June 1, 2020 – By Daisy Wallis
2020 has so far been a year of unexpected change. For the first time, fashion weeks have gone completely digital and moves to reinvent the industry sustainably have already been set in motion. But with the future of the fashion show, in particular, being reimagined, what will happen to the cultural phenomenon of street style?
What is street style?
Street style allows for the consumer to participate in a highly exclusive industry. A form of expression for the consumer and fashion figures alike to share their creativity in creating looks that are considered unique and stylish. Coveted street style pages give a unique look at the many different individuals that make up the industry; a world-famous model on the front row can be found next to a picture of stylish passers-by going about their normal day.
The phenomenon of street style, however, does have close connections to one of the biggest problems with the industry – the throw-away consumer culture. As the prominence of influencers and social media in the industry has grown, the desire to feature on street style pages has made the tradition more about the number of ‘on-trend’ brands you can wear than creativity and individualism. But as the biggest organisations and brands in the industry begin to implement sustainable changes, how will the changes in the industry affect street style?
A sustainable reset for the fashion industry
We’ve spoken a lot, here at KeiSei, about the significant impact the pandemic has had on the fashion industry. From the digitalisation of fashion shows across the globe to the start-ups involved in this year’s European Social Innovation Competition, the future of fashion has been the topic of conversation.
The pandemic has shed a light on the harmful aspects of the fashion supply chain. As Fashion Revolution has reported, in response to the pandemic, major fashion brands have postponed or even cancelled orders with factories and suppliers – all with no appreciation for the effects on the livelihoods of factory workers. With reports of millions of garment makers losing their jobs, it is no surprise that the fashion industry’s devastating impact on human life and the environment have faced criticism.
Some of the biggest names in the industry have already acknowledged the need for change. In a joint statement from the BFC and CFDA, entitled ‘The Fashion Industry’s Reset’, the concept of a reimagined fashion industry is one that is full of hope. The message emphasises that changes in the industry are well overdue, and calls for designers and consumers alike to work together to enact this necessary reset.
The message calls for a much-needed slower pace in the industry, calling for designers “to offer the consumer beautiful clothes that carry the ethos of the individual brands but are not sufficiently fashion-forward to warrant a show.” This emphasis on creating long-lasting fashion that is both creative and not trend-based is an important move towards greater sustainability in the industry. ‘The Fashion Industry’s Rest’ is first and foremost a collaborative message of hope for an industry, conscious of its negative impact, that needs to be reimagined.
A new era for the fashion show
The fashion week is an aspect of the industry that has already witnessed a distinct reset. Innovations in technology and the utilisation of social media has made streaming the iconic fashion show to the world’s stage an accessible medium that carries a much smaller carbon footprint.
As well as completely digital shows in Tokyo and Shanghai, organisers of iconic fashion weeks in Helsinki and London have announced that they too will present shows and collections digitally. And it seems that the fashion week format will change further even as lockdowns are eased. Creative Director of Gucci, Alessandro Michele, has announced that the brand will now meet twice a year and abandon the “worn-out ritual of seasonalities” that the traditional fashion weeks promote. With so much change on the horizon for fashion weeks, what effect will this have on street style?
Although the concept of digital shows ensures a new level of accessibility, without the physical show street style, and even the exclusivity of the front row, has been rendered a little obsolete. Gone are the days where fashion lovers and fashion week fanatics would collate a series of one-off looks in the hopes that they will be snapped by photographers from leading fashion magazines and blogs. When we can all watch the shows from the comfort of our homes without being seen, has the need for street style really gone away?
The future of street style
Whilst it’s hard to imagine consumers taking photos of themselves watching shows from laptop screens, perhaps the future of street style is in digital too. As many parts of the world have been forced into lockdown over the last few months, fashion influencers on Instagram have already shown that expressing individualism and a love of fashion requires little more than a camera, a bit of creativity and our existing wardrobes. Trends including dressing up pillows with accessories and shopping from our own wardrobes have already gone viral across social media, so perhaps we will see a similar trend for street style.
The emphasis on creating clothes for the consumer and not for the purpose of a fashion show in the BFC and CFDA’s message is another aspect which may influence the future of street style. As we have already seen Gucci announce a seasonless future of their shows, the future of street style is one that will be rooted in versatility rather than what’s on-trend. As a consumer-based tradition, it is clear that street style will need to mirror the sustainable approach to clothing that is made for a purpose.
The pandemic has given the fashion industry the wakeup call it desperately needed. With fashion traditional institutions like the fashion week format seeing such major changes, it is undeniable that street style will too face a period of significant change. Gone are the days of praising the maximalist, throw away culture in which editors and fashion lovers travel thousands of miles in the space of a month. Instead, just like the fashion week format, street style will need to evolve, adopting a more sustainable approach.