2016 will probably go down as the year when voters rejected a liberal approach to life. The economic recession of previous years that brought us austerity, and the fully pledged globalisation in industry and production, attacked the least prepared segments of society. It was another “industrial revolution”, this time a more silent one. Workers lost their jobs not only to technology but to other workers thousands of miles away. This time the state could not assist; austerity wouldn’t allow it…
Fashion industry wasn’t unaffected by these global socioeconomic changes. The last few years, the industry has been going through a major paradigm shift; the latter’s results becoming more apparent this year. Years of wrong investment decisions and knee-jerk reactions have slowly shaped the industry to what it is today. Either struggling to react to current needs, a great example of this are the ailing chain retailers bleeding customers, or an industry that has ripped up the rulebook in its need to survive. The brand that used to be the definitions of sexiness and turned into a geeky mash-up of lace dresses with snake appliques comes to mind.
But let me be more specific and consider 5 key changes and trends we have seen this year. 5 new directions that have defined the year but will also shape the industry; an insight into things to come.
Demna Gvasalia and the Vetements design collective
Georgian born Demna Gvasalia together with his brother Guram and 5 more friends (all met during their time at Maison Margiela), created the design collective Vetements. And in a couple of years have become the hottest and most coveted brand. Their concept is simple but extremely efficient and uncommon in the fashion world. Design for them is a democratic process of conversation. Every member of the collective, whatever their background, has an input.
Breaking free from the hegemony of trend, their clothes address what they believe people will like to wear. They are inspired by urban cultures and subcultures, online influences, and streetwise youth to offer season-less fashion for cool individuals. They aim at people in-touch with reality, instead of selling a fantasy. Selling a make belief has been the go-to approach for most luxury brands so far, an approach interrupted by the rise of the social media.
Vetements’ relationship with social media on the other hand, is very interesting and one to watch. They monitor what is going-on, and choose all their runway models carefully off Instagram (an ode to the real person who will buy and wear their clothes). They are never involved in a cat and mouse chase between what the people want and what a brand is offering. On the contrary, by simply analysing what is happening they can offer consumers what they don’t yet know they want. Who knew they wanted the huge angular exaggerated padded shoulders they offered? Even traditional retailers with a more conservative clientele see anti-trend, anti-establishment and uber-expensive Vetements directional silhouettes fly off the shelf.
Vetements is not necessarily creating revolutionary new fashion, but is re-thinking the methodology of fashion creation, and the relationship between a fashion brand and its end-consumers. It is all about giving them what they want but have not yet looked for. A very Steve Jobs approach, a true revolution in 2016’s Fashion.
Their success has not gone unnoticed and Damna Gvasalia has now replaced Alexander Wang as the creative director of Balenciaga. I hope that Vetements’ methodology will now influence the design giant and other brands by proxy. I hope in other words that designers will be allowed again to create.
The idea is simple; you see it on the runways and you can buy it straight away; waiting is so last season darling…The list of brands and designers following this model has been growing steadily. More and more embrace the idea of instant gratification, and the first sales results have been encouraging. So far it looks like American and British designers are more open to the idea as French and Italians refuse to go down the same route. Nothing new there, as the attitudes to innovation have always been different in different countries.
The truth of the matter is that See-Now-Buy-Now has been a reaction to the changing demographics of end-consumers and their habits. Being connected, and constantly exchanging information meant that fashion became the virtual currency of likes and shares. As the theory goes: the more a garment is shared the less it is selling in shops, as consumers are tired of seeing the same dress repeatedly 6 months before they can purchase it. See-Now-Buy-Now is supposed to fix this. What the latter does not fix however, is our unseasonable deliveries; stock that goes on sale when it cannot be worn.