Fashion fighting back with magicians in the marketplace

Will Hutton is in awe of business directors, holding onto their creative forces, as he flags up the surprising success of Britain’s current fight back towards economic fitness. They are supporting and building the knowledge economy, cutting out the need for expensive re-recruitment programmes. (Financial Times, Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010)

The Fashion industry is sometimes accused of not valuing its talent. Unless Angela McRobbie, Colin McDowell, Alexandra Shulman and others were not constantly campaigning, to support Fashion designers, Britain would continue to lose out to Europe with the disappearance of top people, like Stella McCartney, to French and Italian labels.

Our Fashion schools are prized worldwide for their ability to produce cultural capital but we often do not invest in it. From my researches, for ‘Fashion, Media, Promotion, the new black magic,’ I discover that Fashion’s movers and shakers act as magicians in the marketplace, at the heart of healthy retailing.

Fashion designers are more closely involved with human beings than architects. They are concerned with the roles the wearers, of their clothes, will enact. Their creative process surrounds how people feel. They plan lives for their wearers quite separately from thinking of marketing campaigns.

They may know something of their customers, from market research, but they work as artists, like playwrights or script editors. They envisage how a person will behave, wearing the clothes. In their imaginations they are seeing the lives others lead.

The scenarios, with costumes, Fashion designers put together include ‘exit detail.’ Christian Dior may have wanted to make money for his patron, the fabrics’ giant, Marcel Boussac, but in his mind’s eye his clothes were for ‘flower women’. Schiaparelli spent some of her working life fighting for copyright protection, but she designed clothes which fed creative imaginations, so everyone wanted a piece of the action. Mary Quant was so impressed with the youthful people, around her, whether doctors’ or dockers’ daughters, that she researched fabrics to make their lives easier and more eventful.

Vivienne Westwood believes her clothes enhance the beauty in each woman who wears them. Anna Sui’s designs are thought of as cute. Thematic, whimsical, she makes her clothes for a loyal fan base who see themselves as ‘hip’ and ‘exuberant.’ Her style, which is neither household name nor ‘dewy upstart,’ means she is able to design for those same friends, and colleagues who have been with her from the start. Marc Jacobs likes to think his followers, even if they are behaving like single-minded materialists, can be made to look like cultivated lovers of society.

At the beginning of the 21st century which depends, for trade, on innovation and creativity, we must recognise the importance of Art, and the Design sector, towards this progress. As the ‘Financial Times’ is signalling the importance of our cultural assets, and their guardians, it would be foolish to ignore the writing on the wall.

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