EXCLUSIVE: Fashion for the people (featuring The House of Byfield)

Whilst in the weekend of April 20th and 21st the eyes of the fashion industry were on the highly anticipated Vogue Festival in London, 321 kilometers across the North Sea there was another fashion event taking place. One that actually was, for the people. 

For two days the Armanius church in Rotterdam was the place to be for fashion talents, lovers, critics and press as Stravagante PR hosted Salone Della Moda. It was an inspiring two days, which focused on the question how the city of Rotterdam does fashion wise. The answer? Let’s take a look at what went down first.

Due to prior commitments I only attended Saturday’s festivities. The first thing that caught my eye was the fact that there were fashion design students from the ROC Hilversum, showcasing their capsule collections. Although I was skeptic about this at first, as I know that Rotterdam has its own set of fashion students, I then came to see the genius of it. It shows that this city embraces its own as much as it does others and doesn’t discriminate; something the fashion world is known for (and I’m not even talking about race here). 

That conclusion I made for myself is part of what makes Rotterdam so different and unique from the (other) fashion capitols of the world, according to renowned photographer Ari Versluis (of Exactitudes fame). He pointed out that Rotterdam is not as big as for instance a London and therefor different tribes live not only next to, but also amongst each other. This results in a clash of styles. People can’t look at their immediate surroundings for ways to dress in their style, so they have to go online and look on the blogs for what “people like them” are wearing. Still though, they are mostly inspired by each other, because you just run into each other here in this city.   

As elaborate and educated as Ari was though, the other shop owners and designer that took part in the debate failed to see what is the biggest problem in fashion. They went on and on about how everything is moving to the web and that designers aren’t taught the proper methods to build a business. As an International Fashion & Branding student I felt rather insulted. The problem is that the industry fails to recognize that there are fashion courses (like my own) dedicated to these aspects. The designer is not supposed to take care of the business or branding side of his empire. That’s what Branding and Management students from fashion colleges like AMFI are for. I didn’t stand up to share my voice though, as it would have been embarrassing for the professionals, since they are supposed to know these things, but it had to be said. And this is my blog, so you know.. I get to “call it like I see it” here. 

The debate wasn’t the only proof of the differences among fashion schools. Grace & Glory, on of the designer duos from ROC Hilversum, admitted that their course was more technical than others. And I have to agree. The designs were all good, well made, and some absolutely amazing even, but when faced with questions about their inspiration, goals and target groups it became obvious that these were not things they dealt with on a regular base. Interesting to say the least, because the very first thing we had to make in my course was an inspiration book (and you better believe that style.com was not cutting it) and the one thing that always comes back is the target group and target group research. I’ve seen some of my fellow students show amazing concepts to the teachers and still get torn apart, because the target group wasn’t clear or real, in turn making the concept superficial (according to my teachers of course). And as for goals.. Well I know from experience that most design students, in comparison to the branding and management ones, aren’t sure about what they want to do later on yet. I guess just being able to design something original is fulfilling enough (If only I had the patience to learn..).

Someone who does know exactly who he is designing for is Carmicheal Byfield. I have never seen a designer who is more calm, determined and in control as he was, hours and even minutes before the show (from designers I used to walk for back in the days – look at me acting all “model” up in here hahahah – to the big names you see in Vogue). And I was lucky enough to have him answer some of my questions. His show was the high light of the entire event. 

The House of Byfield is really a brand from “the people”, for the people. The designer told me that he really just wants to dress you and me and at this point doesn’t even have a celebrity in mind he would someday like to dress, in contrary to Dolce & Gabbana for example, who from the very beginning wanted to dress Madonna, as they admitted at Vogue Festival. The support and love that Carmicheal receives in return is so big that he even did three looks for women (a debut here in Holland – He has done womenswear before in New York), because they wanted in on the action as well.

There is something to be said about a designer who not only showcases his designs, but also promotes and supports his models, stylists and others that help him. Besides, if you get invited to take part in International Fashion Weeks where you normally have to pay to showcase, you can conclude that you are not only talented, but also nice. And anyone who makes me want to have a floral print shirt (the one thing I absolutely hate) gets mad credit from me. The colored pants they were matched with helped of course hahah. Catch more House of Byfield during the upcoming Las Vegas International Fashion Week and the first ever Curacao International Fashion Week (stay tuned for more on him on another blog about to launch.. I’ll keep you posted) and follow him on Facebook.

Love, R.

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