Small Is Beau­ti­ful

You might not know th­ese lim­ited-run desingers, but that's point.

Fashion (Canada) - - The Draw Sustainability Reboot - By Is­abel B. Slone

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.


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