Tamsin Blanchard’s Ultimate Guide to the Fashion Open Studio Events Taking Place During Fashion Revolution Week


Monday signifies the start to this year’s Fashion Revolution Week, the annual global campaign fighting for a safer and fairer fashion industry for all. Falling on the anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse, which killed over 1000 people in Dhaka back in 2013, the seven-day event is packed with workshops, talks and events that encourage people around the world to unite in aim of pushing for serious systematic change within all aspects of the fashion industry. Whilst this year’s schedule is rather different in comparison to previous iterations, with us all locked inside and all, Fashion Revolution Week is still jam-packed with content to keep you entertained and inspired to push for a more transparent industry moving forward. One of the places where you can find fantastic content is at Fashion Open Studio. At the forefront of progressive and sustainable fashion, Fashion Open Studio’s events have been transformed into digital workshops, live-streams and interactive virual platforms. Special events curator at Fashion Revolution and contributing editor of 10 Magazine’s 20th Anniversary Issue, Tamsin Blanchard, is in charge of putting together the Fashion Open Studio programme – here she tells us what we have to look forward to…  

At the beginning of March, plans were still going full speed ahead for Fashion Open Studio 2020, a programme of workshops, tours and actual physical happenings (remember them?) during Fashion Revolution Week, where fashion designers open up their studios to talk about how they make their clothes in the spirit of total transparency and sharing best practice.

Now in its fourth year, this week-long celebration of solution-sharing innovation and craftsmanship had grown to include an international showcase featuring 24 designers across twelve countries in addition to 30 events in the UK. By the middle of March things were beginning to feel a little wobbly. How were we going to deliver this programme of events built around the small confined spaces of designers’ studios in the middle of a pandemic?

Over the past year, the whole notion of fashion weeks as we know them has been questioned. How can we justify flying press and buyers around the world practically every other month? Swedish Fashion Week was paused in July for the organisers to rethink; Extinction Rebellion demanded that London Fashion Week was cancelled. The excesses of the fashion world needed to be recalibrated in the midst of the climate emergency. Fashion Open Studio was an opportunity for designers to change the narrative of fashion, to talk about the provenance of their materials, explain different business models, make fashion for well, people who have a conscience and want the choices they make when they shop to reflect what’s going on in society. The fashion landscape is changing. And after Covid-19, we won’t even recognise it. Vogue Italia’s white cover for May says it all. It’s time for a new start.

And this, dear conscious, anxious, concerned reader, is where Fashion Open Studio comes in. It was set up as part of Fashion Revolution Week in 2017 to showcase the many brilliant and innovative solutions designers are proposing and putting into practice to ensure they are not guilty of any of the dirty little secrets that have become the norm across the industry. There are so many positive, life-enhancing alternatives to the conventional, wasteful, resource-abusing, purpose-less and lazy habits many brands have formed. So Fashion Open Studio is a space for all the forward-thinkers, the brave new worlders, the solution seekers, the creative upcyclers, the zero wasters and the trash busters to come together and present the new normal. This is fashion as we should know it.

@bodicebodice, photographed by Tenzing Dakpa.

Covid-19 has pushed us to accelerate new and innovative ways of showcasing fashion which we hope to build on in the coming year. Solutions to the global challenges designers and supply chains face can be found within the industry itself through the dedication and commitment of industry insiders striving to explore new ways of working.

Fashion Open Studio proposes a whole new industry agenda. When designers open up their studios to the public, press and industry alike, and talk about the people who make their clothes, their production processes and solutions to particular challenges, they are each contributing towards a crucial shift across the industry. By opening up their practice to questions and welcoming a level of transparency that holds designers accountable every step of the way.

So it was more important than ever, as the creative spirits are caught up in isolation, their creative juices going into overdrive wondering how they can move forward once this unimaginable health crisis is over, that we created a space to connect them. Fashion Open Studio online will bring the designers and their world of sustainable innovation to your screens, via Zoom, Instagram Live, and YouTube, direct from the homes (and some studios) of an incredible and diverse selection of designers to you in your home.. If you want to see a fashion community equipped and ready for a post-pandemic, climate challenged world, this is it.

Highlights include a peek inside the glittering utopian world of Kevin Germanier, the Swiss designer who will be sharing some of the secrets of dressing artists including Björk, Kirsten Stewart and K-Pop sensation Sunmi for red carpet events using only pre-consumer waste and rescued beads. Kevin will give a frank, behind the scenes look at some of his inspiration and processes. Helen Kirkum will also be using waste as a resource with her Sneaker Sculpture workshop, where you can join along with her to make prototype sneakers from the contents of your recycling bin. Helen knows everything there is to know about the construction of a pair of trainers, and specialises in deconstructing odd pairs of shoes destined for landfill to make her own cult designs.

@guyllelujah, photographed by Dan Ayi Madondo.

From the Czech Republic, (without so much as a single air mile) Odivi will host a digital show and tell around the concept NAKED FIRST, EXISTING SECOND. Last year, their collection 0+ was designed to start a conversation about the unsustainable model of fashion seasons, over-consumption and a lack of self-reflection. “15 naked models on the catwalk supported our idea of what a 100% sustainable collection looks like,” says designer Iva Burkertova. “ The show was also a metaphor for the collective blindness which dominates the fashion world and was inspired by the fairytale The Emperor’s New Clothes. Now we are now making our second step towards a better approach to fashion, using second hand jackets as a tool to demonstrate our concept of a sustainable collection.” Iva will be showing pieces from their new collection and explain the processes and ideas behind the work.

You can also meet Soup Archive, a Berlin-based brand, with an emphasis on deconstruction and reusing materials. “We make clothes that reflect our humour and our love of finding things spontaneously. We work with sourcing from vintage shops, deconstruction, sublimation printing and one-off detailing,” they say. The results are surreal, playful, and surprising. Their ‘Play Day’ session will change the way you look at, well, pretty much everything.

If you want to learn some skills, you’ll be able to follow along with Sophie Hawkins denim mending session which is part of the Denim Day which kicks off the week in partnership with the sustainable denim manufacturer ISKO (and don’t miss denim guru Mohsin Sajid of craft denim brand Endrime as he presents a brief history of denim and a tour of his West Sussex studio). You can also learn some embroidery tips with Iranian artist Sona Asemani whose interest in embroidery and textile design has its roots in her hometown Hormozgan. She combines line drawings and embroidery to create portraits designed to look out at the audience. They are truly beautiful and you’ll be embroidering portraits of your friends and family before the end of her workshop.

For this digital programme, we continue our partnership with the Sarabande Foundation and will be screening two short films as part of the Sarabande Sessions featuring two of the designers they have helped set up in business, Roberts Wood who will be taking us on a tour of the church they now work in Lincolnshire, and Leo Carlton, who will explain his VR modelling and 3-D printing for his extraordinary collection of head-pieces.

@bethany_williams_london, photographed by Jason Lloyd-Evans. 

Another collaboration is with Somerset House who will co-host a two hour mini-programme continuing from its Earth Day events beginning on April 22 with a project led by Bethany Williams. Bethany will be talking about how she has created a new purpose-driven business model that integrates the work of a range of charities and social enterprises into her collections. The event will also include a discussion on materials and research by recent CSM graduate Paolo Carzana, a macramé tutorial (using any string-like material you can find, shred or unravel) by the knitwear designer Katie Jones and a playful interactive session with anonymous design collective, Congregation.

This is just a sample of this rich week of inclusive, localised, phenomenal fashion which will provide so much food for thought for how things can be given the right mindset, values and imagination. Other designers involved include Raeburn (a workshop on rapid repairs), Ssone (tapestry from waste) E.L.V. Denim, and a collage session with Elliss. Phoebe English will be taking time out of orchestrating a team of designers making PPE for the NHS to teach patchwork techniques and she will have the last word: “The more you talk,” she says, “the more we behave as a community of active citizens, the more solutions will appear.”

Top image Vivienne Westwood SS20. For full details on Fashion Open Studio and to register for events, go to fashionopenstudio.com.


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