Fashion reflects social changes
Fashion reflects social changes

5 Signs That Will Help You to Understand How Fashion Reflects Social Changes

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With the rise of social media has come the complete explosion of streetwear. Indeed, social platforms have provided a space for individuals to take self-expression to another level. Yet fashion has always been about personality. And as individuals make history, reflecting on their ever-changing identities also means reflecting on history. Clothes are like windows into particular points in time. Evidently, fashion reflects social changes.

Certainly, fashion is a lens through which one could study the transformation of cultural values. But what exactly do current fashion patterns say about dominant societal principles? What do they say about the future?

On May 20th, FASHINNOVATION’S Founder, Marcelo Guimarães, moderated one of POWWOW Fashion Tech Week Italy’s panels. Guimarães received Oskar Metsavaht, founder of Osklen, Elle B. Mambetov, founder & designer of Elle B. Zhou, and Burak Cakmak, founder of The Digital Fashion Group. The panelists discussed the fashion changes and how the industry might look in the future.

As Metsavaht stated, “fashion, art, cinema and other human forms of expression are important protagonists in changing society’s behavior”. Hence, to try and understand fashion is to try and understand contemporary thought. Keep reading to learn how today’s fashion reflects how far we have come!

In fact, we have many panels that discuss this topic, and here is one for you to watch later: Fashion Is “social Impact, Positivity & Inclusivity.

Fashion Reflects Social Changes: The Connection Between the Industry and Society 

Social change means a prominent revision in behavior patterns and cultural values. It is possible to see how fashion changes according to the current social and political moments throughout history. What is seen on brand collections and fashion shows, is a reflection of what is happening in real life, outside of the catwalks. 

An example is how minimalism came into existence. It emerged as an artistic movement of the 20th century that questioned consumerism. That kind of thought gained expression and adopters. Soon, its references appeared in the fashion industry.  

Surely, fashion is not simply the creation of designers. It is an image full of references and ideas that echoes the context of an era. It mirrors different aspects such as image, politics, beauty standards and technological innovations and street fashion. The relationship between fashion and society is a two-way street. So that one is directly influenced by the other and vice-versa.

As the panelists discussed at the POWWOW event, fashion can be considered a cultural layer of our own skin. If “beauty was just for a few in the past”, as Elle B. Zhou stated, “now discussions are going around on how important it is that fashion, beauty and everything around it, become for everyone”.

5 Social Changes that Reflect on Fashion

To change society’s behavior, it is important to promote awareness. Make everyone understand why these transformations are important. 

The fashion industry is facing an era never seen before. Society is rearranging its values, putting minorities and the environment under the spotlight. Consumers are demanding transparency, diversity, eco-consciousness, and representativeness. Consequently, the fashion industry started to embrace these pillars and rethink its ways of production. 

Check out 5 shreds of evidence that fashion is walking along with social changes!

Sustainable t-shirt with flowers
The sustainable lifestyle is getting more adapts. Photo: Anna Sullivan/ Unsplash

Eco-friendly and Eco-conscious is the New Black

Fast fashion is a massive industry that creates 15 million tons of textile waste each year. Research shows that such production can’t be tolerated anymore. Part of society began to understand the importance of adopting sustainable practices. Hence, demand is spreading throughout all production chains. In other words, slowly, society as a whole is realizing this reality and adopting sustainable practices in their daily life.

The market is changing completely. Fashion is reflecting these social changes. New brands, with creative and eco-friendly practices, are finding their way to success. They not only look for the planet’s health but are also concerned about their worker’s conditions and paying fair wages. 

The Future and the Fashion Industry Are Female

Yellow Manequins
Feminism is working towards equity in every sphere of society, including the fashion industry. Picture: Mika Baumeister/ Unsplash

Feminism emerged little by little and the first manifestation of it was made by the Suffragettes, at the end of the 18th century. With time, women’s demands started to embark on other issues such as fair pay, equitable opportunities for employment, education, the right to freedom, respect, security, and so on. Of course, fashion reflected everything, from clothing to accessories. 

The fashion world is known for having oppressed and deprived many women of its dictatorial rules present in the editorials of influential brands in the market, being an evident obstacle in its search for freedom. On the other hand, this universe has already been able to be a great ally of the female public and its struggles for gender equality.

Dressage like corsets, tight dresses, heels that hurt, in a way, is a reflection of how macho society imposes certain standards even on the streets that women should wear. Feminism, therefore, has come to break these standards, and, little by little, women are showing that they have the right to express themselves and to be free in all aspects, including in their dressing ways.

Drag queen
Tv shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race show the power of drag queens when it comes to fashion. Photo: Alejandro Cartagena/ Unsplash

May the Pride Win

When we talk about artistic expressions, the LGBTQIA + movement was the driving force behind the queer theory, one of the areas of study of marginalized art. She dialogues with questions about the meaning of gender, sexual identity, and the social consequences that these issues generate.

In addition to cultural studies, queer theory is also widely studied in sociology, psychology, anthropology, education, philosophy, and the arts. The LGBTQIA + movement is influencing and developing films, series, music, and much more. They are conquering their part in the industry.

The influence of the LGBTQIA + community is indisputable, after all, they drove many successful and mainstream trends. Examples are artists such as Madonna, RuPaul, Lady Gaga, and others associated with pop culture – which is mostly consumed by this audience.

The idea of ​​representing these minorities is intensifying. Increasingly, content is produced based on the LGBTQIA + movement and queer theory. Genderless fashion is growing and the representation and respect for the community are increasing, and fashion could not fail to reflect all of this.

Plus size model in swimsuit
Empowered women that have accepted and learned to love themselves, are showing that to have a beach body, you just need a body and to go to the beach. Photo: Unsplash

Queens and Kings of All Sizes

The Body Positive – which is also part of the fourth feminism wave – has come to stay. The movement is showing that no matter what size you are, it is your right to feel beautiful and stylish. 

Brands have started to take a shift toward people who wear over 18. Embracing them in collections and campaigns. It’s becoming normalized to find stores with a wider range of sizes. Stretchmarks and cellulitis are no longer called ugly. Beauty is not being defined as a pattern anymore but as freedom. 

Unfortunately, not all brands have this mindset yet. But plus-size people are showing that they like fashion and want to buy stylish clothes. Brands who are already doing it, are a lot ahead of those you claim to be inclusive, but have only up to size 16.

Racial Inclusivity

Black man in leather jacket
Black people are being more represented in campaigns in the past years. Photo: Dami Adebayo/ Photo

For a long time, the industry hasn’t represented different skin tones in its products and campaigns. There was a standard of beauty that defined white and thin people as beautiful and the industry was only concerned with it.

After a lot of struggle with racial movements, society is slowly starting to accept people who differ from beauty standards. There is still a long way to go, but the future has been positive in this regard. Cosmetic brands have featured a greater variety of shades of makeup and hair products. Asian and black people are appearing in advertisements and fashion shows more and more. Diversity has become a symbol of wealth.

Fashion is a reflection of our society’s behavior. If we are advancing in certain social topics, that means that the fashion industry will soon feature them. That’s why it’s so important to bring them to attention and keep this conversation moving forward. But, this is just the beginning. Even with all this progress around inclusivity in fashion, there is still a long hard road ahead. 

Check out our article about representativeness in fashion for the disabled. 

Júlia Vilaça, Manuel López

Head of Content & Social Media

Júlia Vilaça, Manuel López

Head of Content & Social Media

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