Column, Magazin Z of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung / 24. May 2015
Fashion has evolved into a merciless mastery gobbling up everything that is fresh and new. The youngest are particularly affected when it comes to finding new talent. Companies like H&M or luxury syndicates like Kering and LVMH hold high-caliber award competitions to find the best of the best. And the Fashion Weeks – whether in London or Paris, New York or Milan – use every fathomable method to search for young talents, hoping to gain a firm hold on tomorrow’s stars. Even governments invest millions to endorse the young designers. Paris alone invests 57 million Euros in three fashion schools; New York endorses small companies to allow them to maintain their production in the metropolitan city.
It seems like young fashion design students have never had as many opportunities as they have today. Yet, while in the past the media interest was followed by professional success, today’s attention span is shorter than the light of a shooting star. The name of the latest newcomer is on everyone’s lips for just a few minutes, until the next one takes its place. Even the buyers want only the latest hype. The new talents have become a part of our entertainment, and are thrown to the dogs when it’s time to say: Next, please! It is almost impossible for anyone to become established under these conditions.
However, this also means that there is a lack of visions for the future of fashion; we are smothered by recurring revivals of the best sellers. A vicious cycle. When the fight for attention is no longer successful, why not try to change strategy? Instead of trying to face the media storm with one’s own label right after graduation, why not work a few years in a team for one of the great designers? This is where the up and coming talents can gain experience and contacts, instead of paving their way to disappointment. Fresh shoots will then turn into strong trees – under the radar.
Of course, it is not always easy to find that kind of job. To help out, the Stiftung der Deutschen Bekleidungsindustrie (German Fashion Industry Foundation), whose work I have been voluntarily managing for the last ten years, launched a mentoring program that pairs award winners with young designers. This allows them to communicate on level ground and answer their burning questions: How can I set up a good portfolio? How did you launch your career? What are human resource managers like? And the new designers have the opportunity to benefit from the already better-established designers’ network to gain contact to everything from companies, competitions, fabric suppliers, photographers, bloggers and more. This has already opened quite a few doors. If you want to support us in this effort, please do! You can also help by not just pushing like on Facebook or Instagram, but by purchasing fashion items created by a young designer once a year. Actions like that would go a long way.
First published (in German): SDBI Director Joachim Schirrmacher in his regular column “Wahrgenommen” for Magazin Z of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, May 24, 2015