Fashion Bytes

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Over a month ago The Financial Times ran an article about the Scottish knitwear company, Pringle.  The company was founded in 1815, and is credited with inventing the classic, intarsia argyle pattern so often decorating the jumpers favoured by golfers, and with inventing the twin set.  In 2008, the BBC reported that the company was in danger of having to close its manufacturing facilities in The Borders due to financial difficulties caused by the high cost of cashmere as opposed to low sales.  However, the FT article suggests the company has found an experimental way to try and revitalise the brand.

The piece reports that Pringle invited people to Hawick — the same location rumoured to be closing in the 2008 BBC news item — and to bring their vintage Pringle pieces, which would be photographed, described and catalogued by fashion students from the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London. The visitors also shared their garments’ stories with the students, who took the information back with them to London and used it as inspiration for new designs based on the old ones and their histories. The resulting collection, The Archive Project, has been very popular among major retailers, which are already placing large orders; the collection will be more affordable than Pringle’s usual products, and 8% of the profits will go back to Central Saint Martins, as well as its students being able to point to the collection as part of their academic body of work.

Image via Pringle of Scotland, ca 1960

There was a wonderful interview with Professor Louise Wilson, OBE, of Central Saint Martins at Irenebrination, along with images of the new designs, which were displayed at the Milan Menswear Fashion week. The project is getting rave reviews from industry professionals and consumers alike with “breathing new life into the brand” being one of the most used phrases.  The Financial Times also mentions that it is not unusual for major brands to “tap into” fresh talent from design schools in order to revive or reshape their image.

Is it possible, though, that this is just some media hype for a dwindling company and that the young students involved will be forgotten in a very short time?  Four months ago Irenebrination published a call for a “Fashionable Insurrection”, demanding that we stop paying attention to the established brands and names in the arts and fashion, and shift our focus more fully to the new, innovative designers currently in or graduating from school.

The Archive Project

What do you think of the project? Is it just another flash in the pan, or a great opportunity for the Central Saint Martins students? Are there any other projects that you would like to share where major brands have used students to create a new line? Do you have any students who have participated in this or similar projects? Do you think this is the correct approach for brands facing an uncertain future?

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