30 Sep 2021
This week: As fashion month (aka September) draws to a close… what sartorial surprises does Spring 2022 have in store?
TURN TO THE LEFT
In the fashion industry, 2021 might be remembered as the year people shopped for (skimpy) clothes. LVMH posted record revenues, U.S. apparel sales during the hot vax summer exceeded 2019 levels, and everyone still seems to be buying bodycon looks.
So how did that translate on runways around the world?
• “It’s a lot of skin,” said Jyothi Rao, chief executive of American retailer Intermix. And there was plenty of it on display. “Not every collection has horniness as its driving force… but it does seem a logical response to our plague year,” observed critic Cathy Horyn. “The consumer has already made up her mind: life’s too short to dress modestly – and retailers eagerly oblige,” wrote Cathaleen Chen in The Business of Fashion. There is historic precedent for this too – as early as 14th century Europe, when clothing became more expressive and “form-fitting” (at least by medieval standards) following the Black Death.
• London Fashion Week saw in-person shows celebrating freedom and movement with kinetic performances – from Roskanda Ilincic’s dancers to Rejina Pyo’s divers. (Shout out to Rejina, a Space for Ideas 2020 competition finalist). “There’s a sense of rebirth as physical shows return (and digital showcases come of age) in an uncertain new era,” reported The New York Times.
• In New York, even “frivolous” fashion pushed the political envelope. The Met gala, spawner of 1,000 memes, celebrated the Museum’s new exhibition “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion” that aims to bring overlooked designers to light. Curator Andrew Bolton noted the theme “very much came out of the Black Lives Matter movement,” but the sole Indigenous designer included in the show has been a vocal critic of the context. Controversial red carpet statements were also made. “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez attending the $35,000-a-ticket Met Gala in a Brother Vellies gown blaring ‘Tax the Rich’ is a complicated proposition,” tweeted fashion editor Vanessa Friedman.
In summary? The vibes have been mostly happy, and hopeful. “It’s a ton of celebration,” said LaQuan Smith, newly named to the CFDA and the first designer to show in the Empire State Building. “Celebrating the revival of fashion, celebrating live runway shows again and celebrating the vibrancy of New York City as we know it”.
NO NEW CLOTHES
Fashion weeks might be headlined by the heavy hitters, but it’s the discovery of emerging talent that gets pulses racing. For an industry that largely lives and dies by what’s new and now, it’s setting its sights on the next generation.
• LVMH announced plans to recruit 25,000 people under 30 by the end of next year. Everybody’s wooing Z (obvi). Even 100 year olds. In Gucci’s centenary year, the fashion house has launched a new platform for emerging designers. An incubator, for all those baby talents, if you will. “Gucci’s drive to be the must-have brand for Gen Z takes on a new impetus with the arrival of Gucci Vault,” reported Vogue Business. It’s part of a “tectonic shift” happening in Italian fashion, with family brands looking for that VC money to grow in Asia, the U.S. and the rest of Europe.
• You can’t talk about the future of fashion without mentioning China in the same breath. There’s a new crop of British/European/American-educated, Chinese-born designers “mapping out their post-pandemic strategies to reflect their generations’ new global zeitgeist,” noted The Business of Fashion. “[Fashion week organisers are] saying, ‘We need this, we need something different,’ and they’re inviting these brands to show,” said Ida Petersson, buying director for British retailer Browns.
• Streetwear and youth culture are synonymous, right? That’s what luxury is banking on, with storied Japanese label Kenzo naming Nigo, founder of A Bathing Ape, as artistic director. But in the age of “who-is-the-next-Supreme”, there are many compellingly authentic upstarts. "The rise of Crenshaw Skate Club speaks to just how much the American fashion landscape has shifted in recent years, as labels selling simple T-shirts and hoodies...rival designer brands for fashionability,” reported The Business of Fashion.
The ‘10s saw streetwear brands transform the fashion scene, and prove to be one of its most lucrative categories – with independents snapped up by big groups looking for younger audiences. “We knew back then that brands weren’t elite clubs anymore, they were platforms with audiences that gather around cultural credibility,” wrote David Fischer in The Business of Fashion.
That elusive, mysterious alchemy of cool? It’s a pretty simple formula, really. Limited editions + special in-store experiences + cultivating a real community = street cred for life.
Words by Amy Tai, creative consultant and native New Yorker now based in London.