Finding Lost Artisans
Just as Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival (VAMFF) was kicking off I trekked to Bendigo for the Lost Trades Fair and unlike the majority of events I would have been able see at VAMFF (had the majority of it not been cancelled) it left me feeling hopeful, the Lost Trades Fair felt important. And as the world changed so rapidly in the weeks following the fair the memory of it actually made me feel a little better about the new world we suddenly find ourselves living and (trying to) work in.
The Lost Trades Fair was a world away from a Fashion Festival, held in the grounds of a country racecourse, there were no bright lights, no catwalks. Artisans simply stood by their machines and worked with their tools, engaging fascinated people in the process of making. Among so many incredibly and diversely talented there were artisans that made socks, shoes and clothes. Artisans that spun wool, tanned leather and tatted lace.
Among the so many more visible artisans such as chair makers the Textile, Clothing and Footwear sector was well represented. Was it fashion the way we traditionally imagine it? No. These artisans were not making clothes, or socks, or scarves that were on trend and in this seasons on trend colours. Bag makers were not making leather bags so tiny we could not even fit a phone in one. These clothes (not fashion), bags and shoes were made simply to be worn, used and cherished. Do I believe that some of these items could have been enhanced by the input of a trained designer? I do, but even without that input every item felt truly authentic.
The Important work of Artisans. Shoes, Yarn and Socks
I have always felt that these Creative Micro-Business are important to us all. I’m not talking about small business here, but businesses that are truly micro. The businesses that were started because of a yearning passion and are driven by the need to create and find autonomy over that creativity. These are businesses that measure their success on the quality of their product not only on the dollars in the bank. There is quite a lot of research that backs up how important these Micro-Businesses to the economy, but it also the positive impact that these tiny businesses have on our society that is important, they drive innovation and support many other local businesses. Interestingly, it is now these micro creatives that, while larger businesses are forced into shutdown, can continue to make from spare rooms, kitchen tables, garages and solo studios.
While somehow it seems to early to imagine our current situation having a positive effect on the world of fashion, futurist Li Edelkoort recently pondered the future of our industry with Business Of Fashion’s Imran Amed. Off the back of her now famous 2015 Manifesto Edelkoort saw the virus, and our forced shutdown, as forcing us to do the things we already knew we had to do. She sees this as time that, as we are forced to jump off the carousel and away from a senseless fashion world, we will re-set the way we dress and consume. What interested me and felt like a way forward were her words about us inventing a new system and her belief that it is the true artisans that have a future and that we will begin to embrace handicraft that comes with a true identity. This seems like a future so many can embrace, not only makers and consumers but also those that need to make large clothing corporations relevant to a new world. Hopefully we will see a world where consumers seek out more goods by local designers and those designers seek to make their business and practice more able to engage and work with the homegrown artisans we have.
This Fair, certainly not aimed at Fashion Festival goers, left me feeling that at heart we are a nation of makers and that people are craving the skills of those that sit in front of a sewing machine, a lathe or a jewellery desk. Suddenly the chair that we were are stuck at home sitting on for weeks feels like a more integral part of our lives, not just a design feature, no longer just an object that is useful but now something that seems important. Suddenly the person that made that chair, where the chair came from and the story behind it are all become part of our life. Could it also be this way with our clothing? Will we begin to attach more emotional value to our clothes?
When we emerge from the other side of this will we find a different world? The Lost Trades Fair left me with a sense of hope and in the face of the crisis we are now facing that hope remains with me. If we help these artisans through this short-term pain they will be there when we will need them more than ever.
Listen to Li Edelkoort discuss the post-carona Fashion world here:
Unfortunately the Lost Trades Fair scheduled for May has been cancelled but you learn more about the artisans here.