At the start of the pandemic, many fashion experts predicted a change in the industry. The pandemic would be an impulse to cut physical runway shows, stop the fashion crowd travel around the world and enforce sustainability efforts in the industry. When the lockdowns started, the fashion brands were the first ones to not only cancel orders but also to refuse to take over what had already produced. When I talked to shop assistants last September, they all said that almost nothing from the SS20 collections had been sold.
Fast forward a year, Fashion Month (the fashion shows in September and early October New York, London, Milan and Paris presenting the trends for the following spring and summer season) has almost come to an end. (You can find my most recent article about how to incorporate SS22 fashion trends into your office wardrobe here.) While New York Fashion Week was entirely hosted online and some events of the other locations as well, most of the coverage presented a fashion world which seemed just like the one before the pandemic.
I have always been interested in fashion, particularly in how relationship between fashion and politics: When women went on the streets in the early 20th century to demand more rights, they also freed themselves from the corsets. The mini skirt was invented at the same time when the birth control pill allowed women more freedom when it comes to family planning. Fashion was a vehicle, a statement. When I look at the current runways, I often miss this link. Even when political messages are incorporated in the shows, it often feels fake. For example, I could not help but feel if some fashion houses use female empowerment messages during the shows (e.g. Maria Grazia Chiuri at her debut at Dior in 2016 with “We Should All Be Feminists”-messages on T-shirts), it feels like yet just another marketing campaign.
Of course, fashion is a business. It is about making money and getting as many people as possible to buy the products. There is a multitude of shows: Fall/Winter, Spring/Summer, Cruise Collections and sometimes even Pre-Fall or Pre-Spring. It is no secret that trends are recurring. When I look at the current outfits, they remind of many of my fashion faux-pas when I was a teenager in the late 90s and early 2000s. (Please, please, please stop the cycling shorts on the runway – I was traumatized as a kid and still cannot get over their ugliness.) Very often, these cyclical trends are really obvious: When everyone has bought big-sized bags, fashion promotes “micro-bags”. When everybody has those, the big ones come back. Hence, over time I somehow lost interest in following fashion shows.
My attitude towards fashion has changed a lot over the years. As a teenager and in my early twenties, I oriented myself on my friends and I did experiment with some trends. (Please forgive me for low-cut jeans and G-strings). I remember, I begged my parents for Adidas Superstars sneakers because every “cool” person at school had them. Over time, I found my own fashion voice. I only pick up on fashion trends if I really like them and if I find them flattering. Until today, I refuse to wear white sneakers with a summer dress. It is just not my style.
Can fashion trends be sustainable? Probably not at first sight. But there is actually something long-lasting in them: I do think that the cyclical nature of fashion is something sustainable. As mentioned above, many trends to come back after some time. And if you buy high quality items, they will last.
I invest in high quality items which I know I will wear and love for a long time. In general, I have reduced the amount of items I buy. Buying less is a first step towards sustainability. And instead of buying for the sake of a brand name, I do a lot of research on the brands. How are the items produced? Do the brands engage in ethical and sustainable practices? Do they really commit to these values or is it just greenwashing for the sake of good PR? And what is the quality of an item – how is it sewn, what material is it made of, will it last?
For quite a while now, I have stopped to purchase items which are made from polyester – a task which is much more difficult than I would have anticipated. It makes me really angry to see premium brands selling dresses made entirely from polyester, i.e. plastic, and charge thousands of dollars. Granted, none of us is a saint and I do think it is OK to turn a blind eye on polyester once in a while if you really love an item. But I really try to make an effort to avoid it.
Last but not least, I go back into my wardrobe (and very often also my mother’s) and find joy in old items. Sometimes, I wear them as they are, sometimes I have them altered a bit. (Just as a side note: a great tailor and also cobbler are worth the investment.) Last year, I had the shoulder pads removed from a beautiful silk blouse and quite a few skirts adapted and I have loved wearing them since then.
What would I love to see more on the runways? Well, I cannot tell you a certain trend, items or colour. But I would wish that fashion would go back to where it once was: an artistic firework, a way to express one’s opinion and something which makes us feel beautiful. Furthermore, I would like to see a move to a fashion world where a certain price tag stands for quality, ethics, sustainability and craftsmanship and not just the mere reflection of a brand’s value and its online followers. I also think that fashion should dare to become more political again. It is more than just printing a message on a T-shirt. In the end, fashion is wearable art. It reveals our personality. And I would love to see more of that again. Fashion trends just for the sake of fashion or selling products will be forgotten after a season. But high quality, true craftsmanship, art and a genuine set of values will remain.
What is your opinion on current fashion trends? Do you follow them? Do you think fashion can be sustainable?