The Case For Seasonless Clothing

  Stella McCartney’s AW17 campaign was shot against the backdrop of a Scottish landfill site / Photo: Harley Weir and Urs Fischer for Stella McCartney.

Stella McCartney’s AW17 campaign was shot against the backdrop of a Scottish landfill site / Photo: Harley Weir and Urs Fischer for Stella McCartney.

In this digital age, our constant quest for the next big thing is driving fashion forward at breakneck speed. Gone are the days of the seasonal trend. Today, it’s the never-ending stream of so-called micro-trends that are filling up our feeds, and the perpetual product drops that are denting our wallets. But while this fast and furious cycle may be essential for maintaining that Insta-worthy wardrobe, it also has some much less fashionable consequences.

According to a recent report from Wrap (the Waste and Resources Action Programme), an estimated 1.13m tonnes of new clothing was purchased last year in the UK, which represents an increase of 200,000 tonnes since 2012. And despite this increase in the amount of clothing Britons own, it has also been reported that the average number of wears for a garment has reduced from 50 to 5, and the average lifecycle from 365 days to just 35. Which begs the question, what happens to all the unwanted clothing? Alarmingly, about 85 per cent goes straight to landfill, a statistic that undoubtedly influenced Stella McCartney's AW17 campaign.

The environmental issues surrounding ever-increasing production and over consumption have prompted some designers to seriously consider the longevity and impact of their products. In turn, this has led to a trend in itself, but a much more sustainable one, where the focus is on consumers’ needs rather than rapidly changing fashions. The concept of seasonless clothing eschews the now out-dated notion of ‘autumn/winter’ and ‘spring/summer’ in favor of pieces without a sell-by date, and involves brands producing long-term investments rather than passing fads.

  Tomas Maier's designs for Bottega Veneta reflect a constant house style / Photo: vogue.com (AW17)

Tomas Maier's designs for Bottega Veneta reflect a constant house style / Photo: vogue.com (AW17)

A year-round wardrobe perfectly suits today’s multitasking lifestyles that require clothes which can function across our myriad work and downtime roles. Seasonless staples trump statement pieces when it comes to flexibility, so switching from of-the-moment items to easy-to-wear essentials should not only reduce our desire to ditch, but result in much more workable closets too.

However, building a seasonless wardrobe isn't just about stocking up on basics such as fine cashmere sweaters and simple cotton T-shirts. And it’s not about investing in so-called classics, think little black dresses or biker jackets, either. A personal touch is essential to avoid the inherent boredom factor. Pieces need to be anonymous enough to be worn again and again, but still command that element of interest. Spending time styling will help alleviate any ennui, and from a practical perspective is crucial to dealing with ever-changing weather. But seasonless dressing is where items featuring unique fabrics or craftsmanship really come into their own. Carmen's passion for one-of-a-kind pieces is well known, and her style is a carefully curated mixture of artisanal creations and vintage finds, which she favors over passing trends.

  Ann Demeulemeester's Sébastian Meunier favors a gently evolving aesthetic / Photo: vogue.com (AW17)

Ann Demeulemeester's Sébastian Meunier favors a gently evolving aesthetic / Photo: vogue.com (AW17)

Designers with consistent identities also lend themselves to seasonless style. From Bottega Veneta’s Tomas Maier and his effortless elegance to the sleek, streamlined collections of Narciso Rodriguez and the avant-garde aesthetic associated with Sébastien Meunier at Ann Demeulemeester, there are many designers whose house style is a constant that gently evolves, rather than a revolving door of ideas. Past collections rarely date, and wardrobes can be instantly updated with the addition of one or two pieces.    

There’s no doubt that year-round wardrobes will provide consumers with a sustainable alternative to our current throw away culture - a survey commissioned by Sainsbury’s last spring found that 235m items ended up on landfill sites as people readied their wardrobes for summer. An increased emphasis by brands on quality and durability should also contribute to a reduction in textile waste, and may even prompt a reduction in pollution as many seasonless brands prefer natural fabrics over synthetics. However, our fascination with the new and the lure of fast fashion remain significant hurdles to overcome, and the pressure on brands to remain relevant is seemingly relentless. There needs to be a real sea change in both consumer mentality and commercial outlook for the concept of seasonless clothing to really take hold.