We did really, really care about fashion in 2018. Didn’t u?
Never a dull moment in an industry where fur always seems to fly
Hollywood blackout, Melania in high street, sellout vegan trainers and luxury houses falling over themselves to ditch real fur.
These are the biggest style moments from the past 12 months.
1. The new political mood
After the Weinstein revelations, Hollywood’s women sought to take charge of the narrative, launching the Times Up initiative, which may have weaponised their black designer borrowed gowns but proved to be much more than a fashion statement. The movement has raised north of $21m for a legal defence fund for women to pursue sexual harassment cases across all industries.
Yet while for the flash-lit glitterati, black was a colour meant for protest, by the end of the year, yellow – which had been riding high on a summer of sunny dressing – was co-opted by an altogether more fervent group. The Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vests) have taken to trashing the gilded luxury stores of the elite, where heavy-hitting brands names such as Chanel, Tom Ford and McQueen have become synonymous with Macron’s perceived bias towards the 1%.
This perhaps isn’t quite the rote of “empowerment” as implored by Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, in her speech at the Fashion Awards as she sought to make noble her penchant for haute couture and highlight the importance of fashion’s role as a harbinger of confidence. But, in our increasingly scrutinised visual messaging, the ramifications of what we wear is perhaps something to be considered.
2. Let us age
In July a rather interesting report emerged that pulled into sharp relief the easy slogans we’ve come to accept from the beauty industry. The UK's Royal Society for Public Health declared that the phrase “anti-ageing”, with all its negative, vilifying, demeaning connotations of getting older, should be phased out from cosmetic products. It also made the rather straightforward case that ageing is simply a fact of life and attempts to try and option it as something that can be avoided is “nonsensical”.
In a similar vein of common sense, British actress Jameela Jamil has campaigned for an end to airbrushing in photography, citing her own mental health battles caused by magazines changing her skin colour and physical shape. She has created a powerful platform against the constant barrage of distorted imagery – now open to all through filters and apps on phones, offering myriad ways for women to castigate themselves for failing to fulfil a narrow, outdated concept of “perfection”.
We wait for mainstream beauty brands to take serious notice, but given that the over-50s are a rising demographic force, controlling the big slices of wealth, they may soon realise the futility of their marketing.
3. Alice, get your band
High fashion and the Duchess of Cambridge don’t often dissect, given the latter’s admirably sensible attitude when it comes to getting dressed. But this year, the venn diagram of taste crossed the two together in a moment of millinery spectacle. Just as Miuccia Prada brought back a supersized (albeit spiked) headband on her catwalk, the Duchess of Cambridge has adopted the style as a new signature.
Practising for something altogether more gold and sparkly, Kate?
4. Meghan, Mark 2.0
The Duchess of Sussex has staked her claim on the fashion industry, and we’re not entirely upset about that. When she emerged at St George’s Chapel in her minimalist Givenchy dress, with that extravagantly beautiful veil, she cemented designer Clare Waight Keller’s name in the history books, as well as setting the tone (high design, haute couture) for her approach to royal dressing.
Also: that guest list. She might have split the room, but we can’t look away can we?
5. The stark reality of fast fashion
The industry’s oversight in regards to its environmental impact is fast gaining high-profile attention with Michael Gove the latest to round on the erroneous culture of throwaway clothing. But has fashion already signed its own death warrant? This retail reality, with big brands all recording falls in share prices, has brought into sharp focus the catastrophe surrounding the shopping malls. The effects of constant discounting and rampant product drops at lower and lower margins are combining to create one hell of a crash. This isn’t just the rise of online shopping, but the culmination of decades of shortsighted, cynical, profit-driven consumerism. Maybe we just don’t want any more of their poorly made tat?
6. Melania doesn’t care, or does she?
I don’t know what was more “shocking” about this whole debacle. The fact that the First Lady wore high street, or that she took the opportunity of visiting immigrant children to debut her statement of ill-intention to the world’s media with the back of her coat reading: “I don’t really care, do u?”
I think we can all agree that ultimately it just wasn’t a very nice jacket.
Mrs Trump hasn’t worn Zara since.
7. The art of the tourdrobe
Beyonce went on tour with predictably major fashion results, while Gaga not only impressed with her turn in A Star is Born, but took on that red carpet for all it was worth.
8. SSMW (Smug Social Media Weddings)
Forget a 50-page YOU special. No build-up, no announcements, and then whoosh! A casual “oh shucks this old thing” silent dropping of an Instagram post (followed by a full blog of contractors and contributors if you’re Gwyneth Paltrow) is the new high-profile postnuptial power move.
9. Frida florals
Instead of a mega brand headliner, the V&A chose to profile the fascinating, equally heartbreaking and inspiring, wardrobe of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.
While fans of her work were enthralled by this esoteric consideration of a life lived in extraordinary colour, by the time she’d been reimagined as a Barbie (sans monobrow), and reduced to the muse for a stockpile of high-street floral headbands, the point was perhaps somewhat missed.
10. Trial by trolls
The role of “social media manager” might be something that you wouldn’t believe is an actual job, but it’s fast becoming one of the most crucial hires a brand can make. Let me explain. The popularisation of the million-follower strong Instagram account called Diet Prada, which “calls out” brands for lazy copying of designs or perceived designer transgressions, has made its mark beyond the fashion industry bubble, causing gossip hailstorms faster than Beyonce can change in between songs.
Emilia Wickstead was castigated for loose comments to a tabloid reporter regarding the Duchess of Sussex’s wedding dress, which could have perhaps been written off as a misquote if it wasn’t for Instagram posts of a similar Wickstead-designed dress, which appeared next to images of Meghan (implying Givenchy had aped her work). Awkward. Although the duchesses of Sussex and Cambridge have both worn her since, so clearly, no hard feelings there.
Latterly, Dolce & Gabbana were forced to cancel their show in Shanghai after a social media campaign lambasting the duo’s poorly executed promotional films for the spectacle that never was. While Prada is the latest Italian brand to be accused of racism for its figurative offerings seen in a New York store before going viral.
When Hedi Slimane was announced as the successor to Phoebe Philo at the then Céline, many fans worried her grown-up, intellectual, art-house crowd approach would be quashed by a designer who last showed thigh-grazing minis and high-shine bodycon at Saint Laurent. Who would dress the women so in thrall to her roomy silhouettes and striking modern minimalism?
Slimane’s first move was to eradicate the acute accent Philo had placed on the first “E” of the brand label, with disgruntled fashion fans even filling it back in with a koki on adverts around London and New York.
After unveiling his first collection in Paris at the end of September, fears that he would turn the house into a slash-skirted, superskinny, goth fest were proven correct. And yet, even through their consternation, no one could stop talking about it, what it was, what it means for the world of women’s fashion.
Interestingly, the first high-profile wear of Slimane’s Celine was Melania Trump in a clingy white sequin number at the White House Congressional ball this past weekend. Take that, fash-pack pretentions.
Ultimately it could all be a storm in a carefully planned expansion strategy teacup. The proof as ever will be at the cash register.
12. Goodbye Kate Spade
The sad news of the 55-year-old designer’s death in June underlined the importance of understanding mental health issues, as well as an acute realisation that what might seem joyful and colourful from the outside can be anything but.
Spade brought an accessibility and sharp design eye to her collections, which paved the way for a flurry of affordable brands for women to be cheered by.
13. Them too?
Given its archaic hierarchical structures and lax attitude to workplace bullies, it was perhaps but a matter of time until the fashion industry faced up to its own day of dubious sexual etiquette reckoning. Several big players in the industry took a leave of absence in the wake of allegations of sex abuse. 14. Rock n roll’s new prim
RIP smudged kohl eyes, a ratty leopard print coat and a splash of leather covering your bum. For the new self-respecting rock woman (rather than “chick”, #metoo, etc), it is in a high neck, frilled hem, dainty midi-length dress.
Likely by Susie Cave’s The Vampire’s Wife, the cult label worn everywhere from fields (see Alexa Chung, Florence Welch) to posh do’s (Keira Knightley, Sienna Miller) to even the royal wedding (three at least spotted). Covering up is our new jam.
15. Bunion busters
I think we can all fathom why the trend for chunky, deluxe trainers has endured. We give thanks to whoever turned orthopaedic-level design into a style statement.
16. The fur has stopped flying
With veganism up 800% in the last two years (not just for Californians; even Carole Middleton is flexitarian) it’s no surprise that luxury labels have been falling over themselves to declare the use of real fur as that most damning of phrases, “unmodern”. Burberry, Gucci, Versace, Alexander McQueen, Armani, Mary Katrantzou and Armani have all ditched it for faux.
In other positive news, Stella McCartney, diligently flying the flag for an ethical, animal-friendly approach to fashion for years, has spearheaded the Fashion Charter for Climate Action, with Burberry, H&M Group, Asos and Adidas signing up to its 16 pledges for sustainable practice. This year she also launched the first pair of vegan Stan Smiths, which have repeatedly sold out. “It’s cool to be kind,” as the Duchess of Sussex told us on stage at the Fashion Awards. 17. The new bling era
If over-the-top dressing could always be modelled by mad-outfitter and best friend for a girl in need of a party dress (Crazy Rich Asians’ Awkwafina) then we would be absolutely fine with that.
18. It’s fashion, Queen
Queen Elizabeth went to London Fashion Week, sat on the front row at Richard Quinn, and didn’t she look as though she had fun!
– © The Daily Telegraph