BKStyle and BKStylecode is about, Color, culture and creative cottage based industry is my passion. I’ve found over the years that most Global cottage industry actually face similar challenges. So while I explore, write and focus on Black, and Caribbean fashion I remain in contact with artisans and crafter in Africa and across Europe! If there’s one thing that I’ve learned during my time in Brooklyn is that “Ethnic” fashion is more than “Black fashion”. and that Heritage can come from Greek, Russian , Asian, Italian, Brazilian and Indians and yes even “Korean” fast fashion and that all have a representation in ‘BKSTYLE”. Even then, I’ve learned that not all not all “Black Dress’ is the same. The Nigerian Style is different from their Senagalese and Ghanaian counterparts, and collectively continental African Style in design, work ethic and presentation, varies from Caribbean and African American design aesthetics. What is striking though is that there are commonalities which keep us all connected.
Strangely, I’ll admit I never considered the “Fast Fashion” sector as “Heritage”. However “Heritage” simply means passing down from generation to generation. in that light not all local cottage businesses are Heritage, a factor that I am sure has it’s pros and cons! I never really thought of why they differed and the possibilities till about the reading the businesses thatled the fashion sector since the late 1980’s as described by Anthropologist, Christina Moon article that appeared in the March/April 2014 issue of Pacific Standard as “The Slow Road to Fast Fashion.” http://www.psmag.com/navigation/business-economics/secret-world-slow-road-korea-los-angeles-behind-fast-fashion-73956/
The Korean experience is different from that of their “Black or Afraikn Diaspora counterpart”. Teh article tells a story many know little off from an insiders viewpoint. Contrast that with what I know , what i am learning, That during the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s, Many African & Caribbean garment families immigrated to the US, as a I read this article I began wondering at the lessons can be garneredand what inspiration I could glean.
It seems in the Korean culture tasks & expertise are divided. As a 3rd generation in the Caribbean garment sector, I had to be proficient in Design, cutting, sewing, finishing, design, production, logistics, wholesaling, and marketing, which meant slow fashion cycles. Even today it is still difficult to have my counterparts give up one or more aspects of their PLM (product line management) This can be simply attributed to the simple fact that it is difficult finding “adequate skilled experts” in specific areas in isolated locales. On the other hand, It’s difficult to justify a garment as Black when it is “Made in China or India”. The backlash as many are discovering is harsh and quick.
While Patternmaking and quality control is universal, Fit is not, and remains one of the biggest obstacles in scaling the black fashion sector. few realize that their is a thriving custom cottage sector within global ethnic markets primarily becasue of Fit issues. Since this is not an organized sector it is difficult to estimate it’s worth and potential. However technology now sees many of these locals going global. Currently many are in the black fashion sector are trying to navigate local and international import/export laws and rules with Fabric and trim sources, factories, managers, sample-makers, and sewers.
As for “Cultural fluency”, a sensibility for aesthetics and design, (in particular American), with strong cultural ties, 3nd and third generation Koreans were not fearful that designing with an American Aesthetic would usurp their culture. Western black cultures are extremely protective of preserving the cultural knowledge and affiliations recently connected to. As such they stick close to accepted “African’ aesthetics” that many see as bordering on costuming rather than design.
The Koreans took the risk! New distribution within the industry, falling on the shoulders of the Korean and Mexican families near the bottom of the production chain, meant that “families must invest cash and put thousands of styles into production before knowing what will sell.” By contrast the Black fashion community is very risk averse creating only what they believe will sell or taking only custom orders, which affected placement in retail establishment, magazine etc. In fact few have standing brick establishment. A factor that further hinders their growth and progress.
While the Fast fashion sector saw the relevant “season shift from 3 month to 2 weeks, Black designers are still challenged with defining the relevant Fashion cycles – not just how many seasons, but when.
Creating opportunities for mentorship and apprenticeship as well as strong connections is vital In developing “Heritage” businesses. Then again “heritage” needs to come with a solid understanding of technology and emerging stratup or industrial trends. technology that is culturally sensitive needs to become a topic of discussion if teh next generation is to thrive.
On the positive side, it is noted that the second generation Koreans used skills from American Institutions of learning in;- Branding, creating company logos, building out showroom spaces to make them appealing to American wholesale buyers, and setting up sleek websites, with the next generation exploring Video and other new media tools. In recent years I’ve observed many of the off-springs of colleagues attend and graduate such institutions. It remains to be seen how the American and European educated within this new generation of Black creative will take their place in family businesses … or create their own!