Off-trend, is the new trend
Updated: Jul 6, 2020
…and as a trend forecaster and creative director, it pains me to say that. Wait! Actually, no it doesn’t. What pains me is the possible misunderstanding of the use of the word – “off-trend”. I love that eclecticism and individualism were - and hopefully will remain - some of the key drivers coming out of an oversaturated market pre Covid19. And I adore the fact that vintage is on the rise – for many, many reasons – sustainability, exclusivity, one-off pieces, amazing textiles anyone? I love the mash-up of styles that were coming through collections, and I particularly loved all the new voices crowding on to the fashion scene, I pray that many of them are able to remain.
So, I am actually over-the-moon to see a return to off-trend - or in less marketing speak - a return to individuality in dressing.
It feels strange to be writing about fashion as normal, during this completely abnormal time - and I sincerely hope that it is not tone-deaf, but I wanted to write about how fashion was, what it can mean, what it can do, how it can make us feel - and my hope that some of this remains post Covid19. I sincerely hope that we all get to fall in love again with the world of fashion, to recognise the joy it brings, and the good things it can do, whilst engineering the change that the system desperately needs.
Starting my career in magazines as a Stylist & Fashion Director, directing fashion choices and photos shoots throughput the late 90s to mid 2000’s, I am a huge fan of what I call actual “styling”. You know, when a person puts together their own unique take on their personality with their clothing choices. Combining eras, fashions and styles: high-end, vintage, main-stream… whatever it takes to magic up a unique style and personality from their wardrobe. When they dress themselves, not making a fashion house do it for them.
There is of course the Street Style element today, which I applaud whole-heartedly, but if I had my way, we would all go back to a Patricia Fielding style of dressing from the original Sex & the City days, where each character proudly minced down the streets of New York in their own defining style (defined by Patricia that is).The outfits were not only iconic, they were a visual representation of a distinct personality. You were either a - Samantha, Miranda, Charlotte or Carrie depending not only on your outlook on life – but also, very decidedly, on the way you dressed.
I remember at the height of Sex & the City days, when Patricia Fielding was on a press tour, visiting Australia. Addressing an entire room of print magazine Fashion Editors (and in those days there were many!), all waiting with bated breath for her words of wisdom on how to create an iconic look - when she came out with:
“Don’t take it so seriously. Have some fun.”
And that was me hooked. Don’t get me wrong, fashion is a serious business, and I adore it, but
I personally find that some of the fun, the joy, the creativity has been taken out of fashion over the past decade or more - yes pre-Covid19 as well - and I yearn for the “good old days” when styling was well… truly styling.
It started to come undone for me most noticeably around 2012, when I perceived the exact same outfits cropping up in magazines the world over. I was entrenched by now in my position of Luxury Trend Forecasting, and part of my job was (still is) to track and analyse the different style offerings globally to see inconsistencies, cross-overs, customs, cultures etc. I noticed in a breakdown of analytics and patterns - and with my own eyes (strange a concept as that is) - that the exact same outfits were occurring globally. The change, in part, I assume (and that being the operative word) perhaps attributed to the power of large fashion houses and an “unspoken” dictate that their pieces should not be mixed with others. The end result: head-to-toe Prada, Gucci, Chanel, YSL – you get the picture - popping up in magazines the world over. The exact same outfit, in various Vogues and Bazaars, with the only difference - the location or story theme behind the shoot.
And more importantly, why?
Fashion should be a glorious explosion of individuality, diversity and acceptance - it is not a cookie-cutter, one size fits all element. It actually should be the antithesis. We need to shine, or retreat – we need to be comfortable, and confident; we need to be ourselves not managed and dictated to, and made to feel that there is a universal style that you are either a part of… or not. This is not – and never was – what fashion is about, but that is what was happening and it made me so terribly, terribly sad! Okay, and a tiny bit bloody angry!
But recently, thankfully, I noticed a change. A swing back if you will.
A new generation is discovering the allure of vintage, and with that - by default - comes extreme individualisation. Generally speaking, you cannot buy the same piece as everyone else from a vintage rail. These are original offerings, bespoke pieces, and the very reason you reach for a piece is because it calls to you. It speaks your name. Its poetry and magic matches yours. Vintage is being touted as coming back in vogue for a new generation that is concerned with land-fill, slowing down fast-fashion, recycling and reusing as they demand sustainability in their wardrobe choices. And that, my friend, is as good a reason as any.
However, I think there may be another underlying, perhaps more creative reason; well, that is what I like to believe anyway. I think we have rediscovered our love affair with vintage because of its rarity, its offering of exclusivity without the price tag (usually!) Vintage is set to ascend even further as the unfortunate economic downturn sees many of us reaching for more creative, less costly ways to style ourselves. Uber-unique is defining our thought process, and we are reaching to the stars once again in an effort to find meaning, and not least ourselves. Today there appears to be a newfound desire for extreme creative expression, one without limits, without doctrine, without rules. The emerging “no-label” generation has thrown down the gauntlet - they will not be defined by gender, position, wage… or style.
And nor should they.
Particularly now when all the rules have been thrown out.
Bravo! Is all I have to say.