a manifesto for a modern fashion industry
In late 2014, activist designer duo Meadham Kirchhoff announced their indefinite hiatus, leaving London Fashion Week in a state of political cold turkey. An irreverent and passionate voice in the industry, for spring/summer 15 Meadham Kirchhoff asked...
I love fashion. There is such a common misconception that I/Meadham Kirchhoff is anti-fashion, and that I/we/it hates fashion and the fashion 'industry'. Not true. Well, not entirely. I love clothes, I love dressing, I love the transformative potential in clothes. I love ideas. I love craft. Like, I get that we are in some kind of dreadful recession, one which has lasted years. I get that people have less money to buy clothes, or at least that they are more reluctant to do so. I get that this in turn has left stores in a precarious position. I know this from being on the receiving end of it. Designers are the lowest common denominator in the fashion 'industry'.
What I find frustrating, disappointing and fucking depressing about the fashion 'industry' nowadays is the general sense of apology and - worse - apathy that I see and feel across the fashion capitals. Nobody seems to believe in fashion now, especially not those who are supposed to love it the most. 'We' are so bored by the un-inspired clothes we are presented with - that focus shifts to shallow ideas of political expression: fleeting, ephemeral gestures towards feminism, issues of gender, even its association with art and artists; fashion, in its own lack of self-belief and insecurity, trying to gain some validation and some semblance of credibility.
I wish instead that during these times where, realistically, it seems that clothes are not going to be produced and sold in volume, that designers and stores - the 'industry' at large - would focus on what is important, i.e. progression of ideas, moving fashion forward, and seeing and feeling something new. The entire way that fashion is presented - the models, the show, and not least the clothes themselves - has barely changed since the early to mid-20th century, like 70-plus years or something. Fashion has become stagnant, set in its own self-imposed ideas and formulas. We need to rethink. Fashion needs a revolution!
Fashion can be and has been an important social barometer, a reflection of society and social change. Fashion can be and has been an important part of culture in general, from street culture to haute couture. Fashion may not be 'art', but it is an art form, an environment for ideas and the progression of them. This seems to be a neglected fact in this era of dumbed-down pre-collections aiming to please and speak to everyone, but seemingly appealing to none. We may exist in an economic recession, but do we need to live in a creative one? Can this era not allow us the time to evolve?
In the 50s, somebody decided that clothes only look good on 6ft tall, emaciated teenagers. 'We' are still entirely indoctrinated into this way of thinking; this one way of seeing fashion, which to me feels so last century, so archaic and boring. When we presented the last Meadham Kirchhoff collection, Reject Everything, it was intended as a call to arms against all that, which feels to me now to have become so irrelevant. Not only the formulaic structure of a typical fashion show, but the fucking repulsive modeling industry, the old-fashioned, out-of-date concepts of appropriate dressing, the ridiculously limiting boundaries of gender and sexes, and all of the rules which go together with that.
It's a reaction against a society in general, which - like fashion - chooses to remain oblivious to these real issues affecting our daily lives. The fact that women are still not paid equally to men, that even though gays have now been afforded the 'right' to marry and assimilate into heteronormative mainstream culture, AIDS and HIV are depressingly rampant. But socially 'we' choose to ignore these simple important facts, issues which we as people - disgusting human beings - actually do have the power to change and improve our individual daily lives. Instead 'we' as a society prefer to ignore these issues in favor of environmental issues, which realistically we can do nothing about.
For me, this is all part of the human race's self-obsession: that 'we' as a people have killed the planet, and that in turn we can save it, ignorant of the fact that the Earth has changed and evoked for millennia of its own accord, in spite of the humans. Who cares if we as a race exist in twenty or a hundred years when we live in shit now? For me, fashion - clothes - is a part of all of this. Clothing is a tool for us to express ourselves and our individualities. Our culture has always demeaned the potential social and personal impact that fashion can have because our society considers fashion to be a 'woman's' concern and interest, i.e. shallow and insignificant.
In the 20s (nearly one-hundred years ago!) Chanel and Vionnet released women's bodies from the tyranny of corsetry and under-structure, allowing women to move and breathe freely for the first time perhaps since the inception of clothing. In the early-mid 70s, Vivienne Westwood revolutionized the entire concept of appropriate dressing and the construction of clothes, revealing seams and raw edges, and disrupting social ideas of how and what was acceptable modes of dress. Both of these instances (almost exclusively these two alone) had incomprehensible effects upon our culture and society, and more importantly the lives of the wearer of those clothes, and of the brains of the observers of the people who wore them. Fashion does have that power. Well, it used to. We just all need to fucking remember that.
Text Edward Meadham