Thursday, 1 July 2010
We hear a lot of comment about the stranglehold the big fashion conglomerates have on the fashion business across the globe, so it is encouraging that there are little pockets of resistance to their homogenising effects – and often in unexpected places.
Take La Cambre Mode[s], which will celebrate its 25th anniversary next year. Never heard of it? You are not alone, but it was founded on what might seem not-too fertile ground by a fashion education visionary, Francine Pairon, and is still going strong. Its history is a heartening and unlikely story of determination, belief and vision.
La Cambre Mode[s] remains today where it was originally set up – in Belgium. And if that seems pretty specialist, it gets more so. It was aimed at showing that French-speaking Belgian pupils living there could be as creative – if not more so – as their counterparts in other countries more readily associated with fashion experiments.
Because that was what La Cambre Mode[s] was all about. Its aim was to train young artists and designers in multi-disciplined approaches to fashion design that were not only multicultured, highly original and looking firmly to the future, but also about the culture of daily life and the business of fashion as an adjunct to good citizenship. With La Cambre Mode[s] we are clearly in a world a long way away in ideological terms from everyday couture-salon or high-street thinking. And perhaps it is no surprise that Francine Pairon came to fashion from a background in architecture or that her colleague and successor, Tony Delcampe, studied textile design.
Work at La Cambre Mode[s] has always been about experiment and is based on the discipline of starting the process of recasting fashion from a preoccupation with volumes and their relation to the body; the results are usually more sculptural than related to the fashion of any one time. Heavily intellectualised, it is about ideas more than practicality and its shows and graduates are cannily watched by fashion insiders who also value the outsider (watch the 2006 show here). I am sure that in some design team somewhere not too far away from you will be at least one product of this unusual place: Olivier Theyskens studied there and John Galliano has visited, attracted no doubt by the fact that this is an educational establishment that does not believe in taking the safe and predictable design route, preferring instead to find new values and options.
This is a place that should be much more central to fashion than it is in these over-commercialised days.