Commune

Photography by Nick Fitzpatrick
Fashion and words by Grace Joel

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Left
Overalls and top: Issey Miyake
Lee
Top and trousers: Craig Green
Right
Top and trousers: Shao Yen

Pessimistic statements have flooded the media recently declaring the demise of the fashion system.

“This is the end of fashion as we know it” said world-renowned trend forecaster Li Edelkoort, adding that it was a “ridiculous parody of what it’s been”.

Meadham Kirchhoff, with its SS15 collection “Rejected Everything!”, proclaimed that “fashion is in a coma”, with the London favourites going on a self-im- posed temporary or permanent hiatus.

The seduction of cheap, throw away, trend-based clothes means designers have less time to work, lead- ing all involved to feel exhausted. From distressed knits and fraying hems on clothes to yawning models and fashion’s mass acceptance of “normcore” (or back- to-basics) dressing, the industry is on the brink.

A handful of millennial designers — having grown up with social media, the speed of consumption and global warming — are returning to traditional values. They are focussing on craft, textiles and artisanal items made to last a lifetime, rather than hastily churning out the four expected seasonal collections a year with no surprise. New generation are going back to basics and starting with a clean slate, engaging with traditional skills and methods, ignoring imposed timetables and creating couture-like pieces. The designers forging the way are approaching their work with more time-based, seasonless, deeply personal collections that people respond to. It’s a creative kind of activism, where the quietest and most thoughtful collections are currently speaking the loudest.

Craig Green’s SS15 show was a “silent protest” to this and struck a chord with those in attendance. As described by Green in his press release as “a mass exo- dus toward the brink of abandon”, the poignancy and purity of the garments and the emphasis on cloth has made him one of the top names to know, recently being announced as a finalist for the prestigious LVMH Prize.

“I loved making things and have always been interested in the process of creating something with your hands,” Green says. “I was a textiles graduate so the fabric process has always been important to me. I like the process of hand-crafting and there being mistakes or inconsistencies within a piece that make it unique.”

Similarly, new cult label Toogood, from sisters Faye and Erica Toogood, has created a unisex, timeless range of workwear with a powerful manifesto taking a stance against the pace of the system. “Fashioned by industry, not the fashion industry, workers of the world unite!” Erica, a Savile Row pattern cutter, works on clever silhouettes, while Faye, a successful interior designer, treats the fabrics using industrial rubberising, appliqué, screen printing and cording. The clothes are honest, humble, and functional. Each garment’s cut is based on specific trades; the bee- keeper, the oil rigger and the plumber among them, celebrating hard work and craftsmanship over fame and fanfare, which in the age of social media, style often overtakes substance. This democratic, uniform-like apparel is made to wear daily yet last a lifetime.

Also lauding the power of the faceless worker is the new Paris-based label everyone currently wants a piece of, Vetements. Established by an international collective of designers who prefer to retain anonymity and keep the focus on the clothes (its name itself reflectsthis), the simple, beautifully cut garments were the talk of Paris Fashion Week. Shrouded in mystery, the faceless brand — like Maison Martin Margiela before them, who notoriously only has one difficult-to-find press picture in circulation, the atelier in which the designers met and cut their teeth — has ironically prompted curiosity and hype. However the focus remains on product. “Fashion is so overpopulated and oversupplied with ideas that at some point in the future, and even already, the fame of a designer will not be able to assure the credibility of their work,” quoted the col- lective. “At least that is what we hope. What we desire today is modern — it’s what people wear right now.”

The return to community is also helping designers thrive. In Li Edelkoort’s Anti Fashion Manifesto, she sites one of the main problems as educating young designers to become “catwalk designers, unique individuals,” whereas working in teams and groups and supporting each other and the new economy is what makes these new businesses thrive.

A new wave of London textile designers are bringing back near-extinct skills with a newfound fascination with spinning, weaving, knitting and finishing. The unique fabrics are time consuming and inimitable to the hungry high street.

“Weaving came about as I wanted to offer some- thing where the price reflected the amount of time that someone had spent making that piece. I chose weaving specifically because I felt at the time that when you walked around a store everything was flat and it lacked texture,” says Faustine Steinmetz, a truly original designer who has shown her work as part of New Gen for the last two seasons. Her individually woven jeans and denim jackets are spun, dyed and woven on a handloom in her East London studio. “I think people like the idea of going back to something a bit more authentic. I’m not that interested in fashion itself, butI am more interested in the pieces.” The designer sends her made-to-order customers updates of the extensive process to keep them engaged, and involved in their pieces, which take over a week each to make. “I’m trying to create a relationship with the product that makes you feel special towards it. It’s a pity if you don’t see the craftsmanship behind the product.”

London-based Amy Revier weaves three-to-five pieces a month on her two vintage looms, designing one-of-a kind wearable pieces constructed from Japanese wool, silks, linen, cashmere and stainless steel.

“Weaving the cloth and building a garment from the ground up — to me, I make little sculptures.” The designer combines fashion, performance, and architecture in one-off pieces. Immersing herself in her craft, she has “performed” at Hostem and Dover Street Market, encountering visitors at the many stages of her work, sitting at her loom morning to evening. Her pieces show the simplicity and beauty of well-made things and the desire for a human and organic approach in the fast, hyper-industrialised culture we live in.

With so much cheap and disposable clothing and imagery, patience and authenticity is a commodity. Prices profess that these clothes are to be thrown away teaching young consumers that fashion has no value. K Hole (The New York trend-forecasting agency that coined the now overused term “normcore”) identified these as key problems in its report on patience, called Prolasticity.

“The culture of fashion is thus destroyed. A new consumer has emerged who does not believe fashion caters to them, with modern consumers designing and sharing their own wardrobes, and focusing on wearability rather than fashion” Edelkoort says. Clothes will become the answer to our industries’ prayers. Clothes will dominate trends for the future. Therefore let’s celebrate clothes!”

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Screen printed coat: Toogood

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Hat: Issey Miyake
Top: Issey Miyake
Overalls: Issey Miyake

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Beekeeper coat: Toogood

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Coat: Toogood

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Hessian Dress, waist coat and head piece: Gareth Pugh

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Coat: Toogood

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Pleated hat: Issey Miyake
Tie dye blouse: Shao Yen

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Silk jacket: Shao Yen

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Jacket: Shao Yen

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All wearing Toogood

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Jacket: Shao Yen

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Coat: Toogood

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Both wear Toogood

Hair: Victoria Hutchinson using Aveda
Make up: Nicola Moores-Brittin using MAC Cosmetics
Models: Jess PW at Storm, Hannah at SUPA and Lee at Milk