In 2016, the fashion world partook in a giant game of hide-and-go-seek. Which designers left their respective brands? Where were they going? Would diversity ever emerge as anything more than an afterthought? Who was going to come forward to voluntarily dress First Lady-elect Melania Trump? Some of these scavenger hunts remain unresolved, but they have made one thing clear: 2017 will be a year of spectating, of observing the implications of 2016’s chaos.
Expect an onslaught ethical battles. Even in high fashion, widespread use of sweatshops has persisted into the New Year, forcing corporate giants like Kering (owner of Saint Laurent, Gucci and Puma, among others), who have been accused of employing immoral labor tactics, to reevaluate their manufacturing processes — and fast. Although 2016 saw the close of ethically-conscious label Suno, sustainable, sweatshop-free brands are infiltrating mainstream consumerism at a breakneck pace. Online boutiques like Reformation are reaching levels of ubiquity that sustainable fashion has never seen.
On the positive side of the coin, 2017 is bound to give way to some seriously revolutionary branding. Raf Simons will make his debut at Calvin Klein next month, which, knowing Simons, will likely erect a side of the brand that it didn’t even know it needed, one full of the raw, youthful energy both he and CK are known for. Alessandro Michele (Gucci) and Demna Gvasalia (Balenciaga, Vetements), 2016’s key tastemakers, are sure to bring even more outlandishly styled looks and unexpected collaborations to the upcoming fashion cycle.
This year, non-traditional models will continue their rise to the top. Kickstarted by designer Rio Uribe of streetwear label Gypsy Sport several years ago, the movement has slowly but surely gained speed, thanks in large part to exposure provided by Instagram. Bald-headed, gap-toothed beauty Simone Thompson has become an Instagram darling as of late, receiving features from the likes of Vogue and CR Fashion Book by the latter end of 2016. Thompson is but one of many models that has contributed a true sense of diversity to the high-fashion scene. Other new muses like Barbie Ferreira and Hari Nef add serious depth to fashion’s coolest band of outsiders (who, might I add, are now surpassing the insiders in both numerical and abstract terms), paving the way for even more diversification in the months to come.
Despite all the recent guesswork, the ever-dreaded fashion cycle will remain chaotic in 2017. No trillion dollar industry can clean up its act in a matter of months, let alone one that has relied on an archaic system for far too long. Sure, more attempts at forging a see-now, buy-now market will be made on an individual brand level, but such isolated changes cannot turn the entire industry on its head unless they appear across the board (and they won’t — ahem, traditional Paris fashion houses).
Hide-and-go-seek is getting old. But something tells me we’ll be able to relax a bit this year. We should not push ourselves to answer fashion’s most abstract questions. 2017 is our time to sit back, let the industry unfold as it does, and simply enjoy the show.