Dressing Up is Back + More Lessons From Gwyneth Paltrow, Virgil Abloh, Tory Burch & Antoine Arnault

Dressing up is back, trends still matter and companies are finally addressing meaningful, long-term change with sustainability and racial equality efforts.

That was the message from four style insiders during a New York Times “On the Runway” talk today moderated by fashion critic Vanessa Friedman. She was joined by LVMH exec Antoine Arnault, Gwyneth Paltrow, founder of Goop, Off-White and Louis Vuitton and Off White designer Virgil Abloh and designer Tory Burch.

As fall unofficially kicks off and fashion month moves ahead — although in a very unusual way — people are starting to get back to rituals — like dressing up.

“With the hindsight of the last few months and seeing what the customer is drawn to, they still want to experience joy and dream,” said Burch, founder, executive chairman and chief creative officer of her eponymous firm. Whether they’re dressing for Instagram or small parties, they’re looking at fashion as a way that’s helping them escape…People are buying investment pieces across categories.”

Arnault, director of communications at LVMH and CEO of Berluti, noted that during a recent holiday in the South of France, he noticed people were still dressing up even for casual outings.

“You can’t go out as much, but people still need to feel that moment of joy they get through buying something they love,” Arnault said. “The formal aspect of our sales is still very high.”

Paltrow noted that consumers moved through phases of the pandemic, first gravitating to loungewear and workout products and then to cooking items. Now they’re back to snapping up fashion items, she said.

gwyneth paltrow, style, sneakers, shoes, dress
Gwyneth Paltrow

While some have questioned whether trends are still important during a stay-at-home era, Abloh said must-have items are critical to fueling sales. “With social media and it pieces, I would say that trends are very much alive and cycling,” he noted. The designer said he had been focusing on his role as a thought leader and reimagining what fashion is. “This isn’t just a fashionable profession. It takes a lot of thinking and a lot of observation,” he said.

One big thing all of the panelists have observed is the increased importance of sustainability and diversity efforts.

Arnault said prospective LVMH job candidates often question the company’s stance on sustainability — and aren’t afraid to offer candid feedback. What’s more, sustainability is key to LVMH’s future success, the exec said. “If [climate change doesn’t take hold], we won’t be able to make champagne in 20 years. This isn’t just a nice thing to do or the right thing to do. Our economic future depends on it.”

Paltrow and Burch both noted that women are looking for more investment pieces, which also reflects a more sustainable way of shopping. “Women are buying less and they want to build their wardrobes for the long-term. They’re not turning over closets anymore,” Burch noted.

Tory Burch Footwear News Cover Story
Tory Burch, photographed for FN in 2019.
CREDIT: Tawni Bannister

“I have personally never dressed in an overtly trendy way,” Paltrow added. “I’ve had a few dodgy moments, but I always tend to buy more classic, trend-free pieces. I have old Calvin Klein, old Ralph Lauren, things from more than 10 years ago.”

In addition to sustainability, another critical takeaway from this year is the important work on the diversity and inclusion front.

“2020 shows this matter is urgent. We as a community need to look at it with new eyes and see how disproportionally Black people are treated, whether it be from a virus or from the hands of police brutality. We have the ability to effect change,” Abloh noted. “For me, it’s an urgent issue and needs to be tackled at 12 different points.”

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