The Fear of future: building a new fashion model in uncertainty
We are currently facing unprecedented events with this worldwide pandemic forcing us to stay at home and reconsidering our way of living. It used to be that speculations on our times were more about flying cars and advanced humanity, however the reality is much different. Not only the Covid-19 can be a source of fear but also The Brexit, the increasing violence in the US, the border retreat happening in various countries, terrorism… And this list could go on and on. Our times are and feel deeply uncertain and troubled. 2020 sounds so futuristic, and yet, the humanity almost seems to go backward. I explored, in a previous article, the notion of chaos wildly used in today’s fashion industry. We actually just need to look at the news to feel chaos growing in our hyper-modern society. Today we can truly see a shift of perception when it comes to drawing a picture of our present and the future. Looking at the fashion industry, it is even easier to feel downhearted.
Fashion comes from a long journey. Starting as an activity only made for an elite, its democratisation led to an over-consumption and a massive waste that dramatically hurt the environment. Today, we have a clear picture of the social and ecological consequences of this system. Besides being the second most polluting industry globally- which is already a huge responsibility – it is also a field characterised by a lack of inclusivity, an unfair use of activism to serve marketing strategies, a deep cultural-appropriation problem, an overrated celebrity culture and a legendary superficiality nature. Those past few years, I feel that the industry has been torn between two groups: the one that wants to stick to the old model – because they don’t know anything else. And the one that wants to create another one – that fits more the emerging ideologies. It is as if we have, on one hand, the group of established people for whom the former system is still matching their selfish and individualistic interests. Then on the other hand, the other group that was so excluded by the previous one that they just want to get rid of this irrelevant and unfair functioning by bringing new propositions on the table. As everything can be explained by logical facts, I will expose here a theory that I think could justify the current situation.
Not that it is crucial to find a rational reason to every feelings or events, but this could actually be explained by the lifecycle of a system. When I use the word ‘system‘, I could also refer to the notion of ‘Empire‘. However, it can have a negative meaning in the general psyche. In ‘The Fate of Empire and Search for Survival‘ written by Sir John Glubb and published in 1973, he introduced a theory about the lifecycle of Empires, as he managed to find regularities in this process. He analysed various ‘Empires‘ from the Ottoman Empire to Romanov in Russia. According to him, this type of structures approximately lasts 250 years – 10 generations – and goes through 6 ages
As mentioned before, using the term of ‘Empire‘ could be controversial to describe our times. Therefore, I’ll use the notion of ‘system‘. It appears that we are currently in the age of decadence which is the last step of the system. Synonym of decline, this area is characterized by various features such as undisciplined, overextended military, a display of wealth, a massive disparity between rich and poor. Although some are fighting to keep the old system alive, there is no way to indefinitely maintain it. It is beyond one’s will. It has to disappear as the previous ones did. With so many things going down, its decline feels unavoidable. While it could be an idea full of hope, for many reasons – the opportunity to build a new system far from the values promoted by the previous model – it is also a real challenge. At the beginning of ‘Four Horsemen‘ documentary – I highly recommend it – it says that ‘we are entering the age of consequences‘. I find this statement very relevant especially if you look at the environmental emergency we are currently facing, mainly caused by the years of over-consumption and production generated by the prior generations. It looks like our future is deeply compromised. Indeed, many personalities such as Alanna Shaikh, a global health consultant, said that pandemic might be our future. Because of ice melting caused by a tangible global warming, many unknown and perilous virus have been released. This is just an aspect of the upcoming uncertainties. In such a context, it is easy to understand the pessimistic picture we might have on our future. It appears that the actual fashion model is not relevant anymore and fashion overall can seem even pointless at this stage. Why would we fight to maintain the relevance of this field while there are so many other priorities to consider?
Fashion is an art, and as all type of arts, we have been taught that it is an important and active element in the social life. Fashion has been part of many important cultural changes throughout History. Thus, it could also be a useful tool to build the next millennium. The future is certainly mangled between hope and despair. From one perspective, some actions undertaken lately can be classified as a sign of hope. For instance, independent labels with a real positive message are increasingly gaining legitimacy into the industry and therefore challenging the established order. Also, hope can be spotted through the growing quest for sustainability occurring in various segments of the industry . However, we are all aware of the green-washing happening at the same time. This is obviously one of the numerous aspects that illustrated the despair raining over the fashion industry. We came to a point where even if some are struggling to make this field better, we have the parasites that are taking advantage of real causes to make profit out of it. Paradox is everywhere. On one hand you have authentic feelings and moves to change the fashion industry. On the other hand you have strategic decisions that fool the audience as noise pollution. The questions are: which side will thrive? Are we going to loose this battle? Are we ready to fight harder to get rid of this bad interference?
Fearing for the future seems a rational feeling since we don’t really know which sides will get the upper hand. Uncertainty lays in this duality. Nevertheless, what is certain is that this future depends on creatives that are already trying very hard to fight back by creating an alternative fashion model. Their persistence will be decisive factor in the upcoming years.
New-York City, USA
Stylist & Art Director
The current pandemic has brought us all to the foundations of being a living creature, which is survival. A scary thought since most of modern humanity has transgressed past far from our primal instincts and now we have built a society based on intelligent thought and communication systems.
This has waken us up to our fragility on this planet, how anything can really occur beyond our control. It has shown us that we need to re-evaluate our attitude towards the planet and reflect it in our practices and every day life if we continue to have one.
We are on the brink of becoming the dystopian reality that merges with the dark fantasies and style in the fashion industry that we have been seeing for a while. I still believe there could be a positive turning point in this situation and that with chaos comes change. I think that motto keeps us strong as we now embrace the uncertainty of our future.
Model & Co-founder of Amy Mgmt
I’m going to generalize my talk and not just think about The Fashion Industry. It is sad that we’re only having this conversation now. This should’ve been the first step. But it is never too late to get back up and to do better. I’m not the best at being realistic but I think it’s a the only way through. We all consider this as a break that the world took. But is it really a break? Because more and more people are dying everyday… I mean those things are actually happening. And we’re sitting here, « confined ». We are stuck and we are so powerless regarding this situation. And yet, when we used to have the « power » , we failed to prevent this from happening. I believe life is still happening but we’re feeling like we’re less part of it than we were before. I, personally feel closer to the world. I’m feeling more connected and concerned. Because I feel like we’re sharing the same fear, We’re going through the same experience which doesn’t happen often.
Here’s what I’m thinking: as we have the same fear, what if we have the same fight? Healing is what everyone is currently praying for. But I believe this comes with a lot of lessons. This whole thing sends us back to the essentials in a very tragic way. I believe this is a ‘test’. A personal test to each one of us, it is also a test for all of us as a group, for the humanity. But at the same time, this is above me, it is above us. We are not controlling this situation. So I just sit there, washing my hands.
Concerning the fashion industry, I’m trying not to have any hopes, fears, and/or expectations when it comes to this industry. Now that we’re not able to do so much, maybe it’s time to reconsider? I truly believe it’s now time to put our weapons down and stop ‘being in the making’ for a bit. We’ve already been doing (producing) a lot. But why? I think the actual situation allows us to figure out the answers. This is our chance to take. Our opportunity to learn, fix and re-emerge. But not in that over-production system. Here I’m talking about the conceptual aspect. Because soon, we’ll be able to produce again. So let’s just adjust our starting blocks, and recharge… Also, let’s think of what we can gain besides simple profits. For us, and for our community.
This disaster exposes us, it shows our limits and where we’re failing at. Which is a curse and a blessing at the same time. This is not the right time to tell anybody what they should do. This is not the right time to blame one another. I don’t think everyone has the privilege of turning this into something “productive”. And that’s totally okay.The fear is here. And so is hope. I want us to win, individually. But I also want us to win as a group.
We won’t be able to re-start at the same pace anyway. Nothing can prevent the mind from thinking and the heart from being compassionate. Let’s not forget that. In fact, that itself, is the first step. The first REAL ACTION, before anything. We all are « confined ». Our brands are, our economy is,… but our minds, hearts and souls are not. To me, this calamity questions the notion of ACTION. The ‘visible’ and the ‘invisible’. And now, the most important things are ‘invisible’ actions. The ones that are behind the scenes. The real ones that define the purpose, the end of visible actions.
And one last thing, let’s not cancel 2020. Please?
Visual Artist & Photographer
The world has so much on its plate at the moment… our home is burning, our systems are falling apart. Life as we knew it has lost meaning, and so has traditional fashion. We can all feel out of place in this cyclic, traumatic mess we’ve inherited. Governments are prioritizing economy over human lives, apathetic to the warnings of science, facts and population revolts. During these uncertain times, with no one to trust but ourselves, we’re left with so many layers to rethink, inside and out. Ultimately, I believe it’s a good thing. We must find clarity, research information, connect the dots, rebalance everything, heal ourselves, and translate awareness into action. Everyone will have to adapt to the new world, which I hope won’t be based solely on profit, and be more respectful of the true meaning of conscious living.
As a young female independent artist, it’s been very difficult navigating through the fashion industry in the current context, which led me to take an early distance in my career. Even though I care about fashion, at times being a part of it meant sacrificing my integrity, and submitting to systemic inequality and all sorts of violence, even directed at myself. The fashion environment can be extremely toxic and competitive. I think many young creatives and others within the industry have been in this position and witnessed various absurdities. I hope in the near future that fashion will not victimize anymore, but genuinely empower, support and educate.
However, I believe these are exciting times because transformative change is inevitable. Without a doubt, fashion will always be here, as it’s always been part of human existence; but the industry must accelerate the pace of innovation in order to achieve radical systemic change. No amount of RE’s will be enough if the industry’s growth doesn’t slow down, and take real concrete action in sustainable and circular practices; and this directly concerns big companies, as smaller ones and independents have already made progress, thanks to consumer activism. In fact, people should continue to raise their standards and learn to identify unethical products and greenwash.
In this important transition, I hope older fashion generations will support and make space for the young & emerging talents that can really help the industry fast forward to making sustainable and conscious fashion become a reality. I’m curious to see how things will unfold and new formats emerge, especially fashion weeks, but we must really question its purpose and keep a critical eye on issues like the digital carbon footprint with the potential rise of virtual shows and the increasing use of VR.
São Paulo , Brazil
Fashion Imagery Maker & Art director at Toca
In my conception, the events we are experiencing are a huge warning that we need to change. During the last years of the digital age, we have fed a society that is promoting over-consumption values. This consumption is not just around material goods but also about aesthetic, patterns, behaviors, discourses and information that reaffirm our social positions, lifestyles, vanities and own desires. Fashion is an industry that has a direct influence on behavioral aspects through advertising, especially on Instagram. I realize how this reality has positive and negative aspects. During the last past years we have seen fashion designers, brands, photographers, stylists and many others creatives expanding their voices and being recognized through social medias. Thanks to that they have been able to get in touch with their community/audience.
Through those medias, we have seen so much interesting projects flourishing and they have a real and deep message to spread. It allows us to have new ways of thinking and looking at fashion. On the other hand, inner impulses that we are developing give us the urge to consume what we don’t really need and thus generate a vicious and unsustainable cycle based on the necessity to reaffirm social goals, needs and aesthetic standards that tell us that it’s an ideal to fulfill. This is driving so much bad consequences for human well-being, such as anxiety, depression and a lack of one’s development based on true self-knowledge. We are saturated with the ceaseless hunt for trends of what we have to be, what we have to consume, what we have to watch, what we have to be entertained with. Which leads us to look at things in a superfluous way because, after all, we are in an unceasing search for quantity and not quality. We don’t necessarily look for deep purposes and what makes sense to us.
While most of us are stuck at home, we have a great opportunity to reflect on the consequences of our behaviors as a collectivity and to heal internally, as the future of fashion and our planet will definitely depend on how we act from now on. There is no way to continue this system unless it is more sustainable, more respectful towards nature and more collaborative. Fashion weeks stand for the transmission of information in a instantaneous and disposable way along with production of collections to answer to the traditional fashion calendar in an absurdly and unnecessary way. It is created to generate profit which is already a problematic aspect in the pre-pandemic reality. Now, more than ever, this inevitably needs to change quickly.
I do believe that attitudes will change after this. For sure, some people will continue to sustain the same vicious cycles from the old system. However, I believe that all these transformations will lead many people to more sustainable behaviors, underlining the fact that they do not need all the consumption that the old system recommended. Finally, I believe those various changes – occurring in the production, the perception of ourselves, and also the experience of social isolation – will lead many people to turn their attention on homemade. Crafts will be seen as a way to embody our various forms of creative expression.