Where does European fashion stand right now?
From initiatives taken by European brands to fight agains the pandemic to the coolest cities in Europe, here is a round up of what is happening in the fashion world on the continent right now and how we can stay connected together.
European countries have by far been the most affected by the coronavirus pandemic and the impact of lockdowns on the fashion industry has already forced shops to shut down and cancel orders worth millions of dollars. In the coming months, most companies in Europe will have to find ways to stay strong while going through a period of financial distress and come out of this crisis with a new way of doing business that supports local economies. For decades large retailers have sourced clothes in developing countries such as China, Vietnam or Bangladesh that often employ underpaid workers in factories using polluting chemicals and dangerous machinery. Brands that have shorter supply chains and produce locally will come out of the crisis with less damage and will recover quicker while gaining customers’ trust by showing a more transparent supply chain.
The fashion world has been one of the first to step up to provide as much a help as possible during the outbreak. In Europe especially, brands have transformed factories into production facilities to create facemasks, donated money and has put forward myriad of online initiatives to help everyone during isolation. Luxury brands such as Prada, LVMH and Kering, which owns Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Balenciaga, have pledged to produce masks and donate them to their governments and health services. In London, students from the famed Central Saint Martins school are helping to create scrubs for NHS staff and local designers have formed a group working with small-scale UK manufacturers to create much needed garments for medical workers fighting against the virus. Bottega Veneta on the other hand is supporting the advancement of coronavirus-related research in Italy by providing funding for scholarships. These are only a few of the initiatives put in place by the fashion industry which is an essential player in the fight against coronavirus. By working together, European brands can reverse the tide and come out of this crisis stronger than before and use this time of lockdown to address environmental and social issues that will push them to think differently and put sustainability high on the agenda.
With three of the most important fashion capitals located in Europe, the continent is the birthplace of many labels that are influencing the fashion world today. It’s difficult to pinpoint and define exactly a European aesthetic as each country has its own values and traditions that impact on the style of its people, just as free movement between countries encourages exchanges and a melting pot of cultures that inspires fashion designers across the whole of Europe. While London, Paris and Milan are still the main capitals where the fashion flock travels each season and dictate the trends to come, other European cities such as Tbilisi, Copenhagen and Moscow are taking more and more importance by developing their own aesthetic which is having a momentum on an international level, too.
In recent years, the Georgian capital Tbilisi has been holding the fashion industry’s attention thanks first to designer Demna Gvasalia and his brand Vetements but also to a unique creative scene led by a new generation of artists, musicians and fashion designers. Spearheaded by the rise of the post-Soviet aesthetic that came under the spotlight in 2015, the Tbilisi fashion week has been having a moment over the course of the last few seasons and attracted the international fashion’s gaze while at the same time breaking free from its former Eastern Europe stereotype and developing an original style that lies between gender neutral and underground fashion with a touch of colourful folklore.
In Copenhagen, independent labels are shaping what sustainable fashion really means. Not only is it a city for Scandi-cool style and a beautiful minimalist aesthetic but it’s also stepping up the game when it comes to slow fashion. In January, Copenhagen Fashion Week presented a plan to reduce its climate impact by 50% and become zero waste by 2022. Brands are also waking up to this call with, for instance, womenswear label Carcel which has set up a new business model based on employing women in prisons by giving them a fair wage and an opportunity to learn new skills. In lieu of presenting a new collection, the brand screened a video about how they implement consciousness above an empty catwalk to open the autumn/winter fashion week event. For Ganni’s show, the brand created mainly upcycled, sustainable pieces and is taking part in myriad of sustainable commitments to be as responsible as possible in its supply chain from manufacturing to packaging. With other smaller labels following suit, it’s easy to say that Copenhagen is leading the way in sustainable fashion which could inspire other major cities to do the same.
On another note, Moscow was one of the first cities to embrace a digital fashion week in April 2020. Instead of catwalk shows, 32 fashion videos by brands such as Red September, Dokuchaeva and Ceremony were streamed by about 830,000 people proving that the online event can be just as successful and even more creative and innovative that its in-real-life counterpart. The event has put the Russian capital on the global fashion map for a few seasons now, and by using this new format, chances are it will inspire more designers to connect with their audience online also with the use of virtual and augmented reality. With designer Gosha Rubchinskiy who has paved the way for post-Soviet youth culture to rise again, a younger generation of Russian talent are pushing fashion design into a new era inspired by its own cultural identity from Siberian furs to babushka scarves.
With the hashtag #TogetherWeAreEurope, wtalk is connecting fashion brands, stylists and magazines digitally across the whole of Europe. Together we are strong and can help Europe to communicate better during the lockdown. Click here to find out more.