OXFORDSHIRE, United Kingdom — Twelve months ago, the fashion industry was hungry for change and ready to reach out beyond its old orbit. We just needed an inspirational group of people, a new place to gather and a nudge in the right direction. Thus, we revealed our plans for VOICES, a new industry gathering looking beyond the confines of fashion and connecting with the people and ideas shaping the wider world.
The inaugural edition of VOICES, held in partnership with QIC Global Real Estate, welcomed business leaders, entrepreneurs and educators from over 20 countries. Among them were Gucci CEO Marco Bizzarri, John Galliano, LVMH’s Ian Rogers, Joan Smalls, Net-a-Porter founder Natalie Massenet, Vogue China’s Angelica Cheung, Farfetch CEO José Neves, Tommy Hilfiger’s Avery Baker and Elizabeth Saltzman from Vanity Fair. They were joined by visionaries from fields as diverse as science, economics, technology, health and wellness, food, film, politics, social activism and philanthropy.
Our hand-picked speakers and guests were privy to candid conversations on race and diversity from the likes of Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson and transgender model Hari Nef. Indeed, the impact of forces like terrorism, migration, populism and protectionism have become the defining themes of 2017, and were all thoroughly debated and discussed. “This is all stuff that needed to be discussed,” said Massenet.
VOICES also offered a rare chance for our industry to take a long hard look at itself. When top casting director James Scully delivered an emotional address describing the bullying, body-shaming, cruelty and discrimination that takes place at model castings, all eyes were on him as he laid the modelling industry bare.
“It’s ironic now, as the business which – for me – was built on the celebration of the beauty and diversity of women has totally been highjacked by a small group of stylists, casting directors, and photographers who not only seem to dislike women but seem to go out of their way everyday to prove it on a daily basis,” he lamented.
This was a moment Nef said she would never forget. “It was really affirming and a huge relief to hear somebody of his stature and his influence just tell it like it is, and really spell out the nightmare that contemporary fashion casting has become,” she added. “I think that BoF VOICES is all about speaking truth to power.”
This is all stuff that needed to be discussed.
You could hear a pin drop when Edelkoort, one of the world’s most respected trend forecasters and a former adviser to brands like Armani, presented excerpts from her ‘Anti-Fashion’ manifesto. “Fashion is old-fashioned,” she declared, before going on to describe how our retail model needs reinventing and how the future of creativity is collaborative rather than individualistic.
John Galliano – whose pedigree at Maison Margiela, Christian Dior and Givenchy is unparalleled – took to the stage to reveal the inner workings of his creative process and why he feels more "free" and "open" in a live interview with BoF’s editor-at-large Tim Blanks. It was a unique opportunity to hear the very private designer open up while sharing his latest experiences at Maison Margiela. We look forward to giving another legendary designer the spotlight at VOICES 2017. This and other speaker details will be revealed in September.
Travelling from Paris, London, New York and Milan, the presidents and CEOs of the big four fashion associations descended on Oxfordshire for last year’s edition of VOICES. Debating how the fashion system should be rewired in the face extraordinary change and disruption, it was an unprecedented gathering for the leaders of the Fédération de la haute couture et de la Mode, the British Fashion Council, the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana and the Council of Fashion Designers of America.
“[VOICES] is a hybrid of a TED, but the coolest people at TED,” said musician and entrepreneur will.i.am whose conversation with LVMH’s Ian Rogers focused on what the luxury business can learn from music and technology. “It’s fashion week, but with the folks that you have conversations with that blow your mind at fashion week… it’s all those things in the middle of nowhere in England.”
The mission of VOICES is to connect fashion to the wider world but to do so in ways that make an impact long after the event has closed its doors. Relationships built at VOICES have continued to create unexpected value and business partnerships over the course of the year. It’s the kind of stuff you can’t plan in advance.
For photographer Mario Testino, who was honoured with the inaugural Global VOICES Award for his humanitarian work over the course of an exceptional career, the event was opportunity to build on this momentum even further. Testino met the actress Freida Pinto who spoke passionately about educating girls in India. “I can relate to this with my own endeavours in Peru,” he said. The pair later joined forces in India to support Pinto’s charity when Testino collaborated on a takeover issue of Vogue India this year.
The opportunity for Peter Dundas to work with Beyoncé for her looks at the 2017 Grammy Awards also came about at VOICES where he ran into the singer’s stylist, Marni Senofonte. The veteran designer who has helmed brands including Roberto Cavalli and Emilio Pucci described it as a very “happy coincidence.”
In short, VOICES was unlike anything the fashion industry has ever seen, and we are so excited to announce that once again, we will be partnering with QIC Global Real Estate to bring together the most inspiring speakers, thinkers and visionaries together in Oxfordshire from November 29th to December 1st.
As always, wherever you are in the world, you can be a part of VOICES. What topics do you want us to discuss? Whom would you like to see on stage? And how can we work together to advance our thinking on important industry and world issues? Please let us know in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Imran Amed, Founder & CEO
For more information on how your organisation can be a part of VOICES, click here to request an invitation or propose a partnership. Places are very limited, so apply now.