Editor’s Letter by Lisa: The Year in Fashion Was All About Streetwear, Second-Hand and Sustainability
As 2017 comes to an end, our editor Lisa Corneliusson reflects on what stood out–and what she wishes for the new year.
According to Vogue, 2017 was the year sustainability went from a buzzword to an industry-wide movement. And we all know that if Vogue says so! No but seriously, in my perspective, the shift might have taken a few years, but we’re definitely at the start of a new phase.
A phase where it, as a fashion brand, is odd not to consider sustainability–not the other way around.
And although there’s still a long way to go, this is something worth celebrating. It makes me hopeful. Things will look different in the future.
The road that will take us there, to the future of fashion, is full of opportunities as well as dead-ends and uphill slopes (yup, I’m already back at my default dystopia :)). As I look back at the year in fashion, what I see is a bunch of paradoxes. But at this point I’ve learnt this is not entirely a bad thing when it comes to the fashion industry. Paradoxes often imply some kind of progress; traditions bursting at the seams; and eventually, in the long-term, they often lead to change.
Brands do have feelings
Or, they better have, at least if you ask the new fashion consumer. We’re increasingly interested in knowing more about the brands we choose in order to connect with them. Younger generations want brands to fit into their identities, which demands attractive aesthetics but also heart, conscience, transparency–characteristics that allows for no short-cuts. Without these characteristics, there’s no brand loyalty. And this poses huge challenges for, say, fashion houses that aren’t even really online. It’s no coincidence, Céline finally got an Instagram account and launched an online store this year. And then Phoebe Philo announced her exit! We know she’s not been a fan of social media… Is being offline a possibility for a major brand today? I think so, and I would actually love for a brand like Céline to only be experienced in person. I kind of wished Philo would have gotten her way.
Style and streetwear
In the world of high fashion, this year has been a lot about streetwear x luxury brand collaborations. The year started off with Louis Vuitton introducing their collaboration with Supreme. Some snoozed on it (I did, not because I oppose the collab but because I thought it was boring) while some called it “the most modern moment in fashion that existed in our current time” (to quote Off-White designer Virgil Abloh). The idea of high fashion turning to – appropriating, if you wish – streetwear to gain “speak” to a younger consumer has been tossed around all year, and I do agree there’s no real difference between high fashion and street fashion today. They’re part of the same system. (I would also perhaps agree with Lotta Volkova who said there are no more subcultures.) Vetements is perhaps the most obvious example of this.
The Vetements paradox
Vetement CEO Demna Gvasalia, also creative director of Balenciaga, is often credited to be the first designer at a position like his who “truly understands internet culture” and having given Balenciaga a heart – one that millenials can reflect themselves in. Vetements has experienced massive growth this year and is one of three most sought after brands (and Balenciaga is one of the most commercially successful brands among the young consumers this year). Demna let the world know in June that Vetements was not going to adher to the traditional show system anymore and in August, his brother Guram spoke, wisely, on waste and over production. They moved the Vetements operations from a clubby atmosphere in Paris to be close to nature in Zurich, to stay sane and human and to keep a clear vision on future steps. Demna has commented the insanities of the fashion industry before. “Stop buying things you don’t need. Start buying clothes you can cherish for years Start looking for quality. Move towards the idea of slow fashion.”
So there are both visions and actions when it comes to disrupting the system and moving towards a less dirty industry.
Yet, it could be argued that Vetements – as well as the Supreme x Louis Vuitton collab – is as far from “sane” and “balanced” you can get in fashion. They are the definition of “it” collections and the clothes are so trendy they cause hysteria. How is that a move towards slow fashion? (I’m currently in LA and the queues outside Supreme are out of this world; so much longer than last year. It is crazy, and the kids are like eight years old! And online, traffic can grow by 16,800 % on the days Supreme releases new stuff. That’s crazy too! I wonder how much Louis Vuitton has to do with this.)
But, it could also be argued that these hyped clothes are instead “collectors’ pieces”, so exclusive that the consumers will treasure them forever–or enter the lucrative resell market. It’s interesting to consider, as the perhaps most important aspect of sustainability in fashion is lifetime: prolonging the life of every garment.
Pre-loved is better than new
I don’t have the answer to how the world of Vetements and very time-specific “it” collabs correlate to sustainability. It’s however a fact that the second hand market for these things are major and have been so for long. Streetwear resale sites have a market of their own. So yes, we can argue that high fashion took a lesson from the streetwear scene when it comes to this too. Luxury consigment sites of “pre-loved” high fashion, global players like The Real Real and Vestiaire Collective, as well as local alternatives, are growing by the minute, and the attitude towards second hand has also changed a lot in high fashion during the past few years.
When luxury fashion got involved, sustainability became more desirable
As with the attitude towards pre-owned fashion, the fact that the luxury brands finally got on board the sustainability movement made it a matter more widely considered. For example, Gucci announced it will ban real fur from its collections in October. This might sound like a fish in the sea, but it means something, especially since Gucci is the most sought after brand this year.
With that said, luxury fashion, the traditional one, has such a long way to go when it comes to sustainability. Things are slowly beginning to change, but right now, independent brands are so much more interesting to look to for new business models and innovation. I strongly suggest checking out our Brand To Watch section – if you’re not feeling inspired by these brands, I’m not sure what will!
And when it comes to brand loyalty–harder than ever to gain, but more important than ever to offer–these are the players that have the best chance of communicating with their audiences in a direct, non-scripted manner.
Initiatives to watch
Here are some of my highlights from the scene that sees sustainability as normalcy.
Circular Design Speeds by Mistra Future Fashion
This research project attempts to update the definition of fast fashion–making it an even-faster opposite to slow fashion with garments made of, say, paper-like materials that can be used once before recycled. Potentially disruptive, for sure (hehe, “disruptive” must be the most over-used term of 2017?).
You know what? I love Vestiaire Collective and The Real Real. But the fast delivery (via air and couriers) blurs the beauty of buying second-hand globally, whether I like it or not. I will keep turning to these sites instead of buying new, but I will try to turn to local options more often. I live in Stockholm and we have Adornment, with three Cs in focus: “Created” (an own label), “Curated” (artisan brands represented) and “Captured” (selected second hand pieces).
@the_press_tour by Emma Watson
Watson launched this account when going on a promotional tour, tagging all ethical brands and describing them, and pointing out when she re-wore something. And hear this out: her instagram photo of wearing a dress from Louis Vuitton’s Autumn/Winter 2017 collection caused a traffic spike double that of Louis Vuitton’s womenswear show in March (source). That must be the most influential moment of sustainable fashion this year.
Stella McCartney embracing resale with The Real Real
Stella McCartney partnered up withThe Real Real. An important strategic move for a luxury brand to embrace resale instead of fearing it will cannibalize their business. I wrote more about this here.
Crafting Plastics! Studio launched its first eyewear collection this year, with the world’s first bioplastic frames made completely from renewable, plant-based materials.
I’m as obsessed with affordable fine jewellery as everyone else right now. AGMES is dedicated to producing sustainable jewelry that has a small environmental footprint.
Sustainable luxury fashion
It’s still requires some work to find sustainable brands that play in the same league as conventional luxury brands. I’m really excited to see the development of Stockholm and London based BITE Studios. It looks beautiful. You can read about their sustainability vision here.
Three important quick facts I learnt in 2017:
- Don’t take your car to the shop! 22 % of a garment’s total climate impact happens when we, the consumers, transport ourselves – most often by car – to the stores.
- Recycling clothes is a very complicated matter. There’s mechanical and chemical recycling; two different techniques that are good for different materials and that are both still being fine-tuned for a mass market. The recyclability of a garment is something we should all consider more – although it should be the last of all options (maximising the lifetime of a garment comes first).
- Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), a cotton certificate used by everyone from H&M to Gap, is really just a little less bad than conventional cotton. If you really want to choose better cotton, choose GOTS certified and Fairtraide.
Three things I wish for the new year:
- Someone revolutionizing the market with an irresistible way of leasing desirable clothes.
- The scaling of clothing libraries like Lena in Amsterdam.
- A business model focusing on how to ship fast and sustainably.
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