Letter From the Editor: On the Industry
Hi! Welcome back!
The 2017 FSJ might say, “Sorry we’ve kept you waiting so long for this issue!” But the 2018 FSJ is done with meaningless knee-jerk apologies! Instead we’ll say, we’re so happy you’re here with us now, and we’re excited to share this fantastic work with you! The truth is, we’re humans, just like you, and the last six months have seen our editors dealing with a full draft dissertation submission, a cross-country move, multiple job and apartment changes, and a baby. So there we go.
One thing I always tell myself and whoever else needs to hear it is that, when it comes to release dates for independent projects like FSJ, “nobody cares.” That doesn’t mean the work doesn’t matter, and it’s certainly not a dismissal of our wonderful readers, but it’s a little reminder that we are free from the pressures that face, for instance, the fashion industry. We don’t have a seasonal calendar by which we simply must produce or perish; we’re a scrappy group of colleagues all doing our own things and coming together to put this thing out as consistently as we can. But literally no one has our last release date in their mind and is calculating how many months it’s been and when the next one is due. Ah, the freedom of the DIY project!
How nice for us to sit here on the fringes of the fashion business, as these little goblins perched on the windowsill giggling at the spectacle!
What, do you not identify this way? Just me? Ok.
As scholars, critics, historians, and theorists, we may have other institutional pressures (more on that next time!), but the relentless production schedule of the fashion industry has no bearing on our work or creativity. All we can really do is squint and point and scratch at the surface of that system, questioning how it does its thing, which is exactly what this special issue is about.
The concept for our fifth issue is “The Industry,” that big, scary engine of capitalism that employs so many millions and clothes everyone else. What is the fashion industry and what makes it work? As far as I can tell, the answer is people. The industry is a network of workplaces, filled with workers, and those workers are people (at least for now!!!!!). They have lives outside of these workplaces, and needs and desires within them. They wear clothes, and they have thoughts and feelings about the clothes they wear and the ones they make. They build and maintain connections within the larger network, and they make changes that affect others within it. The industry is people, and I think this issue reflects that.
I can’t help but think of the important work of our colleague and friend Christina Moon, whose scholarly work has focused so much on the intimate connections between the people who make up this massive workforce. Her perspective on the importance of the personal stories of people at all levels of the industry really guides this special collection of pieces, which you’ll notice skew heavily toward profiles, interviews, and memoir. This wasn’t necessarily what we set out to publish, but it’s what felt true to our contributors.
You’ll notice that the idea of change comes up a lot. There’s no doubt that the fashion industry is in a period of major change, but isn’t that kind of the point? Isn’t it always, and isn’t everything? Is there an industry out there right now not experiencing a reckoning? Everyone is facing the effects of the unchecked exploitation of resources – human and natural – and hopefully (hopefully!!) seeking a better way forward. So, what does fashion have to offer this conversation? If the industry wants to maintain its self-image as a driver of progressive social change and liberation, let’s see it! Let’s see how you dress the revolution!
Okay, so maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. I won’t pretend that this issue offers a solution for untangling fashion from capitalism and bringing justice for the earth and everyone on it. But what I think it does offer is a snapshot of what it looks like in 2018 when fashion people self-examine. It’s comfortable, in fashion scholarship, to look back. The past is complex and multifaceted, but at least it’s done. Trying to see fashion in the present is, like, a full-on Monet. From far away it’s okay, but up close it’s a big ol’ mess! This issue, this attempt to encapsulate the present state of the fashion business, is like taking a step back and one to the side and looking at the canvas from a different angle.
We’ve loosened the boundaries of our usual columns in order to present what felt like an honest response from our community to the question of what is the fashion business. Some answers do look back in history (I loved learning about the career of American fashion pioneer and educator Ethel Traphagen), while a cluster of others look to the future by engaging with the bugaboo of sustainability. Most of the pieces here are concerned with how it feels to work in and around this huge, multivalent industry right now. From activists to designers, editors to retailers, models, casting agents, and executives, there’s a lot to take in and we really hope you’ll embrace your goblin identity and have fun peering through the window with us!
Finally, we’re trying something a little bit different for this special issue, and sharing a selection of poems from the portfolio of Gonzalo Masses, our candidate for poet laureate of the fashion industry. You’ll find his work interspersed throughout the issue, and we expect you’ll get as much of a kick out of it as we do.
Thanks for joining us and, as always, please get and stay in touch!
We love you!
Laura and the rest of the FSJ Editorial Team (March 5, 2018)