Liz Hoggard: Reweaving the morality of fashion

Share
Related Topics

Louis Vuitton is in town. This week, unveiling a new maison du luxe (three floors of unashamed high-end accessories, jewellery and clothing) on London's New Bond Street, the fashion retailer threw the mother of all parties. Cherie Blair mingled with Tracey Emin and Paloma Faith.

Everyone – from countess to commoner – seems to succumb to the Louis Vuitton juggernaut. But not quite. This week the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has just banned a series of print ads for Vuitton, ruling they mislead consumers into thinking its products are hand-made.

One of the two ads, by Ogilvy & Mather, features a photograph of a woman stitching the handle of a handbag, while a second ad shows a woman creating the folds of a wallet. The brand argue that the campaign is "a homage to the craftsmanship which was carried out every day by Louis Vuitton's artisans", while admitting that sewing machines are used for aspects of items. Not good enough ruled the ASA – who claimed Vuitton had failed to provide evidence that demonstrated the extent to which its products were made by hand. Interesting when a bespoke Vuitton bag can cost up to £24,000.

And also frustrating. Friends of mine – textile designers, jewellers, ceramists – struggle to make a living from their work. Each object that leaves their studio is a one-off, lovingly fashioned by hand and eye. They don't have a factory of "artisans" behind them. Or a whole host of "brand ambassadors" such as Daisy Lowe.

But according to Grant Gibson, editor of Crafts magazine, we shouldn't get too paranoid. It's a huge compliment that Vuitton wants to associate itself with craft. "It's just an example of brands seeing the zeitgeist and wanting to be part of it." He cites the latest Levi's campaign as another example of a company that has put a modern spin on its heritage by focusing on craftwork. Drawing on its history of dressing cowboys and lumberjacks, the brand has reinvented the idea of a "craftworker"; recruiting 18 craftsmen and craftswomen across arts, music and performance to represent the brand in press and outdoor ads.

Big blockbuster TV ads, accompanied by a chart-topping soundtrack, are passé, Gibson explains. We've realised it's a bad case of smoke and mirrors. In contrast craft, the art of the handmade, is cool. Gone is the image of blokes with long beards toiling in the countryside. The potter Edmund de Waal exhibits on Cork Street. Collect, the international art fair for contemporary objects, took over the Saatchi Gallery earlier this month. The catwalks are full of appliqué and embroidery detail. Craft is the new collectable. It is a rebellion against the high street, where everything looks the same. If you walk into London galleries such as Flow in Notting Hill or Contemporary Applied Arts on Charlotte Street, you'll see actors, film directors and ad gurus buying one-off furniture, lighting and textiles. And if you're dressing an actress for a premiere, the way to ensure no one wears the same jewellery is to buy a one-off piece.

We're seeing evidence of the handmade in the high-tech built environment. A younger generation of architects are looking to create quieter buildings that work with cities rather than attempting to impose a house style on them. Caruso St John's work has a profound sense of craft about it, for instance. Craft isn't just a sexy new add-on. It's an ideology (the movement was pioneered by social progressives such as William Morris). These days we want to know the provenance of the garment. How and where it was made, and in what conditions. I can't be the only one whose lust for an iPad rapidly deflated this morning at the news that yet another worker has committed suicide at the Chinese factory that produces them.

Frankly I don't care whether the stitching was done by hand or machine. But I do care that the merchants of pleasure employ workers who are happy and well paid, with decent holidays. Otherwise this scarf, that monogrammed wallet, is a guilty pleasure too far.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission, 1st yr OTE £30-£40k : SThree:...

Middleware Support Analyst

£45000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Senior Java Developer/Designer

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: My client are looking fo...

Domino Developer and Administrator

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Domino ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A burial team in protective clothing remove a body in Sierra Leone  

The reality of Ebola: Buckets of chlorine in the streets, and no one shakes hands any more

Patrick Jamiru
Good2Go is the sexual consent app  

Good2Go: It's proper Sex and Relationships Education that will help end assault, not an iPhone app

Sian Norris
Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?