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Gill Linton: Why Fast Fashion Is On Its Way Out [PSFK 2013]

Ahead of the PSFK CONFERENCE 2013, Gill Linton, founder of Byronesque takes about the weakness of today's clothing industry.

Betsy Mead
Betsy Mead on April 12, 2013.

As part of the run-up to PSFK CONFERENCE 2013 in New York this April, PSFK will be publishing a series of short interviews with speakers to give a taste of what will be discussed in this meeting of creative minds. Gill Linton has worked for several start-ups in London and New York and is the founder of Byronesque, a website focused on vintage fashion in both an editorial and e-commerce perspective. She caught up with PSFK about her venture and her thoughts about the vintage clothing space.

Since you last spoke as an advertising strategist, you have gone on to launch your own start-up Byronesque. Why did you feel this was the right time to take a leap into business?

The timing was right in terms of vintage fashion — it’s one of the fastest growing categories in fashion and people’s attitudes towards it have changed dramatically, but really it was a personal decision to get out of advertising and do something I really cared about. Byronesque was always the thing I wished I could do instead. So I did.

The new service explores the business of vintage clothing. Why do you think people are so interested in the past and why are these items worth keeping in circulation?

Because we live in a culture of fakes and fast fashion, people have a romanticized idea of designers and their creative process before fashion became more like a commodities business. Byronesque exists to push people’s imaginations so we don’t all look the same, and authentic vintage is still in circulation because it’s more unique and better made than most fashion today. Some is collectable like art. Some of it is art, and worth collecting. There aren’t subcultures like there used to be, and people are ready for better things with substance.

It’s easy for people to dismiss fashion as being frivolous and superficial (frankly most of it is) but when you look back at some of the most seminal subcultures in history, how people dressed played an important role in shaping identity, attitudes and beliefs. You only have to look at mods, punks, skinheads, new romantics etc. They all had a point of view and you were either with them or against them. It created diverse groups that creatively challenged and inspired each other – it’s how subcultures morph, bifurcate and grow.Right now the dominant culture is ‘fast’ and I wanted to slow it down and create something better, something polarizing.

People buy too much fast fashion. On one hand it’s hard to argue against anything that promotes democracy, but not at the expense of creativity and the planet.

It’s the sheer scale of fast fashion that’s the problem. Environmental issues aside—because we know it’s a big issue—when everyone looks the same, it suppresses people’s imaginations. I also find the blatant pillaging of vintage archive looks and designers ideas shameful and lazy. We end up going around in a creative circle rather than making progress. There’s a fine line between being inspired by past collections and knocking them off and it’s becoming the accepted order of business.

How well is Byronesque doing?

We launched quietly mid October 2012. We’ve had a good response to the brand and what we stand for, as well as the design and shopping experience being something genuinely new and engaging. I really believe that people are ready for something more intelligent and inspiring online. In the first week we had calls from retailers in London and the States and have subsequently taken on more retailers than we had originally planned for.

Given the choice, most people will choose quality and creativity, and it looks like we’ve struck a nerve with a frustrated community of people inside and outside of the fashion industry. We’ve get a lot of messages of support and encouragement which is amazing.

I’ve learned a lot about e-commerce and like any start-up you make mistakes and you fix them. It’s been a big wake up call about how flawed the planning role in agencies is.

Thanks Gill! 

To learn more about PSFK CONFERENCE 2013, click here, and to watch the live stream go to PSFK.com, where the action will be live until 5:30pm EST.

Click here for more information, and buy your tickets below.

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