Friday, 7 October 2022

It’s fashion

The Beginning

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FASHION

Welcome to A/W 2022, stylish people. We’re more accustomed to thinking of this time of year as 4Q — or hey, “fall” works too — but this month’s edition of Your Wealth is all about fashion, so serve your best ‘fit and help us see in the season.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF FASHION WEEK

A brief history of fashion week— Long before the likes of Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid flocked to the fashion week runways, instigating a paparazzi frenzy and flooding Avenue Montaigne with a sea of influencers, there were… paper dolls. In the first half of the 19th century, clients hoping to get an idea of what their final garments would look like had to do with mannequins or fashion dolls dressed in miniature replicas of garments that were sewn or made out of paper, according to The Good Trade.

Fashion designer Charles Frederick Worth was the first to use live models to showcase his designs to clients in Paris in the 1860s, laying the groundwork for what we now know as the ‘Big Four’ Fashion Weeks (New York, London, Milan, and Paris), which typically take place twice a year in February and September. These salon shows were exclusively for elite clientele. They gave way to more formal fashion “parades” where models were called up via the number assigned to the design they were wearing to walk in front of an audience of clients. Catch the number-holding thing in this catwalk scene from the 2017 movie Phantom Thread (watch, runtime: 2:39).

Marrying fashion and socializing: In the early 20th century, designer Paul Poiret began throwing lavish balls where he would showcase his designs in-action. Lady Duff-Gordon was doing the same in London, inviting strategic guests to these events to create a buzz around them, Vogue reports.

The next evolution: Department store Ehrich Brothers held its own fashion show in New York in 1903, according to Reader’s Digest. Other department stores soon followed suit and invited press to these balls and walking events.

By the 1920s and 1930s, Parisian fashion shows were getting more intimate. Renowned fashion houses like Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli were on the rise — as was heightened anxiety about designs being copied, so fashion shows became more individualized, exclusively client-only events, where photography was often banned. Clients would travel to Paris to attend shows, but the onset of World War II led to a pause amid the Nazi occupation.

At last, to the first fashion week: With Europe preoccupied with the war, US fashion publicist Eleanor Lambert jumped at the chance to promote American designers, The Good Trade reports. In 1943, she invited the media to a "New York Press Week" — a series of shows that ultimately became the first Fashion Week.

Shows become institutionalized: After WWII, the French fashion trade association, the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, began regulating Paris fashion shows. Designers were now required to present seasonal collections with at least 35 pieces. Milan soon followed with the National Chamber of Italian Fashion establishing a Fashion Week in 1958. Paris Fashion Week became a formal event in 1973, organized by the French Fashion Federation, and in 1984 the British Fashion Council created London Fashion Week.

Fashion Week September 2022

We bring you the most notable moments from the ‘Big Four’ fashion weeks (New York, London, Milan, and Paris). Global designers showcased their visions of what we’ll be wearing in the spring and summer of 2023 at the most recent fashion weeks in September.

The trends you should expect to see trickling down to the high street come 2023: Cargo pants, which were a major trend in 2022, are here to stay — but they’re being introduced in softer fabrics like the satin versions seen at the Fendi and Jil Sander shows. Another major trend to look out for is sheer fabrics, according to Cosmopolitan, and although some of the sheer styles presented might be too risque for some, layering—which is also a major theme for the upcoming season—can make them accessible. Long dresses layered over pants was a theme that kept popping up on last month’s runways. Another more conservative trend that is making a comeback is maxi skirts. Meanwhile, the go-to for spring nights out will be sequin fringe pieces — or fringe anything for that matter, Who What Wear reports.

The standout color: Lime green.

Seeing double? Alessandro Michele’s Spring/Summer 2023 show for Gucci, Twinsburg, was one for the books. Everything seemed normal — until a wall was raised and audiences realized two identical shows had been taking place on either side, with the help of 68 pairs of model twins, Another Mag reports. The twins then each came out again for a second time holding hands. The designer’s fascination with twins, which he has made evident through past campaigns, is personal; His mother Eralda was a twin, and he viewed his aunt Giuliana as his second mother.

Spray-on couture: Coperni’s spray on dress takes the cake as the buzziest moment of this year’s fashion weeks. Bella Hadid walked the runway for the French label wearing next to nothing, before Manel Torres — creator of Fabrican, a patented spray-on technology — and two scientists sprayed her with what resembled white paint but quickly transformed to a fiber, Wired reports. (Watch it happen here: runtime, 1:19). Fabrican was founded in 2003 to explore the use of technology in fashion, healthcare, and the automotive industry. Torres was inspired by a can of silly string to create the innovative tech, which can also be used to repair damaged items.

Subtle sustainability: Stella McCartney’s latest show, held in the courtyard of the Centre Pompidou in Paris, was her most sustainable to date — but she hoped no one could tell. “If I’m doing my job right, you shouldn’t see any of the sustainability,” the Guardian reports the designer saying after the show. “It should just look like the most luxurious, glamorous show.” McCartney sent leather-alternative jackets, shoes and bags down the runway. This season's take on the popular Frayme bag was made from a grape-based leather alternative, and its chain strap from mycelium, a network of fungal threads. McCartney has long been a proponent of eco-friendly fashion, having declared her brand leather-free since 2001, Reuters reports.

The most controversial moment: Ye (the artist formerly known as Kanye West) staged a last-minute fashion show for his brand YEEZY Season 9 (or YZY SZN 9, as he calls it), The New York Times reports. True to the firm, Ye started off the show with a six-minute speech — but it was the black t-shirt he was wearing — which had the slogan "White Lives Matter" printed on the back — that stole the show. The slogan has been deemed as hate speech by the Anti-Defamation League, according to The Cut. Jaden Smith was among those in the audience who promptly walked out of the show upon seeing the t-shirt. Edward Enninful, editor of British Vogue and one of the most prominent Black men in the industry, called the shirt “inappropriate” and “insensitive, given the state of the world.”

LOCAL STYLE

Egyptian chic: Here are just a select few of the local brands who bring their take on an Egyptian aesthetic — and make us feel seriously acquisitive.

For the luxury lovers:

Azza Fahmy broke onto the jewelry scene in the late 1960s, becoming one of the first women apprentices in Cairo’s historic jewelry quarter, Khan El Khalili. Fahmy’s first collection was inspired by Nubia and traditional Egyptian architecture, according to the brand’s website — and she has continued to draw inspiration from Egyptian heritage and culture. Her luxury designs often feature Arabic calligraphy, her signature, with traditional proverbs and poetry inscribed into the pieces. Fahmy designed pieces for iconic actress Souad Hosseny and worked with the renowned director Youssef Shahine on designing jewelry for some of his movies. Fahmy currently has stores across the MENA region as well as in London and the United States. We sat down with Fatma Ghaly, partner and CEO of Azza Fahmy, back in 2020.

Accessories brand Okhtein was founded by Egyptian sisters Aya and Mounaz Abdel Raouf. Their 2014 bag line incorporated quality Egyptian brass craftsmanship, while the sisters used their social media smarts to market the brand, Forbes reports. The brand has since taken off and has been worn by several A-list celebrities including Beyonce, Demi Moore and Emma Watson. Investment fund Bidayat acquired a stake in the handbag brand last year, Okhtein CEO Mohamed Abdel Raouf told Enterprise, without disclosing the financial details of the agreement. The brand’s pieces are sold at retailers around the world including Bloomingdale's in the UAE, Harvey Nichols in Saudi Arabia, Saks in Bahrain, Harrods, Browns, and Les Suites in France.

Maison Yeya is a French-Egyptian global luxury fashion house founded by Yasmine Yehia, whose career was catapulted after she was selected as a contestant on LBC’s Mission: Fashion in 2008 and subsequently mentored by iconic designer Elie Saab, according to the brand’s website. The company, which operates out of the UAE, is best known for its bridal design but also creates couture and ready-to-wear pieces. The brand received international media attention Jennifer Lopez wore one of its designs to the BAFTAs in 2019, Forbes Middle East reports. It has since been worn by members of the Arab world's royal families, model Chrissy Teigen and Egyptian actress Mona Zaki amongst others.

And for the streetwear fanatics:

Affordable fashion brand In Your Shoe was founded by Ezz Tarek and Amr Kawashti. The company started off making socks in all kinds of fun prints, but as demand for socks faltered during the pandemic lockdown they expanded their line, adding printed pajama pants, which garnered a good response and boosted revenues. They then slowly rolled out bucket hats and fanny packs, and ultimately decided to turn the company into a full fashion brand, offering everything from men’s swimwear and women’s dresses to laptop sleeves. The company also has a unisex category with gender-neutral garments. The brand has two brick and mortar stores and is looking to open more.

Each of Bohemian brand Fufa’s collections has been inspired by a destination in Egypt. The brand's founder Farah El Ashiry creates digital prints inspired by different areas and prints them on locally sourced sustainable Egyptian fabrics, which are then made into the final garments at local factories. Part of the manufacturing process is carried out by women artisans in each destination, providing them with a source of income.

Egyptian eyewear brand Nile Eyewear was founded by entrepreneur Ahmed Hamdi in 2014. He began manufacturing the glasses locally and selling them at pop up shops along the North Coast and in malls around Cairo. Hamdi constantly changes up the available collections, making limited quantities of each design to ensure that the pieces remain unique and exclusive. Nile Eyewear is now sold at Arkan Mall, Capital Business Park, Mall of Arabia, Mall of Egypt and Downtown Mall.

YOUR TOP 5

Your top 5 pieces of business and economic news in September:

THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF FASHION

Behind all the glitz and glamor, the fashion industry has a soberingly large carbon footprint: The fashion industry is responsible for up to some 8-10% of global carbon emissions and 20% of wastewater globally, according to a United Nations Economic Commission for Europe report. Producing and delivering your favorite sweaters and sneakers to a storefront near you takes more energy than the aviation and shipping industry combined, according to the UNFCCC. It takes almost 3.8k liters of water to make and deliver just one pair of jeans. And at current levels of production, the industry is on track to grow its greenhouse gas emissions by over 50% by 2030.

Waste is another problem deeply embedded into the fabric of fashion: Some 87% of all textiles are eventually discarded and find their way into landfills or end up being incinerated. Even more disturbing is that in some countries, as much as 40% of purchased clothing never even gets one wear. Since 2000, the number of new garments produced annually has doubled to around 100 bn. As fashion cycles grow shorter and global fast-fashion retailers churn out newer products at increasing speed, the amount of waste produced by the industry could exact an even larger toll on the planet.

There’s also the problem of harmful microfibers which seep out into our oceans and waterways every time we wash our clothes. Some 16-35% of the microplastics currently in our oceans can be traced back to synthetic fibers used in garment manufacturing that have escaped our washing machines and entered into our sewage systems before being unleashed into our waterways. Aside from the immediate harm to marine life, toxic microplastics in our ecosystems inevitably end up in our drinking water and food.

Some of the perpetrators have pledged to produce more sustainably: Fast fashion powerhouse H&M has pledged to reach “net-zero” by 2040 and to power its operations through a circular model. Iconic denim manufacturer Levis has pledged (pdf) to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 40% across all segments of its supply chain by 2025 and make a 90% reduction in emissions in all of its owned facilities.

One (partial) solution could be digital: For many, fashion can be an essential form of expression and reducing one’s wardrobe over environmental concerns may seem like an impossible task. This is where digital fashion comes in. With potentially limitless (and laws-of-physics-defying) options, digital fashion offers some of the same scope to define your image on social media or in the metaverse, at a significantly reduced ecological cost. Fashion shows, which often rack up a pretty high carbon footprint, could be going online as well.

Relying on alternative materials in production could be another: Replacing pollutants like plastic and petroleum-based synthetic fibers with more ethical materials is part of the way forward for many fashion houses. Brands like Adidas, Stella McCartney and Lululemon are already backing mycelium-leather manufacturer Mylo in a bid to transition towards more sustainable leather-alternatives. Other high-fashion brands like Burberry and Balenciaga are also working in-house to develop a new roster of less environmentally taxing materials in their production processes — from lobster shells to lotus stems.

The most effective way to curb the negative effects of the industry? Make and buy less clothing: As a consumer, one of the most effective steps you can take is to vote with your feet and buy less clothing. It's easier said than done, but thinking more deeply about what you actually need and opting for fewer, higher -quality garments instead of heaps of fast fashion can go a long way in reducing your carbon footprint. If you absolutely need to get your hands on something new for a special occasion, consider renting instead of buying or buying second-hand. Local outlets like La Reina can offer a hand.

FASHION AND STATUS

What our clothing says about us: The way we dress communicates a lot about who we are and how we want to be perceived in the world. While what we wear can be a source of individual expression, clothing has also historically worked to signify social roles. Changing styles of dress tell the story of shifting status and values — even when it comes to what we think of as laxer dress codes today.

The history of clothing has been rooted in maintaining clear social hierarchies: Up until the early to mid-Middle Ages, western fashion was entirely a function of a person's position within a social hierarchy. There were clear distinctions between the styles of dress of merchants, tradesmen, and aristocrats, for example, Stanford law professor Richard Thompson Ford explains to the BBC. As tailoring developed, ever clearer class distinctions emerged in people’s styles of dress, Ford says.

Then came individuality: By the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance period, individual expression began to feature alongside class and religious affiliation in determining styles in the western world, Ford tells Stanford News. This increased focus on the individual mirrored a broader cultural shift in philosophy, science, and art.

But these individual modes of expression were still kept in check by harsh laws dictating dress codes: As room grew for expressions of status, so-called sumptuary laws were put in place to bar people from going too far out of bounds. These laws were ostensibly meant to prohibit “extravagance,” but in practice designed to keep merchants and tradesmen from dressing like nobility — even if they could afford to. Part of the thinking here was to restrict the appearance of power and authority to the upper echelons to help them maintain social control.

Style today has become more casual than ever, but that doesn’t mean status signifiers have been abolished. Take the outfit of choice for many tech CEOs — the plain t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers popularized by your Jobs and Zuckerberg types. It might seem like Silicon Valley sartorial choices are increasingly casual or careless compared to the pin-striped business suits donned by scions of industry in previous decades, but in reality they’re just another kind of dress code in an evolution that began with the merchant-class robes of yore.

Welcome to the era of “Power Casual”: When it comes to workplace attire, we’re increasingly dressing for success by toning it down. This trend has of course been accelerated by the pandemic, which forced many office workers indoors for the better part of two years and where, on most days, pants were optional. As people return to the office, dress codes have shifted casual and fashion retailers have embraced a more relaxed style. The shift to “power casual” or “business comfort” is partly thanks to the WFH aesthetic. Another theory is that a strong labor market in rich countries means workers are less concerned about appeasing their bosses and presenting themselves as too formal.

What you wear can change the way you feel and behave: Certain garments contain meaning to us that runs far deeper than their aesthetic sensibility may suggest—in many ways they might actually have the ability to influence the way we feel about ourselves and how we perform, an influential 2012 study from a group of Northwestern University researchers suggests. They call the notion that clothes influence how we think and act “enclothed cognition theory.” The researchers showed that test subjects’ performance on certain tasks improved when they wore lab coats, which are typically associated with scientific thinking. The findings lend some credibility to the idea that getting out of your pajamas in the morning and slipping on a button-up shirt can put you in the right frame of mind to succeed.

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