Breaking the Stigma surrounding Independent Fashion

By Julia Rutland

Going against the grain is hard for most.   Doing what everyone else does gives a sense of comfort.  To fit in somewhere or with someone is innately ingrained in our human nature.  With this said you see why there is a negative stigma which surrounds independent fashion.

Personally, independent fashion is my love, life, career, and my passion.  It just so happens that I have no problem with the aforementioned comfort, fitting in, or going against the grain.  Unfortunately most of the world doesn’t think this way and thus a stigma has been created. defines independent as this:  not influenced or controlled by others in matters of opinion, conduct, etc.; thinking or acting for oneself.  If you think about it for a minute how can that be a bad thing?  Well, to some it is and it is unfortunate that more people are not as open minded as one may have hoped.

Independent fashion is often thought of as “not good enough” or not taken seriously because it is not backed by a large fashion house.  Now I ask you, didn’t the large fashion houses start off as independent fashion?  I mean even Chanel worked as a seamstress for someone else before becoming the giant she became.  And Ralph Lauren was just that at a time – his name.  Everyone has to start somewhere and it isn’t the size of the operation but the quality and the craftsmanship that should matter.  Independent fashion is not a crocheted doily, a knitted scarf, a decoupage t-shirt, or the jumpsuit with one leg shorter than the other that your mom tried to make you- any longer.  Independent fashion is a force to be reckoned with and the designers are so talented and skilled that they would rather be on their own than taking orders from others who don’t share their vision.

In the work I do I have had boutiques actually tell me that they don’t buy independent designers.  When I asked them why they said this (and I quote) “the independent designers we’ve used in the past never had their designs to us on time, the quality was poor, and they just were not professional at all so we just don’t deal with that any longer”.  I understand those worries but that happens with mainstream fashion more often than independent fashion.  I can vouch for independent designers in the areas of quality and craftsmanship.  So in the case of this particular boutique, they had one bad experience with ONE individual and have missed out on an entire world of beautiful, high quality, detail oriented, independent fashion.   Their loss.  But that doesn’t mean that we can’t take responsibility and change the way independent fashion is perceived.

So how do we break the stigma?  We illuminate the talent we have right here in our own city.  We help to spotlight the quality and the detail that go into designing on a smaller level.  We come together as a community and collaborate with each other and learn from one another.   We deliver shows, collections, events, portfolios, press kits, fashion styling, photography, make-up, hair styling, which rivals the big dogs (aka Gucci, Chanel, YSL, etc.)  This takes time, diligence, care, and patience but in the end it puts us all in a better position to sell ourselves as professionals, shows the outside world we know what we’re doing, and that we care about the work we put out there.   Who wants what everyone else has anyway – isn’t that the fun of fashion and in being an individual?  It takes a village and if we all can get in a professional mindset on how we project ourselves to the world then independent fashion in general and here in Indiana will stand up and be noticed – in a good way!

Julia Rutland founded Aesthetic Design Style in February 2008 after a stint in corporate America. Rutland felt fashion designers and professionals were leaving the Midwest for cities that are proclaimed fashion meccas; like New York or Los Angeles. Rutland saw that the Midwest needed to retain its talent while growing fashion awareness and promoting her local economy. Rutland decided to find a way to bring more attention to talented independent fashion and accessory designers. With the help of her husband, Aesthetic Design Style was born.

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