A new tide

Hi all, this is Ste LOFO. I’ve been peddling around the idea of writing and documenting what we do. That comes with considerable doubt and a lot of fear to be honest. But it’s important that this whole experience catches some shape. I’m thinking that for all people in business and especially in the fashion industry, just starting out, it will be important at some point in their journey.

Right now we’re camped in our home, a one bedroom in South East London. Planning the next LOFO edit – it will take many things from the lockdown experience and reinterpret them in a physical setting. Pieces for the next edit are in production in Romania, where the main workshop we work with slowly returned from isolation.

There is a drive to make new things that I noticed when talking to people in the industry. Many shifts are taking place.

On a larger scale, mammoth producers are beginning to talk about backward integration and semi-automation. That means that they’re going up the production chain, buying and integrating parts that defaulted during the virus crisis. Near-shoring is another thing that often pops up in their plans. Of course, when they’re talking about that they’re thinking Turkey instead of China. You probably know our plans to move production to London, right in the middle of it all. That’s basically on-shoring, as the distance towards the buyer is practically zero. That of course impacts many things related to sustainability of transport. Think of all the extra emissions necessary to transport out-of-factory stocks to warehouses. And the fact that the transport routes aren’t necessarily green. The China made blouse, even if it’s organic cotton, could have travelled by ship and road for a long time before it got to the warehouse before reaching you. There is no assurance that anybody down that sourcing chain thought about how to reduce their footprint.

Smaller players is where beauty lies. Everybody’s scouring around, scared for their impending doom aka destabilised cashflows. Yet small producers don’t seem to be engulfed in that gloom. Some of them are making things like Emergency Designer Network. Or teaching. Or thinking about how to better approach facets of sustainability. Generally now you see why sustainability was mostly a nice to have for most high-market producers and retailers. Paradoxically, from now on it might be the big thing, the differentiator, in a new era.

Would it be ok to call it an era? From many angles, it feels like it is. From others angles it looks like a bump in a steady journey. Being in the middle of the transition must feel like nothing is changing too much. But zoom out and there might be a lot of things changing at once. BOF just released a Covid-19 special report. It’s available for download. Their past reports (2017-2018) were indefinitely optimistic. Towards 2019 they veered towards caution, as a financial hiccup (or full blown crisis, as far as anybody could tell) was looming. Now it’s about gathering corpses from the battlefield. And also talk about reformation. How much of that is pure talk we’ll have to see. What’s certain is that there are many signs that many things will shake and many will suffer systemic changes. That qualifies as an era if you ask me. What will define the things that come next is hard to say. There are a few hints on the horizon. Will write about those, since this turned out to be a little longer than planned.

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