A fledgling fashion company aims to make the suit — traditionally seen as a male power symbol — accessible and wearable to everyone. Nineteen-year-old Billy Stafford talks about what sets his business, Olive Way, apart.
by Billy Stafford
Our message is clear: we want every single person, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or race, to experience what it’s like to feel empowered and extraordinary. While ‘fashion’ could be a rather material subject to some, we think that presentation and perception plays an incredible part in influencing people’s actions and interpretations of the world.
The suit is a symbol — by making this symbol accessible and wearable to everyone, we take one step forward towards a future based on merit, not categorisation.
In a realm where no idea is original, and someone out there is always more proficient, we rely on our passion to create the difference that sets us apart. We have four key messages that are fundamental to our business:
1. Bring the suit out of its corporate shadow, and cast it in a new light
We want to remove suits from the heavily Anglo, masculine, and corporate scene, and bring them to a whole range of people. From the LGBTQI+ community, to people of colour, to women and men alike, everyone deserves the opportunity to wear a beautiful tailor-made suit, without having to break their bank for it. In 2016 only 15.4% of worldwide CEO positions were held by women; an atrocious statistic. Even more alarmingly, only one CEO out of the 500 biggest corporations in the world identifies as a woman of colour – that is 0.2%. It’s easy to understand now why the suit may act as a representation of power and influence. It is in suits that deals are made, fates are sealed and decisions trickle downwards.
2. Let’s talk about sex
If we want to make the suit available to everyone, we have to de-gender it. We’re paving a path of fashion-forward, androgynous, and inter-sex clothing for an entire generation. We are all born essentially the same, as blank canvases. All gender identity is imitative and constructed, none of it true or natural. What we choose to do with our bodies is fundamentally performance art.
People’s ability to express themselves and their identity should not be limited to the clothes they choose to put on their back.
3. Stop killing the planet
The days of corporations sucking the earth dry of its resources to make profit are over — at least for the new wave of businesses. All our materials are sourced from Australia, and then manufactured in Udaipur, India, through a third-generation tailoring family. At no point in our process line do we use ‘cheap labor’.
4. Collaboration is key
Starting this business has been an incredible opportunity to work with up-and-coming youth (such as this range of amazing models). Collaboration is extremely important to us, as it allows us to work with like-minded groups and individuals. The way that new and upcoming business can thrive and survive in 2016 and onwards is if they’re doing good for the world.
In this photo-shoot we worked with XV Photography, Kinki Gerlinki Clothing, and makeup artist Emma Schnell.
You can follow Olive Way on their journey to shape the future of fashion and identity in youth through non-discriminatory art. Connect on Instagram at @olive.way, on Facebook at ‘Olive Way’, or on www.oliveway.com.au
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