On March 5, just a few days before the novel coronavirus pandemic took hold of Madrid and citizens were asked to self-quarantine to help stop the spread of the virus, a fashion-forward event took place in the Spanish capital. In celebration of Art Company Shoes‘ 25th anniversary, some of Spain’s most promising designers sat down to discuss the future of fashion in the country. Schön! was there to get the intel from Outsiders Division‘s David Méndez, 44Studio’s duo Xavi and Franx, as well as Rosalía‘s favourite designer Dominnico.
The event took place while illustrator Charlie Smits customised some of their most iconic sneakers, and fashion’s fast-paced nature, something that these designers all take to heart. 44Studio doesn’t believe in seasons nor trends, instead, the brand takes on a genderless and minimalist approach. Dominnico, on the other hand, takes its creations to the most extravagant and overloaded limit, using techniques like laser cutting and 3D technology; while Outsiders Division is all about fun, colourful designs and the constant fear of growing up. But, even if their approaches are pretty different, they end up facing similar obstacles: lack of financial support, gendered clothing limitations, and insufficient transparency with customers.
“We are optimistic but, at the same time, aware that the fashion world has to change,” the 44Studio studio proclaimed when asked about the state of the fashion industry. But they all had great expectations as to what’s next. “Talent, strength, and innovation,” said Dominnico. “Commitment, authenticity and ethical productions,” Méndez added.
When a brand is starting, it is difficult to be recognised, mainly by those at the forefront of the fashion business, financially speaking. New talent needs funding to create a marketplace for themselves but, most importantly, they need to find a sustainable way of balancing the creative and commercial aspects. “There’s a lot of potential here. We need more support, to value the Made in Spain and be aware of the talent there is,” Xavi asserted.
“There’s a lack of investment, commitment, and too much competition. Perhaps Spanish fashion needs to be established as a daily option in our wardrobe, and not as an eccentric element that we only use once a year,” suggested Méndez. They all acknowledged the industry has to evolve and the current political, social and economical changes need to be seen as an opportunity to re-think the traditional system — a statement that acquires a new light in our current state.
“The most important thing is freedom, that there are no labels. The client is the one deciding, nobody dictates anything. For us, the future is genderless,” mentioned Franx. “There’s a lot to be done, but it’s true, the path is being drawn towards genderless clothing,” Outsiders Division agreed.
But, unlike other creatives around him, Dominnico, whose work spans womenswear only, wanted to defend his vision.“ I don’t consider that my brand is excluding part of society. My pieces can be adapted to one and the other; each person can choose,” he explained. “I’m part of a generation that questions everything. I understand that my way of expressing myself is this one, and if I change it, I would lose all my values. When the time to expand will come, it will be woman and man, but I do differentiate between both of them.”
Gendered clothing is still the mainstay in our society. Maybe that will change completely soon. But, aside from that, what can emerging talents do to keep evolving? To keep their companies thriving and adapt to a newer demand? “Total transparency, to not pollute and always try to be consistent,” Méndez was quick to pinpoint. “Absolutely! Our responsibility as a brand is to be truthful to ourselves and to treat our clients with respect, giving them full transparency,” 44Studio added.
Nowadays, building a community is essential to building a brand. New and established designers need to find a business model that enables developing a relationship with their customers. We’re undergoing a great transformation and communication is constantly redefined. It’s no longer about being exclusive and desirable but being approachable.
On top of that, the coronavirus pandemic has already altered our everyday life and will continue to do so. COVID-19 has made major shifts to consumer behaviour and our approach to fashion will be changed forever, hopefully into a more meaningful and conscious one.
For some, collaboration is the best response to the constant change and the newer needs of the different generations. “There is a lot of rivalry between brands, I believe that if we support each other, we can achieve more things,” Franx pointed out. Capsule collections are becoming increasingly present in the actual panorama and both fast-fashion and high-end houses are joining forces trying to reach both ends of the spectrum. But, for others, their individuality is what’s keeping them alive, and what makes them stand out. “Fashion is a continuous flow! And from our individuality, each one of us has to be aware of what they bring to the table and what they don’t,” claimed Dominnico.
So, what is waiting for us at the end of the quarantine? No one can answer this question at the moment but for these blooming designers, the message is clear: The nostalgia of the past allows you to look with the confidence of what’s yet to come. Outsiders Division’s creative director summarised this idea perfectly: “I consider myself optimistic, although I always say that any past time was better.”
words. Mehdi Bensalah
special thanks to Art Company Shoes + Wag1Studio
images courtesy of Wag1Studio