This week I did something I never do; I investigated what people were saying about the subject before writing this post. Considering the awe-inspiring topic, I felt I needed to found out what the reaction was elsewhere. Let’s just say, it’s mixed.
I’m talking about the launch of a new label, instigated by Bruno Pieters, called Honest by. Pieters is one of those designers with cachet; Antwerpian, minimalist, known for considered lines and luxurious fabrics. So far, so boring. This is why his new project came as a bolt from the blue. He quit as art director of Hugo by Hugo Boss and shelved his eponymous label for a year-long sabbatical in India. There, he noticed people wearing clothing that was grown, woven and sewn locally, using raw materials that were readily available. Upon return to Antwerp, he set about developing a supply chain system that was sustainable with full disclosure. The resultant project is radical and special and completely unorthodox.
Pieters has created a limited edition collection for men and women will full transparency. That means offering detailed information on where and by whom the collection was made. Right down to the zips and thread, we can view how many steps were needed to create each garment and how much each process cost. This is nothing short of revolutionary. There is no other company that offers this level of detail, in fact many are possibly unaware of the details of each step in the supply chain. Pieters is concerned with designing trans-seasonal garments that can be worn for years rather than months. This chimes with the emerging trend of returning to slower and slower purchasing patterns. We are already being forced to. Spring stock is on the high-street and it’s snowing so the sooner we drop the notion of invented seasons, the better.
Obviously this collection isn’t for everyone, with dresses at around €500, rising to over €1,000 for a coat I don’t think I’ll be making an impulse purchase. Pieters “modest chic” aesthetic also leaves me a bit cold, but thankfully (and cleverly) Pieters had enrolled a number of other designers to participate, with a new name set to appear every three months, selling collections based on the same honest philosophy. I really, really hope this works but there are a few aspects that may prohibit its success.
Luxury isn’t really in my lexicon but I get how it works. Consumers spend lots of money to buy a product or enjoy an experience that makes them feel special, takes them away from daily drudgery and makes them feel like they’re living the dream. It’s a fantasy world, and that’s not a bad thing when reality ain’t exactly rosy. But I wonder if this luxurious line is a little too real for the luxury consumer. Nitty gritty aspects of certifications, costings, and proscribed use of fur and leather? Where is the fun and the escapism? Maybe this is the new consumerism; working together to form a better world for all. We are already witnessing this change with the explosion of community groups, a return to shopping locally and more neighbourly interactions on a daily basis. Yes, I think this hippy “one love” approach is coming to a street corner near you in the coming decade, but is this a case of too much, too soon?
Is the fashion establishment ready?
Notoriously old-fashioned and hierarchical, the fashion industry is reluctant to break from the status quo. Pieters has the advantage of already being an insider, with enough clout to garner attention but can this collection have far-reaching influence or will it remain extremely niche? In an ideal world, his approach would influence other brands, at least in the same price-bracket and sphere as Bruno Pieters, eventually filtering down to cheaper, high-street brands. I’ve said before that this level of sustainability and transparency needs to become normal and I fully believe that one day it will. I applaud Bruno Pieters’ vision and I think he has the right to clap himself on the back until he’s black and blue, but whether this forward-thinking approach will actually resonate with other brands and more importantly with consumers, remains to be seen.
Photos courtesy of http://www.honestby.com/