Designer Spotlight-Afghanistan

As a contributor and participant in western fashion culture, I am well aware of how is easy it is to develop a lens which crowds out the importance of reviewing and understanding modes of dress in non-western countries, and how those modes of dress relate to fashion, culture, and personal style. Our own perception of what fashion means in the west may be completely different than what clothing means to another culture. In the case of Afghanistan, years of war, years of being stuck inbetween the convergence of the British and Russian empires, and years of consequent suppression have all lead to an interesting matriculation of resultant cultural clothing options.

The first designer I am going to cover, Nawed Elias, grew up in the village of Zazai in Kabul, Afghanistan. Here he finds his inspiration for his later designs. He ends up in Amsterdam at the age of 14, where he finds a meeting ground between the western culture in Amsterdam and the beautiful village he grew up in. The two angles are conflicting, but he marries the two and creates beautiful and inspiring garments. This proves how a designer can successfully receive credit for appropriately disbursing his culture to the fashion world in an authentic way. This is so important when considering all of the unique cultures which are underrepresented, undervalued, and often times appropriated and assimilated into western culture by western media sources and fashion. Nawed’s way of creating with Zazai has allowed for his brand to have a serious and authentic voice in the western fashion world while staying true to himself and allowing for the western world to digest other cultures in a respectful and truthful way. Designers like Nawed give me hope and are incredibly inspiring. His designs do not aim at being overtly political, rather they aim at warning away today’s generation from the suppressive war lords or forces of evil that persist in Afghanistan.

Link to his website: http://zazai.nl/

He uses “eyeliner” on the male models who walk his designs down the runway. This “eyeliner” perceivedly thought so by western culture, is actually not eyeliner used in the traditional sense as we know it for beautification purposes. Rather, it is a crushed rock mixture which possesses healing powers for one’s eyesight. The application of this substance around the eyes is a religious one, and is oftentimes thought to bring religious benefits when worn on Friday’s. This practice is done throughout Afghanistan with both men and women, but most men in cities discontinue the practice after the age of six while the men who live in villages decide to continue it for the rest of their lives.

The next designer I want to cover is Zolaykha Sherzad. She is the founder of Zarif, a brand which has made similar commentaries on past and present tragedies and turbulence in Afghanistan, but takes a different angle in the sense that she seeks to empower the 60% female workforce she works with in hopes of dignifying and reviving their Afghan heritage. In doing so, these women assume a certain amount of risk in using their actions to make statements about pursuing independence and professional lives in order to create stability for themselves and their children. Zolaykha sees no reason for why there can’t be a mutually beneficial relationship much like what the silk road brought to so many countries and their economies between western countries buying and selling each other’s goods and creating a subsequent respect for each other’s cultures as the west buys more traditional, stylish clothing from Afghani artisans, Afghanistan can afford to invest in more technological advancements provided by western countries in return. It is this kind of symbiosis that design labels like Zarif are trying to achieve, which could prove to be vital to economies via something as “trivial” as fashion and design.

Link to her website: http://www.zarifnyc.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inventory Excesses

The Industry’s Problem:

One of the problems weighing heaviest on the minds of retailers is the issue of excess inventory. This problem is seen when retailers buy too many of one style before comprehensively analyzing how these styles will be received by the consumer market. The result is an obvious deadweight to not only the brand’s vitality, but the environment suffers adverse effects as well.

Stopping wasted dead inventory space could equate to the same amount of sales coming into the store as increased foot traffic on any given day. Ways to cut down on inventory space are traditionally taxing on brands, such as ordering bulk fabric and drawing out the body of the garment at a later date, figuring out the style later on then opting for express shipment, and also spreading risk across product assortments so if one assortment goes south, multiple other assortment options can save the unsuccessful options.

All of the options listed above are preventative, yet time consuming and costly measures to rid of excess inventory.

There are methods, though, which do not leave retailers in the lurch.

Spending more time on specs, grading and perfecting fit will ensure more product bought due to higher consumer satisfaction. A serious re-focusing on what retailers actually NEED is crucial. Most retailers and their buyers are quick to diminish their open to buy margins, when in reality that money could be smartly invested in better sizing, more efficient transportation technology, or better product investment.

How can these areas come into effect? A trifecta of three mechanisms working together closely-the designer, the merchandiser, and arguably the most crucial-the consumer themselves. If these three entities can become a vehicle for brainstorming new ways to streamline the problem of excess inventory, each link will find they are saving money, happier with their purchases, and happier with brands themselves.

What can you do?

As a consumer it is so important to consider for yourself-wouldn’t you much rather have the perfect pair of jeans instead of a few “ok” pairs? Wouldn’t you much rather have a handful of go-to, timeless tops than a closet full of clothing that just misses the mark by a slight margin?

These are things to consider when you are making an impulse buy, and if these thoughts are acted on, they have the potential lessen the excess inventory of brands and continue to push them in the positive direction of buying less and decreasing their copious amounts of unnecessary inventory.

Couture Week

Every year, all eyes are on Paris when couture week rolls around. The absolute best of the best is expected and both editors and fashion lovers alike await impatiently for nuanced and luxurious silhouettes to appear on the runway.

This year, though, things were different.

As streetwear and couture have become increasingly synonymous, the industry is struggling to maintain it’s grasp on what couture has traditionally meant in the past and the result is an amass of jumbled sportswear and pre-fall. Although I am not a stickler for tradition per se, I am indeed an advocate for upholding the standards of luxury, and afraid of what materials, people, and design will be sacrificed by the designers who are trying and failing so utterly hard to mimic the likes of Vetements and Proenza Schouler in their pursuit to execute quality streetwear pieces.

Should there not be a place for these designers at Paris Couture week? I believe there should absolutely be a place for them, but do not believe that other brands should be so quick to lessen their own couture images for the sake of homogenizing themselves with what is now becoming the high fashion “norm.”

If this is the direction that designers are choosing to go, in effort to “street wear-ize” their fashion lines, emotion and craft are going to have to reign over the overall tone of the collections instead of mimicry and watered down couture. Let us hope that couture week can be a platform for these ideas and concepts to evolve into the rare air that luxury should and has the potential to still represent.

There is no reason why the continuous drops of clothing out of collections and genius fashion calendar planning (such as Vetements) cannot also be a scaled down version of the calendar for every other major fashion brand.  Less frequent shows (forget pre-fall and resort wear bs) to combine fashion lines into polished and see now buy now concepts will rid of over-production, and make room for the previously mentioned necessities of creativity and emotion driven designs.

Valentino was a perfect example of genuine creativity expressed in a rather abnormal design aesthetic for the brand. Pierpalo Piccioli brought a truly sentimental show to Paris.

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Valentino Couture Fall 2017

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Valentino Couture Fall 2017

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Valentino Couture Fall 2017

 

The rest, such as Dundas and Dior, fell sadly short of this.

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Dundas Couture Fall 2017

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Dior Couture Fall 2017

 

Technology-Catalyst for Sustainability, Upholder of Luxury Luster?

When analyzing the modern-day luxury consumer, I believe that a certain hierarchy of importances can be linked to each luxury consumer’s decisions in the buying process, which is crucial to understanding where luxury is headed, how much of it’s “luster” will be lost, and where sustainability and technology come into play. The current luxury environment does not necessarily fully welcome or embrace this new e-commerce era-a rather scary one, arguably an oxymoron to luxury, if you will. So why should they accept it? Maybe the most pressing reason lies in the fact that luxury, (as is essentially all of retail) simply put, is suffering, and has been suffering for years on end now. Closures, downsizing and accruing debts are all results of this e-commerce monster growing in size and threatening to overtake luxury houses and all of retail if luxury does not wake up and start playing by the rules of e-commerce. The cure, many luxury retailers realize, as much as many of them may begrudgingly may hate to admit, is indeed a more esteemed and robust social media presence and cutting edge technology in stores and throughout the supply chain. From 3D models to developing new software engineering methods to ensure exact fit for customers, new methods of immediate ways to satisfy consumer needs in the most accurate ways possible are surfacing left and right. Amazon is already, of course, trailblazing this area of technological development and fashion and luxury brands are again realizing they must follow suit in order to compete. This then means that luxury companies will give the millennial generation exactly what it wants-more time. More technological investment equals less room for error, and even the opportunity, through Farfetch (the multi-brand online luxury retailer), to have the ability of matching existing inventory with consumer’s requests, which means less room for brand devaluation and less room for waste since the items sold are what currently exist, wherever they exist, not items that are produced according to expected or projected demand with resultant sad leftovers. This, and many other channels serve as possibilities for furthered sustainable brand practice. Sustainability, when it comes down to it, will end up saving companies billions of dollars if they allow for practices that streamline distribution to take effect. Even in the midst of the reversal on climate change efforts, leaders are coming forward in the fashion industry. Obvious incentives such as the 67 billion dollar potential gain from reducing energy emissions in the fashion industry, cleaner air, water, and better treatment of human capital, is all reason enough to invest in the kinds of technology to begin to make good on the inevitable positive returns. Waterless dye techniques, robots in factories (which are more sustainable through replacing multiple machines and allowing for distribution centers to be widespread and smaller, closer to customers, reducing carbon footprints as well as eliminating the need for poor human labor and arduous work) but maybe most important of all, and where I hope to leave this particular post, is where luxury will find it’s new roots through putting emphasis on humans and our environment. The room for human innovation will grow for those who have the ability to do so, and the lives of those whose jobs were lost by the robots will be enhanced by retraining programs into areas where their help is needed and their work is meaningful-such as in elder care or in artisan work. This new repurposed workforce will then leave room for the innovator’s visions to come to life, and for luxury to gain a whole new perspective with the marriage of innovation, practicality, technology and sustainability all coming into one. Luxury may not have the same salon-focused fittings, the same kind of uniqueness in the high propensity it did, and in the small amounts of it remaining now, but luxury will certainly see an injection of new creativity, of new human kindness, and this, I believe will serve luxury well if the right institutions take advantage of the right resources.