2021 was a year of hope, hardship and heartbreak for the fashion industry

If further proof of the UAE’s growing importance on the global fashion scene was needed, it was enthusiastically provided by Giorgio Armani when he hosted his One Night Only fashion show at the foot of the Burj Khalifa in October. Its dazzling womenswear, menswear and couture fashion show was promptly followed by Chanel taking its rerun of the show on a cruise to Dubai a week later, bolstering the emirate’s bid to become a fashion capital of the world.

The two shows built on the excitement generated by the launch of Expo 2020 Dubai and were followed by high-profile parties, launches and events such as the Global Gift Gala, which made its Abu Dhabi debut in December.

The overall vibe was celebratory, something Armani touched on in an interview with The national team while in Dubai. “I think Dubai is a truly dynamic place, a truly modern city with tremendous energy,” he said. “I love the metropolitan lifestyle and when a city really attracts attention, investment and business, it becomes a magnet for interesting people.”

Check out the photos from the Chanel 2021-22 cruise show in Dubai:

Chanel fashion president Bruno Pavlovsky echoed these sentiments: “We are happy to be in Dubai, we have a wonderful location, a wonderful show, there is an incredible energy that you can feel in the region. Chanel is very happy to be here. “

Two years of hiatus

However, while the mood in the region is upbeat, globally the fashion industry is still recovering from the effects of the pandemic, with many casualties among designer and mid-range brands.

After two years of hiccups, the industry is just starting to get back on its feet, according to the influential Business of Fashion annual The state of fashion report for 2022, produced in collaboration with McKinsey & Company. The success of the vaccination programs has increased confidence.

Consumer demand in Europe has been cautious, but the release of pent-up demand in the US has created spikes in so-called “revenge buying,” leading to a spurt of growth that echoed an earlier phenomenon in China. styles top people’s shopping list.

According to the report, a small group of leading brands are equaling, and in some cases already exceeding, their pre-pandemic performance. LVMH, Hermes and Kering all posted excellent sales figures in the second half of this year. Discount and luxury fashion will continue to work well, but the middle market will be squeezed. There is no universal return to shape predicted in the report, and many companies will continue to struggle as the bruises of the crisis persist.

Globally, the Covid winners were sportswear brands (as so many people worked from home) and luxury fashion houses. For example, this was the most successful year ever for watch auctions, with exceptional prices being paid for rare watches. Sales of fine jewelry and fashion accessories, especially handbags, increased similarly.

Fashion brands with online business models have been the biggest hits of the pandemic and we should expect more exciting innovations in that area, as demonstrated by Balenciaga, which used a game app to showcase its Fall / Winter 2021 menswear collection.

Over the past year, we’ve seen many more fashion movies, avatars, and fun gaming and Instagram apps used by brands to engage, entertain and build their tech-savvy fans. We will hear the word “metaverse” applied much more to the fashion environment in the coming seasons.

In the here and now, fashion weeks are back, albeit on a smaller scale, disguised and socially distanced. Some still prefer to use the digital format, with films shot in atmospheric locations. Who can forget Iris van Herpen’s extraordinary millefeuille haute couture creations shown on a skydiver poised in the stratosphere above the Dolomites? Do Miu Miu models bravely walk a snowy landscape with silk satin petticoats for fall / winter? Or the shimmering metallic stretch bodysuits and tiny tweed suits by Saint Laurent shot against a winter landscape of Arctic cliffs, waterfalls and ice floes?

There were more parades in September, but with a smaller audience due to travel restrictions, and they were often held in outdoor venues. In London, Roksanda’s collection was modeled by a troupe of dancers and Rejina Pyo models surrounded the London Aquatic Center as Olympic divers performed. Meanwhile, Prada has accomplished the feat of hosting a simultaneous fashion show in Milan and Shanghai with precise timing: models in each city emerge at the same time in identical dresses.

In Paris, Olivier Rousteing celebrated 10 years at Balmain with an overwhelming collection of cut body-con dresses in front of a rowdy crowd of 6,000 – real people, not stylish people. Balenciaga playfully dressed its front row in its Spring / Summer 2022 collection, and the red carpet became the show. Pierpaolo Piccioli meanwhile took Valentino to the streets of the Marais with models parading in front of neighborhood cafes and restaurants to create a more inclusive event, while Gabriela Hearst’s Chloe collection was modeled on the banks of the Seine.

Some designers have been exhibiting off the track, with Bottega Veneta bringing its Spring / Summer 2022 collection to Detroit, even though its creative director, Daniel Lee, left the brand shortly after. Michele Alessandro celebrated Gucci’s ties to cinema with a show on Hollywood Boulevard that coincided with the release of the House of Gucci movie.

But attempts to return to a semblance of normalcy were interspersed with moments of sadness. In April, designer Alber Elbaz, 59, died of Covid-19 just a few months after launching his new AZ Factory project. As a tribute, 45 great designers contributed a look in honor of Elbaz in a special show that closed the Paris Fashion Week.

Then, in November, Virgil Abloh, 41, founder of Off-White and creative director of Louis Vuitton menswear, died suddenly after a private battle with a rare cancer. Her scheduled fashion show in Miami went on two days later in her honor. As a much-needed beacon of change and inclusiveness in the industry, his death has been mourned by many.

Just three weeks earlier Abloh had been in Doha on the jury for the prestigious Fashion Trust Arabia Awards, part of a list of international judges that included Piccioli, Elie Saab, Olivier Rousteing, Naomi Campbell, ex-Vogue Paris editor Carine Roitfeld and photographer Juergen Teller.

The event was further testament to the global recognition the region is finally receiving and illustrated the changes that have swept the sector over the past two years, with fashion leaders finally embracing diversity and inclusiveness, not a moment too soon.

Updated: December 26, 2021, 5:11 am

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