Words by Lucy Staartjes
The LCF team was honoured to have Caryn Franklin MBE, renowned fashion commentator and Professor of Diversity in Fashion with us on our Hyères trip. As well as an inspirational fashion activist, Caryn is also an ambassador for the Centre of Sustainable fashion at the London College of Fashion, promoting key insights about sustainability, ethics and diversity within fashion industry. It was such a joy to hear her opinions and evaluations of the industry.
Caryn joined the group for many of our workshops and gave insightful and well-researched inputs. Not only did she attend some of these events with us, Caryn was kind enough to lead a workshop and a discussion regarding key aspects of the industry that are unfortunately often overlooked.
On Sunday morning, the LCF team were taken to the beautiful le Marais restaurant for our first discussion with Caryn on ’emotional intelligence’. Here, Caryn introduced ideas of fashion psychology and how to succeed in a team. We discussed the fashion industry landscape and interesting ideas about how women postpone important life events, like making a family with the ‘expectation that fashion will reward them’, to which Caryn emphasised the point that ‘fashion is not your family’ and ‘fashion will not reward you’.
From this, she gave advice on how to navigate this complex and challenging terrain. With regards to teams, Caryn reminded us there are three building blocks that will produce success in a team: mutual trust, belief and identity. She emphasises the importance of being able to appreciate each others work and reward each other when accomplishing something difficult. Caryn suggested the idea of a ‘wailing wall’ as a mechanism to deal with the difficulties of teamwork. This is where a member of a team can have an allocated time to recognise how difficult a task they are doing is, so that the team can provide support and encouragement. These ideas ultimately reiterating the importance of trust, belief and identity.
Later that afternoon, we proceeded to a formal workshop with Caryn back at Villa Carpe Diem. Caryn opened the discussion with the idea of objectification of humans in the fashion industry. She made interesting points about how acculturation has impacted the way humans think and therefore, we fail to recognise when imagery we see is morally questionable and objectifies the subject in it. At this point, we were shown provocative imagery of the most recent Yves Saint Laurent campaign (below), where a woman is seen in an objectifying and degrading position with little clothing on. This imagery really made the team think deeply about how images like this impact society and a person’s sense of selfhood.
As an additional point, she acknowledged that especially women have a stereotypical image of beauty – the tall, thin, white woman- and this is a bi-product of acculturation. People subconsciously assume that dominant culture is the best possible option and do not question this in everyday life. Caryn introduced this problem eloquently and it rang true with all the LCF students and evoked passionate discussion around this topic.
Caryn then asked us to think about times when we feel like we have experienced objectification or been impacted by acculturation. This conjured interesting points of view from the LCF students about imagery, experience in the workplace and digital media.
In conclusion, multiple issues were introduced and spoken of in detail during our time with Caryn. I know that it is not only myself that has learnt a huge amount and now feels that my mind has been opened to many new concepts and ideas. I strongly feel I have now developed an opinion and a standpoint on these issues, which is crucial to have for further research and discussion.
A quote from Caryn that has really resonated with me was:
‘the most important thing on these matters is to have an opinion. It does not matter if it is the same as mine, but to have a strong opinion and value set of your beliefs when coming into this industry is key’.
We thank Caryn so much for joining us on this experience and cannot stress enough how much we value and respect her time and work.