Hindsight 2020: The year fashion found its mettle and grew up

  • Style
  • Thursday, 31 Dec 2020

From face masks becoming an essential accessory to the total revamp of how fashion weeks operate, the style industry had to change in 2020. Photo composite: AFP, KLFW

Fashion is never static. Trends come and go, aesthetic evolves – or to quote the catchphrase from popular reality show Project Runway: “One day you’re in, and the next day you’re out.”

Yet, this year saw the style industry facing its most challenging times ever. Upheavals after upheavals rocked the community – affecting everyone, from big businesses to individual designers and independent labels.

The usual changes that fashion has had to contend with in the past – new appointments, the death of famous designers or shift in seasonal trends – almost took a backseat to what the pandemic had wrought.

Read more: The fashion trends no one could have imagined this time last year

Fashion was expected to do (and be) more in 2020. People started to hold it accountable for its influence across all ages and massive global fan base.

Trends were seen adapting to the needs of a changing lifestyle. From loungewear to face masks, they offered wildly different ways of dressing up while still saying safe.

In a year of uncertainty, the resilient industry has also shown that it can roll with the punches, or even take a major battering. Runway shows for example found a way to go on despite pandemic restrictions.

If there is one thing 2020 has taught us, it is that style is forever. Even a major health crisis won’t bring it down.

The show must go on

Fashion weeks took a hit this year, having to cancel altogether or only operate digitally due to the pandemic. It then spawned a whole host of creative measures – from collections presented in cinematic format to visual films replacing look books.

It also led to the democratisation of fashion, with shows now open to everyone around the globe. Those interested need only to tune in on their laptops or phones to get a front-row view of runway presentations.

In Malaysia, the Kuala Lumpur Fashion Week (KLFW) also went fully digital, with local designers creating short films and web series to feature their new designs.

Fashion weeks had to survive without the razzle dazzle of front row guests or VIPs. Photo: KLFWFashion weeks had to survive without the razzle dazzle of front row guests or VIPs. Photo: KLFW

Twitch and TikTok suddenly had a new audience: the fashion crowd. Luxury labels began streaming their shows on these platforms to expand their reach. There were even labels that launched their new collections virtually in video games.

This digitalisation of the industry further spurred the rise of virtual models. Who needs to do an in-person fashion shoot, when you can safely create a campaign video using the help of graphic artists?

For those that did go ahead with the traditional means, they resorted to gadgets like drones to photograph models while still adhering to social distancing. Some brands even got the models to shoot their own pictures at home – with directions via Zoom.

Finding its moral fibre

This year also afforded fashion an opportunity to rethink its practices. With Covid-19 upending businesses and their earnings, the industry had to come to terms with the way it operates. Ethical fashion for one, became a hot topic.

Sustainability proved to be a focus with designers now realising the unavoidable need for green fashion. The impact on communities in terms of fair trade practices was given its due consideration too.

Read more: How 'Emily In Paris' and Harry Styles influenced fashion choices in 2020

Prominent designers heading luxury fashion houses started speaking out about changing the fashion calendar. The call was for the frenetic cycle of fashion seasons to slow down – in hopes of cushioning the impact of excess waste generated by the industry.

Brands were expected to use their influence to speak out on issues that matter as well – like the “Black Lives Matter” movement, or at least be more “woke” by creating campaigns about body positivity or cultural sensitivity.

All dressed up, nowhere to go

Never had fashion witnessed such a revolution when it comes to trends. Lockdowns and pandemic restrictions totally changed style essentials – from sleepwear becoming an acceptable all-day outfit, to comfort turning into something indispensable.

With people working from home, suits and other dressy ensembles were abandoned. As it was the case for accessories like high heels. Who needs to dress up when you can’t leave the house?

Video calls and Zoom meetings gave rise to different ways one could “cheat” their way to looking stylish. For example, a shirt that a person only puts on when facing the screen. Or jewellery to bling up appearances – from the neck above only.

The devil can't wear Prada indefinitely... this season the devil is more likely to wear sweatpants than a LBD. Photo: AFPThe devil can't wear Prada indefinitely... this season the devil is more likely to wear sweatpants than a LBD. Photo: AFP

Safe and stylish

Face masks used to be something designers added to their collections for dramatic effect on the runway. Or to send a message on climate change and pollution. They are now a fashion must-have.

With face masks a requirement when out in public, the idea of it has led to designers and brands coming up with fancy versions. If you have to wear them, make sure they look good – right?

You can now find face masks in all sorts of colours. Bold prints are hugely popular too. There are even those that are fashioned from unconventional materials – lace for example, although this is not at all advisable health wise.

Some luxury brands have taken liberty to roll out masks costing thousands or even millions of dollars. The most extravagant being the ones studded with diamonds.

Passing of icons

With the passing of Kenzo Takada this year, the fashion world lost another icon. The 81-year-old Japanese designer was reported to have died in Paris on Oct 4 after contracting Covid-19.

Takada is known for his designs with their trademark profusion of bright colours and prints. He was also recognised for being the first designer from Japan to break into Paris’ exclusive fashion circle back in the 1970s.

Born in 1939 in Himeji, near the city of Osaka, Takada decided to make his way by boat to Paris in 1965, despite hardly speaking any French. In 1993, he sold his eponymous fashion house to luxury goods conglomerate LVMH.

Read more: The pandemic killing off fashion trends? No, they're alive and well

On July 26, Kansai Yamamoto, known for his flamboyant creations and work on costumes for singer David Bowie, died of leukaemia at age 76. According to his daughter, he passed on peacefully surrounded by loved ones.

Yamamoto was born in Yokohama, in 1944. His designs often incorporated elements from Japanese culture. He has said that his work was rooted in a different, but no less Japanese sensibility.

Yet, Yamamoto was known for creating bold avant-garde pieces that defied gender norms. He won popular acclaim for his collaboration with Bowie, producing a series of outfits for the singer’s Ziggy Stardust alter ego.

This 1982 file photo shows Kansai Yamamoto with a model. Photo: AFPThis 1982 file photo shows Kansai Yamamoto with a model. Photo: AFP

Just this week, the fashion industry lost Pierre Cardin. The man, who is credited with having upended fashion styles in the 1960s and 70s with futuristic looks, died at the age of 98.

A savvy businessman, Cardin expanded his empire globally, moving into once closed markets and selling hundreds of licences to make himself the undisputed king of designer merchandising.

Fashion movements

Designers leaving and joining different fashion houses is not something extraordinary. Although, it does cause quite a stir all the same. The creative heads of famous brands are often seen as the rock stars of the industry.

This year’s highlights include the departure of Clare Waight Keller from Givenchy in April. Known for her sophisticated designs, she was replaced by streetwear proponent Matthew Williams. The switch sparked talk about how the label is courting younger shoppers.

Other big movements include the September appointment of Kim Jones of Dior menswear to head Fendi’s womenswear division.

He succeeds the late Karl Lagerfeld, who held on to the role since the mid-1960s.Jones retains his post at Dior, meaning that he now designs for two very prominently traditional fashion houses (both under LVMH) – a coup for someone who has shown inclinations for a more youthful aesthetic.

Kims Jones has become the designer to watch out for on the international fashion platform. Photo: AFPKims Jones has become the designer to watch out for on the international fashion platform. Photo: AFP

Another highlight is how the Karl Lagerfeld fashion is now working with young Nigerian designer Kenneth Ize. When the collaboration was announced in June, it set tongues wagging all over the world.

Ize has his own staunch following. Supermodel Naomi Campbell walked the runway at his first ever Parisian event in February. He will be the first black designer to collaborate with the fashion brand.

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Hindsight 2020 , fashion , trends , 2020 , yearender


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