Why a Fashion 'slowdown' in 2019 might actually be a good thing
As the New Year starts, everybody’s talking about all the possible trends that will happen this year. People working in fashion are already running forecasts and already planning the details for upcoming fashion weeks. Some of us are already aware of fashion trends that will be meant to stay and hopefully also aware of some trends that will probably end this year. On a more corporate level, we have leaders like The Business of Fashion and McKinsey who already proposed us the 10 trends on how the industry is going to look like in 2019. Regarding this, it was very interesting to notice that one of the first trends mentioned on the report was “Caution Ahead”, which intended to point out external economic factors that will without a doubt slow down the fashion industry.
The truth is, it is very natural to think that a slowdown in an industry is a bad thing. The main reason for this might be because of the financial impact this might have on an industry and therefore on the people that work inside of it. But if you try looking at it from another perspective, a slowdown could actually sound like a good idea in fashion. Some of the most used words that we’ve heard for the past two years are “digital”, “fast”, “technology” and like BOF likes to say lately, “disruption”, and maybe these are the words that need to be slowed down a little bit for fashion to grow. When I think about slowing down, the first thing that comes to mind is a condition called “the writer’s block”, which is when an author loses the ability to produce new work and experiences a “creative slowdown” or decisively, an overall creativity block and can’t produce something original. According to research one of the main reasons an author gets a writer’s block is related to the necessity of producing something as fast as possible, so there’s pressure involved until the creative mind gets overwhelmed and ends up staring at a blank screen. In fashion, a lot of designers are going through a writer’s block, or else, how could we explain why 2018 has been filled with issues such as cultural appropriations or lack of cultural sensitivity? The difference between an author sitting in front of his computer and a designer sitting alone in his studio is that the designer has a more demanding timetable and is someone who is constantly pressured by deadlines all year long. In addition to that, the way a fashion brand works is not just related to what happens in the creative director’s head, but also has to respond to a market and so things don’t get any easier when you have to decode the most complicated generation in history so far, the millennials.
So, how does a fashion brand overcome this “writer’s block”? We already know an economic slowdown is coming, so maybe this could also mean a time when the fashion industry steps back and rethinks the message it wants to transmit. Words like “let’s be more digital” or “we are being/reacting faster” should stop having a relevant meaning in fashion this year. It is already obvious that we’ve all gone digital and it is obvious that we got used to things coming to us faster than ever, and it is all starting to sound like big data, codes and algorithms are trying to kill our real intuition. One of the things that is missing in fashion right now is the capacity to improvise a little bit more. We try to read so much into what people want that we forget about what our society really needs. Nothing kills creativity more like the desire to follow the grid; “we are putting our brand’s name on a t-shirt and calling it streetwear now because that is how X brand is getting more profit”, “we are entering the logo trend because that’s our strategy for influencer marketing”, “we are re-branding because it calls the media’s attention, even though we’re doing everything the same… or worse”. Everybody talks about branding today, and how important it is to see a brand as a living thing and be able to describe its personality but, is that all there is?
One of the goals in fashion on 2019 should be to remember that this industry is a lot about dreams, but that it’s time to recognize that it is also about creating solutions, about solving problems. Fashion has always worked as a way to reflect what is going on in our society, and the way how we focus so much on why ugly trends sell so much should say something about how our creative mind is doing. One of the healthiest things that could happen this year in fashion is for the creative and the management to establish a better dialogue than on 2018. There are people that say that right now fashion is mostly being handled by management because they are the ones who know how to do “the marketing”, and there are people who say that the creative are taking up too much protagonism because designers are no longer designers but also influencers, and perhaps both statements are right, but they all need to come together.
Finally, a writer’s block, or let’s call it now a creativity block/authenticity block is also related to a lack of confidence. The fashion world needs to stop being a considered an industry “like any other”, it needs to start having the sensation that it can change the world and that it can deliver a clearer message to the world.
Let’s never forget that fashion is our second skin.