An Open Letter from an Emerging Designer

An Open Letter from an Emerging Designer

In a candid open letter, Artsi Ifrach, the Marrakech-based designer behind NJAL label Art/C shares his experiences, opinions and thoughts on the fashion industry

As a designer who works from Morocco and as part of NJAL, I would like to share with you my thoughts. I am a big believer in changes and in fact I think that the equation of designing is change. The fashion world today it is in a process of changing, from the perspective of creativity and how it arrives to the public.

I read article on NJAL, ‘What is the Problem with Fashion Today?’, and on most of the opinions I agree, although some are talking about the existing problems and not necessarily the solutions. I hope to share with you some ideas for a solution in a new way that perhaps will help some of us to make a difference. 

I would like to mention that NJAL is a pioneer from this perspective, and that’s why I am happy to be a part of this platform. I personally believe that today the fashion world is overcrowded with designers, design and fashion companies, and a large part of it looks and feel the same. One of the things that I notice today is that there is more competition on the prices than on the design itself. Companies and designers working on all scales are trying to break the success formula and flood the market with quantity, publicity and temptations to reach their customers. 

Today you can buy “fashion” for the price of a cup of coffee – this is something to think about. Endless and commercial production does not differentiate between ‘designer’ and ‘designing’. I personally believe that the word ‘trend’ actually means ‘copy’, and it allows anyone to use designs as they wish. The fashion world today does not see a difference between a fashion designer and fashion manufacturers or producers, but instead lets each one become a designer. That is one of the biggest obstacles creating difficulties for designers trying to develop their personal signature.

The big fashion companies that control the fashion industry today manage to navigate fashion to the place where they want it to be. They also create for designers a dream that is not relevant in our time – that is because they think a designer is not important and less relevant than the brand itself, when actually they are selling a product designed by a designer. Although there are many designers who work for big brands, it is not like it was before. Today, the company’s image is stronger than that of the designer. On top of their creativity, the designer must create commercial value for the company they are working for. If this is the case, then instead going to fashion school, we actually need to go to a business school – something else to think about.

That is my personal opinion. And this is my idea for a solution that could help some of us. Most designers dream to work at a big fashion house, which doesn’t let them become an individual designer – they don't think what they would like to show my client, but what the client wants. The first thing I believe is to give up this dream as your aim, to allow yourself to build a personal DNA through your design, and move on from there. If your personal talent exists, it will eventually lead you to reach any possible target. 

Secondly, slowing down the rhythm of production and quantity, in large the way that you look at your garments and your customers on a personal level. I do believe that more and more customers are searching for something individual and different (see the vintage market as an example). For myself, as a designer working on two collections a year and one-of-a-kind pieces, my client is always my top priority. 

An additional thing that I find important is the price of the garments, which will determine your success along the way. At ORIGIN PASSION & BELEFS I talked to many talented designers, and by talking to them I realised that we cannot let our prices grow more than our names. In fact, this is the main obstacle for all of us in changing the fashion market in order to succeed. We should arrive at a place where, alongside different designs, creativity and production, we will price the pieces affordably (this does not mean we should ‘Zara-ise’ ourselves). Through this our design will travel more, reach more customers, and the client will prefer to buy from a new individual designer than from a big commercial company.

We need to remember that we are lucky enough to work with talent and creativity, and this is our first, natural choice. All of the rest – logistics, planning and growth – will come in time. I am aware of the difficulties along the way as I have passed and am still passing them, but my love for designing and creativity overcomes all.

Gandhi said be the change you want to see.