While fans of Billy Porter gleefully meet his quarantine fashion challenge with flash and humor, should others care to dress up for virtual events? Is there even a need for sparkle in wardrobes now?
Those are but two — admittedly minor — of the many questions during the new quarantined reality, which has seen loungewear accepted as the new work uniform, and the rise of virtual gatherings on Zoom, Houseparty and IG Live.
Celebrities, entertainers and brands alike have sought to connect with customers and fans through virtual gatherings on these channels amid canceled events worldwide. Rihanna and Diplo are just two of the prominent names who have hosted parties and weekly DJ sets, respectively, offering a much-needed reprieve from the confines of home. Luxury interiors brand Moooi is adapting, too, and hosting a virtual disco party on Friday, encouraging attendees to dress up in celebration of its newest “space lamp” product launch.
Over the last decade livestreams have become a staple of dance music culture, but right now they seem especially poignant. With the ongoing pandemic, clubgoers around the world have been forced to take a brief pause and bring the dance floor indoors to their homes.
Even the Met Gala went virtual on Monday for the first time in its 72-year history, offering a preview of its new exhibit and rounding up at-home re-creations of standout red-carpet looks from previous years.
So, if you’re going from couch-to-party (via phone and computer), what do you wear?
With discretionary spending on apparel and accessories rising, albeit slightly, brands with an urban glam aesthetic see a need for a bit of sparkle during such virtual events.
“Yes, we definitely see our clientele moving toward sparkly, playful and fun items, not only in their buying habits, but also in the way they engage with Instagram content,” said Jaleh Farhadpour, founder of Archives Toronto, adding: “We feel that now is a time to add splashes of color and fun, glittery pieces to the wardrobe, to brighten up each day.” The store carries unique, crystal-laced and colorful items from Area, Justine Clenquet, Eéra, Fernando Jorge and George Keburia, who are all selling well.
For their part, Beckett Fogg and Piotrek Panszczyk, founders of Area, have always encouraged beauty in diversity and empowerment through creative, high-shine, high-glam looks, and see customers responding to such tenets even now. “Especially our more creative and special and eye-catching pieces have been really popular,” they said. “It’s pieces that make you feel empowered, strong and glamorous. One of our favorite pieces is a crystal cup chain wig that gives you maximal glamour without even getting dressed.”
“We’ve definitely noticed that people have been gravitating toward our flashier pieces recently,” added Mariano Cortez and Brya Gerard, cofounders of Los Angeles-based label Busted, which recently hosted a virtual rave party with DJ @bellaferrada. “I think feeling cute and staying stylish during this time is a good tool to motivate and keep moving forward. We definitely see a need for some shine in wardrobes today. Any glimmer is helpful in maintaining a positive outlook.”
For others, reality calls for a blend of the cozy with moments of glam. Some designers suggest leaning in to garments with sparkle, shine and pizazz works best when leveled with items of comfort.
“We’re seeing our customers starting to shed their cozy loungewear and move toward being more playful and trendy,” said Gabrielle Conforti, chief merchandising officer of Urban Outfitters. “We think there is a desire for optimism that can be expressed in how we dress, and we’re happy to have such a robust and on-trend assortment of colorful pieces from sweatsuits to lounge around in, to flirty tops and sparkly dresses for virtual celebrations.”
Designers Kim Shui and Christian Cowan both agreed.
“I’m seeing a combination of people buying the more comfy jersey sets and also the more bright and fun items — girls still want to look good and dress up for new photos,” said Shui. “I definitely think wearing things that you normally would to go out, just dressing up with nowhere to go still lifts your spirits up. I think dressing up even if you’re just staying at home can help us feel a bit more normal during this time.”
“People have definitely embraced comfortable looks, but they’re expressing their personalities too,” added Cowan. “I think people want to feel fun but also practice responsible spending while they don’t know what’s going on financially. Escapism is more necessary than ever before. It’s not about dressing for others, it’s about cheering yourself up.”
With digital gatherings becoming the new normal, senior women’s wear editor for Farfetch Celenie Seidel added, “There is definitely still a market for joy-sparking pieces right now: with so much focus on the face due to the nature of video calls, statement earrings have found their true platform.”
Chelsea Hansford, chief executive officer and creative director for Simon Miller — who is seeing a rise in sales for ribbed clothing at the moment — is finding shine by accessorizing the clothes with the right earrings and shoes. “You can get ready in minutes for your Zoom meetings and throw on an earring for your DJ set in the evening. I find my sparkle in accessories — I wear fun earrings every day to feel put together and sane. I also love to wear my platform shoes, in particular the Blackout Platforms, as they are easy slide-on shoes that make me feel like I have not lost my edge.”
Accessories designers echoed the ease and versatility of adding playful accents.
“Fun jewelry has become a ‘Zoom party’ pick me up staple,” said jewelry designer Jennifer Zeuner about how to energize a Zoom party with accessories. “I always wear fun hoops such as our star or heart ones and a couple layered necklaces to keep my look joyous during this challenging time.”
HAVVA designers and siblings Havva and Ali Mustafa, too, see the benefits of a mood-boosting palette. “We use bright colors and neons in our collections as it creates eye-catching silhouettes and brings an edge to your work outfit, a dinner date, and even that Zoom dance party. If you were to ask did you see me coming? The reply would be ‘from a mile away, baby!’” the duo quipped.
The siblings know a thing or two about how to bring the party, not only from their eye-catching shoe styles, which often feature oversize hardware, strong logos or their signature flame motif, but also on Spotify, where they curate a monthly playlist called, “Cool Girls Don’t Sleep.”
Dsquared2’s Dean and Dan Caten, another pair of fashion siblings, are also offering a sense of hope in these uncertain times through their virtual parties.
“When we decided to do our Funky Friday set with DJ Herca a few weeks back we really just saw it as a fun and cool opportunity to connect with our D2 Family in a way that brings joy and happiness to homes all over the world. Our main concern during this time is geared toward everyone being safe and comfortable. It is of our best interest that we are doing what we need to do to make sure we can come together as one once this is over,” said the duo. They’re known for infusing elements of rave and party dressing into their collections, whether through the designs themselves or the runway soundtracks, most notably during their fall show where they had an army of models give their final walk to a surprise performance by Sister Sledge.
While the fate of post-corona social gatherings has yet to be determined, in the foreseeable future brands and retailers are optimistic that consumers will bounce back and seek sparkly and uplifting options.
“Absolutely. The more pieces in a wardrobe can glisten at a time like this, the more people are able to feel inspired and creatively motivated day-to-day,” said Farhadpour.
Aurélien Arbet and Jérémie Egry, the creatives behind Paris-based brand Études, said: “We are convinced that after all we passed through, we will all want fresh, simple, colorful, and playful clothing. We created this [spring 2021] collection with this direction in mind. The next season should bring joy and energy. We all need to think differently, we should not be scared of changes and work together to reinvent our future.”
“Even more than this however, I foresee there will be a post-pandemic wave of expressionism based on historical trends,” Seidel said. “Over the years, times of uncertainty have often sparked reactive movements where people have craved frivolity as a means of escapism — think Studio 54 and the Weimar Republic’s cabarets. Fittingly, we saw these themes coming through in the fall 2020 collections in February and March, so this mood is in the zeitgeist for a number of reasons — expect fringing, crystals and Glomesh.”
So as another weekend approaches, brands and consumers alike, thanks to these virtual sessions, have begun to establish a semblance of normality all while blowing off steam within the parameters of the current lockdown restrictions. One thing is certain: COVID-19 will not stop the party.
Here and throughout, images from recent runway collections highlighting a range of party-friendly fashion to serve as inspiration for events and small gatherings alike — once self-isolation ends.
WATCH: Behind the Seams With Christian Cowan