United States (New York)
“Fashion is both a powerful art form and a way of communicating that is faster and arguably more powerful than words. Rejecting it is as much a statement as accepting it. We’re here to do both”.
So reads Display Copy’s assertively capitalised fashion statement. Launched in 2020, Display Copy is a media platform that takes knowledge of fashion’s damaging environmental and social impact to its logical conclusion: its pages show no new clothes.
“The fashion industry’s current efforts toward sustainability are not moving fast enough to counteract its rapid growth,” the statement continues. “The industry’s carbon impact is on pace to create irreversible damage to our planet, and therefore to us, as early as 2024.”
It references data showing that the fashion industry is on track to grow 81% by 2030, and threaten progress towards achieving the Paris Agreement’s objective of keeping global warming below 1.5ºC. The fashion industry is intricately bound up in the climate and ecological crisis, and our hunger for novelty is driving these figures up.
Her almost 20 years working with some of the biggest names in fashion meant that Brynn Heminway, Display Copy’s founder, became all too aware of the waste and harm caused by the industry. She wanted to create something that could counteract it, and energise people to move in another direction.
“I felt I had to offer people something different.” Brynn says. “I came to a realisation when I saw an image. It was a still life of this old, 1970s leather sandal. I’d never liked shooting still lives – they’re so boring, there’s no narrative, it’s just a product. But when I saw this shoe I felt something – it was beautiful, I was desperate for this sandal. That was my aha moment.”
Instead of showing the latest fashion, Display Copy features only vintage, thrift, upcycled and recycled clothing. Its stories – covering vintage stores, innovative designers, clothing care and wardrobe staples – are accompanied by a curated display of vintage items available to buy on sites like Etsy, Ebay, The RealReal and FARFETCH. Each story creates a narrative around individual vintage or upcycled garments, then helps readers find pieces that are similar. The goal is to become the NET-A-PORTER of vintage – to create the first affiliate network solely for vintage and resale.
With no new styles, the thrill of novelty comes instead from upcyclers surprising, inspiring creations. Designer Natalie Brown collages band tees on puffer jackets (“vital designs, noted for their sense play and unabashed loudness”), and Matthew Needham and Helen Kirkum splice FiveFinger running shoes onto reclaimed stilettos (“a beautiful concoction”).
“Upcycling and sustainable fashion have for a long time had a reputation as not being elevated, or sophisticated,” Brynn explains. “But you look at people like Natalie and what she’s creating, and it is so relevant and cool. She’s challenging the industry in a way that’s really exciting to be a part of.”
Display Copy is an antidote not just to the damage caused by clothes, but the stifling of creativity around both communicating and wearing them. It is about “personal style over trend,” Brynn says – and personal style involves “having a personal engagement with the experience of dressing yourself.” This comes less naturally when shopping at retail stores: “When we walk into a shop or go on a website, a brand tells us what we should buy – what’s on trend – and then we pay for it. But we don’t relate to it, and so we’re ready to discard it much quicker. Buying vintage and thrifting, is a visceral experience: you’re responding emotionally and intuitively to an item.” Fashion can be an opportunity to express who you are, rather than your ability to stay up to date.
Display Copy offers us a way to reorientate ourselves: to fashion, to ‘newness’, to creativity, to the experience of shopping. And it revitalises what has become tired – it breathes new life into old things, and creative energy into the way we dress.
Importantly, nothing is lost – only gained. “I want there to be a sense of joy and discovery in shopping again,” Brynn says, “and joy can come from knowing that you’re not harming the planet. The way we dress ourselves is an important communicative force, and it’s not that we shouldn’t prioritise creative expression in the way we dress – it’s that we need to find different ways of doing it.”
Nature-geek, urban forager and all-round wordy sort. Freelance writer for organisations that care about the future. Often found reading while walking.
Brynn Heminway, Founder & Creative Director
This project has been selected as part of FashionFutures, a new content channel that maps the work of people transforming the fashion sector: the designers, craftspeople, social innovators, educators, community leaders and communicators. Atlas of the Future is excited to partner with Makerversity, with the support of The J J Charitable Trust and their network of fashion friends.
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