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Fashion in the face of an endless summer

If you read regularly you may have vague recollections of my science week musings on the future of fashion on a hotter planet (check out the part one post here, and part two here). A bit of a ‘fashion news’ Google this week resulted in a gem of an article from The Sydney Morning Herald, titled Fashion a victim of the endless summer. The Fairfax media video on the post (which I can’t share here due to embedding issues) shows an interview with David Walker, the senior equities analyst at Stocks In Value, that discusses the issues that retailers face introducing winter ranges to stores as Australia’s climate changes.  Stating that retailers ‘keep getting caught with winter apparel mid March’ and that:

“this is not sustainable model, the summers are getting longer and hotter. So unfortunately we are seeing discounting of apparel by apparel retailers”.

As someone who lives in a subtropical location and worked in front line retail trade (in a couple of stores mentioned in the video), I can vouch for the fact that fashion retailers are incredibly quiet as soon as the winter ranges drop, as it really doesn’t get cool enough for long sleeves and pants until June/July and you will rarely have the opportunity to wear a winter jacket for a whole day. An retail situation that results in many disgruntled customers, specifically those who have traveled from cooler Aussie climates for a sunny vacation to find they can only buy faux fur coats and jeans in-store when they are after kaftans and bikinis for a balmy 28 degree mid-autumn May day.

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What’s going on in Australian Stores?

As the icecaps melt and the polar bears get even better at swimming, fashion seems to be a fairly trivial topic. However, the future of fashion in changing climate is a very real issue for those involved in the industry. An industry worth an estimated three billion dollar industry here in Australia that employs more than 200,000 people. With jobs and economic profit at stake it is interesting to see that reports like the one above that directly link fashion and climate change are appearing in our mainstream news feeds. According to the report (that was published on May 7th) Sydney has had only one day this year with a maximum temperature of less than 20 degrees. Other news reports back this. An article by The Guardian interviewed climate scientist David Karoly, who had this to say about our above average temps:

“The previous record had about a one in 43-year chance due to natural climate variations alone but now occurs about one year in six in the present climate, that is already affected by human-caused climate change…It’s evidence that climate change is already happening – and increasing the risks of hot extremes.”

And then there was the scary news that hit our newsstand a little while ago, where climate scientists confirmed that February was in fact the hottest one on record across the Globe and we can’t blame El Nino. It’s something else that has caused the balmy temps and we are suspecting that it might be human induced global warming. Regardless of what is causing our hot-hot-heat over Autumn, there is no escaping that warm weather requires less clothing. Horrible news for the retail stores that have racks full of toasty warm jackets and customers have no place to wear them. These retailers are now playing the waiting game. Waiting for a cold front, or waiting to see who will be the first to crack under the pressure and resort to an early mid-season clearance to get the cash flowing and make space on the shop floor for some more weather appropriate stock. It’s weird to think that next year designers and fast fashion labels will have to take into account climate change when determining what stock drops where and when!

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Looking the part despite the heat

Having moved from the Southern ‘cooler’ states of Australia to QLD’s endless summer (I’m sorry QLD residents, the coastal areas really don’t get cold in comparison to the southern states, we are lucky to get one or two actual cold days a year), I’ve learnt a few things about layering in a destination where layers really aren’t that necessary. Here are a few tips for looking wintery when it’s 28 degrees.

  • Lightweight natural fibres can be layered easily in the heat. Think a linen shirt, lightweight cotton scarf, and a cotton maxi skirt. If you are really going for it you can try the cotton/silk/viscose kimono, cotton singlet, cotton scarf, and maxi skirt or lightweight pants combo. You get the look of wearing clothing without the excess heat that comes with heavy or synthetic layers.
  • Wear a more ‘autumn’ inspired colour pallet. Ditch the summer brights and opt for green, brown, orange, grey, cream, and darker wash denim. This helps to bring a seasonal vibe to your outfit even if you are still wearing shorts and a tank. Avoid black, it might look wintery but it will just absorb the heat and get sweaty. Don’t believe me? Check out this clip on how you can fry an egg on a hot Aussie day with just a black frying pan.
  • Get some seasonal prints. Prints with leaves, bare branches, snowflakes, bears, deers (whatever takes your fancy) will give a change of season vibe even your surroundings are tropical. The shorts above are my ‘winter’ shorts. They wear the same as summer shorts (as in they are short and denim) but have an illusion of the cosy season due to the sweater details. These are Aussie designer Arabella Ramsay ones and have been in my closet for a long time now but would be an easy DIY with a damage thrifted sweater and a needle and thread.
  • Layer your accessories. If it is too hot for even the light layers go accessory crazy. I didn’t wear much in the way of accessories until I moved to the subtropics and donated all my beautiful Melbourne winter jackets to charity after two years with no wear. The monotonous boredom of wearing shorts and a tank every day, has made me as over-accessorised as Johnny Depp (who is one of my style icons). I choose sterling silver necklaces (as a sweaty person I ruin cheap jewels in one wear through tarnishing), and wear them in layers, adding a few bracelets, rings, a scarf, hat and a statement bag and suddenly your very plain combo has some personality (a jewel layering style session post here).
  • Wear your winter shoes. While you might not get away with snow gloves at the beach you can wear a solid pair of boots in 28 degrees and feel pretty comfy. When I discovered I required orthotics my sandal obsessed World came crumbling down around me. Fortunately after years of wearing boots in the heat I feel like the orthotics were a style blessing. Most summer outfits have increased polish with a solid boot. Even if you know boots in summer would never be your thing give the wintery boot and summer outfit combo a go. The results might be surprisingly good.

Does the idea of an endless summer scare you? Perhaps you are a summer worshipper? Share your thoughts and your warm-weather dressing tips below.