There has been a correlation between fashion and our own bleak view of the future ever since Chanel showed cocktail dresses with ragged hems during the 1930s (Forbes, 2014). We flashback even further to the French Revolution, where men (but not women) dressed down no matter what their stature as clothes became a political statement:
“…Lace cuffs, knee breeches, ruffles, frills, frockcoats, lighter colours, high heels, big wigs, the flamboyant Macaroni style—all of this fell out of favour. In its place came the rise of darker clothes, ankle-length trousers, matching jackets, suits, and short, natural hair.” (All About Candian History, 2016)
This drastic change was not merely a coincidence and we have to wonder in today’s society can we still attribute outside forces to our fashion sense. Let’s push forward to the most drastic event of the Millennial generation, The Great Recession.
In 2007, just before the Great Recession, ruffled miniskirts and low rise jeans were all the rage with Ron Frasch (CMO of Saks Fifth Ave at the time) referring to the era as being “colourful and sexy” (Vox, 2018). Later that same year, the recession hit and fashion drastically changed. Even rich consumers, similar to the French Revolution, shied away from logoed clothes and bags perhaps in solidarity. “It was suddenly uncool to look rich” (Christian Binkley, former Fashion editor, Wall Street Journal); a trend that still persists today. Literally, fashion seemed to have changed overnight not figuratively but in taste. Stores slashed the price of inventory to remove those bright summer trends. Saks was the first to slash prices to 70%.
It was too late to retract the colour wheel and the Great Recession abruptly ended in June 2009; way too soon to create clothes that matched the mood of the citizens but that didn’t stop trendsetters from shying away from bright colours.
Today, being aware of the tone of the economy isn’t just for people; businesses have learnt the hard way back in 2007 that the mood of people can dictate consumer behaviour on a large scale The fear of another economic turndown not only drives consumers to shop less but designers to create dark clothes in hopes to match the mood of the consumer and propel them to make a purchase. So perhaps the answer has layers. It’s certainly true that we noted that consumer behaviour changes when outside forces, either political or economical, make us re-examine our fashion choices. For now, we’ll be keeping a close eye on the runways and the FTSE to see what the future has in store.