University of Fashion Blog

Category "Current Topics in Fashion"

Keeping Fashion Real in a Virtual World?

Balmain Campaign featuring Virtual Models Courtesy of The Diigitals

Keeping it IRL, I’m a little bit torn on this topic.

There’s no denying that technological advancements in fashion have advanced our experiences as consumers.

Just last weekend, I stopped into a Fleet Feet with my fiancé to take a look at new running shoe options. The sales associate immediately had Jen step into a 3D fit id foot scanner to guide his decisions about shoes that would best fit her foot. Within minutes, a 3D scan of Jen’s feet popped up on the sales associate’s iPad. He disappeared into the stockroom to retrieve shoes with a fit that would complement Jen’s high arch and supinating feet (in case supinating is a word new to you, too). The result? Jen is killing her workouts in her new kicks! Really, she has commented, “The fit of these new shoes is making all the difference!”

This real life scenario is just one more example of how 3D scans can enhance the fit of our clothes and help designers get the kind of fit that will best serve their customers. But take yourself out of your IRL body for a moment and imagine this process in reverse. Now that we’ve figured out how to use technology to fit the actual human body, photographers, influencers, brands and designers are creating a virtual fashion world from scratch in which we all may be living in one day.

Meet Shudu.

 

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🍊🍊🍊 . . 📸@cjw.photo . #fenty #fentybeauty #mattemoiselle #sawc #3dart

A post shared by Shudu (@shudu.gram) on

She’s approaching 175,000 followers on Instagram. She walked the red carpet at the Baftas. She’s the face of the likes of Fenty and Olivier Rousteing’s Balmain army. And get this, Shudu is the 100% virtual creation of photographer Cameron-James Wilson.

Shudu is the world’s first virtual supermodel and she’s part of a growing trend. In fact, she is one of 6 virtual supermodels now “signed” to an all digital modeling agency, The Diigitals. According to Wilson, creator of Shudu and her agency,

“Here at the Diigitals, we are utilising the rising accessibility of new technologies and taking the first steps into a new frontier of digital exploration. Within this collaborative hub, we will demonstrate the potential of 3D fashion modelling and showcase its applications for innovative brands. Acting as both a showroom to illustrate possibilities and a gallery where a portfolio of diverse digital identities can be appreciated, The Diigitals erases the boundaries between reality and the digital.”

                           Virtual models signed to The Diigitals agency

And here is where I become torn on the topic of “erasing the boundaries between reality and the digital.”

On first thought, I love the idea of visually creating anyone or anything (clothing included) our minds can dream up. But as I start to think about Shudu’s rise in popularity, I can’t help but think of how her existence might affect the fashion industry at large one day. While a human is responsible for Shudu’s existence, Shudu had started to take on a life of her own, which could cost IRL models, marketers and designers their jobs.

Virtual models don’t have bills to pay or need travel arrangements and accommodations to take part in a photoshoot. In other words, booking a virtual model may be a cost effective option when it comes to marketing campaigns. But at what cost? Real models lose out on opportunities for work, not to mention the risks we run in reversing all the progress we’ve made in terms of celebrating real bodies.

When it comes to selling clothing, the fact that many live their lives virtually as social media influencers is beginning to change the way clothing is designed, sold and worn as well. Designers have started to create virtual collections, perfect for those influencers who have built their brands based on “outfits of the day.” Rarely repeating a look becomes much easier when you can send a designer a photo and have an outfit designed digitally to be worn the next day (and at a fraction of the cost of IRL clothing).

Take Swedish brand Carlings, for example. For the low cost of $10 – $30, you can send a photo, select a Carlings design and it’s yours to wear on Instagram. Here’s how it works:

On the upside, think of how this type of clothing reduces IRL waste from the fashion industry, a cause Carlings stands firmly behind. And just imagine…those who covet brands usually far out of their price range, may be able to afford a virtual piece of Balmain, Chanel or Prada, etc.

But as educators who see such value in the art and craft of clothing made to fit on actual human bodies, we will always advocate for valuing both the technological advancements in our industry as well as the irreplaceable contributions of the makers in fashion. We value all designers’ work whether conceived on a dress form, pattern table or in Photoshop. We also advocate for discussion and thought around the ethical decisions we will make as the world around us changes, so please feel free to share your comments on this topic below. We look forward to hearing from you.

Sustainability Takes Center Stage at NY and London Fashion Weeks

We are in the thick of F/W 2019 runway shows and presentations across the globe. From New York to London and Paris to Milan, each new season brings attention to emerging designers, established houses and a host of hot topics in fashion. Every once in a while, those of us who have seen season after season of fashion, begin to sense a shift. Now is one of those times. Read More

High-Tech Future of Retail – Behind the Scenes

Picture1

The High-Tech Future of Retail is coming, and it may be closer than we think.   Customers are demanding improvements to the apparel experience, and the Retail industry is actively responding.  This blog highlights some of the research and development in process to bring the High-Tech Future of Retail to the everyday Retail customer.  This group of industry leaders and researchers are focusing on automating the experience of product selection and fit, for improved time to market, and product customization, particularly to regard to bespoke fit.

From Foot Scans to AI-Based Style Recommendations – Italy

The fashion industry is transitioning to Direct-to-Consumer and Product-as-Service models, thanks to the automation of product customization and associated personalization-for-style processes. This is known as mass customization in the US and in Europe as an industrial approach to retail Made-to-Order and its extreme option of made-to-measure.  An Italian company, ELSE-Corp, has expanded on this concept by incorporating Deep Learning and Small Data oriented versions of Artificial Intelligence (AI) for use in fashion design, retail and manufacturing.

Their Virtual Couture Fashion™, is a vision for a Real Time Fashion System bringing AI driven design, new technologies, an improved value chain, a completely new business model and novel manufacturing methods to the Fashion industry. It aims to accelerate the transformation of the industry towards a direct-to-consumer, customer-pull approach; enhancing the customer’s virtual shopping experience and optimizing the Virtual Retail value and service delivery chain using 3D and 2D computer aided design (CAD), teamed with AI.

The Big Data approach focuses on general business intelligence, with multi-channel analytics and real-time demand planning.

Permission granted by Andrey Golub, ELSE Corp

Permission granted by Andrey Golub, ELSE Corp

The Small Data approach focuses on personal (AI-driven) demand for optimized product design and retailing.

Permission granted by Andrey Golub, ELSE Corp

Permission granted by Andrey Golub, ELSE Corp

The Virtual Couture Fashion™ system provides accurate predictions of the style and size/ shape needs of individual customers, while forecasting product demand and improving supply chain planning and optimization.  Just-in-time on-demand manufacturing is made possible, and customer needs are met through either product customization or algorithms that search for products likely to fit based on customer characteristics.  Brands benefit from better customer satisfaction and better on-demand planning.  The environmental impact of the global fashion industry is improved through less wasteful practices related to excess inventory and customer returns.

How will customer needs and preferences impact retail in the future?

Links:

https://www.else-corp.com/

www.virtual-couture.org

Dreams of Retailer and Brands – Belgium/ The Netherlands

The dream of a Retailer: “Empower customer with their unique data, use our knowledge to get the data to her and in the end, she can shop seamlessly without any effort in any channel that she likes.”

Lien Van de Velde from Van de Velde Lingerie and Swimwear, on a PI Apparel’s Fashion Made podcast, explains the behind-the-scenes of development of an on-line try-on augmented reality tool or app. Expanding their company’s mission to improve the self-image of women through fashionable lingerie and fitting assistance to be in all channels, (in-store, on-line or mobile app). 

Utilizing their Summer 2018 Lingerie Collection, Van de Velde tested the app with core customers in their central Amsterdam store. They were surprised to learn that Millennials (age 18-25) still enjoyed interacting with a fitting expert in selecting proper fitting and fashionable bras. Customers judged this to be even more important than using an avatar that reflected the customer or the ability to share their choices with friends. Testing of the app began in Summer 2018 and still under development.

Permission granted from Lien Ven De Velde, Van de Velde Lingerie and Swimwear

Permission granted from Lien Ven De Velde, Van de Velde Lingerie and Swimwear

How to keep the brand’s strengths with the new technology?

Links:

https://www.vandevelde.eu/en

Brands – Marie Jo, PrimaDonna, Andres Sarda, sold in Rigby & Peller, Lincherie, and Private Shops

http://apparel.pi.tv/

Podcast: titled the “Virtually Trying On Lingerie”, Oct 30th, 2018

From Scans to Patterns – Canada

The Clone BlockTM, developed by Emma Scott of Fashion Should Empower (Vancouver Island, BC, Canada), offers to solve the problem of garment fit for body shape with a new method of translating body dimensions to a 2D pattern.  An inability to quantify body shape has hindered the automation of fit.  Scanning allows for a quick understanding of the customer’s body shape but without a method to quantify it, custom pattern shaping must rely on trial and error fittings to perfect fit.  Traditional methods of body shape assessment merely approximate shape (twin block).  The Clone BlockTM replicates the body in 2D thereby offering a mathematical representation and a new approach to garment fit assessment compatible with automated technologies. Where traditional garment fit assessment practices have previously relied on the comparison of 1D (tape measure) measurements, the Clone BlockTM offers a 2D assessment compatible with 3D technologies.

By permitting the comparison of the body shape inherent in the garment, to the body shape of a unique individual, sizing recommendations can more accurately be focused on pattern shaping and fit preference than sizing charts.  As quoted from Emma Scott’s paper presented at the 3D Body Tech 2018 conference, and shown in Figure 10 from the paper, “Body shape dictates the amount of hidden ease (affecting fit preference) available as it directly relates to shaping of the pattern during the design process.”

Permission granted by Emma Scott, Fashion Should Empower

Permission granted by Emma Scott, Fashion Should Empower

How do we make the Little Black Dress look good on every Body?

How will 3D body scanning impact pattern-making and understanding of garment ease?

Links:

https://fashionshouldempower.ca/

http://www.3dbody.tech/

From Scans to Patterns – UK

What do Aerospace engineering and pattern making have in common? At the University of Manchester, U.K., a collaborative project between the School of Materials and the School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering developed the JBlock2D package – an automatic block-creation-geometry library. This library is the beginning of new open source software dedicated to the realization of a fully-automated custom-clothing production process.  The key is to create pattern blocks that accurately reflect the shape and proportion of customers.  The JBlock2D forms a platform for the analysis of pattern-to-person relationships coupled with body scanning.

Dr. Simeon Gill’s research (School of Materials) focuses on how patterns are related to the body and how this relationship drives the product.  His work will be facilitated by body scanning and analysis that allows for algorithm directed measurement, and thereby leads to a better understanding of body shape. Dr. Simeon Gill is convinced that pattern drafting can only really evolve in tandem with body scanning.

The current version of JBlock2D library includes 2D geometrical features that mimic the geometries used in traditional hand-created garment pattern blocks.  The library can be used to automate any pattern drafting method. The goal is to enable mass-market automation of custom apparel production and perhaps improve and ultimately standardize pattern drafting methods. There is a guide on YouTube showing how the JBlock2D software provides and interface to create dxf patterns drafted to an individual’s measurements directly from a SizeStream body scanner. It allows for direct creation of individual pattern blocks.

Body to Bodice

Permission granted by Simeon Gill, University of Manchester, UK

Permission granted by Simeon Gill, University of Manchester, UK

Scan to Pattern Bodice

Permission granted by Simeon Gill, University of Manchester, UK

Permission granted by Simeon Gill, University of Manchester, UK

Will 3D scanning cause the pattern drafting techniques to converge?

Links:

https://www.adriantheengineer.co.uk/single-post/JBlock2D2018

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V5zsIK7ZCv4&t=6s

Definition of terms – Global

The High-Tech Future of Retail will also require new vocabulary and terms. The common terms of sloper versus block are sometimes used interchangeability.  However, as Rochelle New noted on the website Craftsy.com: “a sloper is a type of basic pattern that is used as the building block for all other patternmaking. Slopers are drafted based on specific body measurements and do not include a seam allowance, wearing ease, or any other design elements. They are simply a representation of a three-dimensional model in two-dimensional form.”

Clone BlockTM:  A Clone BlockTM is a mathematical representation of 3D body scanned data and translated to 2D, it replaces the traditional sloper or block with a block that mirrors body shape. While like other traditional blocks, in that it is base pattern from which other designs may be made, proprietary landmarks make the Clone BlockTM uniquely suited for technological platforms.  Unlike traditional garment blocks which use static unchanging darting and shaping, the Clone BlockTM is digitally marked for body shape parametrization with darting and shaping that adjust to match 3D body scanned data. Void of seam allowances, wearing ease and design elements, the Clone BlockTM can serve the purpose of a traditional block while also providing the foundation for mass garment customization.

JBlock2D: a JBlock2D is a type of basic pattern stored in a digital library that is used as a building block for all other patternmaking. A JBlock2D pattern is generated from body scans, thus allowing for improved understanding of body shape, as derived from body measurements extracted from the point cloud.  The JBlock2D library allows for seam allowance, wearing ease or any other pertinent design elements.

Sloper

Permission granted by Craftsy.com

Permission granted by Craftsy.com

Clone Block

Permission granted by Emma Scott, Fashion Should Empower

Permission granted by Emma Scott, Fashion Should Empower

Will 3D scanning create new definitions for very similar items that have manual or digital versions?

Links:

https://www.craftsy.com/sewing/article/making-a-sloper/

From Scans to Designs – UK

At Sheffield Hallam University, U.K., technology from the research centers are being used to enhance teaching and learning in fashion.  During the Semester 2 (Winter 2019), fashion design students will use 3D- imaging technology (developed by the Centre for Sports Engineering Research) to explore design in new ways. A video presentation, created with students, will demonstrate the potential of this collaboration.

Dr Alice Bullas, a researcher from Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre, Sport and Health Innovation, provided the details of the project.  As she explained in a project write-up “A member of the Centre for Sports Engineering Research Centre will teach members of the Fashion Design degree how to use a custom 3D scanning system (manufactured for the purpose of this project). Each student will have the opportunity to be scanned so that they are given a ‘virtual mannequin’ of themselves. A 3D likeness in a pose of their choice. The Fashion Design teaching team will work with the students and their virtual mannequins to explore designs, material choices and the way in which materials and designs interact over body shapes and forms. This will be done in an existing 3D design package.”

Towards the end of the project, a video will be produced which details: the technology that has been developed, the designs, creations and experiences of the students and the wider contexts for this technology. This video will be the core of a social media campaign which aims to showcase the project and what it produced. The intention is to repeat the project year on year.

Will designers understand body shape better with 3D scanning?

Links:

https://shu.ac.uk/research/specialisms/advanced-wellbeing-research-centre

Humming the Lyrics – US

As a WSJ article stated in “9 Movies That Can Teach Your Children About Business”, the movie Singing in the Rain reminds us that coping with change is a forever process. Strategies for learning how to work with new technologies are a lifelong skill.  Singing in the Rain shows how a movie studio made the transition from silent film to talkies.   The new technology referenced in that movie has now been around for over 100 years and is available even on your phone.  So, at the end of the day, when all the new technology gets overwhelming, just start humming the lyrics from a classic song….

Remember even old technologies were new, once upon a time.

Links:

https://www.wsj.com/articles/nine-movies-that-can-teach-your-children-about-business-1543201740

WHAT TO EXPECT IN FASHION 2019

Team Maison Martin Margiela (Courtesy:Edward Enninful Instagram)

Team Maison Martin Margiela (Courtesy:Edward Enninful Instagram)

Diversity and inclusion have not always been synonymous with the fashion industry, but in 2018 fashion finally “got woke.” Millennials and Gen Zers, the industry’s new generation of consumers, are much more politically active and brands are now realizing that to stay relevant, they need to take a stand on racism, gun control and socio-political issues. The age of ‘corporate neutrality’ is over.

Watchdogs like Diet Prada have become the fashion police, calling out brands for their missteps. With one million Instagram followers (and growing), the duo of Tony Liu and Lindsey Schuyler are a force to be reckoned with.

Nike’s decision to take a stand, using Colin Kaepernick in its 30th anniversary ad campaign, turned out to be a one of its smartest marketing moves yet. Gucci, who has been taking a stand on issues since 2013 with their ‘Chime for Change’ campaign (advocating for women’s rights and anti-poverty efforts), took on gun control in 2018 with a $500,000 donation to March for Our Lives, in support of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Other designers have supported gun control over the past few years too, including Kenneth Cole, Tom Ford, Christian Siriano and Zac Posen.

For those brands who are clinging to ‘neutrality’ for fear that they’ll alienate their customer base, we offer this information, because learning from past mistakes is one thing, but putting what is learned into practice is another. So, let’s reflect back and then take a peek into the future of where fashion has been and where it hopes to go (and grow).

LOOKING BACK TO MOVE FORWARD

Historically, fashion as an industry has primarily catered to a “rich, thin and white” demographic. Think Charles Frederick Worth (1856) and all of those lovely French aristocrats, and the birth of haute couture. It wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution, the invention of standardized sizing followed by the concept of ready-to-wear, that fashion’s demographic expanded. However, fashion marketing and advertising lagged behind in terms of diversity and inclusion, especially within fashion magazines, runway models, and even among fashion designers.

 DIVERSITY: IN MAGAZINES

 Donyale Luna, Beverly Johnson, Naomi Campbell (Courtesy: Pinterest)

Donyale Luna, Beverly Johnson, Naomi Campbell (Courtesy: Pinterest)

The first black woman to grace a fashion magazine cover was Donyale Luna, who appeared in British Vogue in March 1966, shot by photographer David Bailey. The iconic cover image showed Luna covering most of her face, which was allegedly a request of the magazine’s editors to help mask her ethnicity. At the time, it was not popular to put a colored woman in a high-level fashion brand, nor on a luxury fashion magazine cover. Donyanle Luna, an American, is known as the first black supermodel.

It took 8 more years for U.S. Vogue to feature a woman of color. In 1974, Beverly Johnson broke America’s glass ceiling with her Vogue cover photographed by Francesco Scavullo. Johnson’s blackness was not itself the subject of the cover. Instead, Vogue presented a vision of elegant beauty that was relatable, real, and totally about the times. But as Johnson said herself, it was not easy to get there due to her race.

It took 14 more years for French Vogue to feature a woman of color on their cover. In 1988 Naomi Campbell became the first colored woman in the magazine, even though she had been working with renowned designers. In fact, Yves Saint Laurent threatened to take away their magazine advertising in order to make this happen.

Gemma Ward & Du Juan (Courtesy: Pinterest)                    Fei Fei Sun (Courtesy: Vogue)

Gemma Ward & Du Juan (Courtesy: Pinterest) Fei Fei Sun (Courtesy: Vogue)

The lack of diversity in magazines was not exclusive to Afro descendants. The Asian community only got its first model cover in 2005, shot Patrick Demarchelier for French Vogue.  However, Chinese model Du Juan had to share the cover with Australian supermodel Gemma Ward. It would take another 8 years for an Asian model to get a solo cover, this time Fei Fei Sun for Italian Vogue in 2013.

These examples of models from diverse backgrounds were more often treated as tokens or novelties, rather than representing a real market demographic. Fashion brands didn’t see the need for including these and other diverse populations and therefore neglected a broader share of the market. By placing importance on ‘exclusiveness’, rather than realizing and embracing the idea of diversity and inclusion, brands actually missed a major opportunity for increased profitability.

DIVERSITY: ON THE RUNWAY

Eleanor Lambert’s Battle of Versailles 1973 fashion show

Eleanor Lambert’s Battle of Versailles 1973 fashion show

Diversity on the fashion runway was non-existent until 1973 when American publicist Eleanor Lambert introduced American fashion to Europe at the Palace of Versailles. Lambert was the first to use 12 black models in her fashion show. However ground-breaking that 1973 show was, several decades would pass with predominately white models walking the runway, featured in advertising campaigns and on magazine covers.

HOW GLOBALIZATION AFFECTED THE FASHION INDUSTRY

By 2008 things began to change in fashion as a result of globalization. An increase in international travel and intercultural exposure, a high volume of migration and mass movement of consumers, as well as the rapid growth of information and communication though social media platforms, were all catalysts for change. Society was evolving, and this was no better reflected than in the election of the first black U.S. president, Barack Obama, followed by the first woman chancellor elected in Germany, Angela Merkel. Increased visibility for the LGBTQ movement around the world, social responsibility and the sustainability movement all came together to awaken the world and the fashion industry.

 

(Courtesy:Vogue)

(Courtesy:Vogue)

In July 2008, U.S. Vogue published an article entitled, Is Fashion Racist? The article addressed the elephant in the room. It spoke to how fashion runway shows concentrated on a single homogeneous look, “the same procession of anonymous, blandly pretty, very young, very skinny, washed-out blondes with their hair scraped back.”  This acknowledgement, in such a highly regarded publication, forced the industry to rethink their strategy. The problem was not only a lack of diverse models on the runway, but also in magazines, in fashion campaigns and other related fashion branded products. This marked a long overdue turning point in the industry, one that had taken more than 35 years to get to, ever since the first British Vogue cover featuring Donyale Luna in 1966.

FASHION ‘GOT WOKE’ IN 2018 

As millennials and GenZers became important market cohorts, a more socially-conscious fashion industry began to emerge. Words like ‘transparency,’ ‘carbon-footprint’, ‘fair trade,’ ‘gender equality,’ ‘androgynous,’ and ‘gender-binary,’ as well as movements like “MeToo’ and “Time’s Up’, did much to change the conversation, especially between 2016 and 2018. We finally began to see the fashion industry’s positive response to diversity, inclusion and other issues.

Dolce & Gabbana 2018 (Courtesy: The Fashion Spot)

Dolce & Gabbana 2018 (Courtesy: The Fashion Spot)

According to the The Fashion Spot, the fall 2018 fashion campaigns were the most diverse in terms of race with 35% of the models in the campaigns were non-white and it has been an upward trend since 2016. In addition, runway shows for Spring 2019 were the most racially diverse ever with 36% of all castings across New York, London, Milan and Paris went to models of color compared to 17% in 2015.

Diverse magazine covers 2018 (Courtesy: Pinterest)

Diverse magazine covers 2018 (Courtesy: Pinterest)

The 2018 September issues of fashion magazines, which are the most anticipated and that sell the most copies with the highest number of pages and advertisements, were also the most diverse ever. A total of 16 magazines brought their A game, featuring Afro descendants on their covers, something never before seen in the fashion industry.

Courtesy of the Cut (Yalitza Aparicio)

Courtesy of the Cut (Yalitza Aparicio)

And let’s not forget the spectacular cover of Vogue Mexico for January 2019, which featured Yalitza Aparicio, a Mixteco indigenous descendant actress from the movie Roma. It is the first time an indigenous descendant was featured in the magazine.

March 2017 Vogue’s “Diverse Cover” (Courtesy: Vogue)

March 2017 Vogue’s “Diverse Cover” (Courtesy: Vogue)

And although Vogue’s March 2017 ‘diverse cover’ was slammed for not being diverse enough, we saw a range of models that included Chinese model Lui Wen, American plus-sized model Ashley Graham, American model Kendall Jenner, American model Gigi Hadid (Dutch and Palestinian descent), Dutch model Imaan Hammam (of Egyptian and Moroccan descent), British model Adwoa Aboah (British and Ghanaian descent) and Italian model Vittoria Ceretti.

DIVERSITY IS MORE THAN COLOR

During the past few years, we have also learned that diversity is not only about color, it is also about body size, ethnicity, gender and age inclusivity and therefore the definition of what it means to be a ‘diverse’ model has changed. Since 2017, The Fashion Spot has included age, size, transgender to measure diversity on the runway.

Ashley Graham plus-size model (Courtesy: The Fashion Spot)

Ashley Graham plus-size model (Courtesy: The Fashion Spot)

We have seen the popularity of plus size models increase. In 2016, Ashley Graham became the first plus-size model to appear on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue and in January 2017, had her first British Vogue cover. Graham has been part of major fashion shows, from Dolce & Gabbana to Michael Kors and Christian Soriano, and has landed important jewelry campaigns, such as David Yurman Fall 2018.

73-year-old model Betty Catroux (Courtesy: The Fashion Spot)

73-year-old model Betty Catroux (Courtesy: The Fashion Spot)

Age barriers were finally torn down in 2018, as models over the age of 50 were chosen for runway shows and advertising campaigns at luxury fashion houses. In fact, Saint Laurent announced 73-year-old Betty Catroux as the face of creative director Anthony Vaccarello’s Fall 2018 ad campaign. Eighteen women over the age of 50 starred in a total of 11 campaigns for Fall 2018, not including 44-year-old supermodel Amber Valletta, who, with seven campaigns to her name, was one of the season’s most-booked model.

Adut Akech (Courtesy:Pinterest)

Adut Akech (Courtesy:Pinterest)

And let’s not forget my favorite model of the year, Adut Akech, a South Sudan refugee, that since her debut in 2017 at Saint Laurent, has robbed the hearts of the most acclaimed fashion houses, including Chanel and Valentino, and is disrupting the meaning of beauty in fashion today. Diversity and inclusivity are definitely on the front row of fashion and are here to stay.

DIVERSITY BEHIND THE SCENES

I have always been interested in fashion, ever since I was 9 years old. As an Afro-Latino woman, I always wondered why models on the runway didn’t look like me. Curves and color were not exactly popular in the industry as I was growing up in the 1980s and 90s. So, you can imagine how exciting this moment in fashion is for me. However, I am still concerned about things that happen (or don’t) behind the scenes.

I started working in the fashion industry in 2005, and I can assure you that corporate positions at internationally acclaimed fashion houses are not very diverse. In 2017, Business of Fashion examined 15 of the largest public companies in fashion. They concluded that, “the vast majority (73 percent) are led by white male chief executives. On average, men and women of any ethnic minority represented only 11 percent of the board of directors at these companies.”

This is an extremely low statistic. Brands cannot adopt a language of inclusion and diversity in their marketing campaigns without extending this inclusivity to the boardroom and to the business branch of a company. According to a McKinsey & Company report entitled, “Delivering through Diversity”, companies with the most ethnically/culturally diverse boards are 43% more likely to deliver higher profits, because they are more likely to attract and retain talent, as well as improve customer service decisions.” So, why are fashion’s corporate offices not more on board with diversity when it benefits everyone? Hopefully, that will begin to change.

We not only need representation of ethnically diverse people at magazines, on runways, and in ad campaigns, we also need fashion managers of different cultures, color, size, age and gender. Choosing people who represent the world in which we currently live, and who understand, first hand, the needs of different types of consumers, has proven to be more profitable for those brands who have become more inclusive.

So, here’s my 2019 wish list for the fashion industry, in terms of diversity and inclusion:

1.     Appoint more designers with cultural and color diversity at major fashion houses, following the example of Virgil Abloh for Louis Vuitton, who perfectly understands emerging subcultures.

Virgil Abloh for Louis Vuitton (Courtesy: BoF)

Virgil Abloh for Louis Vuitton (Courtesy: BoF)

 

2.     More cosmetics and lingerie brands, such as Fenty, that are color and size inclusive and that think about the real customer.

Savage X Fenty (Courtesy: Getty Images)

Savage X Fenty (Courtesy: Getty Images)

 

3.     More influencers of ethnic diversity used for fashion brand campaigns that include a broader representation of the consumer market.

Influencers (Courtesy: BoF)

Influencers (Courtesy: BoF)

 

4.     More high-profile advocates like Beyoncé, who can help other minorities gain exposure in the fashion industry. Beyoncé created history by appointing the first black photographer, Tyler Mitchell, to shoot her 2018 September Vogue cover.

Courtesy of Instagram

Courtesy of Instagram

 

5.     More powerful Caucasian advocates who call out the lack of diversity in the fashion industry, such as Ellen Pompeo, with her Porter Magazine team.

(Courtesy: Porter Magazine)

(Courtesy: Porter Magazine)

 

6.     More important fashion magazine appointments, such as Edward Enninful, editor-in-chief of British Vogue, who has given the magazine a fresh and diverse viewpoint and who has transformed it into a more inclusive magazine that better represents the global audience it seeks to serve.

Edward Enninful – editor British Vogue (Courtesy: The Washington Post)

Edward Enninful – editor British Vogue (Courtesy: The Washington Post)

 

7.     And finally, more fashion companies that give opportunities to ethnic and culturally diverse managers who can bring a different perspective to the brand, to better serve the final consumer.

 

So, as we begin 2019, let’s hope that the fashion industry’s New Year’s Resolution will become the definition of the word ‘diversity’:  

Diversity: “the inclusion of different types of people (such as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization.”

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And, another thing we are excited about at the University of Fashion is the launch of our new three-book beginner series on Draping, Sewing and Pattern making techniques which launches on January 8, 2019.

DRAPING                        https://www.amazon.com/Draping-Techniques-Beginners-University-Fashion/dp/1786271761?tag=univeoffash00-20

Draping (Courtesy Photo)

Draping (Courtesy Photo)

 

PATTERN MAKING             https://www.amazon.com/Pattern-Making-Techniques-Beginners-University/dp/1786271966?tag=univeoffash00-20

Pattern Making (Courtesy Photo)

Pattern Making (Courtesy Photo)

 

SEWING                            https://www.amazon.com/Sewing-Techniques-Beginners-University-Fashion/dp/1786271982?tag=univeoffash00-20

Sewing (Courtesy Photo)

Sewing (Courtesy Photo)

 

 

THE NEW REIGNING GENERATION – GEN Z

Courtesy of Elle

(Courtesy of Elle)

Let’s face it, the focus of the last decade has been mostly all about Millennials (the group also known as Gen Y and Echo Boomers/the children of Baby Boomers). Millennials being the demographic cohort born between 1980 – 1994, who came of age (10 – 22 years old) between 1990 to 2004 and who represent approximately 71 million in the United States alone. Fashion brands and marketers got to know them well over the years and they expended lots of time and money understanding their shopping patterns.

But now…a new generation is taking center stage, Generation Z (also known as post-Millennials and the digital generation). Gen Z is defined as those born between the years 1995 to 2009 and who are coming of age between 2005 – 2020. Their current population is 21 million, but according to the U.S. Census, that number is projected to grow to 80 million, with spending power estimated at $200 billion annually and over $1 trillion globally in indirect spending power when you factor in their influence on parental or household purchases. Gen Zers are mega influencers and you can believe that fashion brands and retailers have been working overtime, trying to understand and cater to this new demographic.

Never mind the fact that some of this new cohort are not even old enough to vote, they are for sure driving the present and future of the fashion industry. According to a report by Barclays, “by 2020 Generation Z will be the largest group of consumers globally. They will account for 40% of consumers in the U.S., Europe and the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and 10% of the rest of the world.” This generation has huge spending power.

Gen Zers are the first generation to be connected to social media from birth. They have the capacity to share events, opinions and experiences, and are changing society at lightning speed. In addition, they are empowered on how they view life and are simultaneously setting the stage for common attitudes within their own tribe. Gen Z are living in an exceptional world, one that is very different from previous generations. Let’s explore what Gen Zers are all about.

Photo Courtesy: Getty Images, Payton Hartsell

(Photo Courtesy: Getty Images, Payton Hartsell)

Digital Natives

Millennials were introduced to the rise of social media, tablets, smart devices and the mobility/connection that the digital revolution created as they were growing up. Gen Zers, on the other hand, were born digital and therefore have no idea that this is something new. Being digital is part of their DNA and as a result they are extremely tech-savvy and are self-learners. They have never known a world whereby they couldn’t instantly get connected or find the answer to any question that crosses their mind. They literally are growing up online and are connected more than 90% of their free time.

Courtesy of Getty Images

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

Economically Conservative

Another fact about Gen Z, is that they have only known turbulence and instability, having lived through the aftermath of 9/11 and experienced war and economic recession. They may have older siblings who struggled to find work during the recession, and this has now driven them to focus on self-awareness, personal reliance, financial conservatism and hard work. Therefore, they are more conscious on how they spend their money. They are aware of volatility within the market. And although the economy is currently strong, they are very careful where they invest and spend their money, should the economy slow. This also leads them to analyze brands more carefully. Contrary to Millennials, Gen Z are less idealistic and more realistic and for that reason fashion is less about ‘fitting in’ and more about making choices that reflect their identity. They are not spending less, they are just making smarter choices that reflect who they really are.

 

Social Activists

Gen Z is the first generation that has grown up in a world that is more openly diverse than in the past. They are much more conscious about their future. Globalization has allowed the mix and migration of cultures. Most of this generation grew up having an African American president in the U.S. – Barack Obama – and a woman Chancellor in Germany – Angela Merkle, phenomena that was not even thinkable in the past. The increased attention on the LGBT and environmental movements have forced impressive changes in history, making marriage equality a reality in places such as the U.S. and India, as well as the banning of plastic bags from different places, like China and the U.K. These and other related events have shaped Generation Z. Therefore, it is no surprise that this demographic cohort looks for brands that are conscious of the environment, diversely-inclusive and that offer non-gendered products.

Courtesy Time magazine

(Courtesy Time magazine)

A Generation Empowered

Contrary to Millennials, Gen Zers didn’t grow up over protected. They have not been given trophies just for participating. This generation has not been sheltered from the evils of the world. On the other hand, parents of this generation have taught their kids how to defend themselves in a world, where there is easy access to everything. They have been educating their kids and preparing them to deal with life’s difficulties, such as internet bullies, predators, school violence, economic setbacks and career challenges. Parents of Generation Z tend to have more open and consultative relationships with their children. They are pushing stronger to prepare them for life and this has created individuals with higher expectations. This unique social environment has made them a generation that is intuitively innovative, goal-oriented and realistic.

All the social characteristics and traits discussed above, can be seen in their preferences for fashion, entertainment and advertisement. And that is why they are so interesting. They have a unique way of seeing the world, and we need to see the world through their eyes in order to cater to them correctly.

 

So, what are Gen Zers looking for?

Generation Z may be perceived as impatient with short attention spans, but they are not superficial, they are quite hungry for authenticity. They want brands that meet their real needs, and they are always looking for the better, faster and more fun option in a brand. They are looking for brands with a realistic storytelling, something that connects with their individuality and their tribe. They are not obsessing with stereotypes, or images of beauty standards that have been created so far. Instead they actually challenge those old standards, because they want to relate with brands that resembles themselves. This generation doesn’t feel the need to change to fit in, in this world. They simply want to be their own true self and they are choosing brands that honestly reflect this inclusivity and diversity.

Generation Z is highly educated, technologically savvy and naturally creative. Even if they are immersed in social media, which may seem to some as trivial, they best use it to create a positive impact in the world. Therefore, you see them more likely pointing out injustice, racism and inequality. They only want to be associated with brands that are social and environmentally responsible, or which have a greater purpose than just “selling a shirt.” They are not to be fooled, they do not fall for beautiful things without content. They may be young, but they are way advanced for their time.

 

Courtesy of Business of Fashion

(Courtesy of Business of Fashion)

How can brands and retailers connect to these savvy consumers?

Thanks to Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter, Gen Zers get to share everything they do, buy, and experience with their friends – real time. Because of this, they expect shopping to also be experiential. They don’t want to only buy “stuff,” they also want to buy the “experience,” with the product becoming an added bonus. For retailers, it’s as simple as encouraging a consumer to upload to their new outfit to Instagram, to personalize a bag with their initials, or, as complex as what some stores in N.Y.’s Soho have done, adding interactive technology, a meditation studio, or in-store basketball court among others. Retail stores are now realizing that they need to offer more than just a ‘transaction.’ A great example of this is Farfetch. Last year they launched their pop-up “Store of the Future,” where they provided a screen for customers to sign in and search for their bucket list or purchase history. They also have smart mirrors, so customers can request different sizes, alternative products or even pay without leaving the dressing room. Another example is the House of Vans London Skatepark, a location where art, music, BMX, street culture and fashion all meet up.

 

Farfetch’s  pop-up Store of the Future (Courtesy of Bloomberg)

Farfetch’s pop-up Store of the Future (Courtesy of Bloomberg)

 

House of Vans   Deep Bowl    London Skatepark                                            (Courtesy of Skateparks)

House of Vans Deep Bowl London Skatepark (Courtesy of Skateparks)

What experimental shopping tells us about Generation Z is that they care about things that connect them to other people. They are constantly looking for something that is going to stay with them, that is going to feel authentic and not robotic. Also, they are looking to ‘connect’ to the brand and the retailer. So today, smart brands realize that they must sell an experience along with their product. This experience doesn’t necessarily mean having to have complex in-store technology to ensure a remarkable customer experience, but they will need to offer a memorable interaction with the consumer. It has to be original, meaning it has to be close to the brand’s values and authenticity. The interaction needs to connect with the personality of the consumer and it needs to be unexpected and unique. It is all about personalizing the shopping experience and providing more than just a product.

As the fashion industry continues to decode the likes and preferences for Gen Z, others like futurist/demographer Mark McCrindle is leading the campaign to call anyone born after 2010 a part of Generation Alpha. According to him, 2.5 million Alphas are born around the globe every week.

 

Care to share a favorite Gen Z story of this group is helping to change the world?

Learning fashion design just got easier, thanks to UoF founder and author, Francesca Sterlacci

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Helen Ronan & Anastasia Scott (Laurence King Publishing), Francesca Sterlacci (University of Fashion), Dr. Jennifer Harmon (winner) and Jane Hegland (ITAA President)

In the fashion industry, so many of us can get swept up in the shiny end result presented on the runway during fashion week or the most viewed Instagram story of the day or perhaps, the must-have It Bag of the season.

And sometimes, the work of the dedicated, behind-the-scenes professionals who make It Bags and Instagram-worthy content possible in the first place, can go unnoticed. In this post, I’m not talking about hard-working designers, pattern makers and sewers—I’m going one step further behind the scenes to feature someone who works tirelessly to support designers in every which way she can—University of Fashion founder, Francesca Sterlacci. Read More

Marc my words, Jacobs was the best NYFW had to offer

I know I am late to this party, but I finally had the chance to see the Alexander McQueen documentary. If you’ve been under the same rock I have, check out the trailer here. Then, make sure to stream the full length version.

The reason I bring up the McQueen documentary is that it reminds me of a time when fashion shows told tales, the viewer was taken on a visceral journey, and when fashion felt like art, not necessarily commerce. As I sat down to write yet another NYFW review, I realized that I have been covering fashion weeks for over a decade. Whether as a wanna-be fashion student, actual fashion student, designer or blogger, I’ve clicked through countless slides, attended umpteen shows and shown my own collection at NYFW.

While I identify most with the “little guy/gal,” I have big expectations from well-established designers with financial resources and substantial backing. With very few exceptions (especially since Thom Browne packed up for Paris), I rarely see the likes of a McQueen-worthy vision on New York runways. So with McQueen as my guide, I’ve selected the most exhilarating, tale-telling collection (in my humble opinion, of course) by an established player in the NY fashion scene to cover this NYFW. And the honor goes to…none other than Marc Jacobs.

This is not to say that Ralph Lauren’s 50th anniversary collection or Raf Simons showing for Calvin Klein shouldn’t receive a mention, but three elements push Marc Jacobs S/S 2019 collection to the top.

A response to the cultural/societal/political landscape

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Trans Model Finn Buchanan Image: Vogue.com

Much like movies were an escape during the Great Depression, I think Marc Jacobs’ confectionary creations for S/S 2019 offered us a bit of an escape from negative news, a growing division between people and an impending and intense political cycle.  But just because Jacobs’ larger-than-life ensembles were bright, well-crafted eye candy, doesn’t mean there wasn’t a serious stance embedded in the fluff. Models of all races graced the inclusive Jacobs’ runway, as did trans models, Finn Buchanan and Dara Allen.

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Trans Model Dara Allen Image: Vogue.com

An inspired story

Sometimes I play a little game with myself, just to keep things interesting. I do my best to study a collection, feel the feels and then give my best stab at the designer’s inspiration before reading a word of a review. Marc Jacobs sited a 1960s Barbara Streisand as inspiration for S/S 2019, but a more detailed story played out in my head. So whether my story has anything to do with Jacobs original inspiration or not, the fact that his collection inspired such a tale means it was a collection that sparked imagination—a “Marc” of an exquisite collection.

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Image: Vogue.com

The 60s reference was clear in hair and makeup, but the volume and silhouettes were a far cry from the mini dresses popularized in the 60s. I imagined vivid scenes from the 1967 cult classic Valley of the Dolls in which three girls found their way into showbiz, became famous and depended on “uppers,” sleeping pills, and diet pills (which they called “dolls”) to sustain a life in Hollywood.

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The top hats, the ruffled collars, the oversized bows and rosettes felt doll-like and the voluminous cloud confections felt like “doll”-induced hazes in which the models were floating down the runway. And then there’s the pastel heavy color palette…call me “on dolls,” but I couldn’t help draw a few parallels.

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Images: Vogue.com

Artistry fulfilling both fantasy and function

Yes, the Pierrot collars may have been over the top, but look underneath. Jackets with the kind of purpose and wearability any power player would be proud to don. Pleats and wide leg trousers gave new meaning to “power suit.”

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Image: Vogue.com

Take away some of the styling and take a look at the phenomenal cut of Jacobs’ garments. The drape on the jacket below alone…

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As Vogue’s Nicole Phelps claims, and this blogger seconds, Marc Jacobs “is New York’s keeper of the fashion flame.” Bravo. Again, bravo.

Your turn. Which S/S NYFW collections inspired you? And more importantly, why? Comment below!

Rare Kicks Auctioned to Kick Slave Labor in the Fashion Industry

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Pictured above: Kith X Nike LeBron James XV, Long Live the King Part II, 2018

This summer, the rarest, most coveted sneaker collaborations were on view on Park Avenue at the Tongue + Chic, Sneakers  X Artists exhibition. The exhibition ran for only about a month and a half, and we were lucky to make it in before the closing date of August 31. Sneakerheads came from near and far (and formed lines around the block) just to get a glimpse of famous collaborations between Nike, Converse, Puma, Reebok and various artists and influencers. Read More