If you’re a young and emerging creative, then you’re no stranger to working for free. It’s unfortunately part of the process and learning curve, everybody does it and everybody will continue to do so long into the future. (Hopefully by this point you’ll be rich and famous and can offer more wisdom than simply making cups of tea and paying for food in fancy restaurants with this mysterious ‘invaluable experience’ currency that seems to exist.) There’s an uprising element of punk DIY ethos and artists collectively supporting one another that is admired and cherished – photographers helping bands, designers helping photographers, bands helping designers – you get the idea.
Young people are regenerating their communities and social scenes by doing it themselves again, from starting up record labels, fashion brands or photography studios to offer you the freshest, cutting edge ideas in terms of talent and originality. You can buy an item of clothing made by one of your friends because you’re now old enough and cool enough to know people that can actually MAKE clothes. With their own blood, sweat and tears. Move over Miss Trunchbull, I have my sights set on more than just a chocolate cake. Where’s the catch? The long and painstaking amount of time that it takes to design and make an item of clothing (BARE HANDS! BLOOD! SWEAT! TEARS!) is a little more expensive, and herein lies the problem.
Is it okay to spend £100 on a Beyoncé ticket yet expect to get into a young and much less established artist’s (£10) gig for free? Note: this is NOT about Beyoncé. I’ve heard that tears were shed at Hampden and that witnessing Bey in the flesh was a very enlightening experience etc. etc., but you get the point that I’m trying to make...
...and that point is the importance of shopping local too. Yes, the home department of Urban Outfitters is something that dreams are made of, but rather than buying something that has taken inspiration from a particular piece and mass produced cheap copies, consider the individuals and brains behind the machine. Head to online retailers, such as Etsy or Little Lies, to gain more authentic and fair-trade pieces. In light of the allegations against Zara for copying almost identical designs from an independent artist, not to mention the 30+ lawsuits against Forever 21 in 2016 alone for allegedly stealing the work of designers, there has never been a better time to support creatives across the globe and buy directly from the artist. Recognise the positive and creatively inspirational things that your friends are trying to do as they stick their middle finger up to the multinational companies that feed us as they try to establish themselves as an individual artist, brand or independent company.
Is there anything more frustrating or heart-breaking than the loss of a truly amazing designer, artist or musician because they simply couldn’t afford to fulfil their creative destiny? I shudder to think of the impact on the fashion industry if Vivienne Westwood continued her career as a primary school teacher because people were too busy buying mass produced (albeit beautiful) dresses from All Saints, or if Alex Turner gave up music because his friends couldn’t all fit on the guest list/were too busy saving up for the next Kanye West Album.
Statistics show that if we spend as little as an extra £100 a year on local businesses instead of chain stores, it would put £3 million a year into the economy and create thousands of creative jobs in the process. So donate as little as £5 to a Kickstarter, buy an artist’s record on vinyl and generally encourage the people that are trying to do something, because a little goes a long way and you might end up with an original piece from a truly remarkable artist one day. That doesn’t sound so bad, does it?
Words by Julia Martin.