No new clothes
25 Feb 2021
This week: Looks like we’ll soon emerge from our lockdown caves. OMG. What are we gonna wear? With two Fashion Weeks down, here’s where the apparel industry is at.
TURN TO THE LEFT
In fashion calendar terms, it’s been two seasons since COVID came onto the scene. For an industry that saw a 90% profit plunge last year, must feel like eons.
• British brands in particular are facing – understatement alert – major upheaval. There’s the C-word, and the B-word. An open letter by Fashion Roundtable, signed by hundreds of industry names, called on the Gov for an urgent meeting to discuss support measures including tax relief and visa accommodations. “Fashion is worth more than the car, film, music and fishing industries combined… but it didn’t feature in any of the government’s negotiations with the EU,” said photographer Nick Knight. Want to chime in? We’ve also got a letter you can sign. Show some love for your fav indies – and the countless creatives they support – and join our fight to #SaveTheStreet.
• Will limitations mean a real leaning-in to local, both in the supply chain and market sense? ‘Post-Brexit, can small be beautiful for UK fashion brands?’ wondered Vogue Business. “Those brands that have switched focus to support the community, target local customers and empathise with their audience have seen the greatest gains,” said Dr. Fabio Duma, a luxury and marketing researcher.
• Another impassioned open letter, this time addressed to the White House, has been backed by brands from Cuyana to Timberland. What do they want? Transformative legislation to address the human and environmental impact of the fashion industry. When do they want it? Now. Their rallying cry: “President Biden, appoint a fashion czar!” Not in the emperor sense, but in the high-level-government-adviser sense. “The government could help create green jobs in the fashion industry. It could be part of the country’s economic recovery,” said journalist Elizabeth Cline.
Big brands, including Burberry and Adidas, are issuing millions in sustainability-linked debt – betting on a long-term shift towards investors, and the public, prioritizing sustainable and social change. With increasing awareness surrounding the industry’s impact on the climate, there should be no other choice.
WHO WHAT WEAR
Fashion is an ever-changing, ephemeral thing. It has always been about reinvention. Some of the industry’s leading voices consider the coming post-COVID era as an opportunity for a paradigm shift.
• “While the fashion industry has experienced its worst year on record, the pandemic has also prompted a long overdue reckoning for the sector… the fashion system will need to be rewired to become more responsible, more sustainable and more human,” wrote Imran Amed, founder of The Business of Fashion. Fashion’s ultimate bellwether, Anna Wintour, also predicts a significant change in values.
• In their 2021 State of Fashion report, McKinsey identified several key trends, including: “A renewed consumer focus on social justice and fair treatment of garment workers, a diminished ability to rely on a buoyant travel and tourism sector to boost demand for fashion, and a need to adjust to consumers’ new ‘less is more’ mindset.” We’ll say it again: expect more streamlined offerings and a focus on local production.
• As far as the future of Fashion Week is concerned? Major labels were largely no-shows at the New York and London editions. But there were plenty of emerging designers to give us something to dream about, even if digital-only meant a crowded field. “With fashion month happening online… it’s even harder to be noticed out there in the sea of content,” noted i-D. But what an otherworldly, boundary-pushing sea indeed – with LFW marking its first year as a gender-neutral showcase. Eliminating separate men’s and women’s schedules is a move that the British Fashion Council hopes will “redefine” the traditional model, and “allow designers greater flexibility to consider what collection they show when and minimise travel requirements, taking us one step closer to a more sustainable future,” said chief exec Caroline Rush.
Fashion is so often a way to imagine alternate realities, a means of escape. It’s certainly where our flights of fancy are turning to, as cities around the world embark on roadmaps out of lockdown.
Soon we’ll be all dressed up, with somewhere to go.
Words by Amy Tai, creative consultant and native New Yorker now based in London.