By all accounts, 2016 was not a year for the faint of heart.
A presidential election comparable to no other, global market crises, Brexit and the deaths of iconic figures such as Prince and Muhammad Ali have all made the past year quite the roller-coaster ride.
And, of course, the fashion industry is no exception.
Here, we round up three big issues that shook up the industry in 2016.
Fashion firms felt a heightened level of pressure to adapt to the sped-up pace of demand for their wares this year. The see-now, buy-now movement gained momentum as Burberry, Tommy Hilfiger and other labels embraced the new wave, while designers and creative heads the likes of Isaac Mizrahi and Cameron Silver also became early adapters.
Although it’s arguably loaded with perks for shoppers of the digital age, the see-now, buy-now model — which makes designs available for consumption almost immediately after they hit the runway — simultaneously challenged both veteran and emerging design talent in 2016.
Lamenting the negative consequences of the movement on design creativity as well the difficulties that come with amending supply chain operations for accelerated speed-to-market, several fashion leaders adamantly rejected fashion’s new cycle. François-Henri Pinault, CEO of French luxury conglomerate Kering, said in a memorable soundbite in February that fast fashion “negates the dream” of luxury and “there are some brands for which a runway show is a communications event.”
Apple v. Samsung
In the gavel slam heard around the world, the U.S. Supreme Court dealt a tough blow to the fashion industry when it ruled in favor of Samsung in the landmark Apple v. Samsung design patent case. The unanimous decision is believed to have far-reaching implications for design protection in the fashion community, which came out in large numbers in support of Apple.
In August, Alexander Wang, Calvin Klein and Alber Elbaz were among the big fashion names to join the landmark case by signing an amicus brief in favor of Apple. Adidas and Crocs also filed separate briefs backing Apple in the case.
The initial patent suit stemmed back to 2011, when Apple sued Samsung alleging infringement on three patented design features of its cellphones. The nation’s highest court ruling supported Samsung’s argument that damages in a patent infringement case could be limited to only the infringing design component, rejecting the long-held interpretation of the law that the owner of a patent should claim the full profits of an infringing product even if just part of the product infringes on a patent.
Some experts believe that the ruling could weaken the legal framework for protecting designs — by devaluing patents — and lead to rampant design stealing and decreased creativity and innovation.
The standards of beauty in the fashion industry continued to evolve in 2016 as the body-positivity movement gained steam. This year, several global superstars, including fashion it-girl Gigi Hadid joined the campaign that calls for a more accepting and affirming attitude toward one’s body, sending a message to fashion’s biggest gatekeepers that it’s time to embrace a more inclusive view of beauty.
Hadid joined forces with Reebok to become part of its “Be More Human” campaign. The supermodel is participating in Reebok’s “#PerfectNever” self-betterment movement — its plea to women worldwide to “celebrate the beauty of imperfection.”
Lena Dunham and Amy Schumer and plus-size model Ashley Graham were also among the stars to challenge fashion’s long-held beauty and body standards this year.