Raincoats and anoraks are flexing their Gore-Tex and ripstop credentials over skimpy bikinis on international runways. As our seasons blur and weather becomes more erratic, brands from Marine Serre to Moschino have taken to presenting hybrid outfits for a season-neutral appeal. Clear vinyl trench coats are trending no doubt because they put on full display the cute outfit underneath while offering protection from the elements.
As one of the world’s most polluting industries, the complex challenges before our industry to eliminate its poor practices are being echoed every morning as we contemplate our closets and try to rise to the challenges of dressing for the unpredictable.
According to most recent data from NASA “Most of the warming occurred in the past 35 years, with the five warmest years on record taking place since 2010. Not only was 2016 the warmest year on record, but eight of the 12 months that make up the year — from January through September, with the exception of June — were the warmest on record for those respective months.” And the only change predicted by experts is that ice sheets will continue to shrink, oceans to warm and micro plastics to linger.
The apparel industry’s buying calendar which had been static for years, and usually saw sweaters and outerwear begin to hit stores in late summer, has been thrown asunder. Fashion retailer, Superdry, issued a report this fall in which it estimated profits will come in 10 million pounds lower than expected due to this year’s unusually warm weather in the U.K., continental Europe and the east coast of the U.S. If consumers can not find weather-suitable options in brick and mortar, they go on-line or else head for the clearance rack. During the transition period from mid-August to early-October, according to a September report from Met Office and the British Retail Consortium, for every degree warmer it gets compared to the previous year, sales are reduced by 1.1 percent, which is equivalent to 40 million pounds per week.
The ability to respond to unseasonable weather is critical as downpour and heatwave can mean boom or bust for businesses. Agility in logistics and marketing is key. Working with suppliers who can ship according to consumers’ immediate needs is why fast fashion can win in the battle to counteract the climate confusion within our closets. But the ethical irresponsibility and disposability associated with fast fashion has contributed to our industry’s enormous environmental footprint––so we win the battle but not the war.
Addressing how people shop is no doubt behind Prada’s relaunch of Linea Rossa which boasts weather-friendly fabric innovations as well as tapping into our insatiable nostalgia for all things 90s. The original athleisure label, its relaunch ad campaign features jumping, running tech-attired models in a digital world of swirling, pelting neon rays, while the glimpses of the famous red strip (the linea rossa) celebrates the collision of fashion and extreme weather. Getting technical with materials that counter the chaos, and prioritizing innovations around temperature-regulating fabrics is also forefront in collaborations such as Stella McCartney X Parley X Adidas. The solar-charged jacket by Vollebak is interesting but what will be the potential for its prototype Graphene jacket which the company describes as the “the lightest, strongest, most conductive material ever discovered, and has the same potential to change life on Earth as stone, bronze and iron once did”?
Innovation is heating up.
Fashion editor Jackie Mallon is also an educator and author of Silk for the Feed Dogs, a novel set in the international fashion industry.Photos CatwalkPictures.com. Prada Facebook and FashionUnited.