An analysis of 30,000 articles published in 2017, across 100 different online fashion and lifestyle publications, threw up surprising results when analysed for the most important fashion words of the year. The global fashion search platform Lyst broke down the articles into their 8,610,630 component words and tracked the most popular combinations to find that fashion’s key word of the year was “power”. (Also in the top 10: woke, statement, floral, millennial, ugly and vegan.)
That power was the key word of 2017 was due to the fact that the key moves of the year were in the balance of power, not the lengths of hemlines; 2017 was a year in which the elitist structures of fashion were challenged on the catwalk, in the boardroom, and on the newsstand.
In March, the media agenda of Paris fashion week was dominated not by Chanel, Louis Vuitton or Christian Dior but by James Scully, a well-known casting director who turned whistleblower to report on mistreatment of models at a Balenciaga casting. Scully’s claim that 150 models were made to wait in a pitch-dark staircase for three hours, with no food or water and only the light of their phones to see by were shocking. Within days, Balenciaga announced “radical changes” to their casting process and severed ties with the accused agency.
The profile of the fashion establishment altered substantially with the appointment of Edward Enninful as editor of British Vogue in April. The significance of the first black editor was compounded by Enninful’s high-profile mission to bring diversity to the offices and pages of Britain’s flagship fashion glossy. A previously all-white masthead instead featured eminent black Britons including model Naomi Campbell, make-up artist Pat McGrath and filmmaker Steve McQueen. The first issue under the new regime was notable for providing a platform for a markedly diverse range of faces and voices. “I hope you will be as gratified as I am to note how many of the amazing names featured on these pages didn’t necessarily begin their lives here, or were perhaps born into families who emigrated here a generation or two ago (like my own),” wrote Enninful in his first editor’s letter.
In the slipstream of the #MeToo movement, another entrenched power dynamic of the fashion system was challenged as photographers Terry Richardson and Bruce Weber, two towering industry figures who between them have worked with Kate Moss, Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Lena Dunham, were each accused of sexual misconduct by models. Brands including Valentino have since joined Condé Nast in officially cutting all ties with Richardson. As the 2018 award season begins, the changing power balance will be reflected in the expected red carpet absence of Marchesa, the label backed by Harvey Weinstein and designed by his wife, which has for the past decade been standard attire for actors in Weinstein projects.
The energy and excitement around the shifting balance of power could be seen on the catwalk, as well as off it. Céline and Balenciaga, influential brands at the avant-garde edge of Paris fashion week, both riffed on oversized 1980s tailoring and linebacker shoulders in this year’s collections. As long-established hierarchies tumbled, the dynamics of power dominated every aspect of the fashion bandwidth in 2017.