As the fashion industry’s month long schedule of womenswear shows draw to a close, Gucci and Balenciaga – named the hottest brands of 2017 – are embracing political initiatives and social movements – building on their lucrative brand hype, while ensuring a lasting impact after the season ends.
Italian mega-brand Gucci has joined the anti-gun movement, donating $500,000 to March For Our Lives – the student-led protest organised by the friends, families and survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on February 14. The brand is keen to support the cause using more than just capital, with its politically minded millennial fan-base increasingly demanding authentic showcases of activism and political engagement.
‘‘I am truly moved by the courage of these students,’’ said Gucci creative director Allessandro Michele of his position to join the march. ‘‘My love is with them and it will be next to them on March 24. I am standing with March for Our Lives and the strong young women and men across the United States.’’
Luxury French fashion house Balenciaga has similarly intertwined social change with its brand DNA of late – unveiling a collaboration with the World Food Programme at its A/W 18/19 show. The brand has announced an ongoing collaboration with the charity, including a $250,000 donation and a percentage of sales from the Balenciaga x WFP collection.
Shrewd brands would do well to outwardly embrace their core values. Against a volatile political climate and the rising spending power of millennials – neutrality may prove a riskier strategy.
For more on how brands can avoid ambivalence in tense political times see Brands Take a Stand.
As detailed in The New Fashion Landscape 2017 Update, fashion is altering its approach to sizing, diversity and gender. These topics animated the Fashion Institute of Technology’s symposium in New York on February 23, reflecting issues explored in its current exhibit The Body: Fashion and Physique (see blog). We recount the highlights.
Unlike some male designers who create clothes that they would like to see women wearing, Dries Van Noten designs clothes women actually want to wear. His A/W 18/19 showing was full of covetable pieces celebrating colour and pattern, coupled with an easy elegance.
Silhouettes followed a simple template of louche cocooning coats, soft pants and boxy tops, drapey blousons and relaxed sheath dresses – all providing a blank canvas for Art Brut add link-styled doodle prints and playful checks.
There was an almost Oriental Deco feel to the bicoloured scribble prints, sometimes worked in a contradictory, haphazard pattern clash, or as dimensional embroideries and beaded motifs. Other textures came in the form of soft Mongolian lamb collars and stoles, as well as a vivid fringe fanning diagonally across simple skirts and dresses.
The palette was a masterclass in offbeat colour mixes. Think lilac, mint and chartreuse with pops of red, parrot green, violet, Gitanes blue and orange, all grounded with black, white and ochre.
Van Noten doesn’t usually amplify the season’s trends, but he reflected looks seen elsewhere this season in patterned outerwear, the draped 80s pouf of a blouse sleeve, and colourful plaids sympathetically rendered in double jersey. Metallic cloques and brocades also tapped into A/W 18/19’s emerging fabric directions.
These were effortlessly timeless clothes. Casual parkas and sporty jacquard or marled knits were thrown into the decorative mix, along with oversized fur hobo bags and covetable snakeskin boots, adding a luxurious everyday vibe.
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From adopting a more charitable outlook to promoting the beauty of body ‘imperfections’, the fashion industry has finally started to wake up to informed consumers’ expectations.
Here’s a round-up of our favourite progressive initiatives from the past month, which other brands would do well to learn from.
For more on the lucrative opportunities inclusivity presents to brands, read our report A Fashion A’Woke’ning. For more on diversity, sustainability and the challenging fashion environment, see our Industry Trend The New Fashion Landscape 2017.
In a season notable for swansong collections, Christopher Bailey devoted his razzamatazz Burberry finale to the LGBT community – seamlessly meshing A/W 18/19’s emerging trends with looks inspired by street tribes of the 80s and 90s.
The mood was playful and heartfelt, bringing together the disparate worlds of working-class culture and luxury. It was a reflection of where Burberry stood when Bailey first joined 17 years ago, and the iconic check was the hallmark of the football terraces.
In a genius move, the designer combined that check with the rainbow colours of the Gay Pride flag for his final collection for the house. They appear on everything from hi-top trainers to striped puffas, pieced tees and the dramatic, floor-sweeping shearling cape worn as a final exit by Cara Delevingne.
But at the heart of the collection was Bailey’s tribute to youth culture. There were nods to the 90s rave movement in the rainbow-hued, tie-dye tees, and a salute to grunge in the oversized, graffiti-patterned sweats. Meanwhile, scarf-print shellsuits and ballooning track tops paid homage to the way in which sportswear has become the driver for fashion trends – here as luxe hoodies coupled with taffeta ball gowns in a tongue-in-chic take on high-low culture mixes.
It was that same high-low vibe that gave the collection its celebratory youthful verve. Bailey mixed camouflage prints with hand-beaded lace, throwing the emerging trend for punkish mixed plaids into the melting pot of amplified colour and pattern, along with thrift-shop-inspired upcycled patchwork knits, and graffiti-splattered satins and silks.
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Tom Ford was back with a bang on the opening day of New York Fashion Week, kicking off the official start of the womenswear show calendar with a no-holds-barred procession of glitzy glamour.
This powerful rendering of slick professionalism might not have been to everyone’s taste, but it certainly packed a punch with a palette of eye-searing brights and clashing pattern play.
The 80s were alive and well in the bold, brash silhouettes, manifested in reed-thin leggings topped off with the slouchy volume of an exaggerated fur jacket or glittering sequined sweat top.
And Ford wasn’t shy when it came to his print mash-ups. Colourful big-cat and python-skin prints were combined with bold black and white optical mixes for everything from sharp boardroom power suits to second-skin leggings and fluttery frilled babydoll dresses.
Colour was equally bold with a palette of hot red, lilac, bubblegum, acid yellow and neon lime interspersed with the glitter of colourful sequins, diamante and shimmery metallics in a nod to 80s-inspired excess.
The mega-watt looks dimmed a notch with a procession of sleek black tuxedos and thigh-high micro LBDs teamed with spray-on silver leggings, all accessorised with blinding rhinestone chandelier earrings.
This 80s goodtime girl look went from top to toe – from the wide leather headbands to the vampy va-va-vroom shoes and glittering must-have PussyPower purse bags.
For more inspiration, see our A/W 18/19 Fashion Forecast Trend Nostalgia.
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Fashion’s resale revival shows no sign of abating, with UK charity shop Oxfam announcing plans to double the size of its online operations following 33% sales growth over the 2017 Christmas period (The Guardian, 2017). The increase saw the brand make a staggering £16.9m ($23.5m) in the eight weeks leading up to December 23.
The company has taken an increasingly fashion-minded approach to its outreach of late, enlisting renowned photographer David Bailey and veteran model Kate Moss to showcase some of its best donations for its 75th anniversary. Oxfam will also kick off London Fashion Week on February 15.
Social shopping platform Depop is also enjoying the resurgence, raising $20m for its US-focused expansion. The London-based start-up – popular with social media influencers and vintage sellers – plans to use the funding to open brick-and-mortar stores in New York and Los Angeles.
Bolstered by socially minded Gen-Z shoppers, the second-hand apparel industry – currently worth $18bn and expected to grow by 11% per annum (Retail Gazette, 2017) – is booming. With the sector outperforming all other clothing categories, resale brands are being recategorised and reimagined – emerging as the hubs of a fashion system in flux.
Leading fashion players, including H&M, Adidas and luxury conglomerate Kering, have made a commitment to sustainability – announcing plans to increase sustainable design, garment collection, repurposing and the use of recycled textiles by 2020.
The move, part of an effort by the Global Fashion Agenda (GFA) to increase sustainability and circular production, will require each company to submit individual targets and publish a progress report annually.
“We have now reviewed all 143 of the [individual] targets, and although the focus areas and level of engagement vary from company to company, they all share a common feature by taking steps to transition to a circular fashion industry,” Eva Kruse, chief executive of the GFA, told WWD. “I find that very encouraging.”
While the collection of used garments is the most common effort to be undertaken by the 2020 deadline, some brands are going further. Asos will train its teams in circular design, removing the use of non-recyclable materials, while H&M will provide money for research on top of its plans to collect 25,000 tonnes of clothing.
As consumers become increasingly savvy to the fashion industry’s environmental toll, visible sustainability efforts are a vital and smart move for brands to make. With buyers themselves leading the resourceful revolution, retailers noticeably absent from the list would do well to implement practices of their own – or risk having to explain why they haven’t.
Miuccia Prada revisited the house archive for her latest Pre-Fall womenswear showing, deserting the recent mood for maximalism in favour of a revival of her groundbreaking 90s sportswear looks.
The house’s iconic 80s Pocone nylon was revived and worked into simple pragmatic shapes that looked new and fresh, creating a protective urban uniform. A palette of black and white was punctuated with pops of clean sportswear brights. Bold branded logos and selfie-style name tags or identity badges helped compound the uniform feel on softly padded boxy silhouettes.
The house’s print archive provided fertile ground for the collection’s mix of print and pattern, with instantly recognisable motifs like the iconic lipstick all-over, ‘bad taste’ 70s-style furnishing geos, Hawaiian florals and an eye-searing flame border placement. All worked in a happy kaleidoscopic mismatch on simple shirts, knee-length skirts and boxy commuter coats.
Branding stamped the accessories with a sense of identity, from the Prada jacquard socks to the elastic strappy sandals and those influential name tags that replaced jewellery for Pre-Fall 18. Bags came in elongated boxy profiles – some in eye-catching painted leather, others in a mix of matte leather with glossy croc trims – while nylon bucket hats look set to appear on the high street any day soon.
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The concept, which operates alongside Zappos’ traditional e-commerce site, features interviews with female artists, influencer style inspiration, and a curated collection of looks from sneaker brands like Adidas, Converse and Vans.
Extending its reach offline, the brand has also partnered with New York City boutiques Bird Brooklyn and Beyond, bringing a curated pick of sneakers to each pop-up and enlisting store owners to create their own fashion-led edit.
“We felt like the market needed a one-stop shop for classic sneakers; those you love to death, replace, repeat,” said Zappos brand marketing manager Kristin Richmer. “We’re also focused on firing up the more casual, feminine, and gender-fluid side of the sneakerhead world.”
Female-focused offerings are proving to be a smart move for footwear brands, as the sportswear industry looks to take a more inclusive approach to the underserved female consumer. US active brand Puma experienced an 11.5% increase in quarterly sales in 2015 (Puma, 2016) – crediting its collaboration with pop star Rihanna for the success.
US fitness giant Equinox has launched a unique luxury fashion collection that commemorates activists, pioneers and ground-breaking influencers from a variety of fields.
The seven-piece Commitment range was designed in collaboration with some of the most disruptive names in fashion. Items include:
Although the collection itself will not be sold commercially, the pieces will be auctioned off throughout 2018, with all proceeds donated to charitable causes.
The project taps into current consumer attitudes towards the meaning of luxury, as well as their belief that brands can, and should, incite societal change. For further reading, see our Macro Trends The New Rules of Luxury and The Currency of Dissent.
Female consumers are proving key to the fast-growing menswear market, as gender-neutral streetwear pieces and capsule wardrobe staples encourage buyers to forgo gendered product offerings.
The global menswear market is booming, with the category projected to hit $438bn by 2020 (Business of Fashion, 2018). Premium menswear favourites like Supreme, Palace and Ami boast a loyal female following, despite not producing women’s products – boosting the sector and causing it to grow faster than womenswear. The menswear market will increase by 1.5% over the next three years, while womenswear will grow by 1.3%.
While menswear brands have been slow to cater their products to women, influential retailers are increasingly taking the opportunity to market to them. In September 2015, Parisian department store Le Bon Marché encouraged its 10 leading menswear brands to offer smaller sizes of their products for a dedicated area on in its womenswear floor, leading to a 15% year-on-year increase in turnover.
Such dedicated crossover spaces are proving a smart move for brands – providing a safeguarded route to tapping into new consumer attitudes. In March 2015, London department store Selfridges launched gender-neutral pop-up Agender, while gender-free New York retail space The Phluid Project will open its doors in March this year. The 3,000 sq ft store will carry collections by Levi’s, Champion and Gypsy Sport.
As consumer attitudes to gendered dressing shift, shrewd brands would do well to consider the nuances of identity – adapting their retail spaces and promoting a brand voice that speaks to every consumer.
An easy sense of retro modernism coupled with a youthful take on the season’s emerging trends stamped the Dondup Pre-Fall collection with just the right amount of influencer show cool.
All the season’s new looks were in place in an outing that combined gamine femininity with vintage-inspired tailoring and the essential luxe sportswear vibe. Traditional checks, trenchcoats, ruffled dresses and floral prints: tick. Slouchy tracksuit, relaxed knits, easy-fit jeans and handkerchief hems: tick.
Tailored checked blazers and coats came with a zesty youthful fit that nudged them into the trend zone, teamed with mismatched patterned pleat or A-line skirts, chunky socks and sporty hiking boots. That same offbeat look teamed pailette-strewn sheers with ravaged-edge cardigans and slouchy knits.
There was a pleasingly haphazard feel to the vintage-style faux furs and floral pleat dresses, along with colour-blocked or striped grungy knits and easy boyfriend jeans. And sportswear influences were given a modern twist, too, via a slim, elastic-waisted leather parka or the silky shirt and trackpant that replaced conventional tracksuit styling.
Colour packed a youthful punch in a palette that combined poppy red, bubblegum pink, mango and lilac, tempered with the collegiate feel of racing green, navy and a pop of azure blue.
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Alessandro Michele’s vision for Gucci knows no bounds. His latest pre-season offering encapsulated everything from streetwise sportswear and red-carpet gowns to ladylike-dressing and slick tailoring.
There was a new, casual youthfulness in the sports-infused silhouettes. The glitzy razzle-dazzle was complemented with tough hiking boots and New York Yankees baseball caps, courtesy of Michele’s latest collaboration with MLB (Major League Baseball).
The message was in the mix, and all the rules were broken. Think fringed bomber jackets layered over flouncy dresses, floral tracksuits, padded puffas, and printed leggings teamed with oversized, slouchy cardigans – contrasted with sharply tailored pantsuits and demure pleated midi skirts.
There was a relaxed ease in the soft cardigan jackets and kimonos, perfect to partner with full-legged track pants, or the influential over-the-knee slouchy logo-patterned boots.
The collection was an explosion of print and pattern, from archive house florals to pop-art chevrons, giant GG logos and signature striped braided trims. Colour blocking added another graphic twist, while Lurex and lamé, plush velvets, swishing silks and gilded brocades upped the luxe-touch ante in a palette of cobalt, bubblegum, emerald and poppy.
Michele’s quirky styling has been one of the biggest influences on the high street in recent seasons, and we can expect to see the impact of his over-the-top sportswear pieces hitting the junior market any day soon, giving casualwear a fresh, glamorous slant.
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As designers start thinking more inclusively about bodies, a timely show at New York’s Museum at FIT spotlights the relationship between fashion and cultural ideals of shape and size. The Body: Fashion and Physique explores how foundation garments from corsets to the Wonderbra have distorted natural shapes, how fashion responded to less-constricted bodies from the 1960s onwards, and how designers have influenced body ideals.
The show – which echoes elements of current NYC exhibit Items: Is Fashion Modern? at MoMa – considers how the fashion industry has promoted slender physiques, from the Twiggy era to the toned aerobics-influenced body of the 80s and the ‘heroin chic’ look of the 90s. The exhibition also touches on the rise of plus-size fashion, as well as designing for the differently abled and the ways in which technology can change fashion’s relationship to the body. For instance, a jacket by Grace Jun, head of NYC non-profit Open Style Lab, is designed for women who have had a mastectomy, incorporating a chip that can share data on range of motion with a physical therapist. Meanwhile, a shirt for people in wheelchairs by US designer Lucy Jones has a cropped silhouette to prevent bunching, as well as easy-to-use magnetic fasteners.
The exhibition runs until May 5. On February 23, the museum will host a symposium examining the marginalisation of certain body types in fashion. Speakers include those working to challenge traditional ideals, including fashion designers Prabal Gurung and Christian Siriano.