Style Trumps Hate: Is Dystopian Fashion on the Rise?

Fashion is quite close to politics, not only as a business, but as a reflection of how it affects society and the way it influences people’s image. It should not be surprising then that the recent political events in the U.S. will crucially shift the way we dress to a very personal level.

As soon as the morning of November 10th came, headlines popped-up everywhere desperate to unriddle how industry leaders would manage the association of fashion with America’s new First Family. In other times, perhaps it would not have been such a big fuzz. Designers, magazines, and retailers might have simply complied to continue the pattern of support with no further say on the subject, and that would have been the end of the story. However, these times are all about social correctness, and that’s what makes this relationship a life and death matter.

That is right, it is that extreme. Take for instance sneaker brand New Balance, which within 24 hours of the election results faced a social media backlash where users shared photos and videos of the brand’s shoes on fire because the company’s vice president of public affairs stated in an interview that “with President-elect Trump, we feel things are going to move in the right direction.” Just like that, this brand jeopardized a valuable percentage of their customer base. Although the context of the comment mainly had to do with trade policies in support of manufacturing jobs in the U.S., it gave the impression that New Balance’s principles ran parallel with those of President-elect Trump, turning business talk into a moral code indiscretion. As one user said, “Thanks for showing your true colors, your consumers got the message loud and clear.”

 

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So if we are to boycott every apparel business affiliated with the Trumps, then how will the other businesses appeal to our passionate lifestyle demands driven by values? For one, they already have advantage, (or disadvantage, depending on where you stand); in a deeper sense however, how will they adapt to emerging consumer needs? But first, what will be the force behind our consumer needs?

 

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Emotionally, it has been an uncomfortable roller coaster where often the ride speeds downhill. At times there is hope, and we like to think that this is exactly what society needed. We hope this is the trigger that will make our nation come together to fight for the things that we neglected because we thought we were already fixed. Some other times we are in denial though, and then in paralyzing fear. Renowned Trend Forecaster, Lidewij Edelkoort, predicted that 2016 would be the year of Emancipation of Everything, and in an interview with DW, she explains that “We’re burdened by systems that don’t work anymore, and we must break free of them. Not only in fashion but as the whole society.” Edelkoort has over forty years of experience forecasting fashion trends, and her predictions are praised globally for their high accuracy. Hence, it’s fascinating yet terrifying to learn that the future of how we will dress in the coming years is connected to fear.

 

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Makes me think about dystopian settings like those in Jack London’s and George Orwell’s novels. Certainly, the dystopian / apocalyptic aesthetic is regularly present in a few collections every season since some designers are inspired by the sci-fi, avant, obscure, and punk motifs that characterizes it. However, Edelkoort says that “in these times of fear, in the big parts of the world, in densely structured fighting societies, fashion tends to become very extravagant. I am thinking about the comeback of the historical aspects of fashion design such as bustles and hips and peasant sleeves and puritan collars. There’s this whole urgency, I believe, to truly change form. It has been too basic for too long, and we need to have a new incentive. Theatrical clothes are going to be important.” The Hunger Games, anybody? Then she was asked if this meant that fashion was political, to which she said “Yes, it can be. When clothes become uniforms.”

There we have it. Just the way that war gave rise to military fashion, first as an adjustment to civilian life, and later as an anti-war statement in contemporary times, the social turmoil in which we live right now will give rise to ornate outfits with a fashion statement that says: we are actually fearless.

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