Small Is Beautiful
You might not know these limited-run desingers, but that's point.
In 1973, a German economist named E. F. Schumacher published a book called Small Is Beautiful. In it, he noted that society is careening toward collapse thanks to its extraction of natural resources at an inexhaustible pace. He also proposed that we scrap the current method of production and consumption in favour of “a lifestyle designed for permanence.”
Schumacher’s ideas were received as radical, but they’ve translated remarkably well into the arena of cuisine, where few would doubt the superiority of a locally grown heirloom tomato over a waterlogged facsimile left to ripen under a supermarket’s fluorescent lights. The act of ingesting only the purest ingredients has practically become a secular religion, but when it comes to our closets, most people still tend to turn a blind eye.
Over the past decade, many brands have become more eco-conscious, mitigating their impacts by sourcing organic cotton or offering clothing repairs. But none of these wellintended methods address the fundamental reason why we’re in this mess in the first place: the overproduction of goods. According to a 2014 Forbes article, as a collective society, we purchase 400 per cent more clothing today than we did 20 years ago. The only way to dig ourselves out is, simply, to produce less.
“I am trying to understand what it means to be creative in 2018 and how to make it something viable.”
“I feel there is so much in the world. We have too much of everything, and it’s a scary concept,” says designer Matty Bovan, a Central Saint Martins graduate who chooses to create his colourful, neo-shamanistic clothing out of his parents’ house in York, England. “I really believe we shouldn’t, as young designers, produce hundreds or thousands of garments.” Instead, Bovan is building his business to avoid both creative burnout and the excessive pileup of stuff. “Young people are struggling with the weight of the world,” he says. “I am trying to understand what it means to be creative in 2018 and how to make it something viable.”
Bovan’s business operates—albeit on a smaller scale—similarly to the way in which Mona Kowalska, the New York-based designer of A Détacher, has for the past 20 years. A Détacher has rejected the pace which requires designers to churn out collections on command. The brand has one store in Manhattan, and sells to a tight edit of online retailers and boutiques. “It’s never going to be mass,” the designer once told New York magazine. Kowalska has managed to cultivate something far more sustainable: a loyal clan of devotees who purchase from the brand season after season. “People design a lot of landfill,” the designer told Fashionista in 2015. “I don’t want to do that.”
After experiencing a bout of what she describes as “aesthetic fatigue,” Anna Yang, of the Milan-based label ANNAKIKI, decided to shift the focus for her Fall 2018 collection to longevity, craftsmanship and authenticity. “I wanted to create a collection where the outfits would outlast a season,” says Yang. The result was a flashy show rife with oversized furry Muppet coats and sweatshirts that read “over supply” and “consumed by fashion.” Trench coats barrelled down the runway encased in transparent plastic, but what looked like a metaphor for over-consumption was in fact rooted in practicality: Each coat can be worn as at least two garments. Additionally, Yang cut down a production run of her collection by 28 per cent.
“If, however, economic ambitions are good servants, they are bad masters,” wrote British historian R. H. Tawney in 1926. Conventional wisdom suggests the only way a business can succeed is if it is constantly growing. However, exponential growth is impossible on a planet like earth. Eventually the bubble— like Violet Beauregarde, who swells into a giant blueberry in Charlie and the
Chocolate Factory—must burst. In 2017, economist Kate Raworth coined the term “doughnut economics,” which proposes to address humanity’s challenging future by embedding the economy in the ecosystem to create natural boundaries that society must adhere to. It sounds like what E. F. Schumacher initially suggested back in 1973: economics as if people—and the environment—mattered.
ANNAKIKI FALL 2018