generalist. I learnt my trade as a digital designer and developer, agency director and company owner. I got into tech to make a positive difference to our society. I didn’t previously know how, or where. Now I do. I’ll explain.
Fashion has always fascinated me. It is at the intersection of creativity, craft and commerce in a uniquely accessible and independent way. Fashion allows us to express ourselves and have fun. Through the clothes we wear define our independent identities and society.
I live in Shoreditch, and I’ve been around fashion, art and design since moving to east London nearly twenty years ago. Shoreditch is home to the world renown London College of Fashion, and it’s where the London ‘rag trade’ began.
The old iron roundel street covers depict the fashion industry started by immigrant French Huguenot weavers in the 17th century. This was picked up by fleeing Russian Jews and finally Bangladeshi immigrants last century. People from all over the world now come to Shoreditch to seek out street styles and culture. Back in the day, I’d go to art, music and fashion parties that were full of crazy characters with ideas and creativity smashing together. But fashion is not just about parties — behind the glamour and characters the fashion industry is a serious business worth billions. Those with passion and commitment work extremely hard in an industry that’s fickle, competitive and where corporate brands rule. I want to change that.
What happens when too much power and money is concentrated in one place? Combine that with financial and political insecurity and a decade of relative stagnation? We get a boatload of upset people, and a load of others taking advantage of that. It’s called populism and Brexit, it’s called the American Carnage, and it’s called a tech backlash. How do we get through these angry times? We have to examine ourselves as a society, as a community of consumers in globalism. We must return to our entrepreneurial creative roots and bring people together in a productive and positive way. And I believe technology has a still greater role to play in that.
Transforming independent fashion |
When we talk about the fashion industry, the most successful brands retain value through huge brand marketing effort and sell mass-produced items at very high margins. The prices of the products often don’t reflect the quality, or ethics of the product, just the perceived brand value. This is both insincere and unsustainable.
Take the oft-quoted spectacles industry. The same Italian company manufactures very similar products and then stamps them with brands. They then stick a price tag on accordingly, often at many multiples of their manufacturing and marketing costs. The owner of this company is a billionaire many times over. These branded commoditized products are far away from the brand origin, the original craft, innovation and story that created the brands in the first place. The same type of practice happens across every part of the industry and its killing it.
Rip-off 👉 Pay-off
We’re paying too much for our clothing and accessories on the premise of a brand. That brand is often just a corporation with the sole purpose of extracting as much wealth from us to themselves.
Buy from independents and get a proper garment of quality for your hard earned cash. You’ll feel a lot better about spending your money.
Stifling competition 👉 Reinvigorating competition
Because of the power of mega brands, smaller brands struggle to compete. Consumers suffer because innovation disappears when there’s no competition. And for clothing lovers, that means fewer exciting designs and material innovation, whilst paying more for lower quality.
Independent brands operate competitively. They innovate and are creative.
Lack of wealth 👉 Wealth generation
When large corporations dominate, the huge profits we make for them is passed into just a few pockets. In the end, this is bad for 99% of people.
Independent brands tend to pay their employees properly and create wealth all the way through their supply chain. This means my money is being distributed to many people, helping them prosper.
Minimum ethics 👉 Promoting ethics
When a corporation has a single focus on profit, they have minimal ethics. They use supply chains with low employment rights to match their low cost and maximum profit for the corporate brand. The cheapest and most ecologically damaging industrial practices are used in the production of materials.
Independent brands are conscious of their ethics. They have a relationship with their customers, and they both recognise this as added value.