How often have you seen an item of clothing you like and thought, I wish that was in red, or it had a different neckline or the pattern was slightly different? Or better still what if you could actually see it being made? Well now there are many opportunities available to be involved in design decisions just like those and see them realised.
Way back in 1999 Nike had a customisation platform that allowed customers to configure their trainers with a wide range of materials and colours. Personalisation was made luxurious by Anya Hindmarch, a prestigious handbag designer, who sells funky bag stickers to enable her customers to make their purchases more unique. Jimmy Choo similarly sells a collection of additions including buttons, crystal clip-ons and bracelets as well as offering full customisation of entire shoes. Heel height, shape, colour and material are now no longer just under their designer's control but anyone - with enough money to afford these expensive creations . Many other big name brands have followed suit with their own versions and different levels of mass customisation including Converse at a lower end of the market, and high end designer labels such as Gucci, Fendi, Ralph Lauren & Burberry.
A current manifestation of this trend and the one I particularly like is by Unmade who produce custom designed knitwear. Customers choose a design they like on their website which they can then alter and manipulate. There are different options in colours, scale of knit design, position of knit design and... this is the cool bit, you can even warp or remove some of the design altogether. The bit that appeals to me most is that you can go and see the garments being made in their Selfridge's pop-up store. In a similar vein, Storemade, is a project whereby limited runs of t-shirt & totes are printed each week reflecting current events and popular culture in their in-store studios housed in some Weekday stores in Sweden.
Being able to be involved in such a way with the clothing you buy and to see what is being made for you makes it a really special purchase which gives this concept so much room for growth and development. Some of the garment manufacturers in the UK now have open days when consumers can come along and see their clothes being made. I would love to incorporate this idea into the Boy Wonder brand in some way as not only would it be exciting but it also helps establish transparency too.
Check out my Pinterest board on how to customise your own clothes to make them truly unique.
#MassCustomisation #DesignItYourself #Unmade
Since he started school the Boy Wonder now refers to particular activities or things as being gender specific. 'That's for Girls' is often stated in a derisory manner, much to my dismay! Having lived in Sweden and been influenced by their non-gender based schooling and upbringing, I have been careful to try and foster this attitude in my son but it appears I am thwarted!. In fact in Sweden it is the equality minister who is responsible for pre-school childcare which is seen as the cornerstone in their struggle for gender equality.
So it does make me ask where does this gender stereotyping come from? Has it been picked up from his peer group, is it the British school system, or is it a societal effect? Swedish schools notably also do not have uniforms, like most of Europe. As a busy working mum I do like the practicality of a uniform but wonder what effect they have on gender ideas and individualism. Many gender specific ideas seem to solidify during our school years such as boys playing football and girls playing netball, For example, there is only one girl in Boy Wonder's year group who plays in the school football team - well done her!
This gender conforming I believe also leads to a greater lack of individualism and may contribute to kids picking on anything that is different in their peers - having ginger hair or even long hair like the Boy Wonder's. Boys especially I feel are less allowed to be different to each other. This is very evident in the generic quality of most boy's clothing. Being different, unusual or even a little bit odd is not tolerated by kids as they get older, I know I spent most of my teenage years trying to 'fit in'. So while I want my son to be able to express his individuality through they way he looks and dresses I don't want him to suffer for it.
What I would wish for him, and all kids, is a world where individuality could be something that is celebrated and encouraged especially in early years as kids begin to become aware of their own identity. That boys and girls could know their own worth without it being based on their gender. And at this crucial developmental stage that they are not also influenced into judgements about other people that may lead to prejudice later in life.
The Girl Bias
Boys Can Wear Pink Too!
#Individualism #BoysFashion #LongHairDontCare
Since I started blogging I have read a lot about different aspects of sustainable fashion including, recycling, zero waste and eco fabrics. But as I read more and more as research for my blog posts I am becoming very aware of what a minefield the area is. In one blog post I can write about what seems like a solution to a certain environmental problem only to discover further down the line that maybe it isn't the answer we had hoped for.
For example, I was heartened to discover that some high street fashion brands were encouraging customers to recycle their clothes but later read that they often simply ship these clothing mountains to the developing world. As this takes it out of sight and out of mind it then contributes to the problem as customers think it allows them to carry on consuming massive amounts of fast fashion.
I have happened upon this conundrum again whereby some smart thinking fashion brands are re-using plastic bottles to make polyester clothes. Sounds good right? And it is a great way to make use of all the waste we produce don't get me wrong, however these clothes, and all others that are made from synthetics, leach micro fibres when we wash them. These innocuous sounding particles pass into the waterways and oceans creating havoc for wildlife. 60% of all clothing in the world is made from man-made fabrics so that is a very big problem. Some easy solutions to this are to wash your man-made textiles in special bags that capture these textile terrors, to fit a special filter on your water outlet pipe and, of course, to buy clothing made from natural fibres.
So, I will continue to research into sustainable fashion and new innovations but armed with the knowledge that it is an ever evolving area. This will mean that the brand will have to be flexible to adapt to these developments in order to stay as green as possible. It would be impossible to create a truly zero impact brand as any human endeavour creates some impact, but I aim to do it in as minimal and as considerate a way as possible.
I hope as I write about these things they will inform and engage you towards living a more sustainable life too, as this is far more important than the brand itself.
#SustainableFashion #PlasticPollution #MicroFibres
Now I am starting to look for fabrics, components and packaging for my launch collection I find Brexit on my mind. How will it affect the UK fashion industry and how will it impact on my business?
The fashion industry contributes over £28 billion to the UK economy and supports 880,000 jobs. It is a global leader in creativity, innovation and business. However, if the standard World Trade Organisation rules are followed it would mean a 12% tariff on all clothing imports. As I want to manufacture in the UK this wouldn't apply to me but from that we can assume there is also likely to be a tariff placed on any raw materials sourced from overseas. Sourcing as much as possible from the UK would mean we could avoid such levies and also the possibility of goods spending a long in customs while tariff payments are checked.
Following the vote to leave the Sterling plummeted against the Euro and the Dollar which means brands having to spend more money to create the same amount of clothing. For some brands it will start to be less cost effective to be producing off shore, which could mean many consider UK manufacturing again. While this would be great for the UK economy it could make it harder for me to get a look in at the factories. The advantage to manufacturing in the UK would mean less exposure to such currency fluctuations particularly.
The curb on immigration post-brexit would mean the loss of many of the highly skilled workers who help put together a collection who are from Eastern European where sewing skills are taught in schools. Sadly since most UK fashion production went offshore we haven't been training many of young people so there will be a real acute shortage. Some companies have stated that they are likely to lose a third of their staff, and for some London factories it's more like 70%. As a small start-up company I will not be a priority for any factories, short staffed or not, so I will have to build a good strong relationship with the right manufacturers.
Consumer confidence will undoubtedly be affected as price increases on all imported goods will mean people have less money in their pocket to spend. Clothing is something people can always cut back on so the fashion trade could feel real shockwaves from this, possibly premium brands like Boy Wonder especially. However, being a children's clothing brand may insulate us from this somewhat as kids always keep growing and need new clothes.
Many other brands will be affected by the increased cost of foreign travel as they visit factories, suppliers and tradeshows abroad. This could present an advantage for me as I will be UK based and as localised as possible. A local manufacturing base means quicker delivery and less environmental impact. Being able to visit the factories and suppliers and deal with problems quickly will give me a strong chance of success.
The biggest advantage in Brexit for me is the increased interested in British made goods. The UK textile business is seeing a resurgence at the moment with positive signs such as cotton spinning returning to the country for the first time in a generation. An amazing 5000 new jobs were created in the UK textile manufacturing sector in 2015 and by 2020 a further 15,000 are expected. So let's hope this is the start of a British revival!
#Brexit #UKFashion #SustainableFashion
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