Tag Archives: fashion trends

Fashion Revolution in the Age of COVID

black mannequin

Photo by Jan Kroon on Pexels.com

Sharing a very interesting fashion article, courtesy of Kat’s excellent Feather Factor blog:

WWD Business: Fashion’s Great French Revolution
By Laura Lanteri on May 11, 2020

“When the people shall have nothing more to eat, they will eat the rich.” — Jean-Jacques Rousseau

In 2012, when Miuccia Prada, sitting at the Carlyle Hotel in Manhattan, was trying to reconcile her own political and philosophical beliefs (she was a member of the Italian Communist party during her youth) and the idiosyncrasies of her job, she commented: “Fashion is the first step out of poverty.” Her reasoning was quite simple. Once an individual satisfies all their primary needs — food, shelter, health — one of their first desires is to look better, to change, to “elevate” themselves.

Aspiration versus accessibility, equality versus exclusivity, relatability versus uniqueness: Miuccia Prada knew that fashion did have a place in bettering this world, but she was also deeply aware of the almost irreparable craters that separated her from the masses.

Fast-forward eight years and here we are, exactly where Miuccia Prada predicted we would be: the fashion revolution is here, and it’s disturbingly ugly. The dynamics that have driven the exorbitant financial and commercial growth of the industry are the very same forces that — exasperated by a global pandemic of unthinkable proportions — are now possibly risking its extinction.

And, this time, the Revolution started at the bottom of the food chain, from the very customers that fashion, and especially the luxury sector, tried to lure into impossible aspirational dreams of never-ending consumption.

Customers are most certainly not buying into the aspiration anymore, and the reasons for their unhappiness go well beyond the scarcity and misery brought about by this pandemic.

From reports that millions of garment workers in India and Bangladesh may be reduced into starvation by the current interruption in the supply chain of major retailers, to the increasingly popular images depicting a cleaner, less polluted world due to a halt in consumption, travel and productivity, to the devastating realities of hundreds of thousands of retail workers being furloughed across the United States, fashion has never looked so broken.

And fashion customers, just like the French Revolution insurgents circling around the impossible marvel that was Versailles, are taking notice. Not just notice — action.

It’s not that surprising then that — at the time when we are all forced to cling to our own very essential version of life — most of this “stuff,” the fashion stuff, is getting cut out. McKinsey & Co. is projecting a contraction of the luxury sector of up to 40 percent in 2020. I think that may be an optimistic figure. Earnest Research reports a 70 percent drop in spending for “Apparel and Accessories” for the week ending on April 1, 2020.

Even assuming that fashion and luxury will survive in some tangible form, the reality we will go back to will not resemble our pre-pandemic world in any way.

Fashion and luxury will have to change because the audience they used to have are not there anymore. Fashion is no longer simply a monologue, and customers are emerging as much more powerful voices in this dialogue. They are shouting. They are shouting at Madonna taking a milky bath with rose petals in her mansion while philosophizing about COVID-19 being “the great equalizer.” They are shouting at Ellen DeGeneres, who is comparing her quarantine in a multimillion-dollar compound to “jail.” They are shouting at Jennifer Lopez, who is joke-complaining about quarantine with her family in a massive mansion, oblivious to her privilege and to the horrendous struggle outside of her door.

It is worth noting that many of these celebrities were, as of a few weeks ago, considered the pioneers of change for fashion. J.Lo was seen as the ambassador of “older women,” showing us that we didn’t have to dress “our age.” DeGeneres has been, and maybe still will be, a pioneer in the advancement of LGBTQ rights, both in entertainment and in fashion.

Madonna has changed the way we think about how women dress well before she wore the much-clamored Gaultier cones. But not anymore — these women are not the voices or the aspirations of the zeitgeist. They were brand ambassadors for a system that was already on the verge of collapse. Their obliviousness to this current catastrophe only accelerated a process of self-destruction.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Fashion used to be — in many ways — an invisible force behind change. Not an equalizing force, but a transformative one. Taking pleasure in beauty and design is a quintessentially human prerogative. Beyond the obvious aesthetic qualities that fashion encapsulates, fashion used to mean something to its audience.

The most famous fashion designers in history have made significant contributions to how we relate to each other in society and how we perceive who we are. Not simply about how we look.

From Coco Chanel’s rebellion against uncomfortable clothing for women, to YSL’s embrace of the androgynous to Vivienne Westwood’s anti-establishment ethos, to Pierpaolo Piccioli’s vision of inclusivity, fashion becomes successful when it relates to its audience on a deep, visceral level. Not just on a grand scale, but — most powerfully now — on a human scale.

Fashion customers, the industry audience, seem to have suddenly noticed the difference. From the founder of Something Navy, who has been subjected to vicious attacks on social media after escaping Manhattan for the Hamptons during the pandemic, to Elle Macpherson, whose brand WelleCo has been heavily criticized after it sent out promotional e-mails marketing a “Super Elixir” allegedly promoting immune support (cost: $80), fashion customers appear pretty unforgiving and quick to discard previously beloved brands. Perhaps even more tellingly, Chiara Ferragni — the Italian model and “digital entrepreneur” ranked as the number-one fashion influencer in the world by Forbes — is now advertising pasta and mascarpone cheese on her Instagram posts. No more Giambattista Valli there.

Make no mistake: These are hard times for any company that is not selling essential goods. And buying a new dress is in itself an utterly insignificant gesture. But if this dress morphs into a determination of a person’s true presence, then fashion regains its power.

Fashion perhaps can be small again, it can shrink back to human scale, its beauty as vivid as the fairness of its (new) processes. Fashion’s ambition has probably always been — indeed as Miuccia Prada said — about a desire to better ourselves. Recently, we just lost track of who we are.

So let the screams coming from social media all around the world be a powerful wake-up call for all of fashion. Because the Fashion Revolutionaries are in. And they will not eat cake.

Laura Lanteri is an adjunct professor at The New School’s Parsons School of Design.

 

Slow Fashion Ahead

My dear friend S shared this InStyle story about what we can expect from fashion in the months ahead.  It will be interesting to see if these predictions come true.

[from InStyle online]

American Fashion Changed After the Depression, and It’s About to Reinvent Itself Again

“Unprecedented.” That’s the word we keep hearing for the level of disruption that COVID-19 has brought to our economy and our social lives.

As we hunker down and see our collective incomes contract, the fashion industry is also in crisis. Factories in Europe and Asia are shutting down, either to stem the spread of coronavirus, or because brands are closing stores and canceling orders. The Boston Consulting Group predicts that fashion sales in 2020 could drop by a quarter or even a third compared to 2019, representing up to $600 billion in lost revenue.

In fact, this crisis isn’t completely unprecedented. It’s just that there are very few women still alive who remember what it was like the other times something this disruptive happened: The 1918 flu pandemic, the Great Depression, and the Second World War. And if we draw on the expertise of fashion historians and trend forecasters, we can learn from the social, financial, and fashion upheaval of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s to predict how our style will change in the coming months and years. In short? It’s not going to be all leggings all the time: Dressier days are on the horizon already.

We’ll prize simple clothing that is easy to wash.

Before the 1918 flu epidemic, “People didn’t wash their clothes nearly as often as we do now, with the exception of undergarments,” says Allison Pfingst, fashion historian and archivist, and advisor of the Fashion Studies department at Fordham University. A decade after the first electric washer hit the market, very few households had one.

“You can imagine how difficult it would be to do your family’s household laundry by hand, especially in the midst of a highly contagious pandemic when you’re likely taking care of someone who is ill,” Pfingst says. That pushed delicate or fussy clothing and voluminous undergarments out of women’s closets, bringing in slimmer clothing shapes, sturdy fabrics, and colors that don’t fade in the wash.

Today, as we peel off our “outside” clothes and stick them straight into the washing machine on the ultra-hot sanitary setting, we’ll likely also pivot to easy, washable clothing and away from “dry clean only” fashion. That means cotton, linen, washable silk, and washable merino wool are in. Delicate beadwork and lace, plus fabrics like rayon or regular silk that shrink and stain at the mere sight of water, are out.

In-your-face luxury will be out.

Pfingst sent over a New York Times article written in the depths of the Great Depression describing the society ladies wearing last year’s dresses and jewels: “Many of the wealthiest women who have not yet felt the pinch are dressing more simply than last year, since they felt ostentatious costume is in bad taste these days,” the author opined in 1932. Barbara Hutton, heiress to the Woolworth department store fortune, became infamous for throwing a lavish ball during this time.

Today, celebrities are already getting blowback for complaining about social isolation on social media inside their mansions and compounds. “Most likely, we’ll see cultural mores about displaying wealth or status change when so many people are out of work,” says Natalie Nudell, a fashion and textile historian at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. She points out that fur and ornate decoration slipped away during the 2008 recession, but had started to creep back in over the past five years in the form of sequins, peplum, and puffed sleeves, big gold jewelry and feathers, and even hoop-skirt ball gowns. (Let them eat cake, indeed.)

No longer. “We’re probably going to go back to an aesthetic of scarcity,” Nudell says. Simple sheath dresses, tees, wide-leg pants, and humble jeans in rustic fabrics like linen and cotton have so far been popular only with a certain subset of minimalist, sustainable influencers. But you’ll probably start seeing them even on the most high-end influencers soon.

We’ll make do, mend, and shop secondhand.

Because materials were being diverted for the war effort, “Make Do and Mend” became fashion’s official slogan in the 1940s. Before that in the Great Depression, many women resorted to upcycling empty cotton flour sacks into dresses, leading food companies to start printing colorful floral patterns on their food bags.

The online secondhand fashion market is also set to explode. “It’s been gaining momentum before this happened,” says Melissa Moylan, a trend forecaster for womenswear at Fashion Snoops. “Even retailers like Nordstrom dipped into that. But it hasn’t yet had mass acceptance.” She sees that changing, as more people shop at places like The Realreal, Poshmark, and ThredUp to save money, and others clean out and sell from their closets to make a little extra cash.

Fashion trends will slow down.

After a decade of experimentation, with boyish silhouettes with dropped waistlines, the Great Depression and the 1930s brought in a more feminine, classic silhouette. In our time, minimalism, capsule wardrobe dressing, and an emphasis on classics have slowly gained ground on lightning-fast fashion trends in the past few years, but our experts think longlasting classics will become the norm now. “Less disposable income means less money to throw away on clothing each season, and priority will go to clothes that will be fashionable longer than a couple of months,” Pfingst says.

Designers including Donatella Versace, Rick Owens, and Guram Gvasalia of Vetements have indicated they are looking forward to slowing down and creating seasonless clothes. “People are asking, what am I going to invest in?” Moylan says. She thinks we’ll focus on what she calls “wardrobe builders,” things like blazers, wide leg pants, sweater dresses, and pleated skirts.

“People are going to be eager to buy stuff, if they can afford it. But I don’t think they will jump on something new,” agrees Nancy Deihl, Director of the M.A. Program in Costume Studies at New York University. “They’ll just want something that will be reassuring to them.”

We’ll fall back in love with the house dress.

Gabrielle Korn, author and Director of Fashion and Culture at Refinery29, says she spent her first few weeks of social distancing in New York City in loungewear. But since decamping to her girlfriend’s home state of North Carolina, she’s already switched to long and loose cotton house dresses so she can enjoy the weather on the front porch. “The weather change combined with the semi-public outside space called for something just slightly elevated that still is cozy,” she explains.

She’s following in the footsteps of housewives in the 1930s and 1940s, who needed something they could wear when cooking at home and visiting with their neighbors (their equivalent to the working from home Korn and many of us are doing right now). While house dresses during the Great Depression were humble and hand-crafty, that changed in 1942, when Claire McCardell, the designer credited with defining the American Look, invented the Popover Dress, a radically simple and comfortable yet flattering wrap dress (which came with a matching potholder) that any woman could own for $7 ($111 in today’s dollars).

Once we get sweatsuit fatigue (it’s coming), we’ll reinvigorate the kinds of clothing that are one step above PJs: wrap dresses, caftans, easy blouses, and wide leg loose-fitting pants that make us feel like queens of our realm instead of prisoners.

We’ll long for the escape of movies rather than the relatability of influencers.

In the 1930s, all of America went to the movies for affordable entertainment. Even as the general population made do with mending their old dresses, fashionable images from that era feature movie stars in luxurious satin dresses, furs, and sparkIing jewels. Movie stars capitalized on that fantasy by endorsing sewing patterns, makeup, and affordable copies of their glamorous outfits.

“Even though people were aspiring to glamour, they weren’t spending tons,” Deihl says. “Mrs. Middle America wasn’t wearing sables the way Gloria Swanson or Joan Crawford were. But maybe she was wearing rabbit fur from this year’s catalogue.” These were fashion’s first mass-market dupes and copies.

Now, instead of gleaning fashion must-haves and travel recommendations from influencers, we’re turning to Netflix for entertainment, to forget what is going on. “I think we were almost at the point of exhaustion with influencers,” Moylan of Fashion Snoops says, of recent pre-pandemic days. “Now that this has hit, if they were to put on something, it’s like, where do you think you’re going?”

But period costumes worn in the movies? More of those, please.

When this is all over, we’ll want to look sharp.

“The style that we really think of as being 1940s style — the boxy look, shoulder pads, that man tailored look — it actually came into fashion at the tail end of the 1930s,” Deihl says. When the war broke out and material rationing started, the style stuck around.

Similarly, Moylan predicts that when we’re back out in the world and in our offices, we’ll run in the opposite direction from schlubby loungewear and toward tailored looks. “We are going to want to dress up,” she says, citing recent collections shown by Proenza Schouler, Jonathan Simkhai, Jil Sander, and Sies Marjan with tailored classics.

We’ll DIY our beauty and wellness routines and spend on makeup.

During the Depression, women spent what little money they had on makeup to emulate the movie-star look. Now, with shelter-in-place orders spreading across the country, WWD reports that sales of Tata Harper’s at-home facial bundles, Avène’s Soothing Sheet Mask, and Olive & June’s Mani Kits are all up. “People will still be buying makeup and beauty products. It’s a way to continue your self-care,” Nudell says.

Moylan agrees. “I’m still comfortable buying beauty at this time, but I can’t bring myself to buy another piece of clothing right now; it’s just too scary,” she admits.

But we’ll ditch the last of our uncomfortable, gendered work clothing.

According to Pfingst, sportswear was invented in the 1920s, while Rosie the Riveter encouraged women to dress comfortably in slacks and coveralls so they could take over the men’s jobs in shipyards and factories.

“While it is still advisable to look presentable from the chest up, no woman is putting on a thong or an underwire to attend a Zoom meeting,” she says. “When we have to go back to the office, there’s a good chance it will no longer be in uncomfortable heels, or hard-to-tuck-in blouses. Expectations of impractical, uncomfortable work attire are floating away along with a feeling of obligation to appear ‘attractive’ at work in the MeToo era.”

Looking sharp but feeling breezy and comfortable? That’s something we can look forward to.

The Rites of Fall

Last week totally got away from me. We’d left the cool coastal weather for hot, steamy Austin and resumed normal, non-vacation life – which included discovering a dead car battery, a pool that was neon green, a wonky garage door, physicals, dental visits, haircuts and other end-of-summer transitions.

More than January, September always feels like the true beginning of a new year. For my husband, the return of fall football is his favorite ritual. For me, it’s all about curling up with the big September fashion magazines; the fatter, the better.

Every year, as I flip through the pages, I ask myself: 1) Who would be caught dead in these get-ups? and 2) What, if anything, can I (still) wear?

Stacy London, former host of What Not To Wear, recently wrote an impassioned piece about the challenges — sartorial and otherwise —  of being a woman in a society that doesn’t value aging. It’s hard to evolve your appearance in a way that feels truthful, relevant and flattering.

I’m not about to adopt a style that doesn’t suit me just because a magazine says it’s “in”. But reading about the latest trends gives me fresh perspective on stuff at the back of my closet that could potentially live to see another day, given a tweak or two.

The older I get, the more those “trends” start to seem like classics. Every September, the fashion bibles trot out some version of menswear plaid, Victorian heroine (velvet, lace), preppy chic and Goth black leather. This year, “athleisure” is still going strong and leopard is everywhere.

I’m not yearning for lace or embroidery, and I’ll limit black leather to coats and bags rather than heavy-metal biker outfits. Ah, but animal print? That’s the real me.

I first fell in love with leopard around 7th grade back in the 60’s. (Notice how fabulous Anne Bancroft looks in The Graduate and you’ll know why.) I’ve never stopped wearing it, though most years I confine my leopard obsession to shoes, scarves or other accessories. I’ve also considered giving it up, wondering if I’m too old to be flashy, but then I look at nonagenarian Iris Apfel’s exuberant ensembles and think, hey, who cares?

This year, I’m channeling my inner Kate Moss and looking for a full-on leopard print fake fur coat. It will be too hot in Texas to wear until December but I don’t care. It will keep me fashionably current, appeal to my inner glamour puss, look cool in my closet and add some verve to my dull everyday uniform of jeans and a sweater.

Rituals keep us connected to our history. My husband loves watching football as much as he loved playing the game in high school. And the September magazines remind me that playing with fashion is a way to have fun, feel inspired and reinvent myself – even if it’s only in my own mind.

Shop on!