Our editor in chief on why “Made in the US” was making a fashion comeback back before Trump turned up and how to get the best out of this well-dressed issue.
We start this issue in the Silverlake district of Los Angeles among a small collection of shops close to the intersection of Sunset and Santa Monica. The city is still enjoying the post-Oscars buzz and all the tittle-tattle accompanying the award-envelope malfunction. I’m standing in a well-appointed shop called Mohawk and, nearby, a French couple in their early thirties are buying up a storm – a blazer, some shirts and knitwear are piled by the cash machine. The girlfriend is directing her boyfriend and a friendly salesman has turned his attention to me to answer a few questions. Has the full spring/summer collection arrived? What’s the story behind this brand, Smock? (You can find out in "Emerging patterns" in our Fashion section.) And who owns this shop?
Before the sales chap can start explaining the shop’s history the owner walks in and I’m introduced. We start talking about the shop’s philosophy, the labels it stocks and future plans for expansion in and around Los Angeles. After looking at a few garments and visiting their women’s shop a few doors down a theme starts to emerge: it’s clear that there’s a certain pride surrounding LA-based designers who also manufacture in the city. In fact, it’s a thread that stretches all the way up the coast to Seattle.
“You know what’s frustrating?” asks a woman on the campus of a large athletic company. “There’s been a massive movement to make in and bring manufacturing back to the US for a long time now but sadly our new administration is going to co-opt this shift as their own and take credit for it.” We talk about the positive impact of keeping manual-focused jobs in the city and manufacturing close to design studios and soon the topic shifts to manpower. “I’m keen to know how we’re going to sustain all of this manufacturing and the service sector that underpins it without a migrant labour force from Latin America or Asia,” asks another person at the table.
Just as actor Gael García Bernal highlighted his migrant-worker status while presenting an Oscar, many across the US are asking how the country would function without its communities of Costa Ricans, Mexicans and Colombians tending to gardens, manning espresso machines and selling garments on shop floors. Our Business editor leads on this topic (see "Well Served" ahead in this issue) and highlights the realities confronting businesses who feel that closed borders will never create more jobs for unemployed nationals.
It’s not exactly news to service-sector business owners that locals aren’t interested in waiting tables or washing clothes. This magazine believes that service is not just a chore or trade but an art that fewer and fewer can master. Governments need to ensure that there’s a willing workforce to support the economy and parents and educators should support youngsters who want to have a career in service.
Elsewhere in this issue our Culture editor headed south of Bangkok for what’s shaping up to be Asia’s most interesting festival (see our "Far out East" Expo). It didn’t take much encouragement from our editors to get Mr Bound on a flight to bkk and then into his most colourful gear for a weekend of dancing, eating and frolicking Thai-style.
Keeping things vaguely over the top, our Madrid correspondent was dispatched to Barcelona to meet the residents of one of the city’s more flamboyant apartment blocks. Turn to "Casa Xina" in our Design section to meet the wonderful Montserrat Monsó and her feathered friend Chiquitín.
Further across the Mediterranean we touched down in Malta to meet the prime minister (see "Uniting nation") and at the sea’s limit we tour the ateliers and classrooms of Beirut’s freshest crop of fashion designers (see "Making the cut"). As this is our first style-focused issue of 2017, our editors have also pulled together the best workwear ensembles, interviewed some clever fashion and accessories start-ups and tracked the growth of some smaller scale sports-shoe brands.
Before we head to England’s West Country to press print for issue 102, a few words of thanks to the hundreds of readers we’ve met over the past few weeks and the many more who’ve dropped wonderful notes commenting on our new look. We’re thrilled that it’s been met with a positive response and there’s much to come over the next few months in terms of new specials and other print, audio, film and retail treats. If you pass through London before the end of March, please come and visit our tenth-anniversary pop-up shop at Midori House. If we don’t see you here, we’ll soon be in Milan, Hamburg, Berlin and Zürich for other events on our birthday tour. Please send all questions and comments to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for your support.