FASHION INDUSTRY TOOK SOME NOTES IN 2020

FASHION INDUSTRY TOOK SOME NOTES IN 2020

ZEYNEP ENDERER

They say strength comes from struggle. Even though the fashion industry struggled more than ever in the past year due to the pandemic, good things did in fact come out of the chaos that was 2020. Let’s look back and find comfort in these triumphs together.

DIVERSITY IN CREATIVE LEADERSHIP ROLES
Fotoğraf: Kristen-Lee Moolman

As you may have noticed while scrolling on social media, many world-renowned fashion magazines have appointed brilliant new creative leaders in the past year, most of whom are people of color. Among the most notable appointments were Samira Nasr as EIC and Nikki Ogunnaike as Digital Director of Harper’s Bazaar US, Edward Enninful as European Editorial Director of Vogue, Lindsay Peoples Wagner as EIC of The Cut, and Ibrahim Kamara as EIC of Dazed. There is no doubt that the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement in early June 2020 sparked up some of the progressive change we’ve finally begun to see. After the police killings of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, many brands and industry giants pledged to look inwards in order to do better and be actively anti-racist.

Some industry creatives even started new ventures to help black brands and businesses, such as “Black Owned Everything” by stylist Zerina Akers, as well as “15 Percent Pledge” by Aurora James of Brother Vellies. Here’s to hoping that the important progress made in 2020 lays the foundation for a permanent systemic change in the fashion industry and beyond.

INCREASED SUPPORT FOR SMALL AND LOCAL BUSINESSES

When the pandemic hit in early 2020, many small, local businesses started struggling to make ends meet. After all, a small business does not have access to certain resources that a big, global corporation does, and in a Covid-infected world, the lack of resources and financial capital could undoubtedly cause a business to close up shop for good. In New York, for example, this was the case for nearly one-third of small businesses, The New York Times reports. However, the fashion industry and the public showed tremendous support for their local favorites, and made a remarkable effort to amplify their voices. For instance, Instagram’s Shop team created guides where they suggested indie bookstores to support, as well as featured countless new and small businesses on their story highlights. People from all over the world donated to their favorite local stores using various fundraising websites, and many influencers shared their favorite small brands on their social media to help create buzz and increase their sales. Online shopping and donation platforms proved to be powerful tools for people to show up for the cause.

IMMEDIATE ADAPTATION TO “NEW” NEEDS

As one could expect, the average fashion customer’s needs changed in the blink of an eye when their lives went from going out most of the time to staying in almost every day. For many, the new normal certainly involved a lot less glitz and glam, and a lot more comfort. Customers were evidently not as inclined to combine an entire well thought-out outfit as they were before the pandemic. They wanted to be comfortably chic and presentable for their Zoom meetings, preferably in matching sets so that getting dressed didn’t require as much work. Many brands did an incredible job at anticipating and understanding these needs. SS21 collections across the world were full of matching knit sets, colorful sweatsuits and more in the coziest and stretchiest materials. What was even more impressive was that each brand had their own take on “the new normal.” Christopher Esber made sexy and strappy cut-out knit dresses that aligned perfectly with the brand’s identity. Proenza Schouler managed to remain as edgy as ever by using daring prints and styling their relaxed, pastel-colored ribbed-knits with leather accessories. Countless brands proved they can do a magnificent job at adapting to their customers’ rapidly changing needs.

Proenza Schouler RTW Spring 2021
FASHION SHOWS: MORE ACCESSIBLE THAN EVER

Fashion week shows are known for their exclusive, inner-circle-only invites. Well, in 2020, I’d argue we were all invited. When the pandemic started to show itself in Paris in the middle of Paris Fashion Week in March, numerous brands decided to cancel their shows and market appointments immediately. This paved the way for the digitization of most SS21 runway shows that were supposed to take place in September. The adaptation to the difficult new circumstances took many forms. While some brands such as Altuzarra and Khaite chose to present their collections by sending special books to their invitees, brands like GCDS and Daily Paper opted for a completely digitized way of presenting in CGI form. Other digital show formats included catwalks broadcasted online in real time and short fashion films. Such digital formats allowed everyone with access to internet to view the collections just as quickly as fashion’s it-crowd, from the comfort of their home. This new way of presenting could bring permanent change into the world of fashion, democratize it, and make it more inclusive than ever.

A DEEPER FOCUS ON SUSTAINABILITY

The digitization of runway shows in response to the pandemic was a step towards not only inclusivity, but also sustainability. As the number of on-location shows decreased, production waste and costs shrank as well. The pandemic undoubtedly gave the industry time to reflect and recenter. As a result, Gucci pledged to go seasonless and reduce their number of shows to two per year, where men’s and women’s collections are to be shown together. The consumer found the time to reflect and recenter as well, which shined a positive light on designers such as Marine Serre, who works with upcycled materials, and Maggie Marilyn, who is committed to creating circular and regenerative fashion. All in all, this year made a pretty convincing argument that moving towards a sustainable future is not an option but a necessity.

Maggie Marilyn Resort 2021

UYGHUR CAMPS: WHERE SLAVERY AND FAST FASHION MEETS

UYGHUR CAMPS: WHERE SLAVERY AND FAST FASHION MEETS

DENIZ AKKAYA

Who made my clothes?

According to the coalition consisting of more than 180 human rights group, majority of the biggest fast fashion brands and retailers violate human rights by forcing millions of Uyghur people to work in Xinjiang region of northwest China. Persecutions including torture, splitting families and mandatory sterilization of Uyghur women towards the Uyghur population finally drew the attention of the world. Mass discrimination and oppression of millions of Uighurs by the Chinese government fits the UN definition of genocide. So, what does the fashion industry have to do with this?

The answer is fast fashion apparently. The report published by the Coalition to End the Forced Labour Force in the Uyghur Region in July 2020 brought the ongoing genocide to the international agenda and is what links this whole issue to the fashion industry. So, what did the coalition find? They found that many of the world’s largest fashion brands and suppliers have a huge share of human rights violations committed on Uyghurs. Despite these abuses, the coalition of human rights groups suggested that the world’s leading clothing brands are still using threads from prison camps in Xinjiang. In these camps, prisoners of 1.8 million Uighurs, other Turkic and Muslim people collect cotton and produce yarn through extensive state-sponsored surveillance and forced labour system. Slavery and persecution camps, called “re-education camps” in Xinjiang, are described as the biggest genocide of an ethnic and religious minority since the World War II.

 China, the world’s largest cotton producer, produces 84% ​​of its cotton in the Xinjiang region. One in five cotton products sold worldwide is tainted by slave labour and human rights violations in Xinjiang. This is how this genocide is hiding in the global fashion chain. The Coalition’s report includes brands such as Gap, Adidas, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, H&M, Nike, Uniqlo and Zara among the brands that supply their cotton and yarns from Xinjiang. What do you think fashion brands did in response to the emergence of this uncomfortable reality? PVH Corporation, owner of Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, H&M and Ikea said they will stop buying cotton from Xinjiang. Uniqlo said no products were produced in the region, while Muji said they will continue to supply cotton yarn from the area, but they are unaware of the slave labour claims.

Looking at the big picture: we see an inhumane example of how the fashion industry and the world can ignore a genocide for economic interests, by being involved in such crimes. This is true for every industry, not just fashion. Capitalism and globalization fuel these industries to commit these crimes and make them invisible. The knowledge that everything we consume can never be ethical is depressing, yes. But if that serves as our biggest reason for demanding systemic change, then we can make a change. Seeing that the system is flawed is the first step: it is time for other people to see it.

BRANDS’ TIKTOK SKILLS

Imagery via Gucci

BRANDS’ TIKTOK SKILLS

DENIZ AKKAYA

The way brands reach their target audience continues to evolve according to the preferences of Gen Z and the Millennials.

Brands that used to develop forward-looking strategies before, only adapt to trends now. Those brands who understood that new consumers’ way to their heart is via TikTok, gone into a popularity contest on the app. From Prada to Fashion Nova, many labels try to benefit from TikTok; however, who is doing it wrong, who is doing it right?

We see that luxury brands with millions of followers on Instagram, cannot achieve the same success on TikTok. With 7,6 million followers on Instagram, Givenchy who joined the app in May only has 4738 followers on TikTok. MiuMiu also takes its place amongst the ones who couldn’t achieve the same success they did on Instagram, having only 12.000 followers on TikTok. MiuMiu and Givenchy share this disappointment with Burberry, Marc Jacobs and Prada. Even though with 160.000 followers, Prada is amongst one of the most followed brands, the number of comments under its content are almost next to nothing compared to their Instagram page. The real reason luxury brands on TikTok cannot recognize their audience yet is because their high-quality ad videos that look like art piece next to Gen Z’s natural and uncut videos. TikTok is a platform that feels sincere and comfortable with its low-quality videos. Yes, luxury brands create great aesthetically pleasing content, but the young TikTok users only want to be seen and laugh.

When 21 years old Morgan Presley’s video of “how to dress like a Gucci model” in which Presley gives instructions step by step to look like a Gucci model went viral, users made their versions of the video using the voice from the original.

@orynbassaranel

Хотели бы стать моделью #gucci? Как думаете, у меня получилось? 🤔 #guccimodel #guccimodelchallenge

♬ Gucci model be like – Anel Orynbassar
@dxvidkim

it’s the standing like lil uzi for me #guccimodelchallenge #fyp

♬ original sound – Gucci
@aureareadykids

Hey @gucci if ur seeing this… hi 😏#guccimodelchallenge #tiktokfashion #tiktokfashionmonth ib: @morganpresleyxo

♬ original sound – Gucci

Gucci, who wanted to get their piece of the pie, gained unexpected popularity reposting the users’ videos under the hashtag #guccimodelchallenge. When the brand’s previous hashtags #GucciTenis1997 and #GucciFW20 that were made to promote product launch and the runway show, couldn’t even pass 2 million views whereas #guccimodelchallenge hashtag has nearly 50 million of views! So, following the fast fashion brands, Gucci succeeded by making young consumers create their very own content!

Fast fashion brands, on the other hand, with their targeted content, managed to get ahead of the luxury brands on the app. Fashion Nova, Pretty Little Things and Shein’s millions of followers, views and likes reflected on the labels’ sales. Fast fashion brands won the hearts of TikTok users by giving challenges, filters and sounds to broaden creativity instead of high-quality ads.

Cover imagery via Gucci