Life paths have become unpredictable. You may be here today and nowhere tomorrow, you may try to get or stay into the traditional business system, it will almost certainly crush you. So why not choose independence ?

There is nothing to lose and probably a lot to win, to direct one’s own life and go independent.

A full academic background, specialized skills or incredible talent are not enough. People working in most large, attractive and international companies feel exhausted or employed well below their capacities with limited mono-task jobs, within the framework of incompetent management based on fierce competition, corporatist decision-making processes and short-term profits. Why then learn thorough pattern-making only to adapt international models to local sizes? Demonstrate one’s talent for being fired after the fashion show with no outlook for the future? Work long hours to be paid peanuts and know that others will benefit?

Awareness of a hectic and unpredictable life may happen among young people who go from one temporary job to the other, among older employees who have worked in a single company for a long time and made redundant all of a sudden or among students who already know today that there is little future in traditional companies.

The sense of working has much changed. Dominique Meda and Patricia Verdamin conducted qualitative work in 6 European countries between 2006 and 2008. They concluded that the key factors to describe a good working relationship were Engagement (more or less engaged) and Life paths (more or less linear). Types were not age-dependent, however, difficult socio-economic environment was stronger in young people. It leads them to believe that working is a journey full of hurdles, and makes them accustomed to managing risks and changes [1]. Other research carried out on Work conditions by the French Government [2] confirmed that a traditional implicit contract, « work hard for little money today, and build a fine career for tomorrow », is distrusted by younger French people, compared to a win-win contract.

It then seems fairly wise to try and create one’s own job.

Young people or people with youthful energy go independent and invent a new business paradigm.

Business is about making what you think and thinking what you make  & sharing your knowledge and skills to grow faster in return.

Youthful engagement may be found amongst youngsters and people of all ages who care for them, listen to them or are curious enough to discover what they want to change.

Young people want to do things. What is important is to answer the question: “What have you been proud of doing, here, today?”.They want to produce tangible and visible results. Ideas are not enough; issues and concrete solutions are better. Very often they exercise a trial and error process. They have that intuition that something should work first and be fine-tuned later.

They work collectively, bringing together passionate people from varied backgrounds to think differently and creatively of issues and solutions. 12 is more than 1, and 60 more than 12, when all is about creating value. “This is all about harnessing energy. You should be here because you know a lot about uncommon or specific skills and you will help complete the jigsaw. And if not for this project, then for the next one!” admittedly, the North of Europe is better on that front than the South one.

Collective intelligence should also be shared, on Internet, the most obvious network. Open-source platforms are often preferred: they publish online How to’s (models, first prototypes, patterns etc.) for others to improve them and give them back to the community. The process is quick, solves relevant problems, and brings such social benefits as notoriety, reputation or sense of belonging.

The Makers’ movement has grown up from an intuition into Maker Fairs, Maker Spaces, Maker Thinkers and spread so much that it is now ready to be segmented and put into a business model. That’s what TCBL aims at experimenting, Business labs applied to the T&C sector.[3]

For independents, Enterprise and Innovation are recovering their original meanings, and can’t go without social responsibility.

Enterprise and Innovation : to take risks and make strong contribution for the future.

Enterprise. A beautiful idea. We thought we had lost it, but the most recent 2008 crash made us realize that success can only be based on reality. Have a project, convince talented people to come on board, take risks to make it happen, face difficulties, succeed and share or reinvest the outcome of hard work. Real people, real economy, real money. Stakeholders make perfect sense here, not short-term, profit-concerned and dormant shareholders, but stakeholders who all bring their personal value.

A survey by CEGOS, conducted in 5 European Countries, showed that work was key in the aspirations of 20-30 year olds (between 50 an 80%, secondary to family, which has always been Top 1 for years). Beyond earning a living (the primary reason to work), 53% want to find fulfilment at work or develop their competences (48%). Creating one’s own job appealed to 47% of the Italian respondents, vs. 35% (UK), 32% (Spain), 27% (Germany) and 22% (France) [4].

The Observatory of the French APCE (Agence pour la création d’entreprises) illustrates that younger generations (18-29 year olds) find it fairly obvious to start their own business, provided that their initial motivation is high and that they know how to manage properly (59% fully agree), have a creative idea (44% fully agree), accept risks and failures (40% fully agree), spend a great deal of time finding customers (33% fully agree) or finances (32% fully agree) [5].

The world of Fashion has long lived on style, brands and images as key growth factors of the industry. Isn’t this time to challenge or refine these assumptions? Or even to make a revolution? Let’s come back to real enterprise that forces you to act, as quickly as possible, with a gut feeling or a vista beyond the mountains of information.

Another beautiful idea. Innovation. Not that pseudo one which is limited to minor changes e.g. the size, colour or shape of a sleeve per se. Innovation reflects another vision of textile and clothing, all the more when engineers, scientists, hardware and software geeks, artists etc. meet and explore radically new inventions. Behind the concept of second-skin, you can imagine so many changes for clothes or textiles. Couldn’t they change according to your moods and tempers? Couldn’t you decide whether they show what’s happening inside you and your home? Couldn’t you interact with them?

Social responsibility is more than a belief; it’s action.

Repeated alerts have been heard for some time on the new environment context for development. Fair environment, social and business conditions are bases for fair development. Climate change is accelerating, so are the risks of desertification, rising waters, loss of bio-diversity etc. The human species is threatened with external factors as well as internal ones e.g. war, economic predation, after-life illusion etc. that produce millions of migrants around the world. Is this the world you want?

Against the imminent feeling that chaos is on its way, what else could so-called developed countries do but be responsible and help so-called emerging countries e.g. 80% of the world population? Sustainable new models for development should be relevant, designed for all people on the planet to live better from their resources and their work, not only to survive.

“One way to create jobs in Africa is to develop local markets for local competitive companies… which has been done in the US, China and to some extent in Europe… Another way is to mutualize local companies and help them to be stronger together… to prevent young African people getting trapped into an illusion that global companies are the deus ex machina of their economic issues.”[6]

This type of analysis could also be made for European Independents, who are more conscious of their possible power and that could start acting upon it.

Are independents a potential power? Definitely yes, they are. However, this is not La la land for independents. When there is an overall poor economic growth, you have to find adequate remedies for apparent shortcomings.

In the French Textile and Clothing sector, 90,9% are very small businesses and independents.

French figures show that 99,8% of the economic structure is about small businesses (less than 249 full-time workers) and 95,4% are very small businesses and independents (less than 10 FTW) for 48,7% of the FTW. [7] In the Textile and Clothing sector, 98,9% of the businesses are SMEs, 90,9% are very small businesses and independents for an estimated 55% of the full-time workers.[8] This is simply huge.

TCBL network can help build up a new Gross National Happiness index.

Dependence on a major customer, uneasy cash management, insufficient support from banks… but also greater fears of new status and responsibilities, multitasking, working hard… all these are adverse conditions that are imposed on independents.

As a network, TCBL could provide part of an answer. For two years, it has been promoting top and varied skills and prevented them from getting forgotten or buried. It has matched talents with real needs in rder to collectively produce higher value solutions at a lower cost, providing full design support to empower all companies and offer people durable close ties.

A lot of work is still to be done. There is a demand for invention of new business models so that the Textile and Clothing sector can become viable, sustainable and attractive, as well as repositioned in a virtuous circle. TCBL is a movement. They know where they want to go and they are confident that they can collectively reach those goals. Shall we say that it is an On-going Revolution?

References

[1] Generational approach to the social patterns of relation to work (SPREW), 2013

[2] Enquête Conditions de travail 2013

[3] Resources on www.tcbl.eu

[4] Observatoire CEGOS, 3000 respondents, 20-30 year olds, 5 countries, May 2012

[5] Observatoire APCE, 1024 respondents, 18-29 year olds, 2010

[6] Think-tank L’Afrique des idées, www.terangaweb.com

[7] France, Insee, 2011

[8] France, IFM-Defi, 2015

Please cite this article as: Frédérique Thureau (2017): Independent Agents of Change, In: _zine, Vol. 2, Issue 1, online at: https://zine.tcbl.eu/independent-agents-of-change/