Banish All Thoughts Of The Devil Wears Prada – Fashion Is Now About Family, Collaboration And Openness

As the industry navigates a pivotal year, a new spirit is taking hold.

harris reed trey gaskin

by Words: Kenya Hunt and Laura Antonia Jordan Photographs: Elliott Morgan |
Updated on

What does it take to drive change? ‘We’re all in this together’ T-shirts, bumper stickers and campaigns declared throughout the spring, uniting disparate Londoners, Brits and global citizens alike against Covid-19. But what about fashion? The £1.93 trillion global fashion industry, famous for its cut-throat competitive climate of aspiration and exclusivity, has had a bit of an existential crisis. As the ground rumbled beneath, upending its schedule, supply chain and the nature of its very being, the people who populate the business began to mobilise. And as the year’s constellation of pivotal events set in motion a chain reaction of reckoning, people within fashion began to think and operate differently.

There was the wave of organised collectives, including the Emergency Designer Network, and luxury houses, including LVMH and Giorgio Armani, who converted their factories, studios and workshops to make PPE for frontline healthcare workers as the pandemic reached its height. And months later, the Black Lives Matter movement inspired an unprecedented number of new initiatives from the 15 Percent Pledge – where retailers promised to dedicate 15% of shelf space to Black-owned businesses – to the online database Black Owned Everything, and coalitions including the Black In Fashion Council and The Kelly Initiative – all working to hold the fashion industry to account to change its poor track record on race in the wake of the killing of George Floyd.

And now, climate change climbed to the top of the agenda once again as an extraordinary number of wildfires rage in North America. Throughout it all, we ask: what is the role of fashion in 2020? And how can an industry built on the premise of exclusivity and consumption evolve quickly at a pivotal moment in history like this?

Just as a family rallies around each other in the face of tragedy, the fashion industry has begun embracing a culture of community, collaboration and inclusivity with renewed urgency. It has never been more fashionable to be socially and environmentally conscious – and kind. Here, Grazia celebrates a few of the many inspiring networks, collectives, collaborators and family acts helping to change the culture of fashion.


SEE: The People Changing The Culture Of Fashion

Harris Reed and Trey Gaskin1 of 7

Harris Reed and Trey Gaskin

Friends and collaborators Harris Reed and Trey Gaskin first met as students at a sustainability talk Stella McCartney gave at LCF. 'I remember seeing this beautiful person across the room with a confidence that just blew me away. I thought, "I need to get to know this person more," Reed, creative director of the eponymous brand Harris Reed, recounts. Gaskin, a model and the host behind what Vogue called 'fashion's funniest podcast', OTT, was equally impressed. 'I was like, "Who is this glamazon with really good hair?" We instantly hit it off.'The two have emerged as not only rising fashion stars, but vocal advocates for the non-binary creative community. Reed's hugely popular and often viral social media portraits of them both wearing the designer's sprawling, dramatic hats, flounciful blouses and bell-shaped trousers allow an under-represented community to not only feel seen, but glamorously so, free of any political subtext.'Me and Trey both really embody this idea of living our lives to the most fabulous degree of fantasy, bringing back the passion and excitement of the fantasy of fashion,' says Reed, whose fanbase spans a starry mix of influencers, from Harry Styles to Solange Knowles and Gucci's Alessandro Michele. Both Gaskin and Reed are cautiously optimistic about fashion's future. 'I don't think the fashion industry can ever go back to the way it was before. I would like to hope that fashion is embracing a spirit of openness,' says Reed. 'But I do think it's important to make sure that real change is taking place – and not at a superficial and performative level,' Gaskin adds.

Bianca and Yvonne Saunders2 of 7

Bianca and Yvonne Saunders

Bianca Saunders describes her relationship with her mother Yvonne in four words: 'Inspirational, loving, unconditional, effortless.' Their bond has been integral to the survival of her young business which, in its three-year lifespan, has already earned British Fashion Council NEWGEN support, been declared an 'Innovator' by Matches Fashion and christened 'one of the most exciting names in British fashion' by GQ. Bianca moved all of her studio equipment into her mother's spare room in Lewisham as London was entering lockdown and has been creating her critically acclaimed collection there ever since.'Our house is not the biggest, so giving up space during a time when we're all at home is something I'm very grateful for. My mother always taught me the meaning of togetherness and support,' Bianca says.Both business owners (Yvonne owned a salon and has just completed her graduate studies in business management), they share an entrepreneurial multitasking spirit. Bianca's mother has done everything from packing up the delivery of her daughter's spring/summer '21 collection to catering her daughter's shows and shoots. 'I even got her to do the hair for the campaign I did with photographer Ronan McKenzie.'And Bianca has carried that same spirit throughout the evolution of her brand, enlisting her 'chosen family' of friends to collaborate with her on everything from runway shows to exhibitions – and supporting Black talent throughout everything she does. Most importantly, Bianca and her network are forming a chorus of new voices who are speaking out about critical issues including racial equality and gender identity. 'I think people realise the [fashion] world we were navigating was not right. Now, my main concern is whether people are going to continue educating themselves and taking action.'

Christopher and Tammy Kane3 of 7

Christopher and Tammy Kane

More Joy – the name of Christopher Kane's hit capsule collection – might be the perfect mantra for 2020. Surely that's what we all need right now.For Kane and his sister and business partner Tammy, joy has been found this year in the simple things. 'Everyone keeps asking us, "What's More Joy?" But it's so subjective. It's simple things, it's moments, it's family,' says Tammy.Family is integral to the brand. Christopher and Tammy have worked side by side for the past 14 years; sister Sandra looks after the business's HR. They stayed connected via constant Zooming during lockdown – the siblings were apart for four months – when Christopher rediscovered his love of painting – and wearing pyjamas ('I didn't need much'), and Tammy relished time with her children.Despite the pause, the Kanes have harnessed the mood of change. Following the killing of George Floyd and the global Black Lives Matter protests, they founded Platform – a digital zine designed to amplify the voices of young BAME talent. 'People do need to take action, you can't be silent,' says Christopher. 'There are so many obstacles to getting into the fashion industry. So this is just the beginning, really.'

Richard, Yasmin, Sophie, Saul and Charles4 of 7

Richard, Yasmin, Sophie, Saul and Charles

In 2020, resilience is vital, but Sophie Jewes and Yasmin Eady already know that. When the PR agency they were both working at went out of business last year, they banded together to form their own communications agency, Raven.It was just six months old when lockdown struck.It might be relatively small, but Raven has made a big impact by championing young talent such as Charles Jeffrey, Richard Malone and Saul Nash (all pictured).'The brands and businesses we work with have a really distinct point of view,' says Jewes. 'We don't tend to work with wallflowers.'The duo have a familial bond with their designers. 'What's really nice about the relationships that we have is that they're mutual,' says Jewes. 'We're really transparent with them about our successes and the things we're struggling with. I get so much out of it. It's friendship. It's intense, but it's the only way I know how to do it'.At the 'coalface', Jewes and Eady believe that ultimately this moment is spurring them on to make even better work. There's unity too, across the industry.'I feel like there's quite a lot of camaraderie, a lot of sharing, whereas people weren't quite so free before,' says Eady. 'We are very much all in it together. I guess bad times bring that out in people.'

Alice and Charlie Casely-Hayford5 of 7

Alice and Charlie Casely-Hayford

Growing up in their parents' studio, it seems inevitable that Charlie Casely- Hayford and his 'younger, wiser' sister Alice would end up being creative. Their father, Joe, was a ground-breaking designer who deftly injected elegant Savile Row tailoring with a modern sensibility, establishing his eponymous label alongside their mother Maria in 1984. Today, Charlie heads up Casely-Hayford (founded in 2009), while Alice is Net-A-Porter's content director.The siblings have always been close, sneaking out to club nights together in their teens. 'We both really look up to each other,' says Alice. 'I'm inexpressibly proud of the amazing business my brother launched with our parents.' Sunday night family Zoom quizzes that started in lockdown are still going strong.For them, family goes beyond blood, it's about an attitude – one of unity and authenticity, which feels particularly pertinent now. You can see everything from the team spirit to the tactility of the design of the Marylebone flagship (designed by Charlie's wife, interior designer Sophie Ashby), which feels more like an apartment than a store. They are as humble as they are talented.'Family being part of the business DNA has just been very organic, we really embrace it in everyone who works with us. We hope it speaks of authenticity and integrity, because those are family values that have been instilled in us and we try to convey through the brand,' says Charlie. 'It's family first. That feels like a very warm place to start from'.

David Kappo, Berni Yates, Zowie Broach and Judith Watt6 of 7

David Kappo, Berni Yates, Zowie Broach and Judith Watt

Fashion has had a long-standing problem with race, but this is especially so with its fashion schools, where diversity is sorely lacking. 'I'm the only permanently contracted Black member of staff at both Central Saint Martins and The Royal College of Art,' says David Kappo, a founding member of the new collective of fashion academics and their allies, called FACE (Fashion Academics Creating Equality.) 'With my students, visibility is important. It's important that they see staff who look like them. Now is the time to have those uncomfortable discussions to make that happen.'Kappo is a part of a network of influential tutors, including Zowie Broach, head of fashion at the Royal College of Arts, Judith Watt, pathway leader of CSM's fashion journalism BA, and Berni Yates, an educator at CSM, who have all been waving the flag for racial and economic inclusivity for years. 'It's not a fad or a trend,' says Yates. 'It's about talent. I've worked with so many talented students throughout my 30-year career; only now do people seem to care about elevating the voices of Black and non-white students. The entire system is long overdue a reformation.' Watt agrees: 'To build foundations for a fairer and kinder future, there needs to be far stronger dialogue between young people and the older generation. We need dialogue, and trust.'They have worked collectively to create a safe space for students who might otherwise have felt alienated. 'The one thing I would say of everyone in this group is that they realise it's not about us. Teaching is about giving,' Kappo says. Broach agrees: 'For me, the idea of the collective – the community – is the root of fashion.'

Justine Simons and Peckham Palms7 of 7

Justine Simons and Peckham Palms

Justine Simons OBE, deputy mayor for culture and the creative industries, has always been an advocate for the creative communities, but her work took on new meaning as the Covid-19 crisis reached its peak this year. 'London is an international fashion capital and although the pandemic has presented real challenges, the industry has really come together. There is a genuine appetite to rethink and reset and it's clear that fashion can play a key role in accelerating our economic recovery,' she says.Together with the Mayor of London, she launched the Covid At Risk fund to support London's creative and cultural industries through the pandemic, aimed at artist workspaces, grassroots music venues, LGBTQ+ venues and independent cinemas across the capital. One of the programme's notable success stories was south London's Peckham Palms, a new Afrocentric retail space in Peckham, which provides hairstyling and beauty services, and is home to more than 20 professional hair and beauty stylists and lifestyle businesses. The grant helped cover the rent for its stylists.'At the beginning of the year, most of the businesses at The Palms were looking forward to a very positive new year, and things started off well, especially after a busy and energetic first year,' says Monique Tomlinson, director and general manager of Peckham Palms. 'Then Covid hit us out of nowhere! The biggest threat was "how are we supposed to earn a living, as we are self-employed?" Cyndi Anafo, non-executive director at Peckham Palms, adds, 'The fund was a fantastic lifeline at an incredibly difficult time. As a destination hub that incubates new businesses primarily led by Black women, the concept of collaboration is integral to the way our communities have strived and thrived historically and a crisis like this has most certainly encouraged this kind of working.'

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