The 2024 news cycle has got off to what I can only refer to as a crazy start. Take comedian Katt Williams and his tales about the dark side of Hollywood; Jacob Zuma’s return (or not?) to active politics; and SA’s International Court of Justice case against Israel ... there’s no doubt it’s going to be one helluva chaotic election year.

Yes, there’s also that. Elections. Almost half of the world’s population — including we South Africans — goes to the polls this year in what pundits are calling a watershed for democracy as the world veers towards extreme polarisation, perhaps best illustrated by events unfolding in the Middle East. One thing is certain: tectonic shifts are under way as the world’s moral centre appears to be crumbling.

But what does any of that have to do with the way we dress? Well, to understand where we are, perhaps it would help to look at what’s happening with consumer trends in general.

Global marketing intelligence agency Mintel’s analysts predicts major social shifts this year. They’ve identified five trends: the increasing importance of human relationships in a world dominated by algorithms; consumers reassessing what matters most to them and their perception of what constitutes value; an emphasis on mental health; what they call a “new green reality” as the effects of climate change become ever more apparent; and brands working with consumers to find “new ways to deal with uncertainty”.

Relationships, value, mental health, uncertainty. There’s an undertone of going back to basics, and innovating from there. In real life, it might mean finding joy in the simple things. That requires conscious consumption, if not for the benefit of the planet, then at least for you pocket. In Cyril’s economy, as with other times of uncertainty, it can’t be business as usual. 

Value takes centre stage and in fashion, value doesn’t come cheap. Less becomes more, if you will, and Mintel’s predictions reflect that. So, too, do the runways of the most influential fashion platforms, like the recent Paris Men's Wear shows where it became apparent that the way too eager internet wrote quiet luxury’s obituary far too early.

Image: Tu Tu/Unsplash

Muted tones and streamlined silhouettes; clothing you can wear again and again in many different ways, made a splash. There’s a desire to take the fuss out of getting dressed.

Designers seem to be leaning in on the idea of timeless luxury with earthy tones, leather, big investments coats, sharp and soft tailoring. To me, this signals a conscious approach to dressing up but it also signals a need to invest in longevity over novelty. In the words of Louis Vuitton’s Pharell Williams: “If you’re going to spend your disposable income at a time like this, it has to be for something that’s going to last.” That definitely isn’t a shirt with trendy logos. Nor is it a trendy celebrity collab. It’s something whose value won’t diminish once the excitement has faded.

At Gucci, Sabato De Sarno rooted his collection in real life, offering a beautifully modern spin on men's wear classics with refined, clean, sleek and slim tailoring. This marks a U-turn from the eclecticism of Gucci’s most recent Alessandro Michele era.

Jet-black suiting, herringbone and English check fabrics as well as traditional argyle patterns in new, off-kilter shapes signalled a “dandy chic” at Hermes. The brand led with understated luxury — long leather coats and splendid knitwear — and a similarly subtle elegance permeated Dior’s presentation.


Olivier Rousteing, creative director of Balmain
Olivier Rousteing, creative director of Balmain
Image: Balmain

At Balmain, designer Olivier Rousteing proclaimed that “luxury has a new meaning, and it screams luxury”, cranking up the maximalism with vivid style codes celebrating retro elegance. It was the antithesis of quiet luxury, with bold colours, prints and embellishments, but nonetheless a return to what high fashion has always been about: glamour.

Many of the collections currently coming out of the runways are an antithesis of sports luxe that’s had a stranglehold on fashion in recent times. It’s simple, straightforward luxury that can be worn every day and it looks good!

It’s no wonder we are also seeing a huge presence of the cargo trend. Whether it’s about workwear with a twist, or evening wear in all its chic glory, fashion seems to be going utilitarian and it’s probably the reset we need.

I, for one, will be cleaning up my closet in favour of items that hold value in terms of quality, practicality and maximum wearability.

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