As the Academic year comes to an end and my time at SCAN draws to a close, I thought I might take this moment to reflect on this year’s fashion in all its bizarreness and absurdity.
There is nothing that sums up the Covid period more than the increased emphasis on digitized events. In our personal lives, last spring saw the dawn of the infamous Zoom quizzes whose popularity dwindled as the months went by; there is only a certain number of times that one can be asked about capital cities before the novelty wears off. Digital presence was just as important for all companies within the fashion world and outside of it. As many struggled to readjust to this new way of doing things, changing their events to suit the small screen experience, so did major fashion houses and for this reason, many of us were able to experience something that we were never able to before: a ‘high fashion’ show.
We may not be one of the privileged few sitting front row or attending glamorous parties but nonetheless, we were there. Perhaps though we weren’t lucky to received an ice encased flower for the Saint Laurent show recently, like Camille Charrière did and displayed on her Instagram and perhaps we aren’t wearing head-to-toe designer for the ocassion, more likely in bed with a hot drink: yet, we were still watching it.
This bodes well for the future of fashion, though it would be a great shame for shows not to be live and part of the allure of it all is that to receive an invite means something but for it to do so, there needs to be people desperate to watch. The use of film allows fashion to transcend beyond simply a label, as I feel it was sadly becoming that way, and to be an experience for everyone. Its place as an art form was firmly re-established.
More than this has happened this year though, especially for sustainability. I think for the foreseeable future I will be relishing the picture that captured dolphins in the Venice Canals; the moment that everyone should have realised that it was really our fault that the world was changing for the worse if anyone had any doubts. I do genuinely think that lockdown gave everyone a chance to reflect upon their habits, whether in terms of their mental wellbeing, their relationships with others, and the relationships with our planet. We have seen a dramatic increase in the reception of small businesses, utilising this new online prominence to broadcast their products. In so doing people have supported more environmental choices in terms of their shopping habits, buying so-called slow fashion products which are handmade or second hand.
To accompany this, a bit more of a focus on sewing to repair our own clothes has been seen as well as to sew our own masks. This change has been perhaps more subtle than the others but I do hope that it is something that will be taken up more in the future.
Even more so there has been a renewed interest in discovering more sustainable materials and sources. Vogue Business notes, ‘the appeal of biomaterials startups Bolt Threads and Spiber has been clear to sustainability-minded investors, who have pumped $256 million and $600 million, respectively, into the companies developing mushroom leather and artificial silk.’ However, there has equally been an effort in exposing the source of materials and the practices around it, most importantly, the source of cotton used in many fast fashion brands. Likewise, the boycott of these companies to do unfair labour practises has further fed the ammunition to support smaller businesses and led to widespread distrust and accusations from the use of sweatshops to greenwashing. I would like to be positive and say that this marks the beginning of the end for such companies but perhaps that is too much to hope for.
The truth is that despite all the technological innovations and the innovative thinkers and creatives, the fashion industry is generally quite slow to respond to change. Yes, it may have the capacity to release new designs every week and think of imaginative ways to market them but in terms of its values and changes in the supply chain, it is fairly unwilling.
Ilaria Pasquinelli writes for the Guardian in her article Could small be the new big for the fashion industry?: ‘small organisations are often led by visionary product specialists or designers, particularly in the fashion industry. The small scale allows companies to be flexible, this is crucial in order to adapt to very diverse market conditions and economic turbulence. In addition, small companies have no other option than to take risk in order to leave their mark, notably if they are start-ups.’
The problems for the future of the fashion world remain the same, however, the solutions are becoming more manifold. As consumers push in one direction, eventually the larger companies will have to follow. We should be under no illusion of the seriousness of the situation across the board in terms of workers’ rights and sustainability but Covid has demonstrated that we do care, we just need to have the correct options available to us for us to make the right decisions.
Many writers, including myself, spend much of the time advocating and calling for others to make changes so this time I will change the subject a little bit. For words to have an impact there need to be imaginative, forthright, and inspire people to write them. I have been lucky this year in SCAN to write with some fantastic people and I encourage you all to continue next year. I hope that this year’s focus on industry change as much as lighter, more fun pieces will continue onwards and I wish all my SCAN Fashion and Beauty writers the best of luck for the coming years.