I was at Eurostar, somewhere between St Pancras and Paris, when a senior member of the Guardian team called and suggested it might be a good idea for me to go back to the Gare du Nord and go back to London.
It was March 3, 2020. That was not the plan. The plan had been to go to the Chanel show and report on the news sites. Instead, it was the beginning of all work plans and otherwise dissolution.
2020 was a terrible year for the world, and a shocking year for fashion. They did almost everything that could be solved, from custom-made brands that embarrassingly left workers free of charge, to the cancellation of events on the Hollywood red carpet, to the catwalks of fashion shows in New York, London , Milan and Paris.
In the beginning, everything the Guardians fashion table did had to change. Our news coverage could no longer repeat the rhythms of the fashion year; our stylists could not produce photoshoots, for reasons of social distancing. Practical style advice we had planned based on a summer vacation and wedding, of course, was canceled. In those early, rotating days, the only goods of interest were face masks, hand cleanser and scrolls.
Indeed, it was surprising until it dawned on us that the upside-down fashion industry was, in itself, a fascinating story.
We have decided. And we also reported on the designers pivoting: on the British designers who formed the Network of Emergency Designers to make PPE; in fashion magazines featuring NHS workers, not celebrities, on their covers. We covered the moment when face masks were normalized and, inevitably, adopted by fashion. We reported on the weird new British middle road from pants that were in quarantine to the once powerful Topshop fall.
The cloth was caught amid a sudden surge of major international news in 2020. As protests escalated in the US following the assassination of George Floyd by police, we reported on the ways in which clothing was armed, including Black banners. Lives Matter from employers. We reported on Fred Perry pulling off her polo shirt after it was approved by the far-right Proud Boys group and the Vote slogan trade produced and worn by Michelle Obama, among others, in an effort to mobilize young voters.
We reported on the items being sold, despite everything: in April, the sweatpants were up (maybe you’re wearing a pair now); in october, it all had to do with the kind of weird shoes you could wear to draw baskets, such as Crocs, which seemed to say something profound about the collective psyche. Some of the most interesting aspects of fashion came to the fore as people sought out soft, cocooned coats to wrap them up in winter walks, or bought a detachable Zoom collar for sure most of the accessories in 2020 in order to present their best face as the world was destroyed, and with all the communications taking place through the front cameras.
Items that are placed on bras, high-heeled shoes, tight waist belts also told a story, as did our coverage of self-soothing lifestyle trends, from breaking down into scented candles to the impossible rise of tablecloths. .
An unexpected pleasure to be found in the absence of people in real life watching was the rise of the fashion critic on the couch. During the block, the analysis of style on TV has reached the highest level of all time and we have also been observing a lot, writing about Mariannes summer style in Normal People, the controversial Undoing dress, choosing Schitts Përroi dress and analysis of the historical accuracy of breasts in Bridgerton. The popularity of these pieces seems to speak to a collective desire to enjoy aesthetics and to analyze the meaning of a cuff, edge or cut, even when we are forever in pajamas.
Some normalcy is back. Our stylists have shot celebrities and fashion stories again, when social distance guidelines allow, and even got the All Ages band back together for Christmas. But mostly, as with everyone else lucky enough to work safely from home, our worlds have become very small. We’ve found stories talking in phone contacts, monitoring social media trends and seeing catwalk presentations and digital shows without audiences, which have largely replaced the standard show calendar. Only our fearless critic Jess Cartner-Morley took part in a fashion show of social distance in Milan and London last September, where masked designers held one-on-one meetings.
With concerns about sustainability at an all-time high, it has been encouraging to see so many designers discussing the scanty ways in which they would like to rebuild the industry after this crisis. It seems like the fashion show circus that everyone agreed was going out of control will be whitewashed, though it seems impossible for digital shows to be a permanent answer or blanket. The human side of a fashion show the ability to read the room, to see what looks inspire gasps from fashion students standing in the back, or to see the beginnings of a trend in the dominance of the forehead of a new haircut surprisingly missed a lot.
That said, this pause not to mention all of our new worries about the economic crisis has given us the opportunity to redouble our slow fashion approach to style, either by recommending ways to fix outfits, or buy doors to first-hand, either by finding fresh ways to style our existing clothes, or by offering carefully selected shopping tips, such as clothes to keep you warm when socializing outdoors as advised by outdoor workers, and places good to find elegant, ethically made underwear. We have also had the opportunity to report on some pleasant developments from the rise of DIY fashion, such as color dyeing and crochet, to the flourishing of second-hand clothing in pandemics suggesting a more careful approach to style and a slowdown in the late capitalist attitude towards consumerism in general may be on the horizon.
Clearly, the world is in existential crisis, and the fashion industry with it. However, there seems to be a real chance that fashion will be rebuilt in a slower, more thoughtful way, leaving it looking better than it has for a long time. This period of change has also been rich from a journalistic point of view, even when it has been personally horrific. This is something I would never have imagined when my heart sank as the world as we knew it began to spin, that March 3 at Eurostar.
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