Dezeen Magazine

Li Edelkoort publishes manifesto explaining why "fashion is obsolete"

News: trend forecaster Li Edelkoort has published her Anti_Fashion manifesto, outlining why she believes the fashion industry "is going to implode".

The 10-point printed manifesto, published by Edelkoort's Paris-based agency Trend Union and subtitled "Ten reasons why the fashion system is obsolete", follows her declaration in an interview with Dezeen this weekend that we are witnessing "the end of fashion as we know it."

"These ten points argue that the industry has reached a vanishing point of fashion," she writes in the manifesto. "This means that the economy of clothes will take over from the turnover of fashion."

The manifesto is divided into 10 chapters dedicated to topics including education, manufacturing, designers, retailing and marketing.

Under Education, Edelkoort argues that students are being trained "to become catwalk designers, highly individual stars and divas, to be discovered by luxury brands."

"As a result the fashion world is still working in a 20th-century mode, celebrating the individual, elevating the it-people, developing the exception... in a society hungry for consensus and altruism," she writes. "This places fashion out of society and de facto makes it old-fashioned."

In the Materialisation chapter, Edelkoort argues that cost-cutting in both the education system and within fashion houses is threatening the textile industry.

"The first to be sacrificed are knitting and weaving ateliers," she says. "As a result the students are no longer instructed in textile creation and basic knowledge about cloth."

This means that European fibre, yarn and textile industries are threatened with extinction. "Without them the knowledge of spinning, weaving, finishing and printing will be lost," she warns.

Li Edelkoort
Li Edelkoort

Under Manufacturing, Edelkoort writes that the drive for ever-leaner supply chains has led to a "rapid and sordid restructuring process, which has seen production leave the western world to profit from and exploit low-wage countries."

Rather than boycotting brands that employ cheap labour, customers have instead become seduced by cheap, disposable clothes.

"Now that several garments are offered cheaper than a sandwich we all know and feel that something is profoundly and devastatingly wrong," she writes.

"But worst of all is the symbolism of it all," Edelkoort continues. "Prices profess that these clothes are to be thrown away, discarded as a condom and forgotten before being loved and savoured, teaching young consumers that fashion has no value. The culture of fashion is thus destroyed."

In the chapter called Designers, Edelkoort says that the great names of the past were able to change society by introducing new silhouettes, new postures and new forms of movement.

Today's designers, however, endlessly recycle trends from the past. "Luxury designers are requested by the brand's marketing to focus on product and need to give most of their creative energy to bags and shoes and are rather resigned concerning the creation of clothes," she writes.

Edelkoort uses particularly fierce language when discussing marketing, arguing that: "It is without doubt the perversion of marketing that ultimately has helped kill the fashion industries."

"Initially invented to be a science, blending forecasting talent with market results to anchor strategies for the future, it has gradually become a network of fearful guardians of brands, slaves to financial institutions, hostages of shareholder interests, a group that long ago lost the autonomy to direct change."

Advertising gets short shrift too. Magazine ads "are so repetitive and seem so much alike that it is rather difficult to read the various brand values" while publications collude with brands to tie editorial coverage with advertising.

"The same clothes, more or less, are used in the editorials that are heavily art directed by the economy of advertisements; a new brand has little to no chance to be featured."

In the Press & Blogging chapter, Edelkoort says that standards of journalism are slipping as knowledgeable fashion editors are replaced by younger writers with no specialist knowledge or critical perspective.

She writes: "The genial humor and knowledge of some of the best fashion journalists of international newspapers is rapidly replaced by uninteresting generalizations by a younger generation, articles that are opinion pages instead of critical assessment from a professional point of view."

Retailing has failed to move with the times, she states. "As a consequence we are struggling with outdated formats that do not correspond anymore to todays fluid consumers, able to browse high and low, city and country, airport and hotel, on line and in real time."

Finally a new breed of consumer has emerged, Edelkoort says, arguing that fashion does not cater to them.

"The consumers of today and tomorrow are going to choose for themselves, creating and designing their own wardrobes," she writes. "They will share clothes amongst each other since ownership doesn't mean a thing anymore. They will rent clothes, lend clothes, transform clothes and find clothes on the streets."

Mainstream consumers are taking style into their own hands, while Silicon Valley has produced the first generation of super-rich consumers who don't care about fashion.

"Fashion has lost these consumers over the last twenty years and will not be able to get back to them," she concludes, ending with a prediction that clothes, not fashion, will be the major talking point in the coming years.

"Clothes will become the answer to our industries' prayers. Clothes will dominate trends for the future. Therefore let's celebrate clothes."

The only exception to the bleak picture is men's fashion, Edelkoort argues, saying that men are increasingly interested "in fashion and accessories as well as cosmetics and fragrances."

She predicts that couture will make a comeback, occupying the void left by fashion: "After all it is in the atelier of couture that we will find the laboratory of this labor of love. Suddenly the profession of couturier will become coveted and the exclusive way of crafting couture will be inspiring all others."

Edelkoort presented her Anti_Fashion manifesto at Design Indaba in Cape Town this weekend. Speaking to Dezeen after the talk, she said fashion has become "a ridiculous and pathetic parody of what it has been."

Lidewij Edelkoort, who was born in the Netherlands in 1950 and is based in Paris, advises fashion companies and consumer brands around the world. Time magazine named her one of the 25 most influential people in fashion in 2003 and she was director of Design Academy Eindhoven from 1998 to 2008.