This year’s Fashion Month is like no other. Editors and bloggers have been watching most of the shows from their sofas, instead of jetting off and rushing around the world’s fashion capitals. Despite the restrictions, designers still managed to create new looks while in lockdown – but will consumers want to wear them?
With the news that clothing sales are dropping around the world – particularly in the UK (21%) and the US (79%) – it’s clear lockdown hasn’t been good for the fashion business. While this is worrying for retailers, it might not be such a bad thing for the planet as a whole.
Fashion is one of the most polluting industries on the planet. The vast volume of clothing being produced is driven by our desire for newness, which is in turn driven by trends; an end to trends could help the fashion industry to slow down.
Thanks to the rise of social media, trends have become even more flash-in-the-pan than ever. No longer about a mood or a look, like ‘boho’ or ‘utilitarian’, trends are all about grabbing attention, often concentrated into one viral It-piece: the giant hat; the tiny bag; the £1600 plastic mac; the see-through plastic chaps…
Before the pandemic, the shops were awash with vinyl. The look has filtered down from last year’s catwalks, where designers made a point of using recycled plastic, or else making sure virgin plastic clothes were well made.
It looks as though glossy plastic is here to stay too. The autumn winter 2020 catwalks were awash with sheeny latex, which again has been translated into plastic by fast fashion.
You only have to search ‘vinyl’ on Missguided’s website to see how ubiquitous the shiny plastic trend has become. The question is, why are people still buying stiff, shiny plastic pieces if they’re socially distancing and don’t have the opportunity to show them off?
Fast and social
Social media has kept trends alive and well during the pandemic. It’s the reason there was an It-dress of the summer, despite everyone supposedly being at home baking banana bread in their pyjamas.
It’s the reason brands like Missguided and Fashion Nova saw how the Kardashians were dressing up at home and were able to quickly knock up copies so their customers could dress up at home too.
By taking their inspiration from celebrities on social media instead of seasonal collections, fast fashion brands can give customers what they want, as soon as they realise they want it. It’s the complete opposite of what’s happening at the other end of the spectrum.
While fast fashion is racing ahead, high-end designers and fashion publications are seemingly slowing down, looking back and refocusing on craft, which really could spell the end of traditional fashion trends.
In the October issue of British Vogue, most ‘trends’ explicitly referred to as such are either perennial and nostalgic, like checks and tailoring; WFH-friendly, like soft-knit dresses; or timeless investment pieces, like black leather accessories. Admittedly, there are also a lot of shiny, skintight latex looks, courtesy of Saint Lauren autumn winter 2020, and a feature on extreme fringing.
Other fashion publications are similarly hedging their bets, pushing ‘post-Pandemic party dresses’ as well as loungewear and Zoom-ready looks like statement collars and voluminous sleeves.
Either editors have a hunch that we’re sick and tired of lockdown loungewear, or they’re flogging a load of latex and party dresses, designed and manufactured before the pandemic.
A more accurate barometer would be the spring summer collections, which were created during lockdown. So far, there have been trends like any other year albeit designed with the post-pandemic customer in mind – dreamy prints, uplifting colours, silky fabrics and comfortable silhouettes.
To find out how these trends survive in the wild, the fashion industry will have to wait and hope until the spring – just like the rest of the world.