In fashion, big is the new beautiful: Major labels like Calvin Klein are rolling out roomy, oversize collections. The fashion industry’s embrace of ill-defined silhouettes and multiple layers at the expense of bodycon styles coincides curiously with the timing of the #MeToo movement. See this story in the Wall Street Journal.
Sure, the rise of #MeToo is one angle. More women are assuming an I'm-not-here-to-look-good-for-men attitude. Might this ultimately lead to a more premodern approach to fashion, wherein women cover or shroud themselves in public? There may be something to this: See our piece last spring ("The Hijab Has a Moment") on the growing popularity of defiantly modest fashions even among non-Muslims.
Weirdly, at a time when French Millennials have stopped going to topless beaches, French authorities are trying to arrest sunbathers dressed in burkinis.
There's also the inclusivity angle. Behind the sniggers about "zaftig is back" and "shower curtain chic" is a desire for fashion that doesn't always showcase body shape.
Of course, "[T]he idea of being comfortable and not pleasing someone else" (as one designer in this article puts it) is an existential threat to the fashion industry if it continues to gain momentum.
Which leads us to some bigger issues.
The accelerating decline of apparel as an industry is already underway--driven by the evaporation of formal dress standards for work and travel; the rise of the sharing economy and "thrift shop fashion" among Millennials; and the metastatic spread of low-margin "fast fashion" throwaway dress.
- The dry cleaning business is in a free fall.
- Many high-end designers are abandoning the New York runway show.
- For the first time, Americans spend more on electronics than clothes (back in the 1980s, they spent ten times more on clothes).
The industry may have to reinvent itself to survive (see: "Fashion, Fast and Slow").
One more angle is how badly upmarket fashion brands were hit in the recent market sell off: While the 30-day total S&P is off -5%; the 30-day S&P luxury index is off -14%. Along with the hemline index, this may be one more cyclical indicator showing real weakness.