The fashion industry is extraordinarily competitive, and to be successful, it's not enough just to be a great designer — you also have to be a savvy businessperson, marketer and self-promoter. And it's difficult for any line to survive without increased growth over time. First you sell to small boutiques, then larger stores, then you have your own store, and soon a worldwide chain. Vivienne Westwood has walked that path, and following some expansion last year in the U.S. and China (to the tune of $7 million in sales) has decided it's not the right business model.
"I have decided not to expand any more. In fact I want to do the opposite," she told the Observer. "I am now more interested in quality rather than quantity."
The 72-year-old British designer, who came of age during the punk era, is a long-time activist who has brought attention to the ecological problems inherent to fracking, rain forest destruction, and reforming business. Her most recent focus is climate change, and she has connected the dots between the fast-fashion mentality of the day and the significant toll her industry (the third largest in the world in terms of environmental impact) has on the environment. She's blogged about it on her site, Climate Revolution.
She's also launched a photo campaign for the Greenpeace campaign, "Save the Arctic," which includes shots with George Clooney and Chris Martin of Coldplay fame.
In the minds of many, Westwood is moving backwards with the focus on the quality of her clothing, rather than quantity. Conventional fashion wisdom about moving forward would be to make more stuff and to open more stores. Westwood's move is literally the opposite of what other large brands, like the Gap, H&M and others consider "good business." But with her focus on quality, Westwood can lower the impact of her line, while sticking to what she does best — designing fabulous clothing that stands the test of time.
"Do I feel guilty about all the consumption that the fashion world promotes? Well, I can answer that by saying that I am now trying to make my own business more efficient and self-sustaining. This also means trying to make everybody who works in it happy, if I can."
Westwood wrote on her site, "Generally we want our customers to 'Buy less, Choose well, make it last.'"
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