Updated: Sep 1
I have a poster of the skyline of New York City. It has the Empire State building as the focus (radical, I know), rising above everything around it. Rising to itself.
Skylines inspire me.
(radical again, I know)
When I saw the real life replica of this poster on my wall that I had been looking at for the last few years, it felt like déjà vu. Only, it wasn’t. It was real. And raw. My sense of wonder found its way back.
An empire state of mind, indeed.
I can’t pinpoint what my fascination with skyscrapers is. It is probably something to do with the fact that it represents an unimaginable dimension that had to be conjured before it was built. A human mind had to believe that it was not just a fiction of someone’s imagination, but a real possibility.
The opening of the Empire State building coincided with the onset of the Great Depression. The construction was in an intense competition for the title of “World's Tallest Building” - which it held for 40 years.
I live in the city of the Burj Khalifa – the tallest building in the world today. It was completed and opened in 2010. It put a new spotlight on Dubai, making its mark on the world map.
It is a stunning structure in which you see the triumph of Dubai's vision of attaining the seemingly impossible. It is a feat of engineering and wonder and glory. It is awe-inspiring when you just stand and look at it, glimmering in all its glory.
It is symbolic of a visionary leaders' strength, determination and pursuit of excellence.
From a barren desert to a record breaking skyline, this city is the biggest example of transformation. Ideas are outlandish only when nothing is done about them!
There’s something so immaculately inspiring about these skyscrapers. They break barriers and limits and stand through the test of time. Much like life.
The ground is first dug up, it is like unlearning years of conditioning brought about by society to deem you 'acceptable.' Only then can you lay a strong foundation with deep roots. And then with every experience, you build. You grow and evolve.
The One World Trade Center or Freedom Tower in New York is nothing but a symbol of rising from the ashes. Literally. Taller and stronger than ever before.
And God forbid if something were to happen to any of these structures, I am sure that something better would come out of it even then. That’s the energy of the world. Always transforming.
And when this transformational energy is channeled into something, it tends to have a beautiful outcome. Almost always.
They say history repeats itself. Whether it was the Great Depression, World War or the Great Recession, as difficult as they were, these were times that proved to be catalysts for innovation in every facet of society.
If we look at fashion, the Roaring 20s was a time when fashion took a sweeping turn away from the conservative, into a less regimented era of fashion. A hundred years later we are at a similar threshold.
After World War I, clothing prices fell and quality clothes became available to more people than ever before. Fashion and clothing was utility driven.
In 2009, after the period of economic uncertainty that swept in, consumers were looking for discreet purchases. The Recession saw a pushback of noticeable logos as the Minimalism trend gained respect whether in fashion, homes, cosmetics or skincare. The understated, timeless look gained momentum. That season Gucci’s most billed style was its ‘New Jackie’ purse devoid of the brand's wildly valuable name and trademarks.
Thereon the logo made a comeback symbolising an optimistic economy. Burberry introduced its new monogram logo in 2018, inspired by the initials of the brand's founder. On the Spring 2020 runway, Valentino introduced a new bag which showcases a magnified version of the brand’s gold V logo.
During periods of economic growth, flashy styles dominate as consumers want to show off their wealth. Whereas during periods of recession, the mood is conservative.
The Roaring 20s was a decade of economic prosperity and social change, with a distinctive cultural edge, especially in the United States and Europe, as society found its feet back after World War I. It gave us the Jazz age (think Louis Armstrong) and Mickey Mouse. Shift in women's roles as more women went to work - which led to simpler shapes but more glitz (Flapper dress). And bobbed hair. Men's tailored fits were more relaxed, and pinstripes and sportswear made their way into their wardrobes.
The pandemic brought the world to a stand still but luxury spending continued and is now soaring in the post-pandemic world as economies and societies recuperate. There appears to be a rise of elaborate, bold, glittery designs. It does offer fantasy, escape, romanticism and hope, after all.
On looking closely, one can see how the RTW Fall 2021 collection of Givenchy, Prada, Valentino are reminiscent of the Roaring 20s. This reminds me of The Great Gatsby.
As much as there is space for the big names, the most noticeable transformation is the rise of new age brands. They are the harbinger of circular design, sustainable processes and ethical supply chains, as conscious consumption becomes an intuitive way of life.
“What we’re trying to design here is system change, not new clothes,” as quoted by Raeburn for Vogue, on its launch. “It’s responsible design.”
It has been a tough and challenging time for many. But the greatest creations and opportunities have come out of times like this in the past as it calls for reflection, reinvention and a reformation.
At the core and collective level, fashion enables expression and it is evident that we are moving into an entirely new period of 20s that is Roaring and Responsible.