Fashion Democracy: The Changing Geopolitics of Fashion

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“Maybe it’s time we all take a stance,” Mr. Kane said. No designer is an island, even if he lives on one.

The winds of change are certainly blowing just as vehemently across the fashion industry as they are across other business sectors as we shift to a new economic paradigm. No-one can deny that the world is in a state of flux; it’s clear that everything is under review and up for discussion. From the individual to the institutional, there is a certainty that we need to start doing things differently if we want to create a more equitable, sustainable, conscious and joyful world order. The rate of change is palpable and even though for some it may seem disconcerting, let us focus on the excitement and the opportunity of being the instigators and the architects of a better world.

The Fashion Industry’s stance on Brexit is loud and clear. There was an impassioned display of Remain at the latest presentation of the Menswear Collections in London where several designers rocked ‘IN’ T-shirts and rallied European flags.  Apart from the practical reasons for Remain such as wanting to avoid the end of free trade in Europe, the knock on hike in manufacturing costs, safeguarding the right of EU citizens to live and work in the UK, (given that most British ateliers are fuelled by Europe’s technical expertise) what’s really at the heart of the matter is more complex and esoteric.

The Identity of some of the UK’s most prolific brands is so unique because of the eclectic mix of aesthetic heritage afforded by their international references and make-up. Fashion is so intrinsically bound with cultural and national identity that it’s no surprise that the advent of globalization, heralded by greater connectivity, travel and the elevation of living standards, is affecting the landscape for both designers and consumers. I think we are in a period of re-defining the way we interact with ourselves, with each other, with our clothes and with the planet.

Ultimately modern fashion is freedom of expression, it is the licence to create and craft identities as we please, the outer expression of our innermost desires, sensibilities and aspirations. There’s a natural symbiosis between the opening up of countries previously under oppressive political regimes and the arrival of well-known International fashion brands.

In Iran, where sanctions have recently been lifted and the political mood is becoming more favorable to international engagement, it’s no surprise that a few of the major players have already arrived on the scene, lured by an increasingly style savvy population of 80 Million with one of the most sophisticated cultural & aesthetic legacies in the world.

Roberto Cavalli opened its doors in Tehran in February shortly followed by Versace. A whole host of brands are eager to enter Iran – Inditex, Ralph Lauren, LVMH to name but a few. However this is still sensitive territory. Moderate politicians are making progress, yet attacks on fashion by hardliners still occur. The recent incident where bloggers & models were arrested for taking selfies without headscarves is a case in point.

What’s exciting is how young Iranian women are interpreting global fashion trends into their own fashion language that pays homage to their cultural traditions.  The power of fashion to unite, to inspire, to liberate is a potent elixir that thanks to the internet and social media is reaching corners of the globe that previously wouldn’t have had access to such an enticing array of influences, styles and inspiration.

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