Imagine a world without music, art or fashion.
You’d wake up in your sensible white-walled home and dress in your functional daily navy uniform before heading out to a structured 9-to-5 office. Think of how sombre and depressing your mood would be to match. That’s all I can visualize when asked what place fashion has in a world littered with pink slips and shrinking stock portfolios.
There’s no doubt that our perception of fashion is changing. A status symbol for the past decade, “it” bags — a must-have $1,000-plus design toted by celebs and their wannabes — are now yesterday’s news. Head-to-toe designer labels are considered gauche, and bling is now more quaint than fierce. Yet, just because we’re dialling down our showy love for high-profile, high-status fashion, that doesn’t mean our passion for style has gone the way of UGGs and track suits.
Fashion has always been a defining sign of self-expression and that’s not about to change. What will change is what and how we buy. Trying times bring out the best in our creativity, imagination and innovation — and that magical equation cannot be defined by a label or price tag.
A perfect example is how mall stores, including H&M and Gap, have been collaborating on wallet-friendly collections with high-profile designers from Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons to Thakoon.
The biggest mistake a retailer could make in tough times is to stock its shelves with safe classics in predictable colours. Who really needs another white shirt or black pencil skirt? If we’re going to loosen our pinched-tight purse strings it will be to splurge on mood-boosting colour, pattern or decorative accessories.
Notice how Michelle Obama chose change-inspiring yellow — a sunny silk brocade topper and dress by Isabel Toledo — at her husband’s inauguration. Likewise, cheerful optimism shapes the madcap fashion in February’s Confessions of a Shopaholic, the unlikely story of a fashion-crazed shopper turned financial adviser.
Every savvy shopper knows that a little creative retail therapy always does the heart good.