A fact about running a business and especially a womenswear business is that things never slow down. There is always so much to attend to, there isn’t always the time to take a moment, regroup and assess where things are going. Enter the coronavirus and suddenly, slow is thrust upon you whether you like it or not.
Ok universe we hear you.
The global pandemic is recording ever increasing cases of infection and death, with news of recessions and economies in freefall. It is a sobering time. What will the future look like? More specifically, what if any, is the role of fashion? The truth is we work in an industry that even before Covid-19 was a stretched and struggling one. The temptation is always there to lean in and vie with competitors for a greater chunk of that fashion pie; produce more- be quicker, be faster, be cheaper. We as a brand have kept away from this strategy because we’ve always believed in concentrating on the value and life of clothing, but it is understandable that others have felt this was the only alternative.
This week, we’re looking at what we love about fashion and making a case for it.. because we believe there is a place for fashion in a post Covid-19 world. With time to slow down and reflect on the way that the coronavirus has altered our lives, our business and the lives of our customers, we are encouraged to re-focus on our own values. We’ve taken the opportunity to reflect on why we started the business in the first place and to pull the values we hold about fashion and clothing back to the forefront.
When we started Les 100 Ciels, we wanted to create timeless, versatile pieces in the best qualities, made with detail and care. It was also all about a love affair with cashmere- a natural material that is so soft and warm it feels like an embrace as you head off in to a cold winter’s day. It could be knitted into beautiful shapes and gracefully express the creativity of our designers. Yes, clothing is a human necessity, but going beyond this, it is an ode to creativity- an outlet of self expression that we humans also need. Just look at the designs of Christian Dior in post World War 2 France. In a time of hardship and austerity, Christian Dior’s designs were a celebration of life and femininity in rich colour and glamourous silhouettes. They pushed French society and subsequently the world to go beyond the crisis and express themselves in a way that had been buried by the years of war. There is value in how clothing can make you feel; for example powerful or more confident or happy. Taking time on your appearance is arguably a wonderful act of self care. Jump to a more modern example and Japanese consultant Marie Kondo famously talks about only keeping personal possessions that ‘spark joy.’ With less items that create clutter and as people take the time to be more attuned to themselves, they can connect to the positive elements to be found from clothing.
What else? Well we love the sentimentality of fashion. A dress can remind you of a first date with the man you went on to marry. Or sometimes you can’t bear to part with an outfit but nor could you ever wear it again because it is what you wore to the funeral of a cherished family member. Mothers will carefully hold on to clothing for years in order to pass it down to their daughters. Clothing is the silent witness to the little and the big moments in life- from laughter and joy to tears and exhaustion.
There is also something to be said about valuing quality. Knowing that a jumper is held to a high standard of craftsmanship and uses the best materials.. these elements are key to owning clothing you know will last. There is so much more value in them over the long term than what can be found from purchasing a cheaply made item that adds to the excess and waste on our planet. We can already see one consequence of Covid-19 is that people have discovered they can get by with less. Perhaps there will be a shift away from a culture of spending thoughtlessly and towards a real revolution in the relationship we have with material items.
There is a saying that in every crisis there is an opportunity. Perhaps we have arrived at that moment. We have a unique opportunity to re-examine the place that fashion and clothing hold in our lives and create a more thoughtful and considered fashion industry.
What do you say? Your voice as consumers is the most powerful of all.