I was reaching back in the memory bank and carousing memory lane. It was 1993, I had just received an acceptance to Kingston University and my life was about to change in quite significant ways. Readying myself to leave Newcastle for my University years in London, it was a time of excitement, anticipation and exhilaration.
My life looked very different then. My daytimes were spent drafting, drawing and sewing in the modern design studios at Newcastle’s art facility. My evenings were spent working in an Italian restaurant to fund my daytime activities or putting pencil to paper working on my future.
Every Friday afternoon I would receive my restaurant wages and I would exit the studio and run to the restaurant to collect them (it was a time when you could still collect wages in cash). I would walk immediately to the only magazine shop in Newcastle that carried international titles and take my latest Vogue, Italian Vogue, Paris Vogue, I.D. Magazine and The Face. I can’t tell you the excitement and the rush that I got pouring over the photoshoots that spanned six double pages. The kind of photoshoots that have carved their place in fashion history. The photographers, the models, the clothes, I wanted to be part of that world so badly.
It was a time when magazines were revered and photoshoots were planned four to five months prior to print. Clothes were called in from designers across the globe and sent to far flung designations to create epically beautiful fashion stories that now sit in libraries, museums and archives and will be referenced by fashion students in the future, eager to reference to fashions of their past.
Change is part of the human experience and is always constant, but the following twenty years saw the way we approach, market and embrace fashion and beauty change significantly. The internet created a connectivity and a sharing of information that was once limited. I remember some of the other students in my class couldn’t afford to buy Paris Vogue, now millions of fashion students can simply screen grab from Vogue dot com.
With budgets dwindling as magazine sales plunged, the rise of Instagram and social platforms, it felt that the true artistry and precision and thought that went into the powerful fashion imagery, we once loved was replaced by 15 or more daily posts from the world’s powerhouse brands. Relevant for a second and then gone.
The high street giants flooded their racks weekly with affordable interpretations of the runways. The attention span of the consumer was fickle and fleeting and wardrobes across the west were filled with fast fashion. Designed not to last and to give the consumer a ‘moment’ rather than an investment marks an industry that has officially changed. As I said earlier in this post, change is constant.
For decades the planet had quietly paid the price for the changes that one of its many industries had inflicted upon it. In 2019 the planet is still quiet, but its ambassadors are not. There are tiny seeds of change afoot as the larger retailers implement sustainable fashion departments. Greenwashing or genuine ? Time will tell. A rise in consumers that care has had a noticeable impact.
So why do I write this post. Thirteen years ago I left the fashion industry because of the very reasons I outlined above. My soul could not tolerate my employer’s endless sampling. The 180 beautifully rendered designs that were squandered and whittled down to 60 pieces with 15% that actually had strong sell through. Followed by the demand for more and new, new, new as the next season approached. As I side stepped into fragrance, I passionately embraced the fact that one good fragrance concept could last years not months. This felt right for the way I work as well as the world I was creating.
I feel that we’re moving towards a new time. A time that will eventually reconnect with the beauty and sensitivity of considered design. A time that doesn’t require 70 instagram posts a week. A time where the origin and sustainability of affordable manufactured items matter. Products with purpose and soul are revered and the notion of perceived luxury is redefined.
Enter Jonathan Ward. We try so very hard to produce a product that heralds genuine luxury from the inside of the product out. In my humble opinion, the perception of luxury design is (will) change. Products that create a ‘look of luxury’ through decadent packaging that is made in unethical ways will start to be questioned. An image of luxury that isn’t supported by the integrity and choices of the business will no longer be tolerated.
We produce a product that has authenticity injected into every procurement choice. From our Italian glasses that are produced in a factory that values clean glass production. Our soil association certified organic wax that offers the cleanest burn that we can possibly achieve. The GF Smith sustainably sourced quality British papers that we chose for our box design. The 1966 family run British business Benwells, that prints our packaging with precision. The globally sourced IFRA registered fragrance materials that compose a Jonathan Ward fragrance concept. And the hand poured, hand finished in house production that keeps a watchful eye on every product forges a blueprint that has afforded a successful first year business model.
I’ll close this by saying that in this time of change, we know that the tide has officially turned. How long it will take to fully embed is out of my control.