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Fashionopolis : The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes
Fashionopolis : The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes
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Author(s): Thomas, Dana
ISBN No.: 9780735224018
Pages: 320
Year: 201909
Format: Trade Cloth (Hard Cover)
Price: £17.15
Dispatch delay: Dispatched between 7 to 15 days
Status: Available From Our Suppliers (Active record)

ONE Ready to Wear On the third night of the seventy-first Cannes Film Festival, in May 2018, Australian actress and jury president Cate Blanchett floated down the red carpet in a showstopping sleeveless bubble-hem gown. The rowdy floral print began on the bodice as black-and-white line drawings, like paint-by-numbers, and eventually erupted on the voluminous skirt into full-blown Technicolor. Daring and complicated, it was exquisitely executed by Mary Katrantzou, a Greek-born, London-based women''s wear designer most consumers have never heard of, though have most likely worn, after a fashion. Katrantzou is one of the talents who creatively fuels the Fashionopolis machine: the original silhouettes she dreams up in her small London atelier are sold in limited numbers by luxury retailers in cosmopolitan capitals. This is the apex of the fashion pyramid-the same place where Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele, Louis Vuitton menswear designer Virgil Abloh, Givenchy artistic director Clare Waight Keller, and other high fashion designers sit. The clothes that Katrantzou and her confreres design are copied by fast-fashion brands on the cheap and peddled in chain stores-the massification that constitutes the broad bottom of the fashion pyramid. The "knockoffs," as the fakes are known, rake in millions for the hucksters who vend them. Katrantzou, meanwhile, receives nothing from the unauthorized global rollout of her work: no money, no glory, no acknowledgment that she ignites trends or contributes to the fashion conversation.

She toils; others profit; we all wear. Sound unfair? It is. But this trickle-down scheme-as sharply laid out by Meryl Streep in the "cerulean-blue sweater" scene in The Devil Wears Prada-is how the fashion industry works. It begins simply enough at a wholly unglamorous semiannual trade show outside of Paris, near Charles de Gaulle airport, called Premire Vision Paris. For three days each February and September, more than sixty thousand apparel trade professionals from 120 countries descend on the multihall convention complex of Villepinte to shop the world''s largest selection of future-trending fabrics and textile designs, leather, accessories, and manufacturing innovations in one place-for the February 2019 edition, there were 1,900 exhibitors. One hall is dedicated to yarns, fabrics, and sourcing solutions. Another to design, and more fabrics-some 20,000 in all. Another to leather-there are 10,000 of those.

Another to accessories. The endless rows of office-gray sales stands are punctuated with installations highlighting the season''s tendencies as set by thread suppliers, color companies such as Pantone, and an army of consultants who specialize in trend forecasting. Premire Vision is where every major-and many a minor-fashion brand''s new season begins to take shape. In the winter of 2018, I accompanied Katrantzou''s fabric expert Raffaella Mandriota, a twenty-seven-year-old Italian metalhead who favors Maison Margiela Tabi boots, on her two-day expedition to Premire Vision-or "PV" in fashion-speak. She was scouting for the Spring-Summer 2019 women''s wear collection, to be presented on a London runway nine months hence. Her first stop was the top Italian mill, Canepa-one of her regular suppliers. After a quick hello, and an espresso, she whipped through racks and racks of jacquards, prints, and solids, called "bases," giving each one a proper look, if only for a tenth of a second, and a feel, to understand texture and pliability. When she thought one might work, she pulled it and placed it on her mounting pile-or "selection"-on the table.

When she finished-in ten minutes, max-a company rep wrote up the order. Mandriota does this twelve to fifteen times in a day at PV, thus the need for coffee; her to-do list was long. There were definite trends on view-natural dyes, seersucker, Candy Land-like colors, Lurex, hemp, iridescent silks-but the range that Mandriota chose was broad: an orange devorZ on black chiffon; a Kelly-green viscose; a white polyester waffle-weave; a gray silk inkjet-printed with a cloudy sky; a navy, black, and evergreen Fortuny-style pleated silk with green and blue coral motif. "Beautiful, this one," she said, as she set the coral one on her stack. "Mary loves pleats." Mandriota watched her budget carefully. "Chinese silk has gotten so expensive," she told me. "A twenty percent increase just this season.

The Chinese have increased domestic consumption, so they export less. And because of pollution, the silkworm cocoons are dying." Throughout her hunt, Mandriota peppered her vendors with questions: "What''s the minimum order?" "Anything organic or sustainable?" "What other colorways are available?" "Can you print on this?" "Can you emboss on wool?" "Could you interpret Mary''s design with this same jacquard technique?" In our two ten-hour days at Premire Vision, she ordered at least a thousand samples. Six weeks later, cartons filled with swatches began to arrive at Katrantzou''s studio, a prewar loft in Islington. She and her assistants conducted a first edit, and a second, and on and on, until they had whittled the mass down to a manageable array that could tell the season''s story. A Hellenistic beauty, with mink-like eyes and hair to match that falls straight to her elbows, Katrantzou was born in Athens in 1983 to a retailing family: her grandfather founded Katrantzou Spor, which was the city''s largest department store until it was burned to the ground during Greece''s political riots of the 1970s. Her father worked security, and her mother had an interior design shop and furniture factory. In 2003, Katrantzou went to the United States to study interior architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence.

Halfway through her sophomore year, she moved to London as an exchange student at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design to learn textile design for interiors. "I loved the idea that textiles were about surface," she told me. "And there was an immediacy about it that I hadn''t found in architecture." Hooked, she stayed and earned a bachelor''s degree in textile design and a master''s in fashion with a focus on prints-at a time when fashion printmaking was moving from the more artisanal silk screen process, in which a piece of mesh cloth (originally silk), etched with an image, is stretched over a wood frame and squeegeed with ink, to digital, which is computer drawn and generated. For her MA degree show, in February 2008, she sent out ten identically shaped dresses printed with a trompe l''oeil of gigantic jewelry-magnifying common items in print on cloth has since become her leitmotif. With a grant from the British Fashion Council''s young talent fund, NEWGEN, she launched her own brand during London Fashion Week the following September and landed several influential retailers, including Browns in London, Joyce in Hong Kong, and Colette in Paris. In 2011, she won the British Fashion Award for Emerging Talent in women''s wear. She has lived up to her promise-so much so that in early 2018, she sold a stake of her firm to Hong Kong-based Yu Holdings, a start-up fund founded and run by the ambitious twenty-seven-year-old Chinese fashion and technology investor Wendy Yu.

(Weeks later, Yu also announced her firm was endowing the position of curator in charge at the Metropolitan Museum of Art''s Costume Institute.) For Katrantzou, Yu earmarked a $20 million infusion-money that will encourage brand growth. "I think Mary could be a global lifestyle brand in the next ten to twenty years," Yu said. As the new collection would celebrate Katrantzou''s tenth anniversary, she decided it should be a best-of-meaning she''d rework former print patterns and silhouettes in a more modern, and mature, way. For themes, she chose blown-glass perfume bottles; vintage postage stamps; nature, such as insects, butterflies, and seashells; and the arts. Mandriota asked some of the textile suppliers to redo jacquard samples she''d selected at PV in Katrantzou''s new print designs. In early May, Katrantzou sat down at a wood IKEA table with Mandriota and women''s wear head Gregory Amore to review the new iterations. One jacquard, a quilt-like brocade from the Italian mill Ostinelli Seta, had been proposed as chrysanthemums in grainy blues.

Katrantzou kept the fabric and the technique, but replaced the flowers with a collage she created: mounds of gems, baubles, and ropes of pearls, like you''d find in a pirate''s treasure chest, scattered across a coral seabed, in a palette of burnt orange, Mediterranean azure, antique gold, and iridescent white. For solids, Katrantzou had snippets of stretch cotton poplin, sourced from various companies, that had been custom dyed, or "lab dipped," in Pantone hues she chose-sandy beige, Tiffany blue, sunshine yellow-to see how the different offerings took the color. She wasn''t thrilled with the first test: the tones were a tad dull, as if rinsed in murky dishwater. Another-from a different supplier-she warmed to immediately. The colors were truer, and the quality of the cloth was clearly superior. "Everything about this feels lighter, and somehow thicker," she said as she caressed one of the swatches. "It feels very substantial." "It''s more precious," Mandriota said.

"But it is double the price," Katrantzou said. "Yes." When final fabric choices arrived from mills, Katrantzou pulled a few panels and sent them off to Mumbai to be embroidered. (As needlework is still a valued skill in India, it is a center for handcrafted fashion embellishments.) Garment samples were made, either by her in-house atelier or a contracted factory-she relies on two in Italy, one in Portugal, and three small family-owned workshops in the UK that do short run.

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