Online shopping in the past few years has arguably become the most accessible way for consumers to update their wardrobes and keep up with fashion trends. In quarantine, the desire to online shop is heightened by the fact that it’s something tangible and exciting to look forward to - for those who are stuck at home, shopping becomes not only a hobby, but the delivery is actually exciting. Content creators in particular have been focused on updating their social media accounts at home, and are often ordering new outfits for photoshoots. Moreover, online shopping is every introvert’s dream: as our world becomes more digital, and our needs can be met more quickly and efficiently if we don’t leave the house, the pull for ordering clothes online is indisputable.
Luxury brands have definitely been stepping up to the plate in terms of encouraging consumers to order their products online in the last few years. One thing I’ve noticed as a consumer is the tendency of luxury brands to be elusive and creative on social media, rather than outwardly marketing their products. Gucci is an excellent example of this, as their Instagram revolves around creative photoshoots and editorial-style pictures, without the option to buy the clothes highlighted in the picture. However, their website is tailor made for online shopping. This seems to be the model for various high-end brands, as they draw in consumers with creativity and seal the deal with online accessibility.
They understand their brands are more compelling when they don’t attempt to convince consumers to buy their products - they nonchalantly tease their audience with glimpses into the world of high fashion, daring them to shop online.
When online shopping was first introduced, there was a tendency to assume that consumers would gravitate solely towards low end-middle end products. This makes sense: without actually trying something on, feeling fabric or textiles in your hand, or analyzing how an article holds your body, it can be difficult to commit to an expensive purchase. Luxury brands have adapted to this by adding style guides to each article, adding details on how the product should fit, and sometimes having the option to book an online consultation to ensure you receive your perfect fit. If dissatisfied, customers can also often return their purchase for free.
As our cultural psyche accepts online shopping as the norm, luxury brands have been consistently stepping up and making the experience easier for consumers. I’m excited to see how high-end brands, led by people of colour in particular, innovate and contribute to the development of the online shopping experience.
Trump’s TikTok Ban may Impact the Fashion Industry
After weeks of speculation around the security of TikTok and its links to the Chinese government, President Donald Trump declared he will ban the app from operating in the United States
Though this is solely a statement and no policies have been pushed, Trump’s statement may be layered with more political tension than meets the eye; he has consistently been working towards rupturing ties between the two nations, spurred by both economic competition and clear ideological differences. The White House has openly criticized the authoritarian system of governance in China, led by Xi Jinping. On July 23rd, 2020, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo gave a speech with clear hostile undertones towards the country.
“If we want to have a free 21st century, and not the Chinese century of which Xi Jinping dreams, the old paradigm of blind engagement with China simply won’t get it done… The free world must triumph over this new tyranny,” Pompeo said.
Both Pompeo and Trump’s rhetoric towards China in speeches and press conferences, with calling COVID-19 the Chinese virus at the centre of it all, exemplify the new nature of competition and aggression between the two countries. China is the United States’ main commercial rival, and the second economic superpower in the world. Economists around the world have predicted the nation will continue to grow and may actually surpass the United States in the next 10-15 years. The World Bank states that since its economic reform in 1978, China’s GDP growth “has averaged almost 10 percent a year, and more than 850 million people have been lifted out of poverty.”
The relationship between the U.S. and China does have an impact on style and fashion. Trade, tariffs, and economic competition between the two will influence the industry, and the cultural inspirations of designers in the respective countries. Moreover, TikTok has served as a hub for videos about fashion and style, providing an opportunity for creators to learn from one another, share lookbooks, vintage fashion finds, and tips and tricks on wearing cultural outfits and luxury garments.
It’s ironic that one of the major trends on TikTok in the last few months was documenting the street style of China, featuring incredibly dressed influencers strutting the streets of Beijing. The attitude and wealth of the nation is palpable in these videos — Western creators were immediately drawn to it. Many American TikTok users actually took major inspiration from these videos and attempted to recreate them, but the overall consensus was that China has a level of affluence and class that the United States simply could not replicate.
The political decision of banning TikTok removes a unique form of social media from the world of creative individuals, and it will mean the end of this form of fashion expression. It will be interesting to see how the tensions between China and the United States further impact all levels of society, including fashion and the arts. Alysha Mohamed
When it comes to discussing sustainability in fashion, it is also important to analyze the larger framework that can lead to or destroy the possibility of a more sustainable future - politics. With the upcoming election, Biden has made sure to outline his plan for climate change and environmental justice to his campaign website. The rhetoric around choosing to vote for either Trump or Biden has been overwhelmingly negative, with many leftist voters adopting the slogan “Settle for Biden.” However, I’ve seen more advocacy for environmental issues and sustainable development from Biden’s campaign than in Trump’s presidency.
Prioritizing economic gain while pushing for sustainability is an impossible balancing act, and throughout history, we have seen politicians who prioritize the economy succeed. Trump has spent much of his presidency crafting policies that undo the work of the Obama administration, editing many acts dedicated to the environment. He has openly criticized the work of Obama and called sustainable rules harmful to the fossil fuel industry and the overall economy. The New York Times recently released a list of 100 environmental policies the Trump administration has attempted or succeeded in overturning - including cancelling a requirement for oil and gas companies to report methane emissions and weakening oversight for air pollution in national parks.
Trump’s focus has always been to “Make America Great Again”: the rhetoric of his slogan is looking to the past for inspiration, rather than looking to the future for more sustainable ideals of living. Biden also has an immense amount of work to do in the environmental sector if he is elected, and the Obama administration is not the gold standard of sustainable policies.
Environmental policies can and will impact the world of fashion, as the garment industry is responsible for 10% of annual carbon emissions, according to the World Bank. However, leaders in the industry do not have to wait for policies to start shifting the way clothes are made. It’s a deeply complex issue, tangled with economic needs, labour, and capitalism, but the fashion industry is a key player in the fight for environmental justice. Alysha Mohamed
Our Obsession with Depop Reflects Current Societal Values
Depop, a social shopping app based in London, has grown in popularity exponentially in the last few years. It’s essentially a way to thrift without leaving your bedroom, and many Depop users are committed to more sustainable shopping by buying clothes second hand. Thus, it combines the trend of thrifting with positive sustainable choices - making it a foolproof way to break into the fashion community.
It’s an easy way for fashion lovers to buy and sell clothes, create new outfits on a budget, and find vintage pieces with ease. In addition to this, various successful YouTubers and influencers sell their used clothes on the app - drawing in followers and subscribers who find inspiration in their styles.
Though it is similar to sites like Ebay and Instagram, many say Depop’s success lies in its ability to captivate young users. Maria Raga, the CEO of Depop, stated that she “envisions the platform creating a new generation of teen entrepreneurs, and the company works hard to highlight them.” This may be because the app is so linked to influencer and YouTube culture, and with many teens attempting to grow their personal brands, get noticed on social media, and curate a unique style, Depop can be the perfect platform to start experimenting.
Depop definitely reflects the trends in our society, and is an indication of what teens value most in the world of fashion - the ability to wear an outfit one day, post it, and sell it the next. There’s something exciting about being the only person to wear a specific outfit, especially in a world where clothes are mass produced, and similar styles of the same garment are on almost every online shopping site.
However, one of the main issues with Depop is the critique of users reselling items to make a ridiculous profit. For example, some users can thrift a shirt for five dollars and sell it online for ten times the price. Many offer it’s up to buyers to make responsible spending decisions and critically ask questions about how much a product is worth.
Overall, the app is a more sustainable alternative to buying from fast fashion brands directly and creating a larger ecological footprint; Depop is relevant and reflective of current trends, which is why it will likely continue to thrive in the upcoming years.
The COVID-19 crisis has affected the fashion industry in several ways. From quick e-commerce shifts to a focus on sustainability and ethical practices, a lot of the changes have been quite positive. Amidst these shifts, however, boarded up storefronts have turned into landfill-like scenarios for many brick and mortar stores. The cost of disposing wasted capital is a deep hit amidst an economic downturn, and brands will need to get creative. Enter liquidation sales. A mark of a businesses’ inevitable bankruptcy, liquidation sales are historically the end-all-be-all. For some, it may be true. JCPenney, Lord + Taylor, and New York & Company have both begun deep liquidation sales amidst filing for bankruptcy. Even with a number of bankruptcies likely looming though, these liquidation sales will likely start to pop-up. The inventory-to-sales ratio is unlike anything the industry has seen, with clothing sales falling 89% in April in the U.S. and 50% in Britain. Some retailers are using warehouse spaces, some are selling to Marshalls/TJMaxx, and some may have to just move to sales. Keep an eye out for these deep cuts of expiring inventory, notably an upcoming ‘secret’ sale happening from August 11-15. ‘The Biggest Online Flash Sale Ever,’ claims to be fashion’s “best kept secret” at the moment. Quietly, 35+ designers and high end brands like Theory, Rag & Bone, Alice & Olivia, Mansur Gavriel, and many more, have teamed up to launch an up-to-80% off mega sale online. The sale has a charitable element, with donations available, and the range of brands is sure to spark interest. Personally, I’ll be paying great attention to off-price retailers who buy deadstock or unsold merchandise during this time. Brands like Overstock, TJMaxx, Ross stores, Nordstrom Rack - keep an eye out for these guys. Not only will their stock likely rise as they gain valuable inventory, but attention will be on them as they advertise more coveted items. Will you still be willing to buy last season’s duds?
In recent years, many have argued there is a trend of homogeneity when it comes to luxury fashion brands. This argument was catalyzed when brands like Balenciaga and Burberry shifted to using the same sans-serif font, sparking questions of what a logo truly represents, if not the individuality of the brand in question. Dior, Prada, Armani, and Louis Vuitton also all use variations of the serif font.
This isn’t solely a trend in the world of luxury fashion; brands like Google, Spotify, Pinterest, and Spotify have all modified their fonts and marketing strategies in the last few years, adapting to a style that is similar to other major brands. There is less reliance on originality in the actual logo, and more emphasis on the actual philosophy of the brand, their products, and their overall vision.
If the serif font equates to professionalism and elegance, it’s interesting to analyze what other facets of branding contribute to this feeling.
When I visited the websites of luxury brands like Gucci, Balenciaga, and Chanel, there is also a trend of homogeneity in their website design. All brands feature minimal typography and large images, focusing on the aesthetics of the products rather than the explanations behind them. Gucci and Chanel in particular have a very similar navigation experience as a consumer; after selecting a section to delve into, the layout is almost identical.
Another trend is the use of capitalization — demanding attention from its audience, and making a statement without having to use additional words or pictures. Luxury brands also have a tendency to focus on neutral colours like black, grey, ivory, and rose, along with a couple statement colours like red and green in their product selection.
Tiffany and Co., on the other hand, is the perfect example of individuality being reflected in a statement colour: Tiffany Blue. It’s historic, iconic, and easily recognizable. For brands that do not have a signature colour, their products stick to the neutrals to stay “professional”.
Therefore, luxury brands have shifted away from marketing in terms of logos and easily distinguishable website designs in favour of letting their products speak for themselves. There seems to be a clear indication of what is deemed professional, and brands are sticking to it. It will be interesting to see whether or not standards of luxury and professionalism in branding shift in upcoming years, and whether or not the homogeneity of brands will continue.
Radhika Jones — the new Editor in Chief of Vanity Fair — may be promoting actual systemic change in the world of fashion and journalism.
This month, Vanity Fair featured the photography of a Black creator for the first time in its 107 year history. Dario Calmese had shot for the magazine among other major publications prior to this historic shoot; his classical training in the performing arts allows him to use “his knowledge of movement, gesture, and psychology to create complex characters and narratives that explore history, race, class, and what it means to be human.”
The cover, with Viola Davis in the centre, is a necessary example of integrating powerful Black artists into places that have historically excluded them.
The July/August editor’s letter, written by Jones, is an open reflection of art, colonization, and the history of Vanity Fair. She reflected on her academic history, focusing on her exploration of decolonization in England’s former colonies and the process of recognizing primary voices and systems of oppression. These systems continue to exist in Western media and academia, including the structure of Vanity Fair.
Jones noticed the lack of representation in the fashion and pop-culture publication and stated “I was determined to change it when I took over as editor—not just as a corrective measure but because it is my job, and the magazine’s job, to center people who are visionaries, who are moving the culture forward.”
Since her appointment to the position of Editor in Chief in 2018, Jones has featured ten Black cover subjects, leading to the shoot of Viola Davis by Calmese.
Jones’ commitment to featuring more Black creators, especially on covers, may be an indication that Vanity Fair is working to rebuild power structures and promote systemic change in a real and representative manner. Alysha Mohamed
The Depth and Intricacies of a First Lady’s Wardrobe
In the midst of an election, the press focuses on speeches, events, political policies, and overall charisma. However, throughout history, the fashion choices of a prospective First Lady is analyzed to an almost extreme extent. This absolutely carries over and is heightened after a candidate is elected: a First Lady is the ultimate representation of the ideal American woman. Every piece of fabric that touches her body is an indication of values, of priorities, of the nation as a whole. The way in which a First Lady dresses can be read through the rhetoric of politics and fashion, and is undeniably going to resurface as the race for President heats up.
When Barack Obama was first campaigning, there was a large focus on Michelle Obama’s stylistic choices rather than her academic background. She pointed out the inequality in the way we culturally scrutinize a First Lady’s wardrobe, while completely disregarding that of a male President. At Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, former FLOTUS stated “No matter what we do he puts on the same tux. Now, people take pictures of the shoes I wear, the bracelets, the necklace—they didn’t comment on that for eight years, he wore the same tux, same shoes.” This focus reinforces the aesthetic value of women rather than their individual value, adding layers of judgment to each outfit they choose to wear.
Moreover, Kanye West's announcement that he may run for President shook the entire nation, and social media users pointed out the possibility of having Kim Kardashian West as First Lady as soon as the Tweet was posted. Immediately, the aesthetic value and fashion choices of a prospective First Lady were analyzed and scrutinized, even without confirmation of West’s bid.
It’s also interesting to consider whether the same focus on fashion would be placed on a female President and her husband or partner if elected to office. The closest reference point we have to this possibility was Hillary Clinton. Though the focus on her fashion choices in her campaign was less prevalent in comparison to her time as First Lady, scrutiny over her pantsuits, accessories and shoes was still everywhere. It may be difficult to consider what a First Gentleman’s role would look like and how he would be analyzed as a public figure, but layers of gender roles within the political arena would likely keep the focus on female fashion choices more than his own. Clinton addressed the fixation on the fashion choices of women in her 2016 campaign, where she responded to a question about her shoes by asking “Do you think anybody talked to Bernie Sanders about his shoes?"
Our focus on the fashion choices of First Ladies throughout history is indicative of what these women represent in America. They are a metaphor for traditional femininity, and are still, to some extent, required to present themselves in a specific manner to give the nation their ideal. One of the most important roles of a First Lady is to maintain their image in the face of mass scrutiny from the press, supporting the underlying idea that they are an accessory to be analyzed rather than a dynamic and capable individual. Alysha Mohamed
Kanye West is eccentric, unpredictable, and undeniably interesting - all the markers of a compelling artist, businessman, and fashion designer. However, his recent Twitter announcement on running for president of the United States has spectators across the world questioning how these traits will translate into politics.
Though West had previously announced his plan to run for office at the MTV Music Awards in 2015, his eleven-minute speech was taken with a grain of salt, especially considering the informality of the announcement. He candidly stated, “it's about ideas, bro. New ideas. People with ideas. People who believe in truth. And yes, as you probably could have guessed by this moment, I have decided in 2020 to run for president.” The rhetoric of this speech may provide insight into what his campaign might look like if he actually moves forward with a bid for president: a language that aligns more with that of an artist rather than a politician. His political history has been confusing, especially after West - a multi-award-winning, highly successful Black artist - openly advocated and showed support for Donald Trump. He has been photographed sporting MAGA hats and shaking Trump’s hand, which gathered intense confusion considering the negative racial undertones and discrimination in Trump’s speeches, campaign, and presidency.
His announcement felt even more surreal after his interviews yesterday, where Kanye stated his fear of COVID-19 vaccines, the new banner of the Birthday Party his campaign will be run under, and his desire to run the White House with a new model based on the country of Wakanda in Black Panther (Lane 2020). He consistently referenced his spirituality and religion, naming God as one of the most influential forces in his decision to run for president. His first interview was, as expected, bizarre, unconventional, and arguably not even political. Despite this, West has a strange sort of magnetism that makes people want to watch him, even if they do not take him seriously.
The lack of solidified political opinions that West holds further exemplifies the confusion around his campaign. He supports candidates and celebrities based on their energy and personal connections rather than concrete policies, which is exactly what the artist described when asked about his relationship with Trump. His support for Trump was obvious, but the artist did not actually cast a ballot in the 2016 election. West seems to be running for president with little to no knowledge on political policy or the inner workings of government - determined to create his own structure rather than adhering to the existing designs.
For voters who want Trump out of office after his first term, it is important to consider that voting for Kanye could actually benefit Trump’s campaign - essentially taking votes away from Biden. An article by Forbes argued that a run by West will likely result in “tipping the scales for one candidate rather than West himself becoming president”.
Some call Kanye West a narcissist, some call him a genius, some say his announcement to run for president is a drawn-out joke. He may be following in the footsteps of President Trump; neither of the men had nuanced political experience or education before running, and are driven by their extreme and unwavering confidence. The coming weeks will indicate whether or not the artist intends to run a serious political campaign or a performance, and based on his history, it could go either way.
Politics and Pandemics: Analyzing the Future of Fashion Shows
In light of the global pandemic, artistic companies and fashion brands across the world have been struggling to understand how fashion, theatre, and performance will move forward. The world of high fashion has arguably been elevated and classified by the runway experience - the ability to bring together the most impressive and innovative brands, the most beautiful models, and the most theatrical runway performances have distinguished fashion as its own art form. COVID-19 begs the question of how fashion shows will continue to thrive, and what a fashion show will look like moving forward.
Fashion shows have historically been the hub for international exchange of ideas in order to progress the art form forward. In recent years, many brands have integrated digital aspects into their runway shows, making them more theatrical and arguably more impactful to spectators. Music, lighting, and design have become important aspects of a catwalk; it has become about what the clothes represent, what they symbolize, and why they are important rather than if they are solely aesthetically pleasing.
This shift towards embracing the digital may have come at the right time, considering most fashion weeks are looking to move online for the spectacle and thrill to continue.
There are some countries that have decided to move forward with their fashion weeks, but others are left struggling to maneuver border closures. Toronto Fashion Week decided to shut down plans for their show in the spring, and many have argued this is related to the US/Canada border closure. One of the major thrills of a fashion week is being able to perceive fashion from around the world - from brands who do not have their headquarters in the same city, who bring new colours, political themes, or visions to the experience.
Paris and Milan have their first digital fashion shows scheduled for next month, which indicates the necessity for fashion to move into digital mediums in order to survive. Like theatre, one of the main concerns of moving online is the loss of the intense communal feelings and culture of the event. Not only are spectators unable to see the clothes in person, but they are also missing out on the experience of being in a room filled to the brim with greatness - a place of gathering for the creators, designers, and innovators. In the world of fashion, this is a rare but integral moment in the year. This is where inspiration strikes, and historically, we have looked back on fashion shows for an understanding of where society was in those moments.
London also had its first virtual fashion show in early June and highlighted the opportunity for more intimate conversations with designers and brand partners to truly explore their vision and connect to a global audience.
COVID-19, the political repercussions of the pandemic, and the safety precautions we will have to take in the future will definitely change the face of fashion - especially in terms of fashion weeks moving forward. Once again, the interconnectedness of politics, health, and fashion prove that art is not an isolated aspect of society: it must adapt to ever-shifting conditions, issues, and trends.