What is fashion right now? By Rob Phillips

What is fashion right now? What does it mean? How does it look?

I see professionalism, planning, polishing, formatting and branding of ultimately a lot of clothing.

There is a distinct difference between fashion and clothing. Look around you; in the streets, in the media and in advertising. There is plenty of clothing in fashion but where is the fashion in clothing?

To me fashion is a foundation that we build on to personify our individuality. Fashion offers an opportunity to display aspects of our character and our existence.

Difference is interesting, it is not to be feared or mocked. Difference moves us forward and fashion aids this.

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Drawing by Rob Phillips of Nathalie Ballout, BA Fashion Textiles: Embroidery. Hair pieces by Billie Pingault, BA Hair, Makeup and Prosthetics for Performance.

Right now I see a lot of similarity. A movement to blend in rather than stand out. Replicating, reinventing, recent referencing create mass sales and instant successes but where is the kudos in homogeneity? Where is the challenge or the progressiveness?

I think about relevance all the time. It intrigues and scares me in equal measure. As fashion is now so saturated, habitual and familiar is fashion relevance still relevant?

Professionalism is the current standard, a standard that erases the rawness, the dirty, the ugly. Professionalising all the feelings that potentially created the results in the first place. We live in a world where everything is presented, branded, scrubbed to be professional, presentable, likeable… perfect. It’s time to step away from professionalism.

If now is the time for professionalism, root to tip, then what is next?

It’s ‘what’s next’ that education is about and what industry needs if to be relevant.

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Oilam (Louisa) Pang, BA Fashion Design Technology: Menswear. Photography by James Rees

We (our staff and students) know how to meet today’s standards, all the professional skills required to enter the fashion industry are in our curricula and teachings; to cut clothing classically, to make clothing perfectly, to produce quality. But we push our students to produce something not for the now, but for the future. We push them beyond the current status quo and ask them to produce something to evoke feeling, instigate change, question the moment, make a statement… We ask, show us something different, do something, anything beyond the current overload of clothing and the current standard.

People say shouldn’t they (the students) be producing clothing! I laugh and say they can, but does fashion need more clothing right now? And if they produce something for the moment has the moment not passed by the time they have gone through the process and produced it?

No, ideas are what fashion needs right now and these come from a shake up of what’s going on and makes our students more vital to fashion both as a business and art form.

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Chun Yin Mok, BA Fashion Design Technology: Womenswear. Photography by James Rees

So I say to the students create a new standard. I say learn this system, the skills needed to operate in it and then destroy them. Build a bonfire of all that ‘clothing’ because we don’t need any more of it. Fuck up the skills you’ve learnt and see what happens. Question it all. Now create something. Create something different. Sometimes to create something new is to build on what we know, or to equally destroy what we know and start again as if clothing or fashion had never been invented.

What’s at the heart of our practice is art and skills. Art, because art is where we think, find questions and answers beyond reality; because reality is where we are and art is where we could be. Skills are how we turn art into something and are the foundations to voice our passions through to personify us as individuals and set our own standards.

Rob Phillips is Creative Director of the School of Design & Technology at London College of Fashion. The #LCFBA15 catwalk show will be live streamed on the LCF Channel on Monday 8th June 2015. The #LCFBA15 exhibition will take place from 9th to 13th June 2015 at 3/10 Shoreditch High Street, London E1 6PG.