Many fashion professionals remember when Dutch trend forecaster Lidewij Edelkoort published her controversial manifesto entitled ‘Is Fashion Dead’ back in 2015. Fashion students felt like they had to react to Edelkoort’s statements just like the industry did. One of these students is Alexander Kempfle who was affected to such an extent that he decided to write his thesis about the manifesto. FashionUnited asked the AMD student if he, as a fashion student today, can identify with Edelkoort’s statements on fashion education and how it has potentially changed since the manifesto was published.
1: How did Lidewij Edelkoort's manifesto affect you as a student? How did it make you feel?
When the manifesto came out, I was only 14 years old and not really into fashion yet. So the first time I heard about it was in 2021, when I talked about it with my mentor Sabine Resch in a university lecture. That was during a phase in my life, where I felt that I had a really good understanding of fashion, and where I always talked about what fashion might look like in the future. I was really excited for what was to come. That is why the manifesto confused me so much - because I had the fear of; "what if the manifesto actually is correct?"
Therefore, the first time I heard about the Anti-Fashion manifesto I was perplexed. The statement “fashion is dead” raised a lot of confusion within me. I asked myself: „How can something that surrounds humans all the time be dead?“. I was very interested in the topic, especially because the statement came from Lidewij Edelkoort, who is a fashion professional herself, and is not someone from the outside who is inherently against fashion.
What also confused me was that I had never heard anything about the Manifesto and that no one talked about it. I thought that if fashion was really about to die by the year 2025, how come no one cares? Edelkoort’s statements led to me becoming more and more interested in fashion and fashion-philosophy and I became more intrigued and critical.
2. As a fashion student, do you recognise any of Edelkoort’s statements on fashion education and what she says it has become today?
Her main critique was that fashion schools don’t support the cooperation between the students enough and that schools only want to groom “little Karl Lagerfelds“. I studied fashion and design-management, which is why I personally cannot identify with the statements that Edelkoort made.
I disagree with the statement that fashion schools don’t promote cooperation. There were enough projects throughout my stay at the university where I was able to work together with different people. What I would like to happen in the future, which is also the consensus amongst my peers, is that there needs to be more cooperation between the different study areas at a university. There was only one course in my three and a half years in university where I worked together with people from fashion design and fashion communication. I believe you could actually learn so much from peers who have different perspectives and a different expertise.
3. What made you decide to make Lidewij Edelkoort’s manifesto the topic of your thesis?
I was very confused why no one talked about the manifesto. I wondered if it was because either no-one cared about fashion anymore, or whether it was because the Anti-Fashion manifesto was just a publicity stunt.
Edelkoort said in her prognosis that fashion will become obsolete within the next decade. That decade is slowly coming to an end and my professors (Sabine Resch and Theo Grassl) at AMD and myself thought that it would be the perfect time to analyse all ten aspects of the Anti-Fashion manifesto in order to find out if fashion is actually coming to an end.
I conducted four different interviews with people from different aspects of the fashion system in order to keep my paper as up-to-date and exact as possible. I talked to experts Theresa Schleicher, expert in retail and consumers at international think tank Zukunftsinstitut, managing director at Neo.Fashion. Berlin Jens Zander, Rebecca Louise Breuer, educator at AMFI, and AMD fashion design educator Arnold Gevers, who is also the founder and creative director of AA Fashion.
4. Lidewij Edelkoort stated that fashion design students are under a lot of pressure to create as many designs as possible. What is your experience with this? Have you seen your peers at AMD struggle with burn-out due to this pressure?
Edelkoorts criticism was mostly aimed at fashion design programmes. The trend forecaster said that the design students have too many projects and thus don’t design fashion anymore, they only create clothes. However, she does not define what differentiates clothes from fashion. I believe fashion has always been multidisciplinary. Students are taught about corporate identity, editorials, etc. on top of fashion design. There are several subjects for these students, but the focus remains on fashion design.
From what I have seen, the workload is high, with most of the work being put into the fashion aspect, but it is not too high. At the end of the day, it is always subjective. I have not seen a burn-out happen.
Finally, I would like to go against Lidewij Edelkoort's arguments regarding education overall. In the Anti-Fashion manifesto, it sounds like fashion education and the students themselves are amongst the reasons why fashion is dying. I personally do not agree with that. Fashion students are very motivated and bright minds who have a lot of good ideas for the future. They are not reasons as to why fashion may be in danger. Rather, I believe today’s fashion system is the only reason why fashion could die.