This is an Intervention: An introduction
STATE OF FASHION: This is an Intervention
“Sadly it may take an environmental natural disaster to stop the fashion industry in its greed-obsessed tracks.”
Vin of VIN + OMI, during Whataboutery #1: Masters of Change. June 2018, Arnhem.
2020 has been a game-changing year, also for the fashion industry. First, Covid-19 once and for all exposed the vulnerabilities of the existing system of fashion. As a consequence of fallen consumer demand and clothing trade due to stringent lockdown measures, fashion companies canceled their orders or readjusted their payment and delivery procedures. As a result, millions of local garment workers across the world returned to their hometowns, towards an uncertain future.
Then, the murder of George Floyd in the US sparked a worldwide conversation about how our societies are still imbued with racism on many levels. In fashion, it revealed that ensuring diversity, equity and inclusivity takes more than just a stronger representation of Black, Indigenous, People of Colour (BIPOC) on runways and in boardrooms. It also requires a critical and rigorous view on how the fashion system is organized as a whole; it takes a radical approach that challenges the industry at its roots.
At State of Fashion - a platform originated to re-think the fashion system - these events have made us reflect on our message. Since its conception, State of Fashion has robustly addressed the environmental as well as the social footprint of the fashion industry, while uncovering new materials and production techniques. This very framework was the primary focus of its successful 2018 biennial ‘Searching for the New Luxury’, curated by José Teunissen, Professor in Fashion Theory and Dean of School of Design and Technology London College of Fashion (UAL). The events described above, in addition to an exacerbated climate crisis with severe consequences for humanity, have led State of Fashion to a broader focus.
“It starts with truly listening to what the world is asking of our species now. Every designer has a gift - now is the time to devote what we are capable of to bettering the world for all”
Helen Storey in response to State of Fashion’s 2018 manifesto Searching for the New Luxury. June 2018, Arnhem.
Our world has a variety of fashion systems. For decades, the dominant fashion system has been the one shaped by those located in privileged parts of the world. This system, driven by a business model encouraging constant and exponential economic growth, fails to take into account what it is slowly erasing as a result in its sacrifice zones: fertile land, clean water and local cultures. Sustainable fashion is also broadly defined by this system. This has resulted in problematic and often-clashing beliefs of how one could contribute to the sustainable fashion movement and, more importantly, of who could contribute to it: those who can afford it. Although conscious consumerism is pivotal, this singular understanding of sustainable fashion has a dramatic flaw: it does not consider or guarantee diversity, equality and inclusivity. As long as this doesn’t change, it seems impossible to create change that has a significant positive impact on all of us.
So what is the next step? How can we recover from the addiction to a system we are all part of? State of Fashion has addressed this battle of the mind and felt a strong responsibility for opening up to new perspectives that have been overlooked, ignored, and denied. In the aftermath of 2018’s ‘Searching for the New Luxury’, and in run-up to our biennial in 2022, we therefore literally stopped, looked and listened. In the past months, we hosted four interventions for which we invited thinkers and makers from all over the world to take over our program. With provocative readings, online conversations, interactive workshops, and inspiring visuals, they reflected on fashion, its flaws and its future, from a variety of angles. First, we took a critical look at the dominant fashion system and our role in it during an intervention dubbed Introspection. In the second intervention themed Origins in November, we traced the roots of this system and highlighted systems and work that is yet unseen. In the new year, we sought for ways to rebuild fashion in a third intervention themed Transition. Finally, in parallel with the announcement of a new curator team for State of Fashion 2022, we looked for ways forward, in the intervention themed Release.
“Today, we talked about that change will take time. The moment you start questioning, things will become much faster.”
11.11/ Eleven Eleven, during Whataboutery #1: Masters of Change. June 2018, Arnhem.
Keep an eye on our website for more information about the biennale, upcoming interventions and other events in collaborations with our friends at a.o. FashionClash, M-ODE, ArtEZ, Museum Arnhem, FDFA, and Culture.Fashion.