As those of you who have read the post about the Samanta Bullock Event launch will know, a little while ago I had the absolute honour of meeting Caryn Franklin herself. She did not disappoint on any level. She walked in with her gorgeous hair down in a pony tail, a trendy long jacket and some smooth trainers on. Moving with effortless grace around the event, she was visibly glowing and was clearly so excited to be there. She was also so lovely to everyone who wanted selfies etc. though to my great irritation, there were people there who were not aware they were in the presence of such an icon.
(For any of you wayward readers who aren’t aware of who she is, stop reading this and go watch an episode of The Clothes Show for heaven sake!!)
I got to speak to her, albeit far too briefly, and she marvellously lived up to my expectations. Actually the primary thing she told me to do was take a chill and live life a bit, especially after I told her I was there not even a month after completing my finals looking for work. This definitely helped me breathe a sigh of relief and realise that I was not expected to immediately change the world within two minutes of graduating. She was radiant and supportive and it couldn’t have been a more uplifting experience, something that one is so wary of when meeting an idol.
The thing is she basically has had the career I aspire to, and has done nothing but work for diversity in her years of experience in the industry. Writing, teaching, speaking, and most importantly, actually changing things in the industry, Franklin has always pushed to better what fashion represents and has broken world records whilst doing so. Today I’d like to talk about a concept of hers that changed fundamentally the way I viewed fashion, and what I wanted to do in fashion, when I read it now half a decade ago.
My interest in fashion came from quite simple beginnings – I like pretty, stylish, structured, elegant things. Not exactly the deepest approach to what clothing and makeup can do for people… However, at the impressionable age of 16, I read an article by Franklin about how individuals interested in fashion can love the industry, but also be actively passionate about the influence it has over so many people’s lives, especially given how negative that influence so often is. It seems pointless to try summarise her writing on these topics, and to read more about her interpretation of disruptive fashion, take a look at her blog and the numerous articles she has already written on the subject (they’re linked below!). What I’d like to briefly speak of here is the influence of this thought process on my own approach to the industry, especially now as a graduate who is attempting to take my first steps in it.
The industry has a way of seeming impenetrable. It is a place full of a drive to idealism and perfection, and it often seems that one must conform to the very limited boundaries built by a few white male desginers a few decades ago (of course stemming from long-standing inherent prejudices). Change seems impossible to forge, and though there are some amazing icons (Franklin of course being one, alongside my own personal idols like Naomi Campbell, Pat Mcgrath and André Leon Talley), more often than not the fashion industry seems set in its ways. However, as Franklin makes you realise, to love the industry is not to love any of these ideals. And more importantly, these ideals are not remotely what fashion is about.
I was always the kid, especially adoring films like The Devil Wears Prada, and worshipping legends like Anna Wintour, that succumbed to these cold icy ideals. (Don’t get wrong though Anna Wintour is my Queen). However, as I learnt more about people like André Leon Talley, I found myself able to realise that there was space for change in the industry. And in fact, it is the responsibility of all of us who love the industry, as Franklin so usefully puts, to disrupt it. To love the industry and what it truly stands for is in fact to disrupt these ideals.
It is by no means easy, as Franklin readily points out. In her articles, she makes clear the long-standing traditions and hurdles that makes these limited boundaries seem impossible to break down. And as I find myself entering the industry, I am already, in just a few months, faced with the deep prejudices that sadly still prevail. I am told that when I speak of diversity, it is too ‘creative and innovative’ to be applicable now (direct quote of feedback from a job interview). It is for the ‘newer and younger brands’ to try to tackle these challenges, while the older brands are comfortable just set in their ways. Most of all I am finding it remarkable how resistant people are to change. (Don’t get me wrong Franklin, and many others, have always made clear that change is hard to come by, but shocker I didn’t quite listen…)
But what reading her work and following her example has led me to understand is that I want to be in the industry in a way that disrupts and changes ideals. And though they may seem hard to come by, many people in the industry are, and have been for a long time, seeking ways to break down the boundaries and change the ideals.
‘DON’T feel powerless. YOU ARE NOT’ – Caryn Franklin
Please read!! –