How did you wake up on January 1st 2020? Hungover? Excited about your new years’ resolutions? Whatever you were feeling, none of us had a clue what the year had in store. We were masters of our own destiny: you could book at plane ticket as easily as make an espresso, organise last minute parties and buy things we might not even need, all because it was so simple. How quickly did it all change… we quickly became powerless, stuck at home and feeling helpless in the face of lockdown. Technology, somehow empowering in the previous time, became even more vital as the only way to talk to our loved ones or connect with the outside world.
Many industries suffered, fashion, one of the worst impacted, quickly shut down. Production stopped, factories were inoperative, stores closed and consumer purchasing rapidly curtailed. Soon, only the most resilient and response brands remained relevant. However, the year was not without note. Creatives kept creating. Events went digital. The industry innovated and adapted. We were watching on the sidelines. Here are the events that shaped the industry in 2020.
Music - Alive by PAX, Gordon City
Fashion - Long live Jean Paul Gaultier
Known for his bold designs and innovative shows, Jean Paul Gaultier announced SS20 Couture as his last show. This grand finale assembled renowned guests (including names such as Christian Louboutin, Isabel Marant, & Dries Van Noten) at the Theatre du Chatelet, Paris. The spectacle opened with a mock funeral - a coffin carried on stage by a group of dancers, which inside lay Issa Lish, in a white puffed babydoll dress. The remainder of the collection was a summary of the designer’s legacy, inspired by his most well-known looks. Nearly 200 were presented during the hour long show, a live review of Gaultier’s work through the years. Dazed described the show as a “wild, riotous party”, which seems to be the perfect summary of his career as well.
Design - Soane Britain x Duro Olowu
Soane Britain, makers of beautiful furniture, textiles and lighting that celebrate the best of traditional craftsmanship, collaborated with fashion designer Duro Olowu on a new collection of striking, graphically patterned furnishing fabrics. Olowu is known for his vivid and sophisticated mix of patterns and textures that draw inspiration from his well-travelled life. It was Olowu’s Instagram post of a window display in Soane’s Pimlico Road shop that sparked this collaboration. The result was a celebration of their shared passion for bold pattern and an authentic yet modern and innovative use of fabric and textiles.
Music - Bad News by Kehlani
Fashion - The perfect duo
February ended with a bang when, just a couple of days after presenting a very successful collection on the runway, Miuccia Prada announced Raf Simons as Prada’s new co-creative director. The two agreed to share “equal responsibilities for creative input and decision-making”. Many believed Simons would also be a breath of fresh air, facilitating the brand’s creative development in the shifting cultural landscape of today’s fashion system. A first look at this new direction was debuted in September, during the brand’s Spring Summer 2021 womenswear show.
Stop the (Milan) Fashion Week
Covid-19 hit Italy right in the midst of Milan Fashion Week, and many designers were forced to rethink their shows. Some made small changes, trying to socially distance the public or to take the edge off in a childish way, as Francesco Risso, Marni’s designer did. Others like Giorgio Armani took a much harder route and decided to have a closed-door show and live stream it, “to safeguard the well-being of all his guests by not having them attend crowded spaces”. What is traditionally a huge event on the fashion calendar, was overshadowed by what was happening due to the global pandemic.
Music - Bored In The House by Tyga, Gurtis Roach
Fashion - WHO Instagram takeover
Gucci’s Instagram (with an astonishing +40 million followers), along with all their other media channels, was taken over by the World Health Organization for four days. This was part of a larger COVID support initiative from Kering, alongside their large scale financial contributions to pandemic relief organisations. As a result of the takeover, the WHO was able to increase public awareness by sharing information on methods of health protection, safety, and well-being. Most of the content was shared in a form of simple infographics accompanied by short descriptions.
Social - From luxury fashion to producing masks and sanitizer
With the growing number of Covid cases, many fashion companies around the world started to shift their production towards masks, sanitizers, and other useful supplies for healthcare workers, akin to wartime efforts when factories started producing military equipment. Italian factories in Lombardy and Piedmont were the first to start making masks, soon Armani announced they would start producing gowns, LVMH stopped the perfumery production to produce free sanitizers, and many other brands and associations started to provide their services and help to the governments.
Music - Cold World by Lil Keed
Fashion - LFW goes digital and gender-neutral
With fashion events of the season postponed in Milan and Paris, enthusiasts around the world waited impatiently for news regarding London Fashion Week. As British Fashion Council informed unexpectedly, the decision was made to merge womenswear and menswear shows into a single gender-neutral digital platform. The shows were scheduled to take place between 12 and 14 June, available to watch to a broad audience via online streaming services. Planned activities cover a range of disciplines, from designer podcasts to digital showrooms and conferences. Both decisions are not only an adaptation to the new reality but also a meaningful step towards greater fashion inclusivity.
Social - #PAYUP goes viral
With the closure of fashion stores and the difficulties of selling growing inventory levels, many fashion brands were forced to push back on supply chain lines and not pay for products which were not yet produced, leaving many already struggling garments workers out of work, and with a large amount of wasted raw materials on their hands. This caused the Remake community launched the #PAYUP hashtag and petition, which went quickly viral and it has been signed by more than 270k people across the world, with the intention to make companies pay for their orders and to call out brands that are not paying their workers fairly.
Music - Black Parade by Beyoncé
Fashion - Biggest event of the fashion calendar… cancelled
Despite the global backdrop, the Met Gala was still scheduled for 2020 (albiet postponed a couple of months). However, in May, the Metropolitan Museum of Art informed the world about the events cancellation due to rising health and safety concerns. A thematically related exhibition entitled “About Time: Fashion and Duration” was also planned to still go ahead, although delayed until October. The events cancellation has not stopped fashion enthusiasts from hosting their own versions online. Gathering on High Fashion Twitter, >1000 Gen-Z fashionistas posted pictures, illustrations, works of art, and mood boards relating to the topic, in a strong movement away from commercial systems and showcased the power of creativity and DIY in the hard times.
Social - Black Lives Matter Movement
The death of George Floyd, went viral on the internet and gave an even louder voice to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. Street riots mixed with social media outrage, with many people speaking out about the systematic racism present in the US and all over the world. Slowly, other stories came out, stories we were shocked to hear and couldn’t believe were true. The Black Lives Matter movement was successful in raising social awareness around a key issue we need to address.
Music - Sundream by Rüfüs du sol
Fashion - Power moves at Givenchy
Founder of 1017 ALYX 9SM, Matthew Williams, was officially appointed as Givenchy’s creative director for menswear and womenswear. The message was confirmed by a post on the designer’s social media, where he not only discussed his excitement about joining the brand but also promised to create a positive change in the fashion industry. At ALYX, he built a modern and luxury streetwear brand, all while basing it on concepts of innovation and sustainability. Fashion critics around the world are eagerly waiting to see the results of his appointment. His first collection was to be presented during in October.
Sustainability – Tables made from tights?
In June, Stockholm-based sustainable tights brand Swedish Stockings went on a mission to address the lack of recyclable options available for tights. They transformed discarded tights into statement tables, via a collaboration with furniture designer Gustaf Westmanis. The result - round-shaped tables handmade in Sweden, by mixing scrap tights with recycled fiberglass. Mimicking stones and marbles, these pieces of furniture are the perfect way to give a second life to an old product, and save the environment in the process.
Music - Aim For The Moon, Pop Smoke
Fashion - Boohoo's modern-day slavery crisis
Surging Coronavirus cases in Leicester, UK, were linked to poor working conditions in Bohoo manufacturing factories (these factories also produce garments for Nasty Gal and Pretty Little Thing). Workers were found to be paid £3.50 / hour, with no access to hand disinfectants and unable to follow social distancing guidelines. The factory remained open at full capacity despite national lockdown restrictions. The ultra fast-fashion company published a statement on social media, promising to terminate contracts with all suppliers that do not meet health and safety requirements. However, this did not stop the brand’s market value from dropping over £1.5 billion in just two days!
Sustainability – Shopify move to offsets carbon emissions
Shop, the mobile app launch by Shopify, announced an initiative to offset 100% of the carbon emissions from package deliveries. Shop's tracking features allow users to see their individual carbon offset history, as well as the Shop community's carbon impact, to help consumers visualize and understand their effect on the environment. Since their beta launch, they protected the equivalent of 11 million trees in the Peruvian rainforest to offset more than 10,000 tons of carbon emissions.
Music - WAP, Cardi B (hate it or love it... it made an impact!)
Fashion – Balenciaga x Cardi B
At the end of August, Cardi B announced on Twitter that she was becoming the face of Balenciaga’s Winter 2020 campaign. It was a shocking move for the brand, as their usual campaigns favor anonymous models as promotors. The campaigns images were taken in the rapper’s LA mansion, featuring Cardi laying on a playful mix consisting of kids toys and Neo-Classic bag. The collaboration was officially announced via a huge billboard advertisement on the wall of the Louvre Museum in Paris, with words “Ya looking at the face of a Balenciaga campaign! I remember how I felt seeing myself on a billboard in NYC Times Square but PARIS! Wish I was there to see it in person!”
Technology - Instagram launches Reels
We’ve been spending a lot of time on our phones lately…. looking for distractions and entertainment to combat boredom. So the world started viewing short clips, doing 30sec dances and lip-sync videos on TikTok. The app, which saw rapid growth during 2020, was also the subject of constant criticism by president Trump for its links to China. As a result, Instagram seized the market opportunity and launched Reels in August, their Tik Tok clone. Unsurprisngly, Reels has been a huge success.
Music - Im Working by Giggs, Jorjia Smith
Fashion - Milan steps towards inclusivity
Milan Fashion Week has battled for many years to overcome a lack of diversity. In September, Versace took a large step in the right direction. Their Spring / Summer 2021 collection made history by casting three plus-size models - Jill Kortleve, Precious Lee, and Alva Claire. The show was based on an under-the-sea themed, with models styled in starfish pattern dresses and cropped tops. The entire event was streamed online to a global audience.
YUGEN x Kikiito @ LFW
One of the highlights of our year. Kikiito launched her new collection at London Fashion Week via a fashion presentation which was designed, produced and directed by YUGEN. Check out our feature length article here
Music - No Options by Justine Skye
Fashion – Rihanna (Fenty) battles for male body positivity
Fashion and body positivity are often at ends, and discussions mainly focus on the female body, leaving male bodies behind. In October, Rihanna launched her Savage x Fenty collection, in a move which helped to bridge the gap. The collection was designed and photographed with a variety of male body types… and people loved it.
Social - Zendaya wins the 2020 visionary award at the green carpet fashion awards
Zendaya continued her amazing year, having already made history as both the youngest, and second black woman, to win an Emmy. In October, she received the La Camera Della Moda Italiana and Eco-Age, GCFA visionary award, at the green carpet fashion awards. Thjs award recognizes trailblazers in the industry who have been leading the way in topics such as as sustainability, equality and diversity. The young actress is well loved for her use of popularity to give a voice to key social issues.
Music - Too Late by The Weeknd
Fashion – US Vogue features first eve Male cover
In a year of surprises, US Vogue continued the trend, with their first ever male cover. British pop singer Harry Styles raised eyebrows with his styling – rocking a voluminous blue gown and black tuxedo jacket (Gucci). The image explored gender fluidity, and received both acclaim and complaint. Commentators were divided – some loved the social push, others felt it was too in your face. Regardless of opinions, this was a historical step forward for both the fashion industry and LGBTQ community.
Social - Kamala Harris makes history
Kamala Harris was announced as the first woman and the first woman of color, to be elected Vice President of America (and becoming the highest-ranking woman ever elected in the American government). She is seen by many as the perfect representation of the multiculturalism that defines America, with her Black identity and South Asian descent. Her “we did it Joe” call, to new-president elected Joe Biden, went viral on over Twitter, and her speech to the nation touched many souls. “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last,” she said, giving hope and strength to many women across the world.
Music - Heaven on Earth by Kid Cudi
Fashion - Pierre Cardin passes away
Italian couturier, Pierre Cardin, has been an icon of global fashion for over 70 years. His avant-garde creations were admired the world over, and of inspired by the concepts of space and sculpture. Ahead of his time, Cardin was a also firm believer in a gender-neutral fashion, with his clothes often incorporating fluid elements. He passed away at the age of 98 and will be forever remembered for his impact on our industry.
Social - Civil rights activist launches fashion collaboration.
Dr Angela Davis, author, academic, former Black Panther, and civil rights activist, launched her first fashion collaboration, working with the Renowned LA label on a “Heroes of Blackness” collection of T-shirts and hoodies. A portion of sales from the project will go to Dream Defenders, which works towards defunding the police, and to Underground Grit, a prison reform group. This collaboration comes as a critic to many of the fashion brands which have supported the BLM Movement for the hype, an in reality not taken any actions.
Andddd that’s a wrap!
What a year, definitely one we won’t forget any time soon.
Rather than thinking about the negatives, we prefer to focus on the positives. Remember, when life gives you lemons… grab some tequila and salt! --- The YUGEN team.