A Look Back

Authentic Radicalism | A Look Back

Last night, NJAL hosted the inaugural event in its education series ‘Authentic Radicalism’ at Maison Assouline. Emerging designers, journalists and industry impresarios gathered in the grand library of the luxury publishing house to dissertate, dissect and debate the questions concerning the future of the fashion industry and the creative innovations we can employ to build a fairer, more conscious and more sustainable fashion system. In the wake of the event, the conversation continues to proliferate and reverberate beyond the physical walls of Maison Assouline to engage the minds of emerging designers and industry practitioners worldwide. NJAL hopes that this is just the spark that will instigate radical thinking and action towards reinventing a system that no longer serves us. In this feature, NJAL maps out the most pertinent points made throughout the talk, to provide food for thought and to clarify what it means to be authentically radical.

Re-Watch the 'Authentic Radicalism' Event at Maison Assouline 

Authentic Radicalism | NJAL x Assouline from NOTJUSTALABEL on Vimeo.


Education Is Freedom

A key facet of ‘Authentic Radicalism’ is one that we have developed through speaking at and engaging in over 70 events worldwide in the past 12 months alone; the belief that freedom comes with free education and the problem with fashion education is that it is becoming an expensive commodity. Through our series of ‘Authentic Radicalism’ workshops, we aim to harness the power of online education to disseminate the knowledge that will empower emerging designers and enhance our collective influence to implement the changes we want to see.

The responsibility to provide both skill and cost effective education for fashion students falls not just on the shoulders of the schools themselves but is also the responsibility of our government. We need policies that will de-centralise London as the sole destination for study in the UK and we need to think about ways that fashion can be done differently outside the golden triangle of London, Paris and New York.

For many years, design students have been taught that growth is the primary measure for success in fashion. NJAL posits that this is neither a fulfilling or a sustainable way to look at business. Schools should incorporate an anti-growth agenda into their syllabuses whereby students are encouraged to develop a value system that goes beyond the pursuit of profit.

There is also something to be said for the monopoly placed on the role of the designer. The role of the designer has eclipsed all other aspects and stages that are involved in designing a collection. This celebrity status that the designer has grown to represent means that other aspects of the industry, such as pattern cutting, are not getting the recognition they deserve and not enough people are attracted to studying for these jobs. The ‘I’ in fashion needs to be recalibrated and the emphasis put back onto collectivity and collaboration.

When fashion designers become more nuanced in their understanding and approach to fashion and its effect on the world we live in, we can look forward to seeing the integrity put back in design. One of our panelists, Hugh Devlin, Consultant at Withers LLP, is a leading adviser in the Luxury Brands sector, with experience advising top designers such as Christopher Kane and Jonathan Anderson. He reminds emerging designers that beautiful and authentic product, properly communicated, will always sell.


It is no secret that the fashion industry has been slow to embrace the changes in technology and is uncomfortable with what digital means. The consumer is looking for something meaningful to them, meaning big brands have had to adapt quickly and dramatically to cater for a new generation of tech-savvy and digitally intelligent consumers. Panelist Sophie Hackford, Director of Wired Consulting, predicts many more cacophonic changes in the tech world in the years to come and she urges designers to embrace and feel empowered by these changes.

Technological changes, particularly the introduction of satellites that will establish high definition CCTV across the globe, will bring about radical transparency in fashion. Big brands will no longer be able to hide behind a multi-link supply chain as consumers will be able to see and discover each link for themselves.

This radical transparency will manifest itself in reality, to the extent where even our human experience will become quantifiable, and brands will soon be able to sell us product based on our emotional responses. Artificial Intelligence will become like electricity, you will be able to purchase IQ and apply it to the areas of your business that need it most. The internet as we understand it is only in its most nascent form. Emerging designers must take note: brands that embrace the technology and work towards radical transparency will thrive and brands that don’t will fall behind.


In order to push brands to be transparent, consumers need to be curious and to push brands for transparency. Big brands are starting to wake up to consumer demands for transparency and more needs to be done to build on this pressure.

Panelist, Co-Founder of The Future Laboratory and Editor-In-Chief of LS:N Global, Martin Raymond points out the importance of the past when thinking about the future. Before the Industrial Revolution, garment production used to function in a way that was more intimate and therefore far more sustainable and transparent. Manufacturing used to be done with humanity. Emerging designers must think about the ways in which design can engage people’s minds not just clothe their bodies. The future of fashion is about re-gaining intimacy with the garments we wear.

Panelist and Founder and Director of Fashion Revolution, Orsola de Castro, agrees that emerging designers should encourage and help consumers re-define the relationships with the things they buy. She elucidates that both designers and consumers alike need to be educated about cost. We have for too long been miss-sold the information that garments are cheap and easily replaceable. The notion of the aspirational purchase must apply to the ethics of a product, not just its quality. We must take a holistic and transparent view of the fashion supply chain that demands a product be worth the true sum of its parts. The fashion industry is steeped in inequality; it is the garments that bear the mark of the human hand and can show they have been made under fair working conditions that will hold the most value in the future.

The Reality of Authentic Radicalism

Never have radicalism and authenticity been more interlinked. Especially where young designers are concerned. After decades of gloss, impossible dreams, aspirations and fantasies; what rings true right now is a return to the handmade, human values, the true luxury of a genuinely artisanal product. Authentically radical changes to the industry must come from the ground up, they must come from emerging designers and brands with the courage to build new models. Consumers are more intelligent than ever and they are waiting for brands to catch up.

We have moved on from being able to contain the word radicalism within the confines of aesthetics. There was a time when the YSL smoking suit was radical, but we are no longer in a time when a woman dressed like a man can be seen as radical. Despite this, the fashion industry loves to indulge in nostalgic references to the ways in which it has been radical in the past, rather than the ways in which it can be radical in the future. Fashion can only be truly authentically radical in this day and age if it seeks to challenge the status quo and move forward. How can we make fashion less elitist and more diverse? How can we get more women and ethnic minorities in top positions? How can we protect human rights within our supply chains and address imbalances in power? How can we stem the environmental damage that the garment industry is currently inflicting on our planet? These are the questions that we must address now in order to earn the right to call fashion radical again. 

Watch the event in 360°