The roaring twenties. Perhaps they’ll start in 2021, or 2022.
Leading up to the 2020s, predictions were set forth for how we’ll dress in the new decade. When the coronavirus outbreak swept the world, people had other things to worry about. Yet the current circumstances make one wonder, how will the 2020s figure? Are we resigned to a decade of masks, protective layers, and fitness gear for years to come? Or will we use a newfound fitness wave to run as far away from these signifiers of the pandemic?
The 2020s are faced with multiple challenges. How will technology shape the future of fashion? Will consumers place an emphasis on sustainability? Who will be the names we remember in 10 years time that dictated how we dress?
Right now, as the next fashion weeks (men’s, couture, and pre-spring/summer) and red carpet events like the Cannes Film Festival are cancelled, and television and film productions are postponed, the cultural forces that define fashion have grinded to a near-halt. Moreover, production for autumn/winter 2020 collections, expected in stores between June and August, was stunted as supply chains shut down during the pandemic, threatening the longevity of many brands.
Will we look back to the 1920s when after the Spanish Flu, an influenza outbreak often referred to in discussions about 2020’s novel coronavirus, a period of cultural reawakening, of a new style of dress and dancing, when economic prosperity reigned supreme. This year doesn’t seem to be dealt a similar set of cards with looming recessions but the cultural product of the pandemic could be the enlightenment fashion has been waiting for.
While the jury is quite literally out, some people have a few ideas.
When the lines between work and leisure fused during the quarantine period, women looked to loungewear for a comfortable balm to the times.
“The resurgence of comfortable and practical clothing will also leave a mark on this new decade, with items such as super directional sneakers and elevated track pants becoming the new wardrobe essentials,” said Libby Page, senior fashion market editor at Net-a-Portér, in an interview that took place in January.
Whether women will grow tired of loungewear remains to be seen. At the autumn/winter 2020 shows in February, there was a sense of something fantastical. Erdem paid homage to the 1920s, where high society embraced the avant-garde, men dressed as women and women as men, and royalty was infused with a bohemian spirit. Chanel brought things back to the 1960s with an invigorating, youthful jot of energy by way of unfussy romanticism. Burberry played with a mix of tailoring, slinky eveningwear, and polished sportswear.
The weather-vane of trends points to celebrating the joy of dressing up, revelling in fabulousness. But what happens to all that when there’s nowhere to go?
Well, the raison d’être of these collections, and how they relate to the decade ahead, is that women should aspire to them. We’re living in a new normal now but down the line, the return of party dressing could send the imagination into overdrive. In the wake of everything, perhaps we could use some fantasy.
Another prediction set forth by Page before the pandemic was the idea of investment buying: shopping for a wardrobe that will stand the test of time, rather than a single season or worse, a single wear. With the likelihood of recessionary periods into 2021, perhaps we could see a return to stealth wealth, the kind of minimal, self-effacing luxury fashion purchases that emerged following the 2008 financial crash.
“For this next decade, the focus will shift from quantity to quality. Fewer investment pieces that have longevity and make your wardrobe work harder, will be a result of the growing interest in conscious consumption that has already been an important topic of conversation for the last few years,” said Page.
While the conversation around sustainability will undoubtedly be at the forefront post-Covid, in terms of buying less and greater transparency within supply chains, conscious buying has been bubbling to the surface of fashion for years. According to a McKinsey & Company report, “some 66% of respondents to a McKinsey US cohort survey (and 75% of millennial respondents) say they consider sustainability when making a luxury purchase.”
Page predicts “supporting brands with sustainable credentials will also be increasingly important to both customers and retailers, in line with the growing interest in sustainability.”
Could this mean a renewal of interest in the minimalism prominent in the collections of Jil Sander, The Row, and Victoria Beckham, where pared-back, streamlined silhouettes speak infinitely more than illusory and decadent embellishment and print? Perhaps. Although it could just be a philosophy that applies to our habits rather than our tastes.
“I think we are definitely moving towards a more conscious consumer,” said Richard Malone, a womenswear designer from Wexford based in London, who predominantly works with private clients and museums, before the pandemic. “Greater transparency is changing how we buy, and certainly what we demand, so a change in pace would lead to more originality in fashion and a more diverse industry.” (Malone’s taken steps towards a cleaner practice with recycled ocean waste as fabric, including recycling bottles to make woven fabrics. Moreover, he developed technical jerseys using recycled and regenerated fishing nets.)
It’s something that’s expected to infiltrate the men’s fashion industry too. “I think that menswear will focus more and more on quality and longevity, pieces that will age beautifully and be able to be worn with lots of other pieces,” said Charles Jeffrey last January, a Scottish designer whose magical work draws on Dalston club nights and his Saville Row background, a celebration of people no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity. His work is a fusion of smart tailoring and striking graphics, staples built to last.
“The most exciting change to watch unfold is men’s changing attitudes towards style and shopping,” said Olie Arnold, style director at Mr Portér, an online luxury fashion destination for men, earlier this year.
Our customers are also becoming more conscious and socially responsible when it comes to their purchases — this development in consumer behaviour is set to continue throughout the 2020s and men will begin to align with brands that take sustainability seriously, that will in turn help define their choices.
Elsewhere in the world of menswear, the arrows point to a renaissance in masculinity. While the recent surge in loungewear might pose a threat to these developments, in 2020, “now more so than ever, men are braver in their fashion choices and have the freedom and confidence to express their individuality,” said Arnold.
In the autumn/winter collections, there was a focus on a more feminised and fabulous menswear, a call to arms for unabashed self-expression. Gucci’s show the idea of ‘toxic male’ with a collection replete with 70s glam rock influences, and baby-doll dresses for men worn over jeans. There were heels for men at Dries van Noten and Rick Owens.
Increasingly, celebrities’ attitudes towards red carpet dressing have shifted. Formerly restricted to black tie, actors like Billy Porter, Timothee Chalamet, and Harry Styles are unmissable red carpet fixtures.
But the old classics will remain. In fact, post-pandemic, their influence could be felt even stronger. Arnold said, “there was a return to classic menswear, through a considered and contemporary spin.”
For autumn/winter 2020, tailoring appeared at Dior Men, Givenchy, Alexander McQueen. In those cases, it was the slick, polished kind you’d expect from a banker or lawyer. At labels like Officine Generale and Hermès, the mood was more relaxed with elements of suiting styled with more day-to-day casual pieces.
Arnold said, “as we look into the next era, tailoring will become an even bigger, and more versatile part of menswear and we’ll see men across all age groups interacting with suiting and separates in a wearable and modern way.”
With a decade ahead, reeling in the aftermath of the most isolating period of our human history that has forced us to question the fabric of our society, what becomes of fashion seems like the least of our worries.
But fashion holds the key to how we view ourselves and the people we want to be. How will we be perceived by historians in 100 years? So how the way we dress changes is as valid as any other, even more so considering the multi-trillion euro value of the industry.
The roaring 20s? Right now, your guess is as good as anyone else’s.