Seamstresses unbound

The recent UNESCO World Forum on Culture and Creative Industries celebrated the link between fashion and craft practice. A consistent theme was the dependence of fashion designers on good artisans. But here lies the problem.

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On the opening day, the Artistic Director for Linvin, Alber Elbaz confessed that he was worried that his specialised workers were getting old and there was no one to replace them. His otherwise enchanting talk left this question dangling: ‘Who would want to be a seamstress these days?’ Good question.

So how can these positions attract a new generation? One possibility is to make them less anonymous. They could be featured in the company’s website and perhaps even mentioned on the label. It was suggested that this might be in the form of ‘the credits at the end of the film’. Maybe, but what about at the beginning of the film, where we would normally find the names of leading actors after the director?

An alternative strategy suggested by Francoise Riviere at the end of the forum was to offer scholarships for craft practice. Both would be nice.

Elbaz also emphasised the importance of stories in design. This loomed as one of the principal challenges for craft today – to find ways of conveying its meaning in an engaging manner. This would a useful workshop, don’t you think – the narrative basis for craft?

Paula Moreno speaking at UNESCO World Forum

Paula Moreno speaking at UNESCO World Forum

In the end, the forum participants seemed particularly inspired by the Colombian Minister of Culture, Paula Moreno. Moreno argued for recognition for the South, not as an exotic attraction, but as equal. Her call that ‘culture is a history of the future’ was quoted many times by the end of the forum.

So, the forum represented a unique platform for crafts on the world stage. The challenge now is to use this momentum to launch programs that can address issues like anonymity, narrative and sustainable links to industry. We certainly recognise that our future needs the history of craft. Good design must be well-made. We need to acknowledge those whose skills make things possible.

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