PFW 2021 Dior protestor

Welcome, 2021. Instead of Trends,a Manifesto

2020 will go down in history as the year that made the fashion industry rethink its core values and perceptions. 2021 can only be better though if we create it than eagerly anticipate its influence. The StyleTitle said goodbye to 2020 but published no 2020 trends we loved overview. Or any 2021 trends forecasting, at least for now. Gone are the in’s, out’s, and must-haves of the season. Beyond the obvious, in the territory of the creative and the unexpected, there lies the true power of fashion as a social mirror, and as wearable art.

At this point, trends and hype seen to have no actual impact on what is being developed in front of our eyes. It’s time for a manifesto. Written by fashion for fashion. A reality test based on creativity and imagination.A journey to the future but with reference to the past we love and cherish, not in a museum-like sense but a vivid representation of today. That will serve all but the elite yet written by the elite, the lovers of the impossible and the connoisseurs of our deepest desires. We need truth, respect, and representation. We need to take the courageous step to ignore what sells and take into account what matters. This will sell in the long run.

Fashion comes both from the street and the creative imagination of true talents such as Yves Saint Laurent, Alexander  McQueen, and John Galliano. This is how the actual discourse happens and innovation takes place. Enough with fashion art festivals, meaningless collaborations, and drop-offs that serve the hype. Commercialism will eventually transform the industry into a self-feeding monster we won’t recognize.

Our post-modern approach of anything goes has long ago killed constructive fashion criticism, giving a voice and a platform to practically everyone that has an Instagram account. This kind of democratization is what makes fashion reviews look and read like product placements or advertorials. And without writers remembering us how high our expectations must be, there comes the shady empire of hype we experience today,

In 2021, let’s be true, for a change.Everything else will follow.

Gucci Fest Video by Gus Van Sant with Silvia Calderoni

Gucci Fest Was Full of Good Intentions. Is That the Way to Judge It Though?

It seems fashion cannot live without fashion shows, or at least something that will replace them. A few days ago, the British Fashion Council, Florence’s Pitti Uomo trade fair, and Paris’s Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode have announced their A/W 2021 line up packed with physical or digital shows and presentations. Balenciaga, on the other hand, is set to unveil “Afterworld: The Age of Tomorrow” which it’s billing as a “record-breaking video game” set in the year 2031 and featuring Demna Gvasalia’s main collection for fall 2021. Exciting but hardly considered new.

Before that though, we had witnessed a series of retakes over the traditional formats with most prominent the Gucci approach to the fashion agenda. Alessandro Michele had expressed his goal to reshape the fashion calendar in his “Notes from the Silence,” open letter two months earlier; Now, he materialized it by presenting a series of events from November 16 to 22 that included several short videos directed by no other than Gus Van Sant and prominent collaborations with other creators such as Italian performing artist Silvia Calderoni. Dubbed the Gucci Fest, the house presented an agenda full of fashion and cinema in which, in addition to the latest Gucci collection by Michele, the works of 15 talented young independent designers were also exhibited, specially selected by the creative director himself. A very promising description, indeed.

We watched it all, probably along with most fashion experts and lovers.And we also read the reviews-they were mixed. What was surprising though was that most comments focused on the intentions and not on the overall content. Anyone who wishes to revolutionize the fashion calendar and offer something new should be judged favorably but not everything new is great, innovative, or useful in the long-term. Sometimes, it’s never even new.

That brings us to the question: Overall, in fashion, is the idea that matters or the execution of the idea? How should we approach a fashion show followed by a lot of show notes or a digital experiment that comes with a written (or spoken) manifesto? In the end, does it matter what designers have to say about themselves and their work? We let the Gucci Fest controversy to fuel further a discussion on concept and final product, on good intentions and good (or bad) executions.

For Iolo Lewis Edwards, the Director of High Fashion Talk, everything is important. “I think it’s a bit of both, but I like to focus on the ideas when thinking about them, and how they are expressed. “ he notes, “Of course the way you communicate this is also important.I try not to think of high fashion in terms of what I would wear but as an artistic expression.”Still, what if, in our perception, the show manifesto corresponds to the live or digital experience? “I think if this happens it’s just a missing link somewhere. Maybe I don’t fully comprehend a reference, maybe I have missed something. Of course, you have to take into consideration the limitations there are for a designer to realize their ideas; budget, time, capability.” he concludes.

Shonagh Marshall is a curator and the founder of Denier,a digital platform with conversations on fashion’s relationship to the three pillars of sustainability: people, the planet, and profit. For her, the show notes as another object to consider, a paper-based object that accompanies the collection to the archive. “Within the show notes, you hear how the collection was intended to be perceived, as an artist statement, you are welcome to imprint your own meaning on to the collection, contextualizing it within history, and contemporary discourse. Likewise, the catwalk show and the casting leave further clues for what the designer was thinking when designing this collection. What cannot be ignored is the commercial intention, this is a space for selling.” she adds.

Designers love to speak, write manifestos, proclaim their intentions to revolutionize design, the fashion calendar and the overall experience. Then we are faced with a final product, a show, a series of digital content that says otherwise-or says nothing. At the end of the day, there is only one question to ask: what matters more, the designers’ manifestos or what we see through their work? Do we need to actually take notice of what fashion creatives have to say about their work?

“I think so” says Shonagh.”Whether we disagree with what they tell us about their work it is important in the process of analysis to take their words into account. However, I think that the industry needs more critical voices, those who have historical and socio-political knowledge to analyze designers’ contributions. I think of fashion as ideological, and therefore it plays a large and important role in the construction of society. So the language employed to talk about it cannot hinge on accepting the words the designer has offered. These words have often been crafted as a clever and potent marketing pitch, adding constructed narrative elements to the garments and rooting them within a created trend.”

For Iolo, the designer’s narrative is perhaps the only thing that matters: “Nobody else can know everything that goes on in their head, and a designer is continuously trying to communicate this. If they have to provide a few notes to help everyone understand what they are saying it is great because I think one of the best things in life is to have a greater understanding of the world.”

Mary Katranzou SS 2020 show at Temple of Poseidon, Sounio, Greece

Meet Generation G: the Modern Greek Program at the University of Michigan Introduces Greek Creativity to the World

They say the definition of true creativity is going back to your roots-only to project them further into the future. Greeks have been doing it since the beginning of history, carrying a tradition that once set them at the forefront of innovation. Modern Greek creators masterly incorporate this tradition into new perspectives in all aspects of creative arts.

Showcasing this creative buzz was exactly what the C.P. Cavafy Professorship initiative aims: to create a video series of interviews with creative people who self-identify as Greek and aim to make the world better and brighter. Those series of conversations with Greeks that have made their mark on modern creative arts aim to further showcase their work and their perception of society. The overall project is the brainchild and the joint venture of Professor Artemis Leontis and journalist VOGUE Greece editor Giota Tachtara and is set to present into the world the view and creative force of Greek creatives that make a difference.

.“Like any other exciting project, it started out as a friendly conversation over coffee and tea with Professor Artemis Leontis and the amazing team that makes the Modern Greek Program here, at the University of Michigan. We always talked about how foreigners see Greece and how they’re not really familiar with anything contemporary, so we thought we should put together a project that would focus on artists, scholars, activists, etc to introduce to the world the amazing things that this generation is doing.” says Giota Tachtara in an email interview for TheStyleTitle.

In fact, the vibrant Greek-American community in Ann Arbor has been more than supportive of the initiative; it actually felt like a communal team effort. The covid-19 pandemic did felt like a threat to the execution of the overall program, but Greeks do thrive through difficulties. “The original idea was to invite everyone here to give talks and interview them and give them a chance to interact with the brilliant students of the Modern Greek Program and the community, but the traveling restrictions and the new covid rules about gatherings in the university changed everything. Even with zoom though, I think we’ve achieved our goal to have inspiring talks, κουβέντες while exploring the challenges of this era and all the new ideas that come out of it.” comments Ms. Tachtara.

The program has launched with no other than Mary Katranzou herself- it even incorporated audience questions that allowed the revered designer to further elaborate on her work and inspiration from her Greek roots. And what an inspiration it has been! Interviewed by VOGUE Greece editor Giota Tachtara and featuring questions from students and the broader community, Katratzou had the rare opportunity to talk about her approach on textiles, shapes, and design, her appreciation of ancient Greek mythology-and that iconic SS2020 fashion show at the ancient temple of Poseidon in Sounio, Greece. Her journey from central Saint Martin’s School to fame has been the blueprint for many aspiring Greek creatives that aim to present their work to the world through innovating techniques, returning to traditional craftsmanship, and fresh strategy plans.

In the end, this is what Generation G is all about, a new generation of artists and creatives that redefine Greek culture and widen its reach. Ms. Tachtara sums it up: “G stands for Greek, Gifted, and Global. They identify as Greeks, they’re doing amazing things and they can live anywhere on the planet. It’s a generation that could truly change the world and make us feel very optimistic about the future of Greece and Greek culture.  “Amen to that. From a fellow Greek.

Learn more about the program here

The Style Title Raf Simons FW2001 review

Showback: Raf Simons FW 2001 Was The Show That Foretold 7/11

In 2018, street wear website HighSnobiety reported a Grailed user offering the staggering $47,000 for a rare Raf Simons piece, the famous “Riot Riot Riot Camo Bomber” from Raf Simons’ Fall/Winter 2001 collection. Considered as one of the most influential shows of the Belgian designer and trendsetter, the collection featured some of the most iconic designs of all time admired by fans and celebrities such as Kanye West and Kim Kardashian amongst many. The latter was even spotted flaunting the much-revered bomber on the street as part of her sexy-meets -cool street style.

Make no mistake the bomber in question was no random choice. From creating his own eponymous label to becoming a wild successful trendsetter, Raf Simons has been cultivating a devoted cult following that follows his every move-and purchases his designs. With a resume that counts creative direction stints at Dior and Jil Sander as well as a most recent, much-anticipated collaboration with Miuccia Prada, the Belgian designer seems he has done it all: streetwear innovation, progressive tailoring, sneaker design-you name it it’s there. Above all though, Simons has created a unique mental landscape of images, sounds, and cultural references that is entirely and distinctively his own. No surprise that art director Peter Saville, the well-known designer of iconic album covers (think Peter Gabriel, Pulp, New Order, Roxy Music) addressed him as “one of the great pioneers of convergence, transporting the art of sub-cultures into contemporary fashion.” In short,  the very future of cool.

Inside this subversive eloquent universe of references, there are shows-cultural milestones that stand out. One of them is the aforementioned iconic Fall Winter 2001 one. It was Simons’s first collection after a much-needed one-year sabbatical which he uses to expand his creative horizons past fashion exploring creative design and art. Then, the show happened. Described as “terrorist chic” by The Guardian fashion editor Charlie Porter, the collection was Simons take on street subcultures’ codes elevated into something fresh and new.

Set in a dark warehouse full of scaffolding, strobe lights, an eerie atmosphere of fog, and dystopic industrial sounds, the show became an instant classic and a major aesthetic influence. This was a collection from the depths of youth counter cultures galvanized into a consistent Simons’ universe of parkas, military-style jackets and bombers wore in layers, loose sweaters, and hoodies worn with balaclavas. Decorated with Marxist slogans, Manic Street Preachers photos, and cult film imagery, the collection was an iconography of youth rioting against the old establishment via the eyes of a unique fashion creator.

Imagine the antithesis with the high-fashion audience, their surprise being part of the contradiction set in Simons’ mind. Punk, mod, and garage influencers may have their place in today’s fashion and major street style brands, but for 2001 it was an aggressive new take on where fashion should be looking for evolution: counter cultures. From Mani Street Preachers’ images to Christiane F film stills, the collection’s iconography was of a solid, personal universe that distilled the freshest and newest of fashion experiments of the time: those of the street, in a time where streetwear was slowly entering the high fashion world. “At the flea market in Vienna, I saw youngsters from the Ukraine or Romania, who simply lay layer by layer and thus create their own volumes because of the cold,” he told the Swiss paper Neue Zürcher Zeitung at the time.

The influence of this over layered, radical, ‘terrorist chic’ was profound to the audience-and to show critics later on. Simons’ styling evoked the idea of threat expressed through dress, especially what western eyes of the time would perceive as such. Balaclavas and keffiyehs (traditional Arab headdresses) played out the audience’s ideas of unfamiliarity as a threat. It was the clothes’ volumes, the dark colors, the covered faces and the styling that referred to an intimidating world outside the western perception of safety-it was a youth riot against old establishment conventions. What else to call this collection of iconoclasts but “Riot Riot Riot”?

It was a strange, almost prophetic timing. Raf Simons’s radical take on youth culture, echoing the rise of terrorist attacks throughout the world at the time, was destined to anticipate and foretell the biggest of all, the September 11 attacks, less than two years after the iconic show. This series of coordinated terrorist attacks by the Islamist terrorist group Al-Qaeda against the United States marked a radical shift to almost all western world; it was the beginning of the end for the capitalistic euphoria and a strong cultural shake, with consequences that last till today. In his own world, Simons has been what great artists of all times were; a prophet of his own time.

Lil Miquela Instagram

Created Perfect: Virtual Influencers Are Redefining What is Real

Mugler’s artistic director Casey Cadwallader isn’t one to be afraid of a challenge. The new post COVID19 reality meant Mugler’s new film showcasing the collection starring Bella Hadid, had to be done differently and safely-from a distance. Then the idea came up: “What if we make her into an avatar?” Bella was prepped in a New York studio and styled by Haley Wollens -with Cadwallader monitoring the digitization shoot via Zoom. “Digi-Bella”, Bella’s virtual avatar for Mugler was born.

Digi -Bella isn’t the first: In an era where influencers, or as now called, public opinion leaders, dominate social media, H2R (Human 2-Robot) interaction is evolving at a rapid pace. And while we seem to be years away from actually encountering robots on the streets, social media is the place when virtual influencers are taking center space. Fictional computer-generated people, with realistic human characteristics, features, and personalities to match, are becoming our newest social media friends and influencers.

Some of the most popular virtual influencers such as Lil Miquela and Seraphine Song have already reached well over the million-follower milestone as people all over the world continue to be infatuated with their ‘lives’ Lil Miquela, perhaps the most popular of all, is an avatar operating under a strict code of directions while working with brands and advertisers creating partnerships to promote products or services. Her success has inspired more venture capitalists to invest heavily in virtual creators and progress the technology forward; it’s of no surprise that for Danika Laszuk, general director of Betaworks’ startup boot camp, the future is digital beings that actually are powered. “Avatars and robots are the future. I would very much commission a digital model for a project,” tells us No.3 Media owner Mark Barnard. “Imagine how easier it would become; tiredness and needs would be eliminated. Still, he confesses, I feel there will be no real spark, no personality.”

Still, doesn’t it all feel a bit… weird? “The boundary between science fiction and social reality is an optical illusion,” wrote Donna Haraway in her famous 1985 essay “A Cyborg Manifesto.” And while she was talking about ways to use technology to make bodies more livable and society more ethically coherent, it very much feels she is actually talking about Lil Miquela and her friends. The question remains: in a world where personas can be created specifically to be famous, how do human influencers compare? Virtual influencers are programmed and monitored, allowing the owning company total control over their actions. The issue of human influencers acting out of persona and hurting their image and followers is simply eliminated.

When some of the most popular influencers are actually digital beings powered by AI, the questions are mounting. Can a collection of pixels represent anything, while taking a job that could have gone to an underrepresented group? And what is the true representation after all? If a medium has the power to shape the truth, then we have to wonder if anything is actually true at all. Are we dreaming of an idealized future where human difference is resolved not through political struggle but through digital morphing? Are we in fact in a quest for algorithmic sublime ideals? To address those questions, we caught up with industry experts, Ollie Rankin, VR Storyteller and a VFX Supervisor at Pansensory Interactive and Christopher Travers founder of  Virtual Humans.

So are virtual influencers the future of fashion and advertising? For Ollie Rankin, they are. “I would instead say that virtual influencers are part of the future of fashion and advertising. It’ll be a while before virtual influencers are able to engage in anything more than superficial conversations, so humans will still have a place. But there are already a number of reasons it makes sense for virtual influencers to become more common. They are very low maintenance and low risk compared to humans. What brand doesn’t want an influencer that’s always awake, never asks for anything, is always on brand, has no skeletons in their closet, and zero risk of quitting or creating bad press?”

Travers is aware that the fashion and advertising industries are in need of value content. “The fashion and advertising industries as flashy industries that depend on glance value, followed by substance, to succeed. Virtual influencers provide that nuanced glance value and, when paired with a captivating story, provide the substance consumers crave out of media experiences. The ability to engage consumers strongly concretes virtual influencers as the perfect pairing for brands. Virtual influencers are the perfect tool for fashion and advertising heads to accomplish their goals.”

Virtual influencers are indeed created perfect. And yet, how does this align with the age of body positivity and acceptance? “That’s a great question and it’s too soon to answer with certainty, says Rankin. “On the one hand, virtual influencers could reinforce ideal body stereotypes and encourage body shaming. But, by being known to be artificial, they could also lead us to finally internalize as a society the fact that the public image of celebrities and influencers isn’t a realistic portrayal of human imperfection. The best case here is that it actually leads to more body positivity and acceptance.”

For Travers, the whole idea is  knowing whether an experience is real or ‘created real’. “Virtual influencers are perfectly imperfect. Every decision they make or freckle they have are preconceived for a purpose. I would say that as long as people know whether or not the experiences they consume are fictional or nonfiction, they can derive a proper judgment of their own self-worth in relation to that media or message.” Still, he showcases the dilemma: “Humans derive ideals of self-worth from the fictional storylines out of Hollywood and the non-fiction storylines out of social media influencer culture. The Kardashians built an empire blurring the lines between fiction and non, negatively morphing millions of impressionable humans’ perception of self along the way. Virtual influencers, while fake, are as capable as any human at promoting body positivity and acceptance—it all comes down to the message they try to send and the story they tell.”

And this is an important question to ask. Are AI and VR technology actually blurring the line between what is ‘real’ and what is not? Definitely, says Rankin. “And we’re only just at the beginning. Deep fake and related AI approaches to creating images and video are becoming closer and closer to reality every day. At the moment the computational demands of AI and VR are too high for current consumer hardware to create a virtual reality that is indistinguishable from the real reality. Frame rate/latency and resolution/fidelity are the barriers right now, but the hardware and software continue to improve, almost exponentially. When AI is able to create real-time photoreal spatial recreations of reality in VR, it will finally be possible to fool all the people all the time.”

Christopher Travers also believes there has to be a solid distinction of those worlds. “There’s the real world, then there’s the digital world, which is a construct existing inside of the real world. The digital world is growing thanks to the onset of stereos, televisions, phones, computers, and now smartwatches/AR glasses. These devices are literal windows to digital consumption. When we open those windows, we create a new connection between the digital world and the real world. When we power down a device, we close a window. The line between what is real and what is not existing at and only at, these windows. It’s up to you to recognize that everything you consume in the digital world is idealized and constructed, just like the digital world itself. Today, the line between what is real and what is not is simply numb.”

Paris Fashion Week Offered Us Escapism. To All Different Directions.

This was undoubtedly a unique Paris Fashion Week. In the new post COVID- reality, designers chose to showcase their work in a mixture of physical and digital formats that included socially-distanced shows, show-in-a-box marvels, and digital presentations. In the noticeably quieter Paris streets, those fashionistas and influencers that have made it to the Paris capital were hosting their own style parade. Yet the true fashion drama was once more unfolding inside the shows’ closed doors. Creating a response to the global health crisis seemed to be in the show notes of almost every designer-their ‘concepts’ delved into the idea of overcoming the pandemic wiser and with a new wardrobe at hand.

Fashion has been attributed to an almost mythical escapism ability since forever; the medium to overcome every hard reality through imagination. In the past few seasons, designers’ collections reacted to the political upheavals and uncertainty created by environmental issues and protests of unrepresented minorities. Their runways showed their frustration and staged their protests. The belief that the fantastical experience of fashion can offer the wearer joy and provide an escape to colorful utopias was very much part of the equation. Then,  the pandemic stroke.

Fashion is a reflection of our times. The idea that vibrant escapism will always be a thing when things get darker and gloomier started to radically shift. In post-apocalyptic times, some designers are making references to an unsettling, harsh future lingering; a labyrinth from it there may be no escape visible. The SS21 Digital Paris Fashion Week season was an amalgam of attitudes towards a new reality that sometimes leaves us hopeless and angry. Escapism from the world health crisis took many forms, from going at the disco to dreaming awake.

Maria Grazia Chiuri for Dior understood the previous codes may not be applicable now. At least, in the show notes; she evoked poetry and imagination as an escapism method that always works. The execution didn’t offer a radical shift from what Dior has been morphed under her creative direction: a combination of loose trousers, structured bar jackets, turbans, and a feminist essence that didn’t seem to translate well in actual design. We need poetry to escape. Instead, Dior offered well-crafted pajamas. It didn’t go well.

Olivier Rousteing decided he’d better react as if the pandemic had not taken place at all. The show had one piece of music playing on a loop – ‘Blinding Lights’ by The Weeknd while the Balmain army strutted in typical overly exaggerated Balmain tailoring (think exaggerated shoulders and bell-bottoms). Then, the eveningwear came. There were recycled Swarovski crystals on clothes that looked appropriate for a pre-pandemic great night out-or for the nights to come after new normality sets in. This was the kind of dreamy heaven that posed serious existential questions-to the viewers. In a fashion world that tried hard to reposition itself in those post-apocalyptic times, is this type of response adequate?

Demna Gvasalia tried to offer answers in that direction-but the execution was far away from what we’d call new. And while his statement largely followed the idea of “imagining how fashion will be in 2030”, the collection was very much Balenciaga 2020. Stripped off its great styling and video paraphernalia, the clothes looked very much last season’s hype. There were hoodies, oversized trench coats, and sunglasses worn at nightlight, you get the picture.

Just about when I’ve lost all hope, there came Rick Owens to save the season, once more. I am not an expert in his work but I could clearly see the designer’s ability to both be true to himself and create something radically new-one show at the time. His idea of reacting to doom was aggression and revolt-just not the gloomy type you’d normally expect. “I just might be leaning into a taste for the lurid; that an undercurrent of thread and dread can inspire bubble-gum pink and alarm red,” he explained. No escapism bubble here, just a sincere revolt towards those ugly, unprecedented times. His sum-up of the collection was telling. “Grim gaiety,” he replied, when asked by Vogue.

Perhaps the feeling of the season.

Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons Co-design the Uniform of a New Generation

Fashion collaborations are usually met with excitement and expectations from both sides. Still, no else can be compared to the buzz created by Raf Simons’s and Miuccia Prada’s first co-designed collection moments after its announcement. The coronavirus pandemic made their dialogue a mostly remote one-but as the Prada show proved yesterday, a fruitful one whatsoever.

The much-expected show began in a runway overhung with camera rigs and screens displaying each model’s name while walking the runway. This concept of exploring the relationship between humans and technology as shaped by current reality is a pivotal part of the collection and a theme that runs through it. This “dialogue”, as the designers stated in the show notes, was “the first example of myriad possibilities” based on an “a fundamental examination of the meaning of Prada”. The collection indeed was a hybrid of the two creators’ best qualities, a dive into their best moments applied into a distilled version of what is essential. Some might say a new everyday uniform for out turbulent times.

In fact, the pair spent recent months working on the importance of a uniform –something to feel well in it-and think. They also discussed the nature of clothes that make us want to wear the most. “The thing I’ve talked most about with Miuccia over these past months is uniforms. True, metaphorical ones.” said Simons. “It’s something in which you feel good, in which you can express what you want to express without it being a season-specific fashion item,” he noted.

The show opened up with what can be seen as their first take in the idea of a Prada ‘uniform’; 90s inspired trousers and a sleeveless, tunic-length tee worn with sling backs in strong, contrasting colors. One could not avoid noting the supersized, almost space-like Prada logo on all T-shirts, in case you forgot we are talking about the perfect fashion uniform, an elevated take on the leisurewear we all came up wearing daily during quarantine. The next silhouettes were a nod to both Simons’ last shows at Jil Sander as well as Prada’s take on minimalism in the 90s; there were jumpers worn with belted, full pleated skirts, roomy coats clutched a-la Miuccia, and slim-fit trousers worn with tunics. Then, there was the occasional Raf touch: the hole jumpers, the prints on skirts, the tailoring of the anoraks.

In a quote provided by the house for Vogue, Miuccia explained further the thinking behind the collection: “In a time of incredible complexity: What matters? What is meaningful? That is a question we asked ourselves. We wanted to create something that makes sense to people, something that is useful. Everything we do should allow people to live better.” In another provided quote, Simons elaborated: “The show is about emphasizing humanity. It is about women, and everything around them supports them, showcases their characters.”

Sometimes new things come up through the unification of tried and trusted qualities. This was a collection that questioned the very idea of newness for the sake of it. For both creators, the present is a direct result of the past-of all the things we love and define us. In that sense, it was successful-and humane.

New York Fashion Week Was All about Individuality, Not Fashion

There two ways to react to an almost post-apocalyptic reality: to address it or to ignore it altogether while diving in frenzied escapism. For most New York Fashion Week designers, the idea of setting trends appeared less and less enticing-instead they opted to celebrate individuality and self-acceptance. A good cause, indeed. From luxury pajamas to re-invented classics, this stripping back to fashion basics had a lot to do with manifestos-but nothing with design.

Optimism aside, New York Fashion Week has been having a serious identity crisis even before the pandemic. This season, one with no buyers and no influencers, street style stars or international press, most of America’s big names saved power for later. The Row, Proenza Schouler, Ralph Lauren were absent while the typically flamboyant Tom Ford show was replaced by a series of images showcasing the designer’s offering for the season. Ten new names made their debut but did very little to overturn the feeling that there was something seriously lacking-be it emotion, inspiration, or simply, design.

In fact, all the best moments were those that fashion innovation gave way to fierce manifestos on individuality and uniqueness. For the resurrected Imitation of Christ, Tara Subkoff enlisted a group of LA-based teenage female skateboarders to create a film showcasing their bad-ass confidence and skils. Initially, a “political art project disguised as a ‘fashion house’”  the brand’s team staged a show in L.A. and one in New York where they screened the collection video unexpectedly accompanied by opera hits. It was nothing new but was refreshing, full of youthful energy, and fitting for a brand that started off with tremendous success 20 years ago.

Maisie Schloss, who launched her brand, Maisie Wilen, last year, had her own statement to make. Schloss started as a designer at Yeezy and knows one thing or two about unexpected materials and on-trend design. For her collection, she focused on creative ‘weirdness’ and the idea of seeing clothes through screens.The designer didnt shy away from the back her work is almost made to be Instagrammed, in fact, she embraced its two-dimensional qualities by using strong trompe l’oeil techniques.

Yet, it was Private Policy’s collection that summarized the New York season. The genderless streetwear label used CFDA’s new digital platform Runway 360, to present their Spring 2021 collection called “Searching for Aphrodite.” For designers Haoran Li and Siying Qu, Aphrodite is a notion of beauty that goes far beyond the stereotypical approaches, a call for inclusion and representation that is characteristic to the brand since its birth. Their many Afrodites included vitiligo Calvin Klein star Yvesmark Chery, amputee musician Marsha Elle and Dominique Castelano, who dedicated her inclusion to “all the hot queer Asians,”. As in most New York Fashion Week cases, the message was indeed powerful, the clothes came second best. Or as Tom Ford best-summarized it “the last thing I want to see is serious clothes”. Well, you got it.

Op-Ed: If Fashion Is Dead, Where Do Trends Go?

By now, everyone knows the Coronavirus epidemic brought seismic changes. With all socio-economic activities depressed since the outbreak of COVID-19, one of the major areas which have been affected is undoubtedly the fashion industry. Fashion weeks were canceled, cruise collections were postponed or avoided altogether, ambitious magazine editorials became a pre quarantine thing. Overwhelmed, the fashion industry started making baby steps to embrace the chance and look forward to addressing the radically shifted consumers’ needs. It seemed that the fashion system, at least as we knew it, was a thing of the past.

In a recent article for The Guardian, titled Coronavirus is putting the whole idea of fashion out of fashion, journalist Rachel Cooke indeed argued that even the overall perception of fashion has been radically shifted since the coronavirus outbreak. “Fashion, it seems to me, is over, at least in the sense we’ve come to know it recently. No more flamboyant, wasteful shows. No more unnecessary collections. No more department stores in which “exclusive” versions of items from said collections – behold, an ugly zip you’ll find absolutely nowhere else! – may be sold.” she argued. This made me think: in today’s shattered reality, can we actually believe fashion is out of fashion?

Let’s take things from the start. Roland Barthes was one of the first to pinpoint that fashion is a structured system, a visual narrative that goes beyond the surface to express a multitude of things. In His first book on the subject, published in 1967, aptly titled The Fashion System, he analyses the flowery, descriptive language in fashion magazines Elle and Le Jardin des Modes, in juxtaposition to images printed in such publications. For Barthes, fashion is all about language. “it is not the object but the name that creates desire; it is not the dream but the meaning that sells” he notes.

Clothes do convey meanings in society beyond the superficial, enacting, and even creating power relations between people. This interaction is so critical to a society it cannot be overlooked. As long as we make the conscious choice of wearing clothes, we are uttering something in the language of fashion for the others to see and react to it. I dress therefore I speak. “We can lie in the language of dress, or try to tell the truth, but unless we are naked and bald it is impossible to be silent.” wrote Alison Lurie in her best seller,The Language of Clothes.

So, perhaps what is out of the calendar are trends as we know then? For those of us who work in fashion,  the radical changes of the corona epidemic have created new consumer habits and trends- trends that were in fact already in the making. Fashion can not only showcase socio-economic- changes-it can even predict them with surprising accuracy. This is hardly new.Anne Hollander, the author of Seeing Through Clothes told NYT in a 2006 article that the French Revolution was heralded by the fashionable folk of the time. Women, before 1789, began to wear “simple, belted shifts,” while men wore “plebeian garb” like “rough coats and unkempt neckwear.”

Ask any fashion forecaster and will tell you that the coronavirus epidemic showcased trends: sweat pants, sheer practicality, and minimalism. Ask again and they will admit those were trends already in the making long before the epidemic. Hoodies, streetwear hype, relaxed workwear etiquette, even masks; everything was there for those that could see it. Trends, trends, and more trends. As Barthes would say: “Every new Fashion is a refusal to inherit, subversion against the oppression of the preceding Fashion; Fashion experiences itself as a right, the natural right of the present over the past.”

After all, today’s no-trend reality is a trend by itself.

The Ganni exhibition at Copenhagen Fashion Week spring / summer 2021. Courtesy Copenhagen Fashion Week

The Fashion Shows of the Future Will Be Phygital.Or Perhaps Not.

Nothing can be as unpredictable as the future-and for fashion an industry that relies heavily on predictions and trends, the post- Coronavirus era has been a catalyst for radical changes. Social distancing and health regulations meant the idea of a fashion week as we knew it had to change-with first being the fashion shows. The most recent Copenhagen fashion week showed us that the buzz word of the future would be “phygital” – physical space and digital technologies combined.

Copenhagen Fashion Week was redesigned both as a hybrid format of virtual showrooms which allowed buyers to review the clothes and as a newly designed digital platform to host the shows that would take place both in a digital and phygital format. The advisory board made up of Ganni’s founder Nicolaj Reffstrup; Stine Goya’s CEO Thomas Hertz; Holzweiler’s creative director Susanne Holzweiler; Hope’s creative director Frida Bard; and the creative agency MOON’s CEO Martin Gjesing decided on a series of installments that included almost everything: from presentations, runways exhibitions to installations.

The experimental format performed well-that is, for a compromise. However, the organizers knew right the start it was a challenging choice. “We know from other fashion weeks that the numbers haven’t been crazy high” Cecilie Thorsmark, chief executive of Copenhagen Fashion Week told Vogue Business. Vogue Business also reported that according to Traakr, the best performing Copenhagen Fashion Week brand was Ganni, which hosted an exhibition-by-appointment instead of a runway gathering with 208 posts and over 156,000 engagements, thus  suggesting that people still want to engage in physical events,

Now that Copenhagen Fashion Week is over, the conversation about how the fashion show will evolve becomes more relevant than ever. If the fashion show is based on the shared experience-a communal feeling of participation, then how this could be reproduced in the non-physical world? How would we get the excitement, the thrill, the show? And how can consumers want to actually buy without the fantasy offered, without the immediate reaction?  “If I’m a buyer I’m not going to spend tens of thousands of pounds of my budget on a collection I haven’t physically seen. The digital platforms are great for discovering brands and great for re-orders for instance, but if I was buying from a new designer or spending vast sums, I would want to see and touch the collection first,” notes Lauretta Roberts, CEO & Editor in Chief of The Industry.fashion media.

She is not the only one who sees radical changes coming. For Evelyn Mora, the founder of Helsinki Fashion Week, the fashion industry will embrace interdisciplinary collaboration to the fullest. “It is a new start for the fashion industry and I personally see it as a positive opportunity to reinvent ourselves and our industry. “ she notes. She also feels digital shows do have a future-in a complementary form. “Digital shows might replace the physical shows as we know it but I do think that digital can never replace IRL interactions and socializing. Digital is an essential tool for the fashion industry to embrace. I don’t think that it is an either-or question. Digital compliments physical and vice versa.”

Katie Baron is an author and the Director of Brand Engagement at Stylus. For her, the future of the fashion show will be a mixture of gated, industry-only content like debates, and public-facing experiences from shows to further discussions. “One of the most significant changes will be the introduction of not only live-streamed shows that we’ll comment on akin to watching sport but also, slightly further down the line, the capacity to enter virtual environments with digital models allowing even smaller brands to showcase worlds more closely aligned with their creative vision than at present when even a basic show requires significant funding.”

For Lauretta Roberts, the catwalk, and the showroom experiences are vital. “The catwalk or runway is a device used by a designer to market their collection and present a coherent and compelling creative vision for their collection – they are important and often just joyous to watch. Yes, they are expensive to produce but the marketing benefit and the content created from it endures long after the show has ended. But the buying, from a retailer perspective, happens in the showrooms afterward when they really get a chance to get up close and personal with the collection.” She predicts the new fashion show format is here to stay. “I would not be surprised to see brands investing more in digital presentations” she notes, “either through the digital fashion weeks or through their own channels to cover off the marketing and creative vision side of the equation. “

If phygital is to stay as the new fashion show format, then technology will be vital in securing a future for the industry. “Tech will certainly put consumers in the picture to a greater extent, making shows much more of a ‘tentpole’ moment, but not necessarily bound to the conventional seasons.” remarks Katie Baron. “Consider too, she adds, a greater play on the components that constitute great shows, such as (AR)-trialling of catwalk make-up – straight to fans’ faces – allowing their audiences to continue generating the buzz.”

According to Lauretta Roberts,the change is coming-and will most likely affect both smaller designers and big brands. “There does need to be some sort of physical presentation of a collection for trade but I don’t think it needs to be four times a year and we need to give clothes a chance to sell in-store before they are discounted and moved on to allow space for new deliveries. It’s a bit insane that all the summer stock is cleared in June and the stores are full of coats and chunky knitwear in August. That has to change.”