Reasons for working independently are often based on individual decisions to make a life-change, youthful engagement to work differently, social representations of added-value enterprise or innovation, and tangible action in social responsibility.

Be concerned: Laure

She turned 20 in 2010.

From an early age, she was much concerned about the environment: forest loss, melting polar ice caps, decline of animal and plant species, plastic waste everywhere etc. Beyond environment, she asked herself what to do in a seriously flawed social system that fosters hierarchy and inequality, neglects innovation and collective intelligence or just cannot listen to real people voices.

She had always loved fashion and consequently trained as a designer. She spent most of her internships in the fashion business. They « were fine », however she felt she « was a resource, used far below (her) potential, with long hours and small pay. » Going independent was an obvious way to work the way she wanted to, enabling her to reconcile her creative drive with her respect for the environment.

After she tried and tested several approaches, she found her way: to create remarkably wearable clothes out of fabric offcuts, with designs of her own, based on open-source models. « I took the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them. It was hard, but I did it! »

Exploring interdisciplinarity: Emilie

In 2000, she celebrated her 20th birthday.

Her life motto could be « Science and research, what else? ». With extensive scientific backgrounds and prizes, she got her first job in a lab team where she explored many issues on bioactive textiles, a sector she had not initially thought of.

There, she discovered that client companies would not easily capitalize on results for further development. Somewhat disappointed, she decided to find a different place where she could carry out her research, test, improve, develop and sell. A high-tech fashion lab was the answer.

She is now an expert in monitoring and repairing body organs with interactive textile. « You don’t think of textile as the first solution, do you? Developments are long and costly, and you have to do with the health lobby. But very few people do the same, so, it’s just a dream job. »

Go with the Internet revolution: Nathalie

She was 18 in the mid 1990’s.

After a business degree, she started work in the trade sector. There, she discovered screens and PCs, Internet and e-mails. Retail became e-tail, and, for a large mail-order company, she developed web services to replace order, delivery and return processing or targeting and communication. She enjoyed every minute of that world-wide-web decade!

When she realized that the revolution was aimed at companies more than at end consumers, she went back to basics and it was clear that further revolution was impossible within a large company. So with her redundancy allowances, she created an independent company to help clients think the web differently.

She advises her client companies on how to communicate differently with the consumers and respect their own ways of information gathering e.g. through social networks. « I am proud to have launched some successful companies or product lines, only with web communication. In my age group, I met quite a number of entrepreneurs who tried and most were successful. It’s cool to tell tax people that you brought added value to your country, and make it richer ».

Fight back for quality: Catherine

She was 20 years old in the 1980’s.

Fashion was synonymous with appearance and glamour. All girls dreamt of beauty recipes. Dress like Cindy, do your make-up like Linda and hair like Iman… we will make you enter into the elite circle of the 3% most beautiful women.

Who was that «we»? Brands! For a long time, she had been working with super-brands who would compete over beauty promises and would all do their best to deliver on them. She spent amazing years with a sparkle in her eye for each new brand project and its communication, until she started to lose some of her faith.

Why invent endless attire that would clutter up your closet? Why not change for clothes to be loved, cherished and worn for ever? She decided to go independent and choose craft-handed art clothes, decoration, and objects at their real price. « People will find here products they touch, feel and ultimately fall in love with. In a day, you need them, to pass stress and frantic ventures. They help you a lot and are easier to handle than meditation. »

The entrepreneur: Alice

Alice Gras obtained four diplomas, in fashion design (ESMOD), fashion business (ISEM) and two MBAs in management and entrepreneurship (ESG). When she was a student, and later in her first experiences, she discovered that future fashion entrepreneurs lacked spaces where high-quality equipment and varied competencies could be brought together in a friendly and collaborative way, to create innovative prototyping and short runs, with both contemporary and traditional tools e.g. weaving looms, sewing machines, 3D printers etc.

While learning management, she created Hall Couture, a shared working space dedicated to contemporary fashion, where entrepreneurs, designers, artists, textile engineers, makers could create, meet and share their passion for clothing conception, provided that it was local, innovative, high-quality and responsible.

Fashion revolution is a matter she had profound  thoughts for and she made the following comment:

Photo: Makery

« Fashion is changing because we face new paradigms, global mistrust and stress on natural resources. New services and products, rooted in our time, are complex and demand a mindset change. So fashion designers need to work with interdisciplinarity. For instance, interactive garments require computing, engineering as much as pattern-making and style and can be made in this place inspired by Hacker Spaces and Fab Labs, more than by classical factories.

Fashion is changing because of new ethics. People and companies working here are concerned with long-term issues, recyclability, environment, people employability, skills’ transfer before artisans and quality die out faster than fashion itself.

Fashion is changing because this is the time for DIY-ers to make their own clothes based on genuine experiences of human desire, wearability, interaction with each environment starting with how they want to feel in their clothes every morning. »

To keep her company running, she rents the working space and a showroom where designers can show and sell their first collections without having to make the jump to a full boutique. Day after day, she keeps close to residents’ needs, shares new product-service ideas to make the community alive and maintains the creative atmosphere of the place. Part of her business model involves her close collaborator Claire Eliot, to advise companies, train their employees or mentor early project owners on all kinds of issues such as design, pattern-making, computing, and entrepreneurship.

Wishing her success is the best we can do for her!

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Please cite this article as: Frédérique Thureau (2017): Five Different Paths, In: _zine, Vol. 2, Issue 1, online at: https://zine.tcbl.eu/five-different-paths/