Which was just as well, because it provided a good background to today's discussion on the French fashion industry. I had sent the students the first chapter of Noel Palomo-Levinski's book The World's Most Influential Fashion Designers, which captures the history of early 20th Century European designers like Paul Poiret and Coco Chanel. The book does a good job of tracing the evolution of fashion from the days of couturiers for the nobility to the pret-a-porter (ready-to-wear) industry of today, as well as how early designers inspired the latter day ones.
For me, the two most important things to note were the impact of the revolution on the fashion industry, in that even fashion got democratized (if only slightly) and no longer the preserve of the aristocracy, and that synergy between fashion designers like Poiret and Yves Saint Laurent and painters like Picasso and Matisse. Third was the role of Paris as a city of the arts in inspiring creativity.
What is the situation in Kenya?
I was privileged to get connected to Pat Mbela of the Poisa Fashion label. We have been friends on facebook and I love her work, especially because she uses bold colors and East African-rooted bead jewelry. The plan was to look at her work before making the call to discuss her thoughts on the fashion industry. But time wasnt enough.
After the conversation with Pat, I told the class that if there's anything they should get out of the discussion, it's that well done clothes are worth their investment. One of our guests, Sheila Obilo, is now dressmaking, which was great because we now discussed the intricacies of well-finished clothes like good cuts, darts, lining and invisible hems, which are often missing from locally made clothes because customers don't want to pay for good finish and fitting.
|(left to right: Maya, Bonaventure, Nina and Sheila)|