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Li Edelkoort’s ‘Anti-Fashion’ Manifesto

The fashion system has been broken for some time, said trend forecaster Li Edelkoort at VOICES 2016. But, it can still regain its cultural cachet, and fix its exploitative practices.
Li Edelkoort

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When trend forecaster Li Edelkoort first published a manifesto called “Anti-Fashion” in 2015, people across the fashion industry told her that her critique had finally put how they felt into words.

“Fashion is old-fashioned,” said Edelkoort. But she believes the system can evolve to fit today’s reality and regain the cultural value it has lost over the years.

On the latest episode of The BoF Podcast, we revisit Edelkoort’s talk on the BoF VOICES stage in 2016. Her prescient ideas have only become more urgent and applicable in 2021 as the world emerges from a pandemic that forced the industry to further reevaluate its systems, values and place in society.

  • Fashion’s tendency towards individualism, which sees the industry place near-exclusive focus on the creator, doesn’t fit with today’s society, which is “hungry for consensus and altruism,” said Edelkoort. The problem stems in part from fashion schools, which, for the most part, have not updated their curriculum to reflect the current issues plaguing the industry.
  • The race to the bottom regarding prices is destroying fashion’s cultural value as well as harming garment workers. “How can a product that needs to be sewn, grown, harvested, combed, spun, knitted, cut and stitched, finished, printed, labeled, packaged and transported cost a couple of euros? It’s impossible,” said Edelkoort. As a starting point, she suggested implementing legislation on minimum prices.
  • The retail experience also needs to be reinvented to be more focused and better presented to consumers. Edelkoort points to Dover Street Market, whose curated approach sets it apart from traditional department stores. “Everything we do is from the 20th century. Even concept stores and online commerce were from the last moments of the 20th century,” said Edelkoort.

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