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With COVID-19 putting a pause on the world, the fashion industry has been forced to adapt accordingly, and with the year’s second season of fashion weeks fast-approaching unsurprisingly, they are not proceeding as normal. Unwilling to disrupt the economy and put designer’s work to waste, the industry has followed in the footsteps of most other businesses and moved its highly-anticipated event online.

London led the way by streaming its virtual fashion week from the 12th to 14th June. Hosted by londonfashionweek.com, the three-day event offered a selection of interviews, podcasts, videos and digital showcases of SS21 collections for viewers to tune in with. Supposedly due to the disruptions in the production line, there was significantly less of a focus on the garments themselves and fewer of the leading fashion houses made an appearance. However, this did offer the opportunity to strip the industry from its jam-packed schedules and theatrical catwalk performances, providing the time and space to reflect on its contribution to current affairs as well as its hidden talents in the form of smaller designers.

A time for reflection

The digital London Fashion Week opened with a poem by James Massiah, which captured “all the things that are fun about Summer and all the things that we might miss because of lock down.” It further emphasised how fashion should no longer focus on “peoples’ identity, race or class. You can choose the clothes you wear, the people you hang out with and the places you go and I really wanted to focus on those things more.” This recognition of current affairs and pressing global issues set a striking tone of reflection for the days to come, in line with the slowed pace of life COVID-19 has encouraged us all to adopt. I’m sure we can all agree that taking the time to appreciate what we have got and could work further to achieve is a habit many could adopt.

Research has shown a relationship between being mindful and having more sustainable consumption – both of which have also been shown to improve long-term wellbeing. This brings to question why the fashion industry hasn’t adopted a greater focus on enhancing the wardrobes we currently have, rather than what we should add to it (Geiger, Grossman & Schrader, 2019).  What’s more, adopting a mindful approach can also benefit those around us too, as being aware of our actions makes us more likely to adopt them to become more prosocial (Donald et al, 2018).

Telling a story

The benefits of these new forms of Fashion Weeks may not lie only with the consumer. With approximately 4.57 billion people actively using the internet in April 2020, hosting catwalk shows online hugely increases the accessibility of live content worldwide – if you compare it to the handful of chosen celebrities and industry experts who sat in the front rows each year. By exposing the work of designers to thousands, if not millions, of more people it significantly increases the profiles of professionals and ultimately ends in more sales.

One of the most powerful aspects of the Fashion Week showcases are the stories that each collection conveys; and it is this narrative that allows people to connect with both the designers and the garments themselves. People are more likely to remember information presented in a story format, rate the brand more positively and be more likely to purchase the products (Lundqvist, Liljander, Gummerus & van Riel, 2013). Furthermore, stories are easy for consumers to attend to. From a young age many of us are presented with information through stories, we learn to connect to others by learning about their experiences and appreciate the world by engaging in its history (e.g. Woodside, Sood & Miller, 2008). Although we have begun to see live streams of catwalk shows made available to the public in recent years, it is perhaps surprising that it has taken a pandemic to push the fashion industry into expanding its online presence during Fashion Week, given the accessibility, adaptability and arguably increasingly effective nature of the internet.

What’s next?

This wave of innovation is something that has been deemed as an inherent human instinct; we are driven to adapt to environmental and situational changes, or pressures in order for us to survive – both in physical and organisational terms (Reiter-Palmon, 2011). However, as in most cases, a first attempt is not perfect, so with this season pioneering the new fashion week modality, it is inevitable that mistakes will be made.

Researchers have shown that innovation and creativity however is not always as simple is learning from and acting upon mistakes. In fact, there are a number of specific factors that foster change more effectively than others. Axtell, Holman & Wall (2006) noted how a high initial level of external support for new suggestions is needed, followed by structural job changes like the level of autonomy which allow individuals to freely adapt and generate new ideas. Finally, team members and colleagues must also be supportive of and willing to implement such changes. Although not a complete explanation, this may help to explain why this seemingly obviously beneficial method of communicating Fashion Week has been resisted until now.

Similarly, while we do indeed love to adapt and innovate, we are also creatures of habit. And one thing digital Fashion Weeks threaten is a love for tradition. These historically social and creative events have been held biannually ever since 1943, which provides us a sense of security. Their predictability subtly indicates that everything is constant and ‘normal’ – which is when we naturally feel most comfortable (Psychology Today). As I’m sure you are all aware, the current global situation is somewhat abnormal, and moving these events online only signifies this further by disrupting the predictability, constancy and normality that we crave.

It is still too early to see whether digital Fashion Weeks will be responded to with resentment or seen as a revolution, but whatever the case it is no secret that this new digital scene will take some getting used to. Hundreds of photographers, reporters, celebrities and stylists congregate in the world’s fashion capitals to observe the next-season’s trends, so to see these cities silent in what is usually one of their busiest times of year will be a significant change.

However, this new wave of innovation could be somewhat exciting. Technology is continually advancing, such as the introduction of shopping in virtual reality (Hur, Jang & Choo, 2019), leaving the possibilities for the future of fashion almost endless. Could we be witnessing a momentous change in the fashion industry, or do you think the tradition is too strong for any changes to have a lasting impact? 

It’s that time of year when designers, models and industry experts are preparing to showcase six-months worth of work to the world. Although exciting and insightful, Fashion Week can be one of the busiest weeks of the year for many. Working days often exceed twelve-hours with tight deadlines, unforgiving schedules and inner-city traffic to contend with. For many, this leaves little time for self-care, rest and recovery which inevitably leads to burnout.

To help navigate the chaos of Fashion Week, here is a compilation of easy ways to manage stress and engage in some all-important ‘me time’.

1. Plan your outfits

Fashion Psychology

This may sound obvious but ensuring you days are planned as much as possible will give you structure and peace of mind that you know exactly what you are doing, where and at what time. 

 Similarly, try to plan outfits. What shows are you attending?  How much time do you have to change – and where? How long are you going to be out for; can you transition any outfits from day-to-night? Asking yourself these questions can help to narrow down options and ensure you are dressed appropriately and comfortably. 

But most importantly, pick clothes you feel great in! With cameras around what seems like every corner, it can be overwhelming. Putting the time in to prepare what you are going to wear, can help reduce stress and anxiety and even boost self-esteem. Wearing items of clothing you like and feel good in can improve psychological wellbeing, through the positive associations generated to the outfits (Adam & Galinsky, 2012). It may also help to improve sleep by ensuring you’re not lying awake until early hours of the morning, ruminating over potential outfit combinations.

2. Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness exercises are often discounted, with the common perception that they’re a waste of time or require deep thought and attention – cognitive resources which seem in short supply during busy periods. Admittedly some exercises are more demanding than others, but giving yourself time in the day to ground your thoughts can be hugely beneficial (Bowlin & Baer, 2012). Something as small as listening to a podcast while commuting in-between shows (Headspace is a good one to try), practising deep breathing exercises or burning a calming candle at night can help to disengage from stressful thoughts and provide greater clarity of mind.

3. It is ok to say no

With hundreds of designers exhibiting collections throughout the week, there can be a subliminal pressure to schedule in as many shows as possible. Going against the instinct to say ‘yes’ to everyone and everything, can actually be quite empowering (Patrick & Hagtvedt, 2012) and can improve productivity and mental health (Pourjari & Zarnaghash, 2010).

 It is important to recognise your limits and be selective in the shows you choose to see. When thinking about which to attend, also try to schedule in breaks and consider (the likely longer) commuting times. There may be some changes throughout the week but limiting the number of events you attend will give you greater flexibility to adapt – and crucially, remain calm. A number of shows are now made available online too, so it is easier than ever to catch up on those you couldn’t make it to.

4. Stay fuelled

With lots of things to do, people to see and places to be, it can be easy for attention to be directed away sufficiently fuelling our bodies. One simple way to combat this is to ensure snacks are to hand at all times. Nuts, energy bars and smoothies can help to provide your body with the healthy fats, protein and vitamins it needs to keep going throughout long days. Meal-prepping in your spare time can also be an easy way to stock up on nutritious meals that simply need reheating in the evening. 

 In addition, it may be worth incorporating more specific foods into your diet, which research has found to have stress and anxiety-combatting abilities. Some examples include walnuts, bananas and chocolate which have been thought to possess antidepressant, mood-lifting and pleasure-inducing properties, respectively (Trivedi, Patel, Prajapati & Pinto, 2015). Furthermore, while a strong coffee can make early mornings a little more bearable, excess caffeine consumption can heighten anxiety (Brice & Smith, 2002), so perhaps opt for a bottle of water over a large cappuccino post-midday.  

5. Schedule in sleep

Finally, ensure you are allowing yourself enough sleep. Functioning on a sleep-deprived body and brain is not easy on an average day, so during the long, demanding days of Fashion Week, getting eight hours sleep is even more important. Sleep helps our bodies to repair and restore, preventing us from catching illness, irritability and being unable to concentrate. Getting a good night’s sleep can increase stamina and prevent burnout, post- Fashion Week.

Although it is undoubtedly one of the most exciting, anticipated weeks of the year in the industry, it is no secret that Fashion Week can be one of the most overwhelming too. However, by following just a few of these tips, or simply taking the time to implement small acts of self-care, the mayhem can become a little more manageable.

Another Fashion Month has arrived! With conversations around mental wellbeing taking hold in the fashion industry, many have began to wonder whether the seemingly never ending cycle of fashion shows are necessary in our modern climate. While there are many reasons why the industry can slow down and produce less, we’ve revealed the Psychological reason why that’s unlikely to happen anytime soon.

“Fashions fade, style is eternal” any fashion lover worth their salt is aware of that famous Yves Saint Laurent quote. But if style is to be coveted over seasonal and seemily temporary fashion collections then why do we salivate at the thought of more collections and more shows in more cities around the world? Aside from the big 4, buyers, editors, bloggers and stylists are heading to increasingly well attended events in cities such as Copehagen, Sao Paulo, Hong Kong and Florence. Aside from Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter, in the article ‘What the Hell Are Resort and Cruise Collections and Why Are They So Lucrative?’ Kam Dhillon illustrates how designers are having to hastily create lines throughout the year for Pre-Fall, Pre-Spring and Resort all to suit consumer demand. Oftentimes however, consumer demand and creativity do not go hand in hand. You may remember when Riccardo Tisci cited exhaustion as one of the reasons behind his shocking departure from Givenchy in 2017. Two years prior, when WWD asked ‘Is Fashion Heading for a Burnout?’, fresh off the heels of his departure from Balenciaga, Alexander Wang brought up the intensity that comes with having to churn out an increasing number of collections.

Specifically speaking about the show system, I think that’s something everyone is challenged with — the immediacy of things, and the idea of how to deliver in this system, where the attention span has become nonexistent.

If the mental wellbeing of designers isn’t enough to stop the seemingly unending fashion show cycle then many argue that social media would surely slow it down. When discussing whether Fashion Shows still matter Jenna Igneri, associate fashion and beauty editor for NYLON had this to say:

I think fashion shows are becoming more and more irrelevant as time goes on. Thanks to technology, anyone can view a fashion show or presentation from anywhere in the world—sometimes even live—so that glamorous feeling of exclusivity has long been lost.

Originally the concept of a fashion week presented as a clear solution for industry professionals to either report on or order from designers across the globe in a  convenient and timely manner. Now, as social media has afforded consumers the ability to live stream fashion shows around the globe from the comfort of their own homes many, like Igneri have come to wonder, are these large scale productions required every 4-6 months? While the true answer may be no, as fashion shows become increasingly consumer focused, psychological research indicates that they’re unlikely to go away anytime soon.

Every time a fashion show launches consumers are offered something new and that in itself is something simply too rewarding to pass up. Studies have found that we are hardwired to be attracted to novelty. In a study published in Neuron, researchers showed participants a series of images. After participants had become familiar with those images, researchers added a new “oddball” image. Measurements of participants brain activity revealed that the brain’s pleasure centres lit up when this new “oddball” image was introduced resulted in a flood of dopamine, the same chemical that is released when we eat good food and have great sex. In another study conducted at the University College London, participants were shown 4 cards one of which had a monetary reward. When the participant chose this card their brain’s pleasure processors lit up. After a time, researchers introduced new cards to participants. The result? Participants tended to choose novelty cards over the known money-making card. While this appears to be incredibly counter-intuitive, it clearly demonstrates the power that novelty has over us.

Shiny new things are not just for babies. If fashion consumers and industry professionals are no longer presented with the rush of dopamine that occurs every time they’re presented with a new show or collection then they will likely give up on the brand and look for pleasure elsewhere. Research into brain health also shows that regular experience of novelty is essential to a long and happy life. The next challenge that the industry faces is mitigating this need for novelty alongside the need for designers to maintain their mental wellbeing.

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