Why Showing More Care in the Fashion Industry is Better for Everyone

The fashion industry tells us we should care about fashion. But do we care about the people in fashion?

This question has been on my mind for a long time. Thinking about how care – a soft, human emotion – can fit into the machinery of the fashion industry is difficult. Caring and profitable business don’t often go hand-in-hand. But incidents of care – and a lack of care – regularly occur in the fashion industry.

‘Care’ for me means the process of thinking about and looking after other people: something which is deeply emotional and highly cognitive (and difficult). Think about the ways in which you care for work colleagues: you observe their thoughts and behaviours, you keep track of their progress, provide advice when needed, and ‘review’ those behaviours and processes regularly.

You do this by asking ‘How are you?’ and listening to the answer.

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It’s clear that caring about people in the fashion industry is on the agenda, whether that’s working to care more or letting slip that you don’t give a toss. But all this care/lack of care comes from big organisations and big names. Do consumers care about those in fashion? If so, who and how?

*I’m still unsure whether this is simple yet searingly-awkward brand protection and transparency, or the man genuinely doesn’t believe women over a size 10 should wear his gear. Either way: ouch.

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I created two mindmaps to work through these ideas. Firstly, who is there in fashion to care about?

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These groups are based on the points in fashion’s journey (or commodity chain) from design to production to consumption. Many sectors of the fashion industry are multi-faceted, like retail: this includes a brand’s identity and execution but also shop workers and retail environments.

From this I worked through key factors that I believe define our relationships with these sectors.

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These relationship-defining concepts are flexible and this is just one way of approaching the issue of care; I’d like to see how other people think about it. This diagram boils down into seven care factors (an example for each is below):

  • Availability: how soon can I get a garment?
  • Ethics: how ethically sound is this process?
  • Innovation: how new is this object?
  • Price: how expensive is this item?
  • Quality: is this item high or low quality?
  • Uniqueness: how well-known is this item?
  • Value: how much is something worth?

How do these factors work?

These factors can be applied to the examples of care/lack of care I noted earlier:

Vogue launching The Health Initiative – ethics and (maintaining) quality

The Rana Plaza factory collapse – quality, ethics and value (is it worth it?)

Urban Outfitter customers as “upscale homeless” – lack of value and comprehension of uniqueness

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I used these factors and sectors to create a survey (sent out on social channels) where respondents rated the seven factors in order of importance when thinking about the care of each sector in the fashion industry (from one to seven, one being the most important).

Only a few people completed the survey (I’ll explain why shortly) but here are the top three results for each sector:

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Observations

  • Price only appears once, as the third most important factor of care for retail. I expected it to appear a lot more. The belief that consumers only care about price is simplistic but a consistent media story.
  • Publishers and faces are recognised and cared for due to uniqueness. Is this because of a genuine desire for something new and different, or because we are pushed the new and the different by editors and agents?
  • Quality was the most frequent factor of care and I’m pleased. We want things to be good, not just cheap or quick. Establishing processes of caring is all about ensuring better quality – whether that’s higher quality garments through caring about factories, or higher quality relationships through caring about colleagues.

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These results were gleaned from a tiny, teensy set of data. Why?

Because the whole survey was too removed from most people’s experience of fashion.

Asking most people whether they care about a distribution business being good quality, or a publisher having ethical standards, is like asking a bumblebee if she cares about sales of Crunchy Nut. She might do. But there are so many other, more pressing issues when it comes to her current predicament, she can’t think about Crunchy Nut right now.

There’s the same reaction with fashion.

 

 

 

 

There are so many problems with everyday fashion that consumers simply don’t have the time, energy or finance to start caring about distant and seemingly-unconnected sectors of the fashion industry. The high street is plagued by poor quality, poorly-fitting fashion, and our reading space with editorial promoting body-shaming and the need to disguise oneself through fashion. Consumers’ everyday experiences with the fashion industry – retail, publishers, famous faces – is not necessarily a positive one, which makes caring after that even harder; just like that first encounter with a grouchy colleague makes giving a toss a lot trickier.

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People care about fashion and what happens in the fashion industry. There is a difficult mix of emotion and cognition in how we (consumers and organisations) care about others in fashion, but care is there. We care what happens, and what’s going to be done about it: a great start.

Some things are too far away to care about. How can you care about factory conditions when you can’t find clothes that fit? This isn’t selfish or narrow-minded: it’s pragmatic and entirely human. Caring for everything would make us explode, so we care about the things that affect us directly first, then work out the other bits.

There’s a way to join up direct care and distant care.

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We care about things that affect us directly, and that we can change directly – like where you buy clothes. We feel as though we have a choice and a voice in this direct care, so we make it louder and bigger. If we knew how much those distant elements in the fashion industry affect our direct care, I think we would make more noise about them. For organisations as well as consumers, conceiving the fashion industry not as a set of discrete cells, but rather a whole hive, is essential to understanding how care across the board can make our direct experience of fashion better.

This concept of ‘connected care’ is only just starting to form in my mind, so I’ll have to leave you to mull it over. But thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoyed working through the concept of care in the fashion industry with me. And I care about your views, so please do air them: comment below, tweet me or email hello@threewordoutfit.com

Who’s Afraid of Those Pesky Millennials?

Who's Afraid of Those Pesky Millennials? | Eleanor Snare

I wrote this post when I was 26. The world, my work and I have changed a lot – but there’s still a strange fear of/attraction to youth in the marketing world. Let me know your thoughts @ebsnare on Twitter.

Let’s talk about the youth of today and how they’re going to take over the world.

I’m 26 and I’m aware of it. In my previous work (at a digital agency) that’s a nearly-senior type of age.

On the flip side, in a communications and creative agency, you’re still chewing a dummy and learning how to write ‘e’ correctly.

But when I talk to teenagers about learning to blog, or guest lecture at a university and fashion students raise their hand to let me know they’re one step ahead of me, I start to think of who’ll be coming next. Despite being young and starting out on my own creative journey, I already know there’s another wave of vibrant and irritatingly fresh-faced workers right behind me.

So who’s afraid of those pesky Millennials?

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What’s it like to know you’re going to pass on the creative baton?

Maybe we’re worried. More creatives means more competition. Youth is sexy and fun; maturity is dull and sensible. Young people talk differently, dress differently and don’t worry about mortgages, children and all the other trappings of adulthood that are seemingly so essential. They know about pop music and holograms and what’s cutting-edge – and if you’re not cutting-edge in creative then you’re screwed.

Maybe we’re a little bit elated. Young brains mean new ideas that need shaping by experience. Young people make us feel young, and who doesn’t want to feel a little bit sexy and sassy, with the added benefit of not having to go home to messy housemates? We can gain as much from youth as we can give to them, so they’re a valuable asset.

New generations do mean new views (outside my own bubble) which is way cool. @larrysbrain

We can all feel scared and elated simultaneously, but there is a definite divide between those who are more scared or more elated about the next generation coming into industry. It splits down a line of power.

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Creative agencies have been around for centuries: ‘marketing’ is just word-of-mouth for people with billboard space. Being bred in a creative agency is being bred into a world that has reigned supreme across all media for a long, long time (and will undoubtedly continue to do so). It’s a world that holds power and wisdom, where ‘the new’ is filtered through a range of respected people, trusted experiences and market testing.

Cheap technology allows anyone to be in the digital business – the amount of competition is vast. @darrenspink

On the other hand, being bred into a digital agency is being bred into a world that you know is changing every time you go to sleep at night. Individuals bred on digital can’t be scared of youth. It’s like being scared of the foundations of your house.

This is an industry composed of individuals who know their work will be taken over by something bigger, faster and ‘younger’ than they could ever be. Digital is the young upstart that acknowledges its own powerlessness, and that it’s ok.

 


 

There is a division between the Old School and New School: the traditional creative agency and the digital-that-does-creative agency.

Not all of the people in all of these industries fear or love youth – human beings are capable of feeling conflicting emotions without breaking down, and we are all different in our desires and phobias.

But it feels like the former School of creative ad agencies wants to embrace youth but is too frightened of relinquishing its power, while the latter School of digital-does-creative agencies draws youth close to its chest without fully realising the benefit of having experience.

With continuous development you should never be too old to be at the forefront of creativity. @justjampr

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Both schools have something to learn from each other about looking forward to being usurped by the next generation.

Traditional creative agencies need to learn about digital and know that coming from a digital background does not deny someone traditional, ‘deep’ ways of working.

Digital agencies need to learn about the rigour and experience in making things good that creative agencies offer – something that, in a rapid online world, gets thrown out of the window for a quick or cheap option.

Active learning – passing the torch onto others through case studies, work experience, lecturing and writing – is essential for both schools, and demonstrated well by One Thing I Know, a site giving advice for young creatives.

 


 

My creative journey is only just beginning, but I know on either side of me is someone telling me I’m young and another telling me I’m old. I will be learning from both of them to make my talent stronger, just like the Old School and the New School should be.

Because the ultimate aim for an excellent creative is not to be known as cutting-edge or classic, traditional or new-wave, young or old.

It is simply to be timeless.