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Monday, June 26, 2006

That dirty word: Branding

Branding. Naomi Klein wrote a book about it in 2000. She covered issues relating to Brands and choices consumers have. But I don’t recall her covering the effects branding has on indie designers and their choices. In particular the ones who are just starting out. Recently but more so in the US there is a growing shift to eco-labels and organic lines. Brands like NIKE and department stores such as Marks & Spencers are attempting to grab a piece of this pie, introducing eco and organic lines too.

It's great these Brands are making changes. Though it may be more for profit, rather than for environmental reasons. What happens to those small indie designers who have been eco since they began, and for the right reasons? Will they be swallowed up by the big fishes or can they swim fast enough to stay ahead? And what choices are there to stay ahead. Call me a cynic, but I only see one. Become a BRAND. I am not talking about a sweatshop making, mass marketing, self-promoting label. The idea I have is a hybrid of indie and brand. One that is ethical, conscious of the environment, the labor it uses and profitable at the same time. Labels such as
WORN AGAIN CIEL and preloved are examples of this.

It has come to the point where the majority of consumers are obsessed about brands. And living in Japan I see it even more. I have seen many construction workers swaggering down the street clutching a Vuitton wallet. That is the power of branding. It has made consumers believe that a brand or even a label is necessary on clothes. A retailer at the Design Festa even told me that people want to see a label. Consumers want to see who made it.

Yes the label is vital. It says who the designer or company is. But when it reaches the extent that shirts are covered with brand names and logos, then it has gone too far.
Is it possible to become an indie brand? Globalization has caused everything to be like McDonalds. The same taste wherever you go. Consumers are getting sick of that. They want to have individual pieces but still have the brand. Labels such as RMJ and
BAPE are filling this gap with expensive short runs. They have the cash to market themselves and quash pesky indie designers. Sometimes I feel like that pesky indie designer. Big ideas but little finances to keep up with the big boys. Sometimes I find myself wondering 'how am I going to do it?'

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