The fashion industry has been—and continues to somewhat be—seen as rather exclusive. It’s as though only chosen insiders are privy to the inner workings and processes that determine what looks good, what should be revered, and how society should dress.
Yet, now, that façade seems to have shattered. Like an authoritarian power (eventually, anyway) fashion has lost its hold on dictating dress.
It used to be that fashion designers were regarded as visionaries, serving revolutionary ideas and crafting new fashion frontiers. It was Coco Chanel who first popularised the use of jersey and applied the fabric to a wide variety of ready-to-wear pieces; apart from just men’s underwear. Christian Dior is often credited as being the designer who created a ‘new look’ after World War II, steering women towards a more feminine and extravagant style. A change was needed and, although to some it might have seemed rather regressive, something needed to feel celebratory, especially after the war.
The way we dress now has been a result of fashion houses devising innovations, exploring new materials and leading the charge for a more modern interpretation that is reflective of the times we’re in. Women in suits, denim jeans being a wardrobe staple, skinny jeans and bags for men that are not briefcases or backpacks, were all fashion trends that have remained because they marked a significant societal shift.
Imagine having to live life in jeans that were twice the circumference of your thighs. It might rear its head again; you never know.
The democratisation of fashion is part of the reason why a style movement no longer needs to stem from a fashion house. This was always inevitable. With fashion being both commercially and socially more accessible, luxury fashion houses have begun observing and listening to what customers need and want. Fashion companies were bound to take on a more submissive role, controlled by consumer dollars. Which, to be quite honest, isn’t a bad thing for us. We get to decide where we spend our money and what brands to support based on a multitude of factors.
A huge trend that we’ve collectively pushed for is for brands to be more sustainable in their practices. If it wasn’t for our collective consciousness being woken up to the dire need for every facet of our lives to be more environmentally friendly, we wouldn’t have luxury fashion houses such as Ermenegildo Zegna and Prada investing in innovations to reduce their carbon footprints.
We also can’t discount the power of celebrities and the influence they can have on our style. I remember (although I wish I could forget) wanting to emulate Zac Efron’s side-swept cut that he sported at the beginning of his career. Who could forget Pharrell Williams’ oversized fedora hat in 2014 that made us want to wear headgear again? And Harry Styles’ constant style collaborations with Gucci has sort of normalised gender-blurring fashion, making wearing silk blouses and florals on men not that big of a deal. Could Gucci have pushed that trend on its own? Perhaps. But with a musician like Styles—who has garnered a huge following—getting behind it, it’s now a style that a younger generation is accustomed to.
Ultimately, it’s our ability to gain access to a variety of information that has led to trends not really having just one point of origin. In the same way that designers are not restricted to drawing inspiration from a variety of sources (and sometimes, just sometimes, they may overlap), a trend comes about because of multiple influences. Which is also why trend forecasters go through tons of research in order to come out with a commonality that could be a trend in the future.
If fashion brands do still hold influence, it’s in the product. Take for example Prada’s camp collar shirts. Miuccia Prada is by no means an inventor of the design, but the popularity of Prada’s camp collar shirts has created a resurgence of the silhouette. Many brands now have their own versions and even Prada has continuously come up with newer iterations season after season. If you’re seeing more options of small bags worn as lanyards, you can thank Jacquemus for that, having pioneered the design and expanding on it since debuting his menswear collection in 2018.
The point is, fashion isn’t that exclusive, cool kids-only club that’s the sole authority on what’s stylish anymore. We’re past all that. Sure, there are still designers who stick to their own design philosophy and continue to enforce an aesthetic—Hedi Slimane’s always tailored and skinny cuts may not be every man’s taste, but his vision has influenced how we wear our suits and get more mileage out of them—but we should no longer be blind followers.
Because you know what they say: trends come and go but style is forever. At least, until you decide that that’s not you anymore.
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