2020 has been a tiring year – from the COVID-19 pandemic to politics, racial relations, terrible fires, tropical storms and scorching temperatures. This problem throughout the years has affected us all. Throughout most of history and especially during difficult times, fashion has traditionally played a dual role. | Photo by David Paul
Nick Verreos, Contributor Writer | Thursday, October 1, 2020
2020 has been a tiring year – from the COVID-19 pandemic to politics, racial relations, terrible fires, tropical storms and scorching temperatures. This problem throughout the years has affected us all. Throughout most of history and especially during difficult times, fashion has traditionally played a dual role.
For many people, the elements in our wardrobe can become a stabilizing feature in our daily life. Think of a comfortable t-shirt that never lets you down or a dress that, no matter how you feel, will always give you a boost. However, at the same time during difficult times, fashion has played a role in voicing the era’s zeitgeist. It seems that nowadays, wiser fashions are back in style. Exploring how some designers and brands are navigating this moment without losing their design DNA and getting lost in messages can provide important lessons for all of us.
Be it politics or racial relations, some brands have landed on a thoughtful or thought-provoking image in their fashion brands and let their collections provide direction. But this is where things get complicated and the authenticity of the statement becomes what matters most.
As social media has grown to become so important in marketing, sales and fashion promotion, it is understandable that many designers and brands have decided to attach themselves to the latest causes or movements to further their brand identities. And while you can’t blame the company for trying to keep its name in the limelight, if the message is not authentic, then today’s social media armies, with a keen eye for social truth, will chew you up and regurgitate you like last season’s rejection. Time and time again, we’ve watched brands get destroyed Indonesia and Instagram followers as they try to post about inclusiveness and diversity only to be exposed as not being too prudent in their own business practices.
With some designers, it has become part of their DNA to become social advocates with their designs. Case in point: Christian Siriano. Christian is known for his all-inclusive collections and was one of the first clothing companies to turn their entire workspace into thousands of masks at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic instead of continuing to design glamorous dresses. Recently, during New York Fashion Week, she showed a dress completely covered in the word “Vote”, with a face mask to match. Nobody flicks lashes because it doesn’t look forced – quite the opposite, she’s almost expected to create this politically conscious design, even if it’s in the form of a dress.
Just because you may be a “glam-only” designer doesn’t mean you can’t be socially and politically wise. Southern California designer Natalia Fedner, best known for her sexy costume sequined mesh designs worn by A-list celebrities, has some amazing face masks that feature the word “Vote,” and, yes, are made with sequined mesh. LA based Emmy Award– Winning costume designer Perry Meek, who never found a rhinestone and paillette she didn’t like, has a face mask with politically conscious tidbits that can be programmed via cell phone.
Some designers carry this message along with their fashions through organizations such as Our Future 2020 Fashion. Founded by Abrima Erwiah, one of the creators Studio 189, and actor Rosario Dawson, FOF was created with the hope of bringing awareness to voting through fashion. Its creative director, Virgil Abloh, from Pale white and Louis Vuitton menswear, has brought in many fashion designers, including Marc Jacobs and Brandon Maxwell, to create special items for Fashion Our Future in the hopes of raising the awareness of voters.
Nowadays, it’s important for fashion to be involved and not with just one supportive post on social media. Fashion and what to wear always sends a message. Sometimes it’s obvious and other times it’s circular, but now more than ever it is imperative for designers to be original and consistent in messages and directions. With some designers, this is easier to achieve than for others. Taking care that the message doesn’t take over the brand’s stylistic identity can be a tough hurdle to overcome. People may remember the message and not the brand and, ultimately, whether the message resonates with the designer’s true identity. For fashion designers, mixing current strong statements with style can be a comfortable or difficult way to navigate. My advice is if it comes naturally – be careful!