The impending New Year calls for a collective reflection on the defining events and attitudes of 2018. How has fashion contributed to the tumultuous sentiment of the previous year? While fashion’s fantastical and exuberant nature never fails to provide a necessary means of escapism, it remains emblematic of contemporary culture. Therefore, it is no surprise the industry has contributed and responded to persisting social issues shaking up 2018
Rather than choose sumptuous sartorial options, the 2018 Golden Globes saw celebrity after celebrity arrive to the red carpet dressed in black head to toe. The universal color was decided in the wake of allegations of sexual misconduct made against the illustrious Hollywood mogul, Harvey Weinstein in October 2017. The industry convened for the first time since the revelation at the 75th annual Golden Globes, and the ubiquity of black dresses reflected the solemn yet unified sentiment amongst the attendees in the film and television industry. Celebrities used fashion to visually condemn the harassment and inequality experienced by (especially) women. But the night’s political actions did not end with the guests’ vestimentary choices. Actresses like Meryl Streep and Emma Watson invited activists to join them on the red carpet as their plus ones, while accolade winners like Oprah Winfrey used the time of their acceptance speech as an opportunity to take a political stance.
The imminent danger of climate change is of global concern, and recent natural disasters have alluded to future catastrophic consequences, unless significant action is taken immediately. The deadly wildfires that destroyed Northern California in November left 1,000 people unaccounted for and 71 declared dead. Despite the unprecedented menace of these wildfires, President Donald Trump remains unconcerned of climate change. On Twitter, the President blamed “gross mismanagement of the forests” for the outbreak of the fires, which is no surprise considering he vowed to drop out of the Paris climate agreement when it commences in 2020. With President Trump’s ascendency, the responsibility to combat climate change rests even more on the public. Representative-Elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and young activists created The Green New Deal, reminiscent of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s original New Deal in the 1930s, as a solution to climate change. The Green New Deal is a program of investments in clean-energy jobs and infrastructure. It is meant to transform both the energy sector and the entire economy simultaneously. The fashion industry has mirrored this initiative, with more consumers and labels hankering to buy and produce sustainably. In 2018, Lyst reported a 47% increase in consumers searching for fashions with ethical and style credentials like “vegan leather” and “organic cotton.” French Footwear company Veja stood out as a pioneer in the industry, releasing a website in March that traces every material used to make their shoes, including the growers that harvest the raw materials. The footwear brand already used environmentally-friendly materials such as organic cotton, recycled polyester, and B-mesh made from recycled plastic bottles, but it now offers unmatched transparency and serves as a trailblazing example for other retailers.
The concept of inclusion remains a theme of and ongoing battle in American culture. From President Trump’s demand to build a billion dollar wall on the US-Mexico boarder to the firing of tear gas at the migrant caravan to Trump’s temporary yet significant executive order to separate migrant families at the boarder, 2018 has been upsetting and controversial for many. On the other hand, six new U.S. cities held their first pride parades. Fashion unsurprisingly contributes to 2018’s juxtaposition between harmful exclusion and unprecedented inclusion. The runway not only acts as a stage showcasing the latest fashions, but it can also be used to indicate the types of beauty the industry deems acceptable. Inclusion of members from the LGBTQ+ community as well as myriad of races and figures is vital to making fashion accessible to all. In recent years, fashion has applauded the lingerie industry, most notably brands like Aerie, ThirdLove, and Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty, for promoting self-acceptance and body positivity by casting diverse models and running photoshop-free campaigns. However, the quintessential American lingerie business, Victoria’s Secret, remains behind its competitors. The 2018 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show proved to be a disappointment, with only 5’10”, size 2, and white models storming the runway. How will 2019 keep the momentum towards inclusion and what setbacks will the year bring? Only time will tell, but in the meantime, reflecting on 2018 will set the context for the year to come.
While considering potential New Year’s resolutions, consider how you might address these issues in everyday life. Write a list of goals in a journal, and as 2019 unfolds, it will serve to remind you of the great potential of 2019.