Mens Fashion Trends AW16: Your Essential Guide

Menswear AW16 trends Eleanor Snare feat

Mens Fashion Trends AW16 - Eleanor Snare

Menswear, menswear, menswear. It’s all I’ve been thinking about for the last two weeks. London Collections Men AW16 was Thursday 7th to Monday 11th January and I’ve been busily collecting my favourite looks from the shows over on Pinterest, and scanning through all the backstage snaps over on Instagram.

An important message is next season’s trends are already being worn. Steff Yotka, of

The season’s stranger trends are already percolating on the streets of London, from bejeweled earrings to cropped fur jackets. The bottom line is that guys are looking to experiment with their fashion choices, and brands have taken notice.

It’s another example of sidewalk and catwalk being closer than we think in the cycle of fashion. But for the majority of consumers, AW16 is still a whole set of holidays away – so read on for your guide to the biggest men’s fashion trends for AW 2016.



Mens Fashion Trends AW16: Your Essential Guide | Eleanor Snare

Khaki, navy and tobacco

The big three key colours were khaki, navy and tobacco – a sort of rich burnished brown that worked beautifully on shoes, bags and waist belts.

Khaki (unsurprisingly for autumn) popped up everywhere, across all garments, but in a mix of unusual fabrics and without some of the military touches it can have – more often in womenswear, but blokes like an epaulette too. Navy was often used for outerwear while tobacco went from subtle accessories to full caramel-coloured looks.

These three colours aren’t particularly revolutionary for autumn-winter or menswear. Instead, they might’ve been selected in part because they can be worn in a classic style (for example, tobacco brogues) or something more trend-led (like a very wide and baggy dark navy suit).

Bold primary accents

The accent colours were much bolder and violent – plenty of primary colours, primary colour + black, and some dashes of Pantone’s Colour of the Year 2016 combo, Serenity blue and Rose Quartz pink.


New York Times Fashion Instagram shot of Tinie Tempah
New York Times Fashion Instagram shot of Tinie Tempah


New York Time Fashion Instagram shot of Darren Kennedy and Jim Chapman
New York Time Fashion Instagram shot of Darren Kennedy and Jim Chapman

Key colour takeaway

These colours highlight a trend for strong, dominating visions of men with a nod to traditional autumnal colours – or alternatively, with the softer powder shades, something more subtle and potentially androgynous.



Mens Fashion Trends AW16: Your Essential Guide | Eleanor Snare


If you’re into menswear then you’ll have already had the memo saying “Shearling’s back” in capital letters – and it was. Shearling and teddy bear fur were a big feature for outerwear, but in two extremes: either as accents to leather 70s-style coats, or just all-over full fur in mainly neutral tones like tan, cream and tobacco, rather than shearling linings or anything more traditional.

Teddy bear cropped up in AW15 for womenswear so it’ll be interesting to see whether it’s still hanging about for this year.


WGSN Instagram shot at LCM
WGSN Instagram shot at LCM


Evening wear

Evening wear materials, translated into casual and daywear shapes, were another key trend for AW16 menswear. Crushed and striped velvet, flat velvet, organza, satin, metallic PVC and sequins were used for zip-up jackets, trousers, tuxedo jackets and coats in all different colours.

Menswear AW16: Your Simple Guide to the Big Trends | Eleanor Snare

Key materials takeaway

These materials do hook into the continuing 70s trend with more ‘flamboyant’ garments contrasting with the ‘manly’ materials of leather and shearling. But it’s also a way to work out which ‘feminine’ (and often more interesting) bits of fashion can be applied to clothing in a way that’ll be accepted by male-identifying consumers .



Mens Fashion Trends AW16: Your Essential Guide | Eleanor Snare

Bigger than big

Imagine Patrick Bateman x Happy Mondays: menswear silhouettes were big. Like, really big – huge shoulders, wide slouchy trousers, giant anoraks and puffa jackets, big knits and oversized sleeves. Even the shoes were huge.

There were plenty of layers to add to the feel of ginormous-ness: padded jackets over gilets over jumpers over t-shirts; long tees over shorts over leggings; and wraps of fabric as scarves and waist belts.

Sportswear influenced

The hugeness was also emphasised by sportswear silhouettes, another key theme. Lots of ski references, with overalls and ‘mangarees’ (coined it – nearly), boiler suits, face coverings and big hoods. Other sportswear references including baseball jackets and bombers, simple gym wear like zip-through funnel neck sweaters, and basketball vests + shorts + leggings.


New York Times Fashion Instagram shot of Francesco Cuizza
New York Times Fashion Instagram shot of Francesco Cuizza

Key silhouette takeaway

It could be a reflection of the size-gain health trend among male-identifying consumers, or the need for layering on a planet where climate patterns are increasingly erratic. There’s a touch of aggression there too – maybe the menswear response to the global security issues I picked up with the SS16 womenswear translucency trend.


Liked this article? You might be interested in these:

Check out The Guardian’s mens fashion trends AW16 round up too for more ideas and insight.

Thanks for reading.

Signature ES2.1

What trends are you excited about in menswear?
Let me know in the comments.

Photographs: Coach menswear AW16 by FirstView via Vogue | Shoe image from DazedFashion Instagram | All menswear images taken from my Pinterest board via or London Collection Mens | Shepherd in Morey Plains by Koshy Koshy via Creative Commons | Sequins by girlwparasol via Creative Commons | Glitter found here

Four Interesting Things about Pantone Color of the Year 2016

Pantone Colour of the Year 2016 - Eleanor Snare

Today Pantone announced its Colour of the Year for 2016. In 2014 this was the much-shared Radiant Orchid; this year it was Marsala, a plummy-brown which you will have noticed especially in the beauty sector.

For the first time ever Pantone’s Colour of the Year isn’t one shade, but a gradient of two: a dusky pastel pink called Rose Quartz and a pale pastel blue, Serenity.

As someone interested in the big movements behind trend-spotting and colour prediction, here are my top four messages gleaned from Pantone’s choice.

1. It’s made for digital influencers and content creators

This isn’t mentioned in Pantone’s reasoning, but Rose Quartz & Serenity is a colour made for the latest generation of digital influencers and content creators. The gradient echoes a natural colour combination you’ll see at sunset or dawn, making it an ideal application in visual social media – photo-editing app Aviary have already released two Pantone filters and Pixlr already has a range of pink-blue gradient filters and overlays.

These shades are also a mainstay of lifestyle and fashion blog design, Pinterest accounts and Instagram images. So while the combination may be radical for Pantone, the execution is already happening: recent trends of pastel, ombre hair, the popularity of soft-hued kawaii Facebook stickers like Pusheen, the slew of inspirational Pinterest quotes.

That’s how colour prediction works – by scoping what’s happening and making a judgement on what’s next – but in this instance the transition from conceptual Colour of the Year to actual colour of the year, used across multiple channels and spearheaded by digital influencers, will be quicker than ever. And hey, Rose Quartz? The title sounds like a blogger’s dream: the Michael Kors Rose Gold watch + borax crystal quartz DIY.


2. It’s about wellness, not gender

The natural mega trend to extrapolate from the Rose Quartz & Serenity pairing would be the blurring of gender divisions in many countries across the world; the gradient represents, perhaps, the change in perception of gender roles and a more fluid approach to colour expression.

However, Laurie Pressman, VP of the Pantone Colour Institute, in a webinar on the Colour of the Year, was sure to explain that wellness was the main driver behind this selection, not gender. She mentioned that consumers and creators are taking “a more unilateral approach to colour” when it comes to gender, but the drive for wellbeing and “the need for reassurance…a desire to quiet our minds” was more important.

Pressman argued that the Colour of the Year “embodies the mindset of tranquility and peace consumers seem to be looking for”:

[Rose Quartz] is warm and embracing…[Serenity] is weightless and airy…they give comfort in turbulent times…[They are] feel good, comforting shades.

Pastel shades are more likely to have a calming effect on us partly for cultural reasons but also because they are desaturated – they don’t have a strong pigmentation so are ‘easy on the eye’. So while Rose Quartz & Serenity might happily tap into movements in gender identity and fluidity, the colour is more a reflection of the desire for “tranquility and peace” evident in consumer habits.


3. It’s not artificial, but it feels like it

This pink-blue gradient does occur naturally; during sunset and sunrise the sun’s rays and the darker night sky merge to form unusual colour pairings. However, taken separately – and even the artifical gradient of Rose Quartz & Serenity seen on screen – the colours feel very artificial.

These don’t feel like naturally occurring colours. They’re too sugary, a little bit cool, a bit more like sugared almonds at a wedding than their natural counterparts. It’s likely these shades would appear in certain flowers and weather patterns, but to me the immediate reminder was of Germolene and a particularly unflattering bridesmaid’s dress I once wore.

Maybe these plasticky colours are meant to reflect an emerging technology in homewares and fashion – the rise of 3D printed objects made out of plastics. Or maybe it’s all about my final point…


4. It’s naive – which makes us feel better

As Time points out, these are “conventional baby colours”. And their position as baby colours means they have a clear, almost subconscious effect on us; they soothe and calm us because when we were too small to remember, they did the same job.




In her webinar, Pressman noted that it wasn’t until after WWII that pink and blue really came to be gender signifiers, especially for babies and children. She also noted that the baby boomer generation – those born after WWII – is a key driver in the wellness movement. So a big (and rich) consumer group who wants to feel calm and tranquil now is very likely to have felt calm and tranquil with these same colours as children.

Pressman explained that “these shades have the ability to transform us into a world of play…a way to escape” – in the same way that naivety and innocence give us an opportunity to remove ourselves from the ‘real’ world. The shades of Rose Quartz and Serenity are typical baby colours, so is this about being swaddled and coddled, protected from reality?

The infantilisation of lifestyles is an interesting concept and it could be that Rose Quartz & Serenity is playing straight into it. While it could be argued it’s working with gender fluidity, it could easily be seen as a way to determine men, women and any gendered people as fragile beings rather than strong agents of their own destiny. Could this be a step backward, for women in particular?

I think with all the craziness in the world, aside from soft we’re looking for pretty.

Pantone’s excellent webinar traced some of the background of pink, from it’s gender neutrality pre-WWII to Elsa Schiaparelli’s “shocking pink” to the ‘protest pink’ used by those pushing against outdated gender values. My thought on pink’s history? To now have baby pink and baby blue as next year’s colour when we’ve seen the rise of a pink so bold it started to be a political message feels a bit disappointing.


Learn more about Pantone Color of the Year 2016 on their website and tweet me your thoughts. You can also follow me on Pinterest – just click on my profile below.

Liked this article? You might be interested in these:

SS16 Womenswear Trend: Translucency

SS16 Womenswear Trend Translucency Eleanor Snare feat

SS16 Womenswear Trend - Translucency - Eleanor Snare

In my last article I explored a key SS16 womenswear trend, the triangle silhouette. This time I’ll be looking at translucency, which featured in a number of shows in stripes, bands, ruffles and frills.

SS16 Womenswear Trend Translucency by Eleanor Snare

SS16 Trend: Translucency

There were translucent fabrics used in nearly all of the shows I scanned through (about 50 in total). Their application included banded maxi dresses at Burberry Prorsum, tightly-packed ruffles at Jason Wu, and gradient-hued at Gucci.

SS16 Womenswear Trend - Translucency - Eleanor Snare
Parsons MFA SS16 ready to wear (look 26) and Chalayan SS16 ready to wear (look 25)

Translucent fabrics can be beautiful when used in particular shades and cuts – and a bit trashy when they’re not. While a translucent fabric can cover the body completely, it simultaneously reveals it. This balance of visibility/invisibility is a key factor of translucent fabrics of all opacities, from the transparent plastics of Parsons MFA to the almost opaque printed textiles of Chalayan.

SS16 Womenswear Trend - Translucency - Eleanor Snare
Gucci SS16 ready to wear (looks 6 and 57)

Exploring the triangle

Historically, translucent fabrics evoke a host of images: tulle elements of 1950s ballgowns, clear plastic macs of the 60s and bodycon meshes of the 80s (or Strictly Come Dancing). Plus there’s all the wafting, ethereal images of 1920s and 30s women in elegant layers, swathed in delicate cotton – versus futuristic executions of Barbarella-meets-Courreges visors, skirts and jackets. Translucent garments across time have a strange hidden power: they feel ‘functionless’ because they’re barely there, yet can be waterproof, warm and protective.

SS16 Womenswear Trend - Translucency - Eleanor Snare
Damir Doma SS16 ready to wear (look 9) and Burberry Prorsum SS16 ready to wear (look 27)

Translucent fabrics cover and uncover; they veil and unveil. They’re sexually charged, because you can see everything and yet it’s fuzzy, hidden, mysterious. Some of the translucent fabric applications for SS16 reminded me of my friend Het’s brilliant Pinterest board, where she collects images of transparent materials used in clothing and accessories. Translucent fabrics are like blister packaging for the body: everything is on display but nothing can be obtained until you pop the cover off.

Practically, translucent fabrics based on natural fibres with a very fine weave or sportswear materials (like mesh) are useful in hot weather, as they allow the body to be covered and yet remain cool. They can also be layered in a visually interesting way and, depending on their construction, to help regulate temperature.

SS16 Womenswear Trend Translucency by Eleanor Snare Macro trends

Climate responsive

Changes in the global climate are already having an impact on fashion retail, disruption the traditional pattern of when new season garments go into store. However, it’s also getting designers to reconsider how they can conceive garments which work for a variety of weathers.

Translucent fabrics can be layered effectively, so for hot weather we can wear them with nothing underneath and equally, in cold weather, can layer them up and they still maintain their uniquely delicate and feminine quality. While they might not seem like all-weather garments, they are.

Plus, this mixing of textures and ‘registers’ of garments (a translucent chiffon evening blouse with an everyday t-shirt, for example) plays very well into the high-low dressing trend and general bricolage of modern consumers.

SS16 Womenswear Trend - Translucency - Eleanor Snare
Aquilano.Rimondi SS16 ready to wear (look 24) and Gabriele Colangelo SS16 ready to wear (look 13)


Like Snow White in her glass coffin, totally secure and yet at any moment surrounded by dangerous shards, I see the use of translucent materials as trying to capture some of those confusions around the current fragile/secure global mentality.

Our political and military security is tighter and more insidious than ever, yet our sense of fragility – that something could be broken – continues to grow as we absorb fragments of terrifying information from multiple sources.

Using translucent fabrics give designers an opportunity to protect and clothe the body but in a seemingly ‘weak’ way, exposing fragility (the skin and body itself) while still being securely covered.

Snow White’s glass coffin was designed for everyone to see her beauty, but be unable to get near to her. In a similar way translucent fabrics could be seen as a shield, protecting bodies from aggression but allowing their beauty to be gazed upon.

SS16 Womenswear Trend - Translucency - Eleanor Snare
Parsons MFA SS16 ready to wear (look 16) and Vionnet SS15 ready to wear (look 10)

‘New’ eroticism

Translucent fabrics have been used for centuries as a sexually-charged component of women’s dressing, so there’s nothing new about using them for SS16 to denote eroticism.

However, it is in contrast to previous incarnations of sexual allure on the catwalk. It’s less retro than nu-New Look corsetry, less macho than 90s grrrls revisited, less traditional than Ralph Loren’s suiting or Diane Von Furstenburg’s wrap dresses.

SS16 Womenswear Trend - Translucency - Eleanor Snare
Alexander McQueen SS16 ready to wear (look 11) and Givenchy SS16 ready to wear (look 44)

Translucent fabrics are challenging as erotic signifiers, because they protect and expose – you can look but you can’t touch. I see this as connected to the way women want to be looked at (as part of the new movement in feminism) and trying to control that gaze more effectively.

And to mention it again, the emergence of strong Muslim women as a consumer group is important here. The veil and the covered body are seen by many as an integral part of Islamic teachings, and have naturally developed their own sexual charge (because whatever women wear, anywhere, there will be sexual charge associated with it).

Potentially the use of translucent fabrics is a way to explore new ways of thinking about eroticism: a more controlled gaze, a stronger acceptance of fragility, an acknowledgement of how what you can’t see is as sexually powerful as what you can.

SS16 Womenswear Trend - Translucency - Eleanor Snare
Jason Wu SS16 ready to wear (look 26) and Givenchy SS16 ready to wear (look 75)

Frou-frou feminism

In the last trend article, where I explored the base down triangle, I mentioned how this strong shape could be a response to new forms of feminism: stronger and more accepting of the disruptiveness in the movement and in women.

Similarly, the trend for translucent fabrics has a relationship with new movements in feminism. The application of translucent fabrics for SS16 included minimal touches in blocks or stripes, but also a range of ‘frou frou’, super-fussy applications. Translucent fabrics were packed into tight layers of ruffles, in flounces across the body, in double ruffles with raw edges, and in paperbag waistlines.

SS16 Womenswear Trend - Translucency - Eleanor Snare
Jason Wu SS16 ready to wear (look 31) and Dries Van Noten SS16 ready to wear (look 57)

The fastidious application of typically ‘feminine’ details was often on garments with more ‘masculine’ colour palettes and shapes, as if the two genders were colliding. This could be another indicator of designers working out the desires of new feminist consumers: translucent fabrics allow for ‘feminine’ fragility and ‘masculine’ strength depending on their application.

There’s also a feeling designers are trying to reclaim frou-frou for women. Some trends which are symbols of girliness (for example, pigtails or frilly ankle socks) are rejected by an 18+ consumer because of their pre-adolescent connotations. But the idea of frou-frou – of flounces, frills, pastels, ribbons and fussy details – could work for those adult consumers when used in contrasting colour palettes and with stronger silhouettes. If the newest feminism is about accepting diversity, then part of that must be accepting you can enjoy ‘girly’ clothes and still be a complex and self-contained woman.

SS16 Womenswear Trend - Translucency - Eleanor Snare
Ashish SS16 ready to wear (look 15) and Noir Kei Ninomiya SS16 ready to wear (look 3)

Feature image: Pucci, G. 2015. Untitled (Maison Margiela SS16 Ready to wear look 5 detail). Online. [Accessed 23 November 2015]. Available from:
Indigital. 2015. Untitled (Gucci SS16 Ready to wear look 6). Online. [Accessed 19 November 2015]. Available from:
Indigital. 2015. Untitled (Gucci SS16 Ready to wear look 57). Online. [Accessed 19 November 2015]. Available from:
Vlamos, Y. 2015. Untitled (Jason Wu SS16 Ready to wear look 31). Online. [Accessed 19 November 2015]. Available from:
Vlamos, Y. 2015. Untitled (Jason Wu SS16 Ready to wear look 26). Online. [Accessed 19 November 2015]. Available from:
Pucci, G. 2015. Untitled (Damir Doma SS16 Ready to wear look 9). Online. [Accessed 19 November 2015]. Available from:
Pucci, G. 2015. Untitled (Aquilano.Rimondi SS16 Ready to wear look 24). Online. [Accessed 19 November 2015]. Available from:
Arnold, Weston K. 2015. Untitled (Gabriele Colangelo SS16 Ready to wear look 13). Online. [Accessed 19 November 2015]. Available from:
Feudi, M. 2015. Untitled (Givenchy SS16 Ready to wear look 75). Online. [Accessed 19 November 2015]. Available from:
Feudi, M. 2015. Untitled (Givenchy SS16 Ready to wear look 44). Online. [Accessed 19 November 2015]. Available from:
Tondo, M. 2015. Untitled (Burberry Prorsum SS16 Ready to wear look 27). Online. [Accessed 19 November 2015]. Available from:
Indigital. 2015. Untitled (Ashish SS16 Ready to wear look 15). Online. [Accessed 19 November 2015]. Available from:
Vlamos, Y. 2015. Untitled (Dries Van Noten SS16 Ready to wear look 57). Online. [Accessed 19 November 2015]. Available from:
Ninomiya, Noir K. 2015. Untitled (Noir Kei Ninomiya SS16 Ready to wear look 3). Online. [Accessed 19 November 2015]. Available from:
Tondo, M. 2015. Untitled (Parsons MFA SS16 Ready to wear look 26). Online. [Accessed 19 November 2015]. Available from:
Tondo, M. 2015. Untitled (Parsons MFA SS16 Ready to wear look 16). Online. [Accessed 19 November 2015]. Available from:
Tondo, M. 2015. Untitled (Alexander McQueen SS16 Ready to wear look 11). Online. [Accessed 19 November 2015]. Available from:
Yannis, V. 2015. Untitled (Chalayan SS16 Ready to wear look 25). Online. [Accessed 19 November 2015]. Available from:
Yannis, V. 2015. Untitled (Vionnet SS16 Ready to wear look 10). Online. [Accessed 19 November 2015]. Available from:


SS16 Womenswear Trend - Translucency - Eleanor Snare

SS16 Womenswear Trend: The Triangle

SS16 Key Trend - The Triangle - Eleanor Snare


In my last post I mentioned how much I’d enjoyed exploring the SS16 catwalk shows from the recent fashion weeks. Spotting the trends – and understanding the ‘why’ behind them – has been interesting and challenging. Here’s a key SS16 womenswear trend I’ve identified with some ideas about the macro trends behind it: the Triangle.

What is the triangular silhouette? Eleanor Snare

SS16 Trend: The Triangle

In repeated shows I spotted a very different silhouette to previous seasons: a base-down triangle. Style lines converged on the neck and pointed towards the face, with lots of volume around the hips and further down the legs. Some examples might be the halterneck dresses at Chloe, or the voluminous dresses from Parsons MFA, long coats over leggings at Balmain or Chanel’s wide-legged trousers and tunics. Triangles also appeared as details: triangular splits in wrap skirts, triangular application of ruffles or detailing across the body, and very deeply cut V-necks.

Salvatore Ferragamo and Trussardi Ready to Wear SS16
Salvatore Ferragamo and Trussardi Ready to Wear SS16
Marni and Victoria Beckham Ready to Wear SS16
Marni and Victoria Beckham Ready to Wear SS16

Exploring the triangle

The triangle is a fascinating shape to use in fashion. As a base-down silhouette, it subverts some of the traditional cliches of dressing a woman by blurring the position and size of the waist (rather than highlighting its tininess) and actively avoiding balancing the bust and hips by disguising one and hanging off the other.

The triangle is also an incredibly strong silhouette. It’s one of the strongest shapes in construction, due to the wide footprint and sloping, load-shedding sides. So to use it as a silhouette in women’s dress conveys a sense of strength and stability.

The base-up triangle might be recognised as a archetypal 1940s or 1980s silhouette: wide, padded shoulders with a fitted waist and straight skirt, or loose, wide-shouldered top with tapered trousers. In the base-up silhouette the head is almost sat like a bust on a pedestal, disconnected from the rest of the body.

Chanel and Chloe Ready to Wear SS16
Chanel and Chloe Ready to Wear SS16

In the base-down triangle silhouette, everything converges on the head as a focal point – like a classic statue where dynamic lines of arms and bits of vine gesture upwards. The face becomes an essential design element, rather than an afterthought. In SS16 it’s also highlighted by accessories trends like huge earrings or Dior’s layered choker-and-scarf.

The base-down triangle can conceal a woman’s body fairly comprehensively while also revealing areas which (because the rest is concealed) become erogenous zones. Triangle details break up the ‘natural’ curves of a woman’s body, interrupting the flow with ‘unnatural’ angles and creating a kind of tension in the silhouette (a zig zag is a good example of triangles used to create visual tensions).

MSGM and Givenchy Ready to Wear SS16
MSGM and Givenchy Ready to Wear SS16
Alexander McQueen and Chalayan Ready to Wear SS16
Alexander McQueen and Chalayan Ready to Wear SS16

Macro trends behind the triangle SS16 Eleanor Snare

Strength and the new feminism

The appearance of the triangle so comprehensively across the catwalks as a new silhouette for womenswear reflects some of the changing ideas about womanhood, especially influenced by the new feminism which is shaping attentive women across the world. The best versions of this feminism are intersectional, embracing diversity in ethnicity and gender. They are also a step away from obsessions with physical form that may have hung around previous ‘waves’; there’s more focus on the capabilities, intelligence, personalities, individuality and normality of women.

I see the base-down triangle as embodying some of these ideas through providing a strong, powerful form which plays with established ideas of what a ‘woman’ or a ‘strong woman’ should look like. It doesn’t accentuate traditional areas of feminine allure (waist, bust, ankles) but covers them, instead drawing attention to a woman’s face (and mind). As a detail, it creates tension, interruption and dynamism – a kind of multi-directional element reflecting the multi-faceted quality of ‘woman’.

Burberry Prorsum and Eudon Choi Ready to Wear SS16
Burberry Prorsum and Eudon Choi Ready to Wear SS16

Comfort crossovers

The base-down triangle is a comfortable shape; it frees up the waist, stomach, hips and legs to move and work naturally while still appearing streamlined and strong. This is a sharp contrast to, for example, a 1950s or even a 1980s silhouette, with high (and tight waistbands), body-con dresses or fluffy petticoat skirts which are difficult to sit down in.

Women are increasingly interested in clothing which crosses the borders of dressing ‘situations’. The increase in garments made from jersey, knit and stretch fabric, including traditional workwear garments (like suit jackets) reimagined in these fabrics, signals an interest in owning clothes which are as comfortable as loungewear but as professional as office wear.

The base-down triangle, in a range of different fabrics, allows women to have stylish, professional clothing that’s also comfortable. Why not a loose base-up triangle silhouette? Because a woman’s body carries a lot of energy and activity in the bottom half (like menstruation, digestion and load-bearing hips) and is also a common area for weight gain and poor clothing fit – the waist-to-hip ratio and crotch measurement are tricky ones to get right.

Isabel Marant and Balmain Ready to Wear SS16
Isabel Marant and Balmain Ready to Wear SS16

Modesty and new consumer groups

The base-down triangle silhouette can cover a woman’s body, highlighting key areas (like her face) but downplaying what would be considered the ‘traditional erogenous zones’. Although in the SS16 catwalks triangles were used to create new erogenous zones, one of the key themes was the covering and interruption of a woman’s body.

I see this as an important reaction to an increased interest in modest dressing. This could definitely be read as a strong play towards engaging with Muslim women, who are looking for attractive, creative clothing which also fulfils religious and cultural requirements – the abaya often sprang to mind when I was looking at some of the shows. The Muslim demographic is seen as the ‘next big thing’ in fashion, unsurprisingly with large and widespread increases in the religion predicted over the next few years, and emerging middle classes in Islamic countries.

Parsons MFA Ready to Wear SS16
Parsons MFA Ready to Wear SS16

However, modest dressing also appeals to women from other particular religious communities and potentially older women (who are also more likely to have disposable income) looking to display personality rather than their body. Due to the newest incarnation in feminism, there’s also a youthful demographic who are interested in how to be fashionable without revealing your body – almost shifting attention away from your form to your fashion choices.

By using a combination of base-down triangle silhouette to cover, and dramatic triangle detailing to reveal, a designer can appeal to a modest consumer and one who is interested in displaying her body as well as her clothing.


All of the following image references are to the original source. If you use any of the catwalk images in this article please reference as:
Snare, E. 2015. Untitled (edited image of [use original reference description here]. [Online]. [Accessed [date]]. Available from:
References in order of appearance:
Weston Arnold, K. 2015. Untitled (Salvatore Ferragamo SS16 Ready to wear Look 29). [Online]. [Accessed 19 October]. Available from:
Vlamos, Y. 2015. Untitled (Trussardi SS16 Ready to wear Look 3). [Online]. [Accessed 19 October]. Available from:
Vlamos, Y. 2015. Untitled (Marni SS16 Ready to wear Look 22). [Online]. [Accessed 19 October]. Available from:
Tombolini, L. 2015. Untitled (Victoria Beckham SS16 Ready to wear Look 11). [Online]. [Accessed 19 October]. Available from:
Vlamos, Y. 2015. Untitled (Chanel SS16 Ready to wear Look 87). [Online]. [Accessed 19 October]. Available from:
Weston Arnold, K. 2015. Untitled (Chloé SS16 Ready to wear Look 44). [Online]. [Accessed 19 October]. Available from:
Pucci, G. 2015. Untitled (MSGM SS16 Ready to wear Look 13). [Online]. [Accessed 19 October]. Available from:
Feudi, M. 2015. Untitled (Givenchy SS16 Ready to wear Look 80). [Online]. [Accessed 19 October]. Available from:
Tondo, M. 2015. Untitled (Alexander McQueen SS16 Ready to wear Look 32). [Online]. [Accessed 19 October]. Available from:
Yannis, V. 2015. Untitled (Chalayan SS16 Ready to wear Look 53). [Online]. [Accessed 19 October]. Available from:
Tondo, M. 2015. Untitled (Burberry Prorsum SS16 Ready to wear Look 45). [Online]. [Accessed 19 October]. Available from:
Tondo, M. 2015. Untitled (Eudon Choi SS16 Ready to wear Look 7). [Online]. [Accessed 19 October]. Available from:
Tondo, M. 2015. Untitled (Isabel Marant SS16 Ready to wear Look 41). [Online]. [Accessed 19 October]. Available from:
Feudi, M. 2015. Untitled (Balmain SS16 Ready to wear Look 22). [Online]. [Accessed 19 October]. Available from:
Tondo, M. 2015. Untitled (Parsons MFA SS16 Ready to wear Look 6). [Online]. [Accessed 19 October]. Available from:
Tondo, M. 2015. Untitled (Parsons MFA SS16 Ready to wear Look 86). [Online]. [Accessed 19 October]. Available from:



Why Joe Fresh is a Lesson that The Fashion Industry Needs to Listen To

Encouraging systemic change in the fashion industry is a bit like encouraging people to deal with self-sabotaging behaviours. The first step is to admit you have a problem.

And for every figure – like Stella McCartney – who admits there is a problem, there are far more who deny systemic change is even necessary.

Fashion designer and founder of the Canadian brand Joe Fresh, Joe Mimran, was recently interviewed in Toronto Life about his step down from the company (and new role on Dragons’ Den).

In 2013, Joe Fresh was one of the brands implicated in the Rana Plaza collapse, where 1,134 people died. A garment factory in the building manufactured clothing for them and other brands. Loblaw announced it would send reps to Bangladesh to investigate, and victims’ families would be offered compensation.

In his parting interview, Mimran didn’t admit his brand had a problem. He demonstrated the shift of responsibility that’s problematic in the industry: who is in charge of making sure people are ok? The arguments he used denied the necessity of systemic change, and they’re arguments lots of people in the industry will be using (and facing).

Unpicking some of them will hopefully make a stronger case for change. Each of the italicised and indented Q&A is taken from the original interview.


Brand responsibility

Joe Fresh is facing the threat of a $2-billion class action lawsuit from the victims of the Bangladesh building collapse. They claim Joe Fresh had a responsibility to ensure the building’s safety. Are they right?
The question is, how much oversight should companies have when they contract labour overseas? Should we be doing engineering checks on the buildings? No other industry does that. But it’s a responsibility that has now been forced upon the apparel industry because of the disaster.

Mimran clearly doesn’t like the idea of the apparel industry being ‘forced’ to take responsibility for the welfare of its workers. In this instance, it might be because there is no PR-friendly angle. Free childcare, healthcare or women’s education – key elements of worker welfare overseas – feel nicer than structural building checks.

The idea that worker welfare extends to a worker’s environment as well as their physical being isn’t new: in the early 1900s, Joseph Rowntree built good quality homes for his confectionery factory employees to prevent them living in slums.

However, if your workers aren’t on your doorstep, what’s the protocol for welfare? Mimran does inadvertently address a key argument about systemic change head on: “How much oversight should companies have when they contract labour overseas?” His argument leans towards ‘out of sight, out of mind’. But a company like Marks and Spencer, who rigorously control their supply chain, would say differently.

Would Mimran be as blinkered if the factory was in Toronto? Humans aren’t really built to deal with the complexity of the world (just try imagining seven billion people) so when something is in our field of vision – like Rowntree’s factory and nearby village – it tends to feel more important.

In technical terms, the further production moves from the site of consumption, the weaker our mental link between the two becomes.

A weak mental link between the two starts to erode the visibility of supply chains. To contract labour overseas might mean asking one audited factory to produce 20,000 garments. Or it might indirectly mean asking four non-audited sub-contractors to produce 5,000 garments.

In some of the countries where fashion labour is densely concentrated – including Bangladesh, the home of Rana Plaza – there aren’t bureaucratic systems in place to prevent this multiple sub-contracting, or to make supply chains visible. And why would there be, if fashion brands continue to employ producers with the current set up?

For companies keen to monitor their entire supply chain, there are then two jobs to do. First, encourage bureaucratic systems of transparency and worker welfare. Second, look at your own supply chain choices very closely.

For Mimran, and for plenty of other brands, that’s just too much work.


Clothes aren’t like food

What did you make of John Oliver’s stunt on Last Week Tonight where he sent cheap food of dubious origin to the Joe Fresh office to mimic the garment industry’s production practices?
I think what you put on your body and what you put in your body are two different things. But the stunt brings attention to a very serious subject, and it’s one the industry has to solve together.

His answer’s first sentence deserves special attention as it summarises another of the big issues holding back systemic change in the fashion industry.

“What you put on your body and what you put in your body are two different things”. Yes, they are different. But they are fundamentally connected.

Skin is a living part of our body which absorbs, reflects, protects and adapts depending on what we do, eat and expose ourselves to. A specific part of the sustainability movement would argue that mass-produced clothing can be harmful due to manufacturing process and the effect it has on our skin (and body).

For example, waste products from dyeing pollute water systems; plastic-based manmade fibres don’t allow our bodies to ‘breathe’ effectively; and even certain styles of clothing might be unhealthy.

Clothing is not an inert shell we climb into every day. It’s a reactive second skin whose composition affects our own.

Just like interacting with food, the human body interacts with clothing. This is on a physical level, as I’ve outlined. But it’s also on many other levels: political, sexual, ethical, social, cultural. The clothes I wear represent as much about me as the food on my plate. And they both have the same connection to other people – to workers – which is necessary to contemplate systemic change.

Both food and fashion suffer from opaque labour. This is a problem of contemporary capitalism: who makes your bread? Who makes your shoes? But on an everyday level, one of these industries is undergoing a dramatic reconfiguration (at least, for some demographics). The drive for organic whole foods, home-cooked, well-presented, nourishing and tailored to the individual is growing.

It’s mainly concentrated in demographics connected to the Internet (especially visual social media, like Pinterest) with medium to high levels of disposable income and time. These people want to know who made their beer, where their peaches come from, how to make the perfect sourdough loaf. They’re meeting suppliers, buying direct, and using social media to publicise the results.

Of course, there are swathes of people who aren’t doing this, who instead – due to many reasons – receive poor food education and make poor food choices for the health of their bodies. However, neither of these food consuming groups are reconfiguring fashion in the same way as the first are reconfiguring food.

The girl who eats sugar-free avocado brownies will still buy her t-shirts from Primark.

The answer to why that’s not happening is for another time. But we’ll never be able to learn from the food industry to help us make systemic change in the fashion industry if figures like Mimran perpetuate the myth that clothing is an inert shell, that what goes into us is more important than what’s put onto us, or that our experiences of the industries is so radically different we couldn’t possibly see any links between them.


More cash means more improvements

Is there a solution?
For sure. As producing countries become wealthier, they become better able to meet safety standards. It’s what has happened in China and Korea.

Another answer, another shift in who is responsible (or not) for systemic change. Mimran’s cash-rich dream of pumping money into economies in the hope they change does, in part, make sense. But there are a lot of hidden variables.

Safety standards are different in every country. The ‘producing countries’ Mimran mentions – places like Cambodia, Vietnam, Bangladesh, China and Korea – often have safety standards which consuming countries – the UK, America, Canada, or European countries – would consider to be unacceptable.

Unacceptable, that is, if they were in their territory.

Mimran’s argument is to work with producers you know have unacceptable safety standards, because the profits of the producers can then be reinvested in improving the safety standards through education, structural changes, etc.

In the words of economist Joan Robinson:

The misery of being exploited by capitalists is nothing compared to the misery of not being exploited at all.

On paper, I think the cash-rich dream works. But it begins to fall apart as it assumes a number of highly changeable variables:

  • The producers will reinvest profits in safety standards
  • The producers know how to improve safety standards
  • Clients (fashion brands) will check on these safety standards at some point in the future
  • Improved safety standards are of benefit to producers (not just the workers) and something to strive for
  • Producers won’t shift the cost of improvements onto clients
  • Clients will continue to use the producers whether costs change or not

Industry, unfortunately, doesn’t always work like it does on paper.

A company chasing profits will move its labour contracts to the place where they can gain the most profit through low output to the producer. When Mimran mentions China and Korea, he inadvertently nods to the movement of labour contracts from country to country as brands try to find the producing territories where they can gain the highest profit alongside highest quality.

There are too many variables in this idea of ‘more money, no problems’ for it to work in practice. It’s not only on the part of a brand’s desire for profit, but also because producers – especially in those countries mentioned where bureaucratic systems may not robust – might not know (or care) about improving safety standards.

It requires national or at least regional legislation to improve working standards. The idea that money flowing into specific producers in a country automatically makes it wealthier, and that wealth equates to widespread legal changes, is a fallacy.

Boiled down, you can’t give someone money for doing something and then expect them to do it differently if you keep giving them money.

This isn’t an argument to damage economies through removing labour contracts. But it is an argument for the fashion brands contracting labour overseas to be more rigorous, supportive and responsible in their choices. Big brands have big purchasing power, and could do much, much more to fundamentally improve the labour situations of producers through negotiation.

Mimran’s ‘shifted responsibility’ solution won’t work. It hasn’t so far.

joe fresh 1


Mimran’s interview with Toronto Life highlights three of the biggest arguments around systemic change in the fashion industry.

First, whether a fashion brand is responsible for rigorously monitoring its supply chain, especially when contracting labour overseas, to make sure worker welfare is adequate.

Second, whether clothing affects us in the intimate way food (or other industries, like beauty) does, and therefore whether we can learn from the transformations of one to encourage systemic change in the other.

Third, whether by continuing to contract labour in places where safety standards are low, fashion brands are contributing to an economy which will eventually meet the preferred safety standards through wealth accumulation.

As a supporter of systemic change, my arguments are that brands are responsible; we do have an intimate a relationship with clothing as we do with food; and this economic argument becomes flawed in execution.

By unpicking arguments denying the need for systemic change from figures like Mimran, people interested in transformation of the fashion industry can see where the holes are in commonly-held opinions. We can also start to argue the case much more effectively.


Featured: Joe Fresh Fashion Show by Jason Hargrove via Creative Commons
Dhaka Savar Building Collapse by rijans via Creative Commons
Moschino bag from the Moschino e-commerce site
Pile of Cash by 401(K) 2012 via Creative Commons
Screenshot from Joe Fresh website taken 08 July 2015
Thanks to C’est Ethica and Sasstainable for sharing and discussing the original interview.

How Clothing Rental Could Transform Fashion

Subscription services are evolving.

The traditional model provides one type of product at regular intervals in a convenient way – think of magazines or the milkman. A new iteration of the model, subscription boxes, uses this process with an added value service: the business curates a tailored selection of products.

Subscription services for clothing are in the early stages. Beauty, accessories and food work well in a subscription box because they’re relatively small compared to bulky clothing. Unfortunately, too, it feels a bit like a mail order catalogue way of shopping – despite subscription businesses having engaging ecommerce, social media and online content.

Despite its youth, two main models for subscription clothing services have emerged: ownership and rental. In both models, customers pay a variable monthly fee, but in the first one you keep the items you receive.

Rental services for clothing – like Moss Bros suit hire – are more widespread than rental subscription and the key difference is the monthly fee. The well-known UK business Girl Meets Dress hires out designer gowns without tying you to a contract, and wouldn’t be considered a subscription service.

The strongest USP for subscription clothing services is their curation of items to suit customers’ lifestyles, provided in a way that’s convenient and regular. Time is a precious commodity in the lives of working women, so subscription clothing services promote this flexible, personal USP quite strongly: “Get totes [deliveries] as often as you like” or “Return what you want, when you want”.

An overview of subscription clothing services

  • In the early stages of business development
  • Predominantly centred in the US
  • Several focus on a specific market e.g. plus size, luxury, designer
  • Customers can rent or own the clothing they receive
  • Limited number of items in each ‘box’
  • Varied price points
  • Includes styling, shipping and cleaning services

Are subscription clothing services sustainable and ethical?

I’m interested in the sustainable and ethical (S&E) qualities of subscription clothing services – especially rental – because they offer a very different way of approaching and consuming fashion. There’s a huge opportunity to radically change how we perceive clothing ownership, but there are also a number of S&E issues inherent to the business model.

Significant increase in garment’s lifespan Significant transportation costs and energy use
Encourages limited garment ownership Potential environmental damage caused by dry cleaning
Reduces use of personal and public transport Lots of material items needed to keep consumer options fresh
Reduces exposure to physical retail (including tactics which encourage spending) Abundance of packaging
Encourages limited spending on clothing Supply chain is not always transparent, e.g. where the clothes come from and who the stylists are

Let’s look at a couple of the S&E impact areas in more detail.


packaging outlet by patrizia_ferri via creative commons

Transport and packaging

Subscription clothing services rely on a network of transporters and distributors to make sure customers get their garments regularly and conveniently. Customers also need to use good transport systems to send clothes back, whether it’s rental or ‘try before your buy’.

The combined CO2 emissions from this sort of transportation could have a significant impact on the S&E credentials of a subscription clothing service business. Most are based in the US, with air and ground shipping options; for international customers, there’s added transport to a US address, then air or sea shipping. Frequent ‘swaps’ for rental mean frequent transport, and frequent emissions.

Packaging for shipping varies but there’s a recyclable element – the original cardboard box – and an un-recyclable element, the plastic returns bag. In itself it’s not a lot, but it could present an S&E issue if customers are maximising the service with multiple shippings each month.

Is transport and packaging an S&E problem for these businesses? They might not have any deeper negative impact than normal online shopping, nor might one full truck have as many emissions as hundreds of customers taking individual cars to the mall. But it’s still an area of higher consideration compared to high-street shopping (where packaging is opt-out and transport can be public).

Mercury to the sky by thomas hawk via creative commons

Dry cleaning

Most of the services use dry cleaning at some point in the lifecycles of their garments. It’s more prevalent in rental subscription services, where items are destined to be worn by another person. Ownership subscription services might also use it to keep tried-on garments as clean as possible.

Traditional dry cleaning uses chemical solvents, which can cause physical damage to people handling them, and produces a range of chemical by-products, some of which are classified as hazardous waste in the US.

H&M estimates more than 30% of a garment’s climate footprint occurs post-purchase {1} due to care and disposal. It’s clear how the scale of dry-cleaning in subscription clothing service businesses could have serious S&E impact through the use of chemicals, production of toxic waste, and energy expended during the process.

Clothing care is also a key area of re-education for consumers. Critics argue we wash and dry clean clothes too often, and consume significant amounts of water in the process: about 15% of the water we use in our homes is on washing clothes. Could subscription clothing services do more to educate their consumers about this high-impact S&E issue?

Eleanor Snare

Garment lifespan

One of the biggest S&E struggles of the fashion industry is what happens to clothing after it’s been worn – a garment’s ‘end-of-life’. Currently, huge numbers of garments are moved into second-hand shops, recycling centres, developing countries or landfill.

The rental subscription clothing services significantly increase a garment’s lifespan because clothing is sent back to be re-worn. When multiple customers wear the same garment, it reduces the need to produce lots of garments; one garment can serve many people. The lifespan of a garment increases compared to the traditional lifespan of purchasing, owning and discarding clothing.

When it comes to end-of-life, rental garments may have had more wear and could be easier to break down or recycle. One of the subscription clothing services offered consumers the opportunity to buy clothing no longer in the right condition to stay in the rental service, and donated others. End-of-life industries are widespread (like ragging) and subscription services could maximise their use.

Fast fashion, which relies on short garment lifespan, gives consumers the buzz of always having something new. What’s exciting about rental subscription clothing services is that buzz is still there – you can swap your garment for a new one whenever you want – but without the detrimental S&E effects that have been traditionally associated with the feeling.

James, I think your cover's blown! by Ludovic Bertron via creative commons

Garment ownership

Another struggle for the fashion industry – and the individual – is the sheer volume of clothes purchased and owned by consumers. In a previous article, I mentioned ASOS had 25m orders in 2014. Inditex (owner of Zara and seven other brands) produces 948m garments each year {2}.

On an industrial scale, this can result in swathes of waste and vast amounts of energy expenditure in producing and disposing of those clothes. On an individual scale, more clothing means less space, more choice and more frustrating decision-making. Both rental and ownership subscription clothing services reduce this waste and stress through actively encouraging limited garment ownership.

The services’ different price banding gives you a set number of items each month (from one to five, on average), forcing consumers into limited spending and limited ownership. Compare this to an average shopping trip where, as we’ve all experienced, you’re likely to come away with much more than you intended.

Naturally, the rental subscription clothing services have a stronger S&E impact in this area than ownership models. By allowing customers to enjoy new fashions, while shedding the pre-conceived idea of ‘ownership’, consumers can take part in fashion without contributing as much stress and waste to the industry or the individual.


Subscription clothing services are an evolving offer with each branded service providing a slightly different experience; however, the key qualities of curation, delivery and efficiency all remain the same.

They have the potential to be sustainably and ethically sound, but their newly-developing business models and processes might need to be reconsidered. Some examples could be:

  • Setting up local distribution centres to minimise transport
  • Using recyclable packaging wherever possible
  • Investing in cleaning technologies which aren’t environmentally damaging
  • Educating customers on sustainability, especially in garment care

The key sustainable and ethical benefits of subscription clothing services are most apparent in rental business models: a garment’s lifespan is increased, reducing the end-of-life problems plaguing the industry, and the need for clothing ownership is decreased, reducing levels of individual and industrial stress.

Like many fledgling businesses, subscription clothing services either aren’t able to or choose not to report on their sustainable and ethical practices. However, for a business model (especially rental) which has such scope to demonstrate real impact in these areas, it might be worth considering.

As consumers have less time, less energy and less space, the idea of owning three beautiful garments for a month, chosen by a professional and easily swapped for a pleasurably-new item, is as appealing to customer interested in sustainable living as it is to a trend-led fashionista. For one or two subscription clothing services, this could become their USP.

References and sources
Featured image: Blue Suitcase by Drew Coffman via Creative Commons
{1} Stella McCartney Change Agent, The Business of Fashion: Seven Issues Facing Fashion Now, Spring 2015, p.8, The Business of Fashion: London
{2} Inditex Agile Fashion Force, The Business of Fashion: Seven Issues Facing Fashion Now, Spring 2015, p.10, The Business of Fashion: London