Social justice shopping in the age of COVID?

After reading Manrepeller’s article on ‘Should we still be shopping?‘, my friends and I got into an interesting discussion on the topic of shopping to save the industry vs. shopping to distract ourselves from endless sources of tragic news and pure boredom. The crux of the argument, the article well summarizes with this:

Because even beyond the debate over where our money is most impactful right now, there’s also the concern that continuing to order non-essential things puts warehouse and postal service workers at risk, but on the other hand, I know a lot of employment is probably dependent on those orders coming in. It’s really a double-edged sword.

Manrepeller

Personally, during the first week of the new normal, from facetiming and zooming friends to eating takeout, I spent $1,000+. On things I needed for a WFH setup to cute Lunya shorts that looked incredible to lounge in (with loungwear being, of course, the new Wear-to-Work fit that you need). As silly or essential I deemed my purchases, I realized that I justified each one through the lens of COVID: I will work better if I look and feel better at home, I am giving businesses money to sustain themselves and their employees, I’ll likely need that in the coming weeks if social distancing continues.

I never quite bought into the thought philosophy of ‘are we prolonging the virus because we’re asking retail employees and the supply chain to continue, when in reality they should also be at home and resting with their families?’ And especially in all of this, realizing that many do not have the luxury to fill their time with online consumerism because they have babies to feed or have lost their jobs. I mean, is shopping prolonging this pandemic, or helping the economy survive? It’s like we’re asking people a cruel ‘would you rather’ question:

Would you rather lose your job? Or be exposed to potential death…?

I mean, sorry to put it so bluntly, but it’s quite true. You don’t know whose mother packaged your yoga mat, or whose grandson delivered it to your door. The truth is, anyone who has the power to spend cash on frivolous items are likely out of the loop a bit. We’re definitely not grounded in truth or any types of harsh reality. Yes, we might be sad and feel like we’re drowning in NYT or WSJ daily updates on death toll, but we’re really not living the tragedy of the mass.

On the flip side, we’ve become so reliant on our governments to do everything for us. They push out a stimulus package, and we immediately say it’s not enough. Even with that arena, we seem to think that this is ‘someone else’s problem’ and that when things go wrong, we have someone else to blame. Whether it be the government for their lack of funding and care, or the ‘evil retailers’ laying off their workers left and right. It’s never us, but rather ‘them’, that we call the enemy.

This COVID crisis seems to be an affirmation of how capitalism really helped put into structure more prosperity and peace in some ways (not in every way, but definitely in some ways). We now see capitalism having unraveled, and more socialism come into play – how… interesting and also somewhat tragic that has been; it seems like when billion dollar giants fall, we all fall. Success, in large part, feels like it comes from helping everyone succeed. Not one person can be healthy and happy by themselves, but we need a collective mass behind that movement for it to have an affect on you.

COVID affects every single person: even the Canadian on the sailboat by himself. And a soon-to-hit recession will be felt by everyone, whether rich or sick, poor or healthy. We are all in this together – and it feels like this is one global lesson God is teaching us.

Fashion reads while ‘social-distancing’

As we start enclosing ourselves into our own caves, we can spend the time better understanding the world around us. It’s a time of self-reflection, and ultimate introversion in some sense, as we find different ways of connecting with each other…. in the comfort of our own home.

Some short reads below to look into while we sit at home:

LONDON FASHION WEEK 2020

This past weekend, I was able to attend my first ever fashion week in London. Typically not open to public, fashion week is a celebration of new, innovative art and design coming together. As of British Council September 2019, London Fashion Week was the first to open its doors to the public.

This meant that LFW would dedicate two days to hosting the public, opening doors to 6 catwalks shows during the height of LFW. Guests could buy tickets for 2 hour slots, which included the following experiences:

  • Designer show (this year, designers were Temperley London and De La Valli)
  • Industry panel, with personnel such as Alice Temperley and Tommy Hilfiger
  • Immersive designer exihibition
  • Positive Fashion exihibit

I was able to attend the Temperely London show, which showcased Spring/Summer ’20 looks and an industry discussion hosted by Alice Temperley on starting a new brand and her life story.

Although the whole experience really played up the consumerism that exists in the fashion industry, it was also inspiring and incredible to be in the midst of the whole fashion scene in London. There were so many incredible people who came in their best clothes: whether that meant they wore the most expensive items in their wardrobe or found the ugliest and quirkiest piece to put on.

It makes sense that the BFC would open shows up to the public – I think it’s a great financial and awareness move, and it helps consumers express themselves, better understand the industry that most people think is so trivial and materialistic. It opens up eyes and allows consumers to see the art and tedious details that go into running your own clothing line or setting up a 15 min catwalk.

I must say I highly enjoyed the experience. It’s not every day that 135 pounds can get you a seat at the table, and yet, there I was in the midst of it all, zebra pants on and champagne in hand.

The way you dress impacts many things in our world – from the environment to the economy to your own psychology. I think the way fashion can bring together the intricacy of art but also the way we think about ourselves and the globalization that exists around us is really something special.

I love this quote from Devil Wears Prada because it simply illustrates how much bigger the industry is than what typical consumers think:

You think this has nothing to do with you. You go to your closet and you select… I don’t know… that lumpy blue sweater, for instance because you’re trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. But what you don’t know is that that sweater is not just blue, it’s not turquoise. It’s not lapis. It’s actually cerulean. And you’re also blithely unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar de la Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Yves Saint Laurent… wasn’t it who showed cerulean military jackets? … And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of eight different designers. And then it, uh, filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic Casual Corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and it’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you’re wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room from a pile of stuff.

Miranda Priestly, Devil Wears Prada

As we expand into more experiential retail and continue to move into a world of widespread information, I hope we’ll become more in-tune with the trillion dollar industry that we encounter everyday.

Sustainability in Fashion: Realistic or Idealistic?

I think it’s really interesting to think about what “sustainability” even means in fashion. At the route of the industry is the need to be materialistic – “fashion” wouldn’t exist without the need to be a bit excessive or “consumeristic.” If we are pursuing sustainability to “avoid the depletion of natural resources [and] maintain an ecological balance” then it seems that fashion and true sustainability cannot co-exist.

According to a McKinsey report, the number of clothing produced annually has doubled since 2000, and exceeded 100B for the first time in 2014. Not only the production count of fashion is increasing, the number of styles we expect as consumers in a season has also grown exponentially. Then fast fashion was born. This democratized and transformed the way consumers thought about clothing – consumers now demand trendy pieces at affordable prices with… free and fast shipping.

Clothing, cotton and polyester, has never come hand in hand with environmentally friendly practices. It takes 2.7K litres of water to produce a single t-shirt (WWF). According to the UN, the fashion industry currently produces 10% of all global emissions (more than international flights and global shipping) (BoF).

I’m not focusing on colour right now as I am about designers who are going to focus on sustainability, who are going to focus on responsibility, who are going to talk about fashion as something that is not so much disposable or can be easily thrown away … I want to hear about why fashion is worth it.

Anna Wintour, VOGUE: Go ask Anna

And yet, sustainability is the “new trend” of the fashion industry. It advocates designers and consumers to look for sustainable practices – to shop vintage, to reuse materials (e.g., Reformation), to use more sustainable materials (e.g., Girlfriend Collective). But at the heart of it, shouldn’t the industry be promoting a conscious decision to consume less in totality?

But as Business of Fashion reports, this type of “true anti-consumerism” is not scalable.

Anti-consumption designers can be limited in their ability to scale. It’s virtually impossible to grow a brand that relies on unusual, often expensive or hard to find materials into a global business. Often that isn’t their goal.

Sustainability in fashion just doesn’t quite work – or realistically make sense. Yes, the industry has made strides in becoming more environmentally conscious. This past summer, major fashion players (150 brands that make up 30% of the global industry) met with world leaders at the G7 summit, agreeing on a “Fashion Pact.” This stated that companies will take action to lessen fashion’s impact on the climate.

When you’re in fashion, the best ‘police officer’ is not the state, but it is the consumer.

Marie-Claire Daveu, Chief Sustainability Officer at Kering

At the end of the day, any form of sustainability can only be dictated by the consumer, not the industry.

REVIEW // JOKER

“Better to be king for a night than schmuck for a lifetime.”

Rupert Pupkin, The King of Comedy

The Joker is one of the most compelling narratives of a man’s descendent into chaos. It’s a mashup somewhere between Nabokov’s Lolita and Camus’s The Stranger. A sad, momentous reality depicted in its organized and disorganized, prompted and impromptu, ordered and disordered moments. A twist on our sense of what we call morality and chaos.

Walking into the theatre, I had no expectations for what the movie would be. I hadn’t even seen the trailer nor really remembered what the Joker was like in previous Batman films. And yet, I sat there, along with a hundred other people, holding my breath, anxiously waiting for the inevitable to happen – for the Arthur Fleck to turn from a “mentally ill loner” to the king of chaos.

Image result for joker 2019

I think that was in a sense why the film was so compelling. It had me nervous and uneasy the whole time — not just because everyone knew what would inevitably happen, but because the acting of the “mentally ill loner” was so uncomfortable to watch. He was always, and only, a show character – someone who performs to get the gut reaction out of someone else. The film opens with a open airy shot of Arthur, getting ready for his act. As he prepares the camera slowly zooms in, and we see a single powerful tear fall.

Oh, and not to forget the painful laughter attacks, which is so unsettling to watch. The irony of the “joyfulness” of laughing translated to ostracization. The harsh reality of being yourself becoming a social target to anyone around you.

Joaquin Phoenix in Joker.

I used to think that my life was a tragedy, but now I realize, it’s a comedy.

Arthur Fleck, The Joker (2019)

I think there’s something so powerful about the play of comedy and tragedy, and the subjective truth that lies in between. I love that the Joker made you sympathize with his tragedy and loss, and that his actions, though violent, were his way of redemption and imprint on social life. I don’t think he ever really intended to kill, yet, he found himself when he did. And I think that’s the tragic beauty of what it means to be Arthur Fleck, the Joker. His identity is only known in true crime, and that’s the hard truth that viewers have to somehow reconcile with.

There is no punchline.

Arthur Fleck, The Joker (2019)

Suffocate his mother because she suffocated him. Then stand between the curtain, awaiting his applause. Taking a life, to show that he is living and real, not just a comic threat. There’s great beauty in all the cinematography that Lawrence Sher enacted carefully yet on a whim.

And yet, the film also touches on points of what the sense of dreaming and reality, and points of subjective morality. I think there are some worthwhile, poetic discussions to be held where we wonder what the lines are between what’s wrong and what’s right – does context ever matter? Does your history of abuse tick off boxes of insanity or humanity? Does it ever make right or make art the finite sense of morality?

Comedy is subjective Murray, isn’t that what they say? All of you, the system that knows so much: you decide what’s right or wrong the same way you decide what’s funny or not.

Arthur Fleck, The Joker (2019)

I can’t quite articulate how the film made me feel at the end of the day. It left me wondering, what social judgments cast away and ostracize people, which then make them act in some “unfavorable” way. Is it that we always have different methods of redemption – of self-redemption, if that even can be a thing (in which broken humans try to repair themselves). I think the movie opens up so much ground and pathways for discussion to how we consider other people, and in ways, how we can show the lost, the lonely, the wicked, any sense of justice or mercy.

LOUIS VUITTON S’20

Belle Époque–era Paris – “‘It’s a part of French history that’s very interesting in art, as well as culturally, in terms of emancipation of women, and, of course, in literature with Proust,’ he explained. It’s also a period that more or less coincided with the birth and rise of the house of Louis Vuitton. In the late 1800s, advances in construction and technology ushered in a new era of travel for the elite, to whom Monsieur Vuitton and his descendants catered with their monogram trunks.” Puffed sleeves, mismatched colors, everything modern and nothing new at the same time. Resonating “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

MIU MIU S’20

“Italian ingenuity in times of scarce resources.” The playfulness of structure with individualized add-ons. The appeal of creativity stemming from within all we have, and all we don’t have.

CHANEL S’20

Virginie Viard’s first RTW show on her own highlighted the quintessential Chanel wardrobe. Wavering between the new cinema of 50/60s. The tiered layers, evoking the French Riviera on the sunset on the rooftop.
// Would be a miss not to mention Marie Benoliel’s prank when she went up on the catwalk during the finale. Not quite sure how I feel about it, given that a show is not just representing the creative director but all those in the atelier that worked long hours to showcase their work for that to not to be the highlight. But then again, maybe it plays well with the artfulness and lightheartedness of fashion shows that we need sometimes.

GIAMBATTISTA VALLI S’20

Floral imagery everywhere – structured dresses lined with accentuated details – all evoking the sense of beautiful flours.

SACAI S’20

Bookend with map imagery – Abe brings together the sense of contemporary longing and of loose fabrics and sentimentalism.

MAISON MARGIELA S’20

“Stories of hope, heroines, and liberation are forgotten as history draws ever closer to repetition.” Army hats, structured corsets, caped jackets — theatrics to remind you the liberation from wartime – the hope that encompasses you after tragedy.

LOEWE S’20

Ethereal, poetic, and aristocratic.” Jonathan Anderson has mastered the fine art of layering lace, embroidery, fabric, evoking meaningful shapes: wedding dresses, nightgowns, chemises.

CELINE S’20

Nothing new for Hedi Slimane this season. He stayed true to his 60/70’s specials – mixing in his nostalgia of nonchalant French girls, with undone hair and makeup.

BALENCIAGA S’20

A fashion assembly, filled with power dressing and accentuated features, on all parts. Something floating along the lines of casual wearable and non-wearable apparel coming together.

QR: SPRING SUMMER ’20

FENDI | S’20

Lagerfeld’s successor, Silvia Venturini Fendi opened up a new wave of summer with a different kind of “solar mood.” A new, warm Italian summer with sun-kissed girls and quilted cotton jackets to round out another season of life, somewhere in between work and vacation.


PRABAL GURUNG | S’20

Cannot not talk about politics when it comes to this particular show that was supposed to be featured at the new Vessel in Hudson Yards. Prabal plays with a wonderful mix of textures from athleisure to ball gowns and cocktail dresses. The whole show is somewhat nostalgic of the old vs. new – in fashion and history.


MM6 MAISON MARGIELA | S’20

Tulles. White. Black. Rebellion. Peace. A new, eery kind of marriage coming together – mixing the better half.. with the worse?


SALVATORE FERRAGAMO | S’20

Effervescent leather. Another Italian summer. A canvas of soft structured colors and fabrics in Paul Andrew’s latest show.


A couple of other interesting tidbits:

  • Burberry revealed their exclusive show with Sparknotes of their show notes on their website and emailed out the link.
  • LV TV is now a thing – with your favorite celebrities from Emma Stone to Emma Chamberlin (!)

NYFW S’20

RAG & BONE \\ SPRING 20

Marcus Wainwright’s return to the runway is unlike your typical show experience. Admist launching AI-hosted dinners and photo exhibitions, he filled his runway with the streets of New York. Mixing men’s tailoring with artful layering, he has mastered the sense of NY nostalgia, and the nostalgia of a show in his latest project.

KHAITE \\ SPRING 20

Catherine Holstein juxtaposes bold silhouettes with a feminine, feathery and light touch of fabric. Her ability to bring in the sense of fall and autumn into the new spring season is admirable.

As the rest of NYFW flows in, I’ll be looking at last year’s street wear for CPH FW.

How to find your style!! (from @bestdressed)

Aside from the fact that it was Fall ’19 couture week, I came across a video that broke down how to dissect and discover your style. I wanted to capture her 6 tips below for my own reference as well 🙂

  1. Assess your own wardrobe: Assess what you already wear and love — most times it’s that you have several items of clothing that define your style but your wardrobe hasn’t quite followed along with it yet.
    • For 2 weeks, track all the clothes you wear – what do they have in common? A certain fit? A pair of jeans? A color scheme? Is there a certain brand that you find wearing a lot? What is the comfort level of that clothing?Find the clothes that you naturally lean towards
  2. Find inspiration: Look through magazines, Instagram/Instagram explore page
    • Start a new instagram that only follows fashion inspiration accounts — what makes an outfit “good fashion”, and would I find that comfortable?Use Instagram’s explore page to see more fashion inspirationThink critically about why you like or dislike each inspiration — what about your style is similar or different from what you like?Save these outfits – and start finding what kinds of styles are resonating
      • Refine your mood board and see if it reflects your personality, your lifestyle, your comfort level Combine styles
  3. Go shopping: Choose 5 pieces on your mood board that appear the most often
    • Attach inspo images, have examples of the 5 pieces that you are shopping for
    • Keep assessing your 5 pieces as you build your wardrobe, and repeat every 3-4 months
  4. Practice, practice, practice: Give yourself 10-20 minutes every morning and put together outfits that — try and error is how you start to find your style
    • Add a new jacket, a new belt, new shoes
  5. Spend more time shopping: Not to buy more clothing, but to give yourself enough time to try on several outfits
    • By trying on new pieces of clothing, you end up thoroughly knowing why you bought what you bought
  6. Confidence!: We have several outfits that we already want to wear, and changing up how you wear things is scary
    • It’s “cool” to not put any effort – but it takes confident to do the opposite, when you are experimenting with your style
    • Wear what you actually want to wear!
    • Ease yourself into your new style piece by piece – just because someone doesn’t like your outfit doesn’t mean it’s a good outfit
    • If you dress up, then people will make comments (whether good or not) vs. when you wear a hoodie – people generally don’t comment on your outfit

Here is how my Instagram mood board is starting to span out. Starting to see pops of bright colors, mixed into casual, basic bases (e.g., simple pair of jeans, black base, etc.)