What’s been happening since March 2020 in the world of clothing…and where to from here?
Let’s start with the time of social isolation. Pyjamas bottoms were a go-to look. Many a zoom attendee admitted that while the top seen on screen was smart, the bottoms off-screen were PJs. Comfort was what we craved, and it was great for our wellbeing. We still shopped online, with some brands reporting up to an 80% increase on normal sales. But what we bought reflected our new reality. We wanted to pamper ourselves. Shoppers ordered cosy pyjamas and slippers. The e-tailer also saw increases in relaxed activewear and effortless pieces that have been comfortable to wear around home, from loose pants to hoodies.
But what’s happening as we transition back into the world beyond WFH? Will we pick up the sort of shopping habits that we did before – that drove buyers to purchase 80 billion garments a year? Or will that I-need-a-new-dress-for-Friday-night thing, the shopping-for-entertainment thing, the idea of an “It” bag or a “must have” feel frivolous, unimportant, and unnecessary? It seems investment items will be high on the list, whether a great coat, a pair of timeless boots or a statement piece. It’s now about access to beauty, longevity, integrity and things that are meaningful.
The question is, how do we invest in better pieces with tighter budgets? The economic slowdown is affecting our wallets. The answer, is it’s now very chic to repeat! With all the time we had on our hands, we got to survey what we owned, and put it back into circulation – in our lives, or someone else’s life. Imagine the collections coming your way!
If you haven’t already, think about smartly whittling down what’s in your wardrobe, keep what you cherish, and move on what you’re ready to part with. The notion of wearing something only a few times is old-fashioned, and it’s clear in everyone’s consciousnesses that purchases should have a longer life. It makes sense to spend more on a quality classic, unique piece that works with much of your wardrobe, than on the one-occasion dress. The dollar per wear wants to be low. The new context is: wardrobe curation replaces trends.
As we all know, clothing can bring pleasure, but it shouldn’t be a passing moment of pleasure, it’s time to make more memories in the things we own.
There has been a “quarantine of consumption”. And, the big realisation has been that we need much less than we ever thought we did, and we need to think harder about what we do consume — including what we wear. We’re not even halfway through 2020, but the new decade has so far demanded a radical and urgent rethink of how fashion is manufactured and consumed. Ambitious efforts to tackle waste, from renting clothes to shopping sustainable labels only, were already driving change pre-COVID19, but this reset has been the waste-conscious wake-up call we’d all been waiting for.
Fashion was broken even before the pandemic, and a reboot is just what it needs. They say, fashion, as a business, has been an unsustainable lie. Not all of it, but much of it. It didn’t start that way, but observers say that’s what it ultimately became. It’s been an industry of smoke and mirrors, where, for years, designers spun whimsical garments to tantalise the imagination that mostly didn’t sell. It was their more pragmatic styles that did. Bricks-and-mortar retailers opened outlet after outlet, and e-commerce expanded its reach, all while discounting merchandise that customers refused to buy until it was discounted even more, because…
Most everyone had learned to shop by the mantra: Never pay full price.
Now, for so many domino-effect reasons, the fashion cycle has come to an abrupt halt and the industry is trying to work out what needs to be discarded and what can be salvaged. Some big-picture remedies under consideration include reducing the number of runway shows and the volume of clothing that’s produced, delivering garments to stores in-season rather than months early, marking down merchandise only twice a year and even abolishing the discounting feeding frenzy of Black Friday.
What’s been happening in Australia? The Australian fast-fashion industry has inevitably been hit by COVID19, forcing it to look at a slower future. The crisis struck at a time of growing concern about the environmental impact of fast-fashion and Australian designers were already up against lower consumer spending. And, this change has required a fast-fashion re-think – a reset. Besides consumers reducing their shopping activity due to social distancing, negative consumer sentiment and declining discretionary incomes are discouraging them from spending, even online.
The fast-fashion industry is struggling. This was shown in the results of a survey released recently by the industry’s peak body, the Australian Fashion Council (AFC). AFC found only 1 in 3 of its members was confident of riding out the COVID19 shutdowns, and 84% had been left with excess stock.
The AFC represents 182 companies (boutique to high-end design houses), and it found 43% said they were not confident they’d rebound financially, 34% were confident they would bounce back, and the remaining 23% were certain they would never recover.
So, what will this wake-up call look like in terms of clothing? Many labels are poised to embrace seasonless collections, and for a generation who have prioritised low-cost secondhand clothes over low-cost new clothes, modern fashion’s clock has been beautifully scrambled.
All those variations on vintage themes on social media, from ’80s silk scarves worn as tops, home-knitted cardigans, and the return of the flared jeans, mean fashion trends are far more abstract. In reality, the blend of meaningful handmade and hand-me-down pieces, alongside considered quality preloved purchases, offers a future where individual curation carries more weight than any must-wear trend. When markets get to reopen, it’s going to be a fabulous time for preloved clothing shoppers!
A magical mash of articles by: #getyourgreens BY Dana Thomas April 2020; Michaela Boland and Mary Lloyd April 2020; Julia Hobbs May 2020; and Robin Givhan June 2020
Have you heard the term – curated closet? In her book, The Curated Closet, Berliner, Anuschka Rees talks about not following trends or buying into a standard list of wardrobe essentials or must-haves. Instead, it’s about creating your wardrobe to work perfectly for your style and life. Having a wardrobe that is about you and not about fast fashion or trends is a great start to a more ethical and sustainable wardrobe. The idea is that if you’re buying clothes that really are ‘you’ you’re probably going to want to keep them for years. It’s a way to break the cycle and stop buying into the ever-revolving fast fashion trends. So, rework your wardrobe to work with you not against you!
Closer to home, Maroubra-based Wendy Mak is committed to the simplification of wardrobes. In Mak’s The Capsule Wardrobe: 1000 outfits from thirty pieces, she introduces you to 30 wardrobe essentials – tops, bottoms, footwear, and accessories – to create your ultimate mix-n-match wardrobe. You can find her ideas at WendyMak.com.
It’s not about not heading out on a fun shopping trip with your girlfriend or daughter – it’s great retail therapy and at times, just simply a good laugh.
The curated closet is a wardrobe that’s perfectly tailored to your unique personal style and your life. It contains everything you need to feel confident and inspired every day – no more and no less. It is not based on trends, style typologies or a one-size-fits-all list of wardrobe essentials. Your life isn’t the same as everyone else’s, so why should your closet be? Anuschka Rees
Rees says, know you colour palettes and make distinctions between accent colours versus neutrals, basics pieces, key pieces, and accent pieces. Accessorise with bangles, beads, earrings, scarves, nail polish, lipstick or even hair colour. While the goal is not to complicate, it is to help you to have a plan so you don’t waste time or money on items that stand out like the proverbial, that you might aspire to but never get the chance (or, to be honest with yourself, you feel comfortable) to wear. By getting an idea of what colours you like and for what types of pieces, it allows for a lifetime of simplicity. Rees explains that by zeroing in on your own unique style, you are never caught up in fashion trends. It’s great to update your wardrobe every few years, and as we all know, some things never go out of style. White t-shirts and jeans will always exist, so will basic black. Mix things up to avoid being a carbon copy of everyone else. Enjoy running away from the pack. It’s one less stressor in life! As Rees says, being fashionable is totally optional – you get to choose.
Mak suggests, try this – 30 pieces to create an outfit a day for 30 days. This will establish your absolute wants vs needs hanging in your cupboard and folded in your drawers. Here’s a twist on Wendy’s guide to kick you off:
5 x skirts or pants: black textured; basic black; soft pleated/tailored; white or grey; statement
2 x jeans (black and blue wash)
6 x tops: charcoal; ivory; light grey; a bold colour that suits; a standout piece; black
1 x bodysuit in a complimentary colour (amazing how versatile this can be)
1 x statement shirt
2 x camis (everyday and silky/satin)
3 x jackets or if not needed, 3 more tops or dresses: navy; black; statement
1 x black coat or waterfall cardigan
3 x bags: work; weekend; statement coloured
6 x shoes: black flats; weekend street shoes/white runners; black ankle boots; patent heels or flats; statement coloured heels or flats; print/suede heels or flats
Anuschka makes a great analogy comparing fashion to music. You wouldn’t force yourself to listen to a song because it’s in the charts and music ‘insiders’ tell you it’s popular. You listen to the music you like and enjoy. So why not do the same with clothes – buying things you like and enjoy wearing rather than what’s ‘hot right now’. There is absolutely no point in buying clothes which don’t work for your lifestyle.
Fashion is a form of art, and you want your clothes to look good, but you also need them to feel good and be practical because you spend your life in them. You have stuff to do, places to go, and people to meet. A functional wardrobe is one that supports you in all that you do, rather than making your life harder.
If you enjoy a visual guide, there are tons of curated wardrobe flowcharts to help. Find your own; one that suits you, or, venue better, create your own.
Discovering your personal style and building a versatile wardrobe will mean you always have something to wear. Your style will likely continue to change and evolve. A reworked wardrobe doesn’t restrict you, it is one which grows and evolves with you. After all, it’s all about you!
The Sustainable Edit; Anuschka Rees; and Wendy Mak
Fast fashion is like fast food. After the sugar rush it just leaves a bad taste in your mouth. — Livia Firth, ethical fashion advocate and founder of sustainable fashion consultancy Eco-Age
As consumers we have so much power to change the world by just being careful in what we buy. — Emma Watson, actress and ethical fashion advocate
Don’t be into trends. Don’t make fashion own you, but you decide what you are, what you express by the way you dress and the way you live. —Gianni Versace, fashion designer
What if we started by slowing down and not consuming so much stuff, just because it’s there and cheap and available. It’s amazing how that process makes sense financially, it makes sense ethically, it makes sense environmentally. — Andrew Morgan, filmmaker and director of ‘The True Cost’
One day we’ll wake up and Green will not be the new black, it will be the new invisible. Meaning, no longer will sustainable be the exception or something that’s considered au courant; instead it will be a matter of course – something that all designers incorporate into their design ethos. — Summer Rayne Oakes, world’s first ‘eco’ model and serial ecopreneur. From her book Style, Naturally
Consumer demand can revolutionise the way fashion works as an industry. If everyone started to question the way we consume, we would see a radically different fashion paradigm. — Carry Somers and cofounder of Fashion Revolution. From Safia Minney’s book Slow Fashion: aesthetic meets ethics
When you wear vintage, you never have to worry about showing up in the same dress as someone else.
— Jessica Alba, actress, author and entrepreneur. From her book The Honest Life
Clothes aren’t going to change the world, the women who wear them will. — Anne Klein, fashion designer
Become an active citizen through your wardrobe. — Livia Firth, Founder and Creative Director of Eco-Age
Clothes could have more meaning and longevity if we think less about owning the latest or cheapest thing and develop more of a relationship with the things we wear. — Elizabeth L. Cline, author of Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion.
Jennifer Nini 2018 – ecowarriorprincess