As summer faded and the leaves shed from their trees like skin, I recently found myself in a similar stage of transcendence. After spending a year moving in a career direction that clashed with my genuine goals, I guess you could say I was feeling more than a little jaded. After countless complications and setbacks, things have finally taken a turn in the right direction.
I began working as a junior menswear copywriter at fashion website Cocosa three months ago, and have been enjoying every minute of it. The company is still young and going through fast changes, which perfectly coincide with my own professional journey. I’m extremely excited to see how we will both grow.
Of course, what I’m happiest about is the fact that I finally have a day job where I get to write. It may be commercially led, but it’s a lifetime away from selling magazine advertising space to rude clients down the phone. Ultimately, I feel lucky to finally have a job where I get to use my imagination.
The role itself has got me thinking about the concept of fashion and my true feelings towards it. I’ve always had an interest in clothes, but there’s always been something holding me back from delving too far into that dimension. Perhaps in the creative pyramid of music, art and poetry, I have always seen fashion relatively low in the hierarchy. The fashion world felt so oversaturated and overcrowded. It just felt so superficial.
So taking on my role at Cocosa has really opened my eyes to what fashion is, and why it has such significance in the creative universe. When you put the all of the brands and marketing aside, fashion is a form of art.
I’ve delved back into the history of couture to gain a deeper understanding of its origins. I‘ve found a whole new respect not only for designers, but for garment technologists and pattern cutters too. My eyes have been opened to fashion as an industry where skilful people dedicate their lives to something they adore.
This was made even clearer when Cocosa sent me to Suffolk at the beginning of September, to visit the factory of heritage-clothing brand Lavenham. I remember reading about the Lavenham factory and its values during Drapers’ Save Our Skills campaign at the beginning of the year, so I was excited to take a look around myself. I was not disappointed.
Last month, I left the steely greys of the city to be met by the green hues of the country as my train pulled into Sudbury. Here I was escorted by a friendly old taxi driver, eager to tell me the history of Lavenham before I had even been officially shown around. Once I arrived at the factory, I was met by Lavenham’s UK sales manager Nicky Santomauro who then gave me the famous tour that was once given to Princess Anne.
After tea and biscuits in the quaint visitor’s room, complete with patriotic British flags and an equestrian vibe, I was shown the steps taken to produce a quilted Lavenham jacket. Here I learnt it takes fifteen members of staff fifty-five minutes to make a single jacket, and 2060 are made in just one week.
As I was shown around I was taught more about every step of this process by speaking with individual staff members. I learnt how the quilting machine works, how the jackets are cut, how the pockets are sewn on and how the button-holing machines work.
I also saw that vigorous quality checks are carried out throughout the whole of this process. If something goes wrong and the garment does not meet its standard, the process will start again. All of my hostile feelings towards the superficial side of fashion started to fade away when faced with such a ruthless procedure. Blood, sweat and tears really go into this labour and the proof is in the high-quality of the results.
Once my tour around the factory had ended I began my interview with Nicky, which got me thinking in depth about clothing manufacturing in the UK. She spoke passionately about the severe shortage of skills and the long-term effects this will have on the industry.
We then spoke about menswear, in particular the country heritage trend and the fantastic impact it has had on the brand. It’s no surprise that Nicky and the rest of the team at Lavenham want the heritage trend to be one that doesn’t quickly go out of vogue.
I left the prettiness of Suffolk to head back to the insanity of London with a warm feeling of pride and enthusiasm in my heart. Fashion, an industry I had once tried to steer clear of to avoid cliché, now has a whole new layer of meaning to it. I see it in a whole new light, like a whole new leaf has been turned.
Behind the gloss and pretence there are hard-working people in the fashion industry with passion and vision. This is what has got me excited again. This is what has got me writing again.