“just fucking do it” and 13 other creative life lessons from port eliot festival

Reflecting this year on youth activism, marching and protest, the fashion happenings in the Wardrobe Department at Port Eliot Festival were all about the power of joining in to make our world a brighter, more brilliant place.

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31 July 2017, 3:05pm

From original forces of all generations converging to celebrate collaboration, changing attitudes and living and working differently to hands-on doing-and-thinking sessions led by designers, teachers and rebel thinkers of all kinds, whose careers were all formed in art class, the east Cornwall-based Port Eliot festival invited us to join the creative resistance. "At a time when the great British tradition of creativity is facing an emergency -- from Brexit, austerity and policies like EBacc driving school art and design off a cliff-edge -- the focus of this weekend is on the importance of our art schools," godmother of the Wardrobe Department Sarah Mower MBE explained during her colourful conversation with iconic designer Dame Zandra Rhodes.

Elsewhere in the festival, while talking the audience through his part-love letter, part-memoir and part-biography of David Bowie --The Age of Bowie -- Paul Morley explained how the pop star grew out of post-war gloom; "don't just complain about it, alter the reality. Bowie did that." Our generation of designers are altering their own realities too and Port Eliot celebrated them while encouraging the next generation to follow.

With Louise Gray slogan statements -- 'art is in everyone', 'question everything' and 'why do people have to like it' -- pasted onto the surroundings and placed firmly in the earth, the Wardrobe Department was a cacophony of attitude, affirmation and activism. As we listened throughout the long weekend, here are a collection of the most powerful and persuasive proclamations. 

1) Zandra Rhodes on the importance of protecting our great art schools...
"We have tremendous talents coming out of this country, we need to constantly remind people and protect our great art colleges in these uncertain times. Our colleges really are the best in the world."

2) Tim Walker on the power of collaboration in creativity...
"I navigate the picture but the gift is working with other creatives. i-D's Creativity Issue is a love letter to creativity. My work can only truly flourish with collaboration. It's dynamic and vital, which is why young creatives need to be supported. We have work experience programmes and I have a rotation of assistants, but we all need to do more. When the world is questionable, it's a natural human response to seek out truth and look back to the most basic human expression of beauty. I think there will be an explosion of meaningful art over the next five, ten years. I can see it happening."

3) Richard Quinn on "just fucking do it"...
"If you want to make something, do it. As a young designer, everything is expensive. The print studio allows us to work on our own textiles for our collections and help other young designers too. I'm a strong believer in the DIY culture of now. Ultimately, creativity thrives in adversity and now, more than ever, we need to be seen and heard making positive change."

4) Daniel W. Fletcher on the importance of making a stand...
"We have to stand up and talk about things that affect us. If you have a platform and people are paying attention to that then you should use that to spread a positive message. I felt so strongly about the referendum that I had to make it a part of my collection, which was shown just before the vote. It's clear that the majority of our generation felt the same way too so it's really sad that it feels like we were ignored but we have to continue to make our voices heard."

5) Richard Quinn on the importance of demanding pay for creative work...
"Everyone in the creative industries should be paid for their work. Anyone who is creating value should be paid for it. Anyone who is giving away their creative work should stop. If everyone held their value, the industry would have a standard."

6) Conner Ives on the importance of forging your own path...
"I started a studio in my barn at home in upstate New York at 14 years old. I used my mum's sewing machine and just started making clothes, experimenting and learning. I've carried this feeling onto my own label which I launched at 20. Everything I do, I try to create for people, and I make everything everything myself. I do everything to test myself, I either pull it off or learn from it. My business doesn't fit a traditional model but it works for me."

7) Stephen Jones on working to fund his dreams...
"I was a truck driver for a year, driving up the M1 delivering fruit. I saved enough money to create my first collection, I bought the materials, the machines and paid my debts."

8) Molly Goddard on the power of working with family...
"When you're doing things with no money and time, you need to work with people that you trust. It made sense to work with my family. Limited budgets make us resourceful and I enjoy that. Everything counts, there's a focus"

9) Stephen Jones on thinking less and doing more...
"I didn't know what the hell I was doing when I opened my first shop, I still don't. I just wanted a beautiful hat shop and a party."

10) Molly Goddard on creating against industry pressures...
"There is pressure. Whenever we do a collection, it's the night before in which I make a dress by myself, for myself -- it's a nightmare when it comes to production because no one knows how to do it. There's a pressure to produce, at times, I wish I could just create. For us, success is being able to make objects of beauty while making products that can be sold to make money."

11) Rottingdean Bazaar's Luke Brooks on ignoring industry noise and focusing on your own goals...
"There's a pressure to not remain stagnant in this industry. It's weird. No one looks at the bakery in Rottingdean and think it's stagnant because it does one thing well and hasn't opened more bakeries."

12) Conner Ives on looking beyond a post-Trump presidency and focussing on weaving his own American dream...
"I trying be realistic to the time we're in but I try not to get bogged down. I try to be positive. I try to show an America that I feel deeply about, the folk art, the Americana. It's home. It's terrible and embarrassing but I do things that capture the best."

13) Ashish on the gloomier it gets, the more defiant and colourful his creative call-to-arms become...
"Life has felt like bad soap opera in recent years, it's exhausting but it's been an awakening. We've realised we have to do something positive, to be engaged and use your platform, however small it is. Love is a potent source. It's important to push the more potent agenda."

14) Tim Walker on the power of creative truths...
"Any young creative should ask themselves, what really motivates me, what's my passion? You can only engage with what you genuinely love. Truth is power."

Read: Explore the freshest, most innovative ideas in London's fashion scene right now inside i-D's Creativity Issue.

Credits


Text Steve Salter
Photography Sarah Louise Bennett