Have months of self-isolation, lockdown and working from home irrevocably changed what we will put on once we go out again? For a long time, the assumption was yes. Now, as restrictions ease and the opening up of offices and travel is dangled like a promise, that expectation is more like a qualified “maybe.” But not every country’s experience of the last year was the same, nor were the clothes that dominated local wardrobes. Before we can predict what’s next, we need to understand what was. Here, eight New York Times correspondents in seven different countries share dispatches from a year of dressing.
Italian Vogue called “a luxury version of classic two-piece sweats.”
Fabio Pietrella, the president of Confartigianato Moda, the fashion arm of the association of artisans and small businesses, said that while consumer trends indicated a shift from “a business look to comfort,” it was “not too much comfort.” Italian women, he said, had eschewed sportswear for “quality knitwear” that guarantees freedom of movement but with “a minimum of elegance.”
flyest city on the planet.
In the Senegalese capital, at Africa’s westernmost tip, men in pointy yellow slippers and crisp white boubous — loosefitting long tunics — still glide down streets dredged with Saharan dust. Young women still sit in cafes sipping baobab juice in patterned leggings and jeweled hijabs. Everyone from consultants to greengrocers still wears gorgeous prints from head to toe.
Occasionally they now wear a matching mask.
While much of the world was shut up at home, many people in West Africa were working or going to school as normal. Lockdown in Senegal lasted just a few months. It was impossible for many people here to keep it up. They depend on going out to earn their living.
the poet and revolutionary Amílcar Cabral loved.
joint report by the Boston Consulting Group and Retailers Association of India.
While infections were low during the winter, the past few weeks have seen cases rising to staggering levels in many parts of the country. Right now, it looks as though many people will be working from home for most of 2021 too.
For Ritu Gorai, who runs a moms network in Mumbai, that means she has barely shopped at all, instead using accessories like scarves, jewelry and glasses to jazz up her look and add a little polish.
For Sanshe Bhatia, an elementary schoolteacher, it has meant trading her long kurtas or formal trousers and blouses for caftans and leggings. In order to encourage her class of 30 kids to get dressed in the morning rather than attending lessons in their pajamas, she takes care to look neat and makes sure her long hair is brushed properly.
into a tailspin,” interviews with a range of Parisians suggest a compromise of sorts had been reached.
When Xavier Romatet, the dean of the Institut Français de la Mode, France’s foremost fashion school, went back to work, he didn’t wear a suit, but he did wear a white shirt under a navy blue cashmere sweater and beige chinos, as he would at home. He paired his outfit with sneakers by Veja, a French eco-friendly brand.
Similarly, Anne Lhomme, the creative director of Saint Louis, the luxury tableware brand, dresses the same whether remotely or in person. A favorite look, she said, includes a camel-colored cashmere poncho “designed by a friend, Laurence Coudurier, for Poncho Gallery” and loosefitting plum silk pants. Also lipstick, earrings and four Swahili rings she found in Kenya.
light blue or white shirts, which I buy at Emile Lafaurie or online from Charles Tyrwhitt, with a round-collar sweater if it’s cold” — and, from the waist down, “Uniqlo pants in stretch fabric.”
And Sophie Fontanel, a writer and former fashion editor at Elle, said, “I am often barefoot at home, alone, wearing a very pretty dress.”
Fifth, as well as high-fashion labels, have focused on bright satin, silk and linen shirts with bow ties or stand-up collars, striped patterns or gathered sleeves. The trend for such showy tops has led to a boom in clothing subscription services.
One such platform, AirCloset, announced that 450,000 users had subscribed in October 2020, three times more than in the same period in 2019. Often users request tops only (one bottom item is usually included), and there is now a limit of three in any one order.
“Customers prefer brighter colors to basics such as navy or beige for online meetings, or they prefer asymmetric design tops,” said Mari Nakano, the AirCloset spokeswoman. About 40 percent of subscribers are working mothers for whom the subscription service saved time because they didn’t have to be bothered with washing. They just put the tops in a bag, return them and then wait for the next package to arrive with their new items.
Ushatava, an independent label of sleek, geometrically tailored sleek designs in mostly muted natural colors. It was founded in Yekaterinburg, a city in the Ural Mountains that in the last few years has turned into a Russian fashion hub. 12Storeez, another rising brand from Yekaterinburg, saw its turnover balloon by 35 percent over the last year, even as the market overall shrank by a quarter, said Ivan Khokhlov, one of the founders.
Nastya Gritskova, the head of a P.R. agency in Moscow, said the effect of the pandemic was that for the first time in the Russian capital people stopped “paying attention at who wears what.” Yet last fall, when the government eased coronavirus-related restrictions, things started going back to normal.
“There isn’t a pandemic that can make Russian women stop thinking about how to look beautiful,” she said.
Elisabetta Povoledo, Ruth Maclean, Mady Camara, Flávia Milhorance, Shalini Venugopal Bhagat, Daphné Anglès, Hisako Ueno and Ivan Nechepurenko contributed reporting.
Roughly 17.3 percent of all office space in Manhattan is available for lease, the highest proportion in at least three decades. Asking rents on the island have dropped to just over $74 a square foot, from nearly $82 at the beginning of 2020, according to a recent report by the real estate services company Newmark. Elsewhere, asking rents have largely stayed flat from a year ago, including in Boston and Houston, but have climbed slightly in Chicago.
The Japanese clothing brand Uniqlo, whose United States headquarters are in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, recently relocated to another office building nearby, an open layout with tables designed for its work force of 130 people who will come into the office only a few days a week. Many of its office workers will keep working remotely after the pandemic, while some employees, like those in the marketing department, will hold meetings occasionally in SoHo.
“As a leader, it has been challenging because meeting people face-to-face is so important,” said Daisuke Tsukagoshi, the chief executive of Uniqlo USA. “However, since we are a Japanese company with global reach, the need for remote collaboration among many centers has always been part of our culture.”
Today in Business
The stock prices of the big landlords, which are often structured as real estate investment trusts that pass almost all of their profit to investors, trade well below their previous highs, even as the wider stock market and some companies in other industries like airlines and hotels that were hit hard by the pandemic have hit new highs. Shares of Boston Properties, one of the largest office landlords, are down 29 percent from the prepandemic high. SL Green, a major New York landlord, is 26 percent lower.
Fitch Ratings estimated that office landlords’ profits would fall 15 percent if companies allowed workers to be at home just one and a half days a week on average. Three days at home could slash income by 30 percent.
Senior executives at property companies claim not to be worried. They argue that working from home will quickly fade once most of the country is vaccinated. Their reasons to think this? They say many corporate executives have told them that it is hard to effectively get workers to collaborate or train young professionals when they are not together.
Faced with accusations that it was profiting from the forced labor of Uyghur people in the Chinese territory of Xinjiang, the H&M Group — the world’s second-largest clothing retailer — promised last year to stop buying cotton from the region.
But last month, H&M confronted a new outcry, this time from Chinese consumers who seized on the company’s renouncement of the cotton as an attack on China. Social media filled with angry demands for a boycott, urged on by the government. Global brands like H&M risked alienating a country of 1.4 billion people.
The furor underscored how international clothing brands relying on Chinese materials and factories now face the mother of all conundrums — a conflict vastly more complex than their now-familiar reputational crises over exploitative working conditions in poor countries.
ban on imports. Labor activists will charge them with complicity in the grotesque repression of the Uyghurs.
Myanmar and Bangladesh, where cheap costs of production reflect alarming safety conditions.
genocide. As many as a million Uyghurs have been herded into detention camps, and deployed as forced labor.
As China has transformed itself from an impoverished country into the world’s second-largest economy, it has leaned on the textile and apparel industries. China has courted foreign companies with the promise of low-wage workers operating free from the intrusions of unions.
regional government said last year.
statement reported by Reuters.
That assertion flew in the face of a growing body of literature, including a recent statement from the United Nations Human Rights Council expressing “serious concerns” about reports of forced labor.
The Better Cotton Initiative declined a request for an interview to discuss how it had come to its conclusion.
“We are a not-for-profit organization with a small team,” the initiative’s communications manager, Joe Woodruff, said in an email.
The body’s membership includes some of the world’s largest, most profitable clothing manufacturers and retailers — among them Inditex, the Spanish conglomerate that owns Zara, and Nike, whose sales last year exceeded $37 billion.
Trump administration furthered the trend by pressuring American multinational companies to abandon China.
“All of the economic forces that pushed this production to China are really no longer at work,” said Pietra Rivoli, a trade expert at Georgetown University in Washington.
Still, China retains attributes not easily replicated — the world’s largest ports, plus a cluster of related industries, from chemicals to plastics.
Cambodia in response to its government’s harsh crackdown on dissent.
Some global brands are seeking Beijing’s permission to import more cotton into China from the United States and Australia. They could employ that cotton to make products destined for Europe and North America, while using the Xinjiang crop for the Chinese market.
Yet that approach may leave the apparel companies exposed to the same risks they face now.
“If the brand is labeled as ‘They are still using forced labor, but they are just using it for the Chinese market,’ is this going to suffice?” said Ms. Collinson, the industry lobbyist.
Last week, H&M issued a new communication, beseeching Chinese consumers to return. “We are working together with our colleagues in China to do everything we can to manage the current challenges,” said the statement, which did not mention Xinjiang. “China is a very important market to us.”
Those words appear to have satisfied no one — not the human rights organizations skeptical of claims that apparel companies have severed links to Xinjiang; not Chinese consumers angry over a perceived national indignity.
On Chinese social media, criticism of H&M remained fierce.
“For you, China is still an important market,” one post declared. “But for China, you are just an unnecessary brand.”
When the Swedish fast-fashion giant H&M said in September that it was ending its relationship with a Chinese supplier accused of using forced labor, a few Chinese social media accounts dedicated to the textile industry took note. But by and large, the moment passed without fanfare.
Half a year later, Beijing’s online outrage machine sprang into action. This time, its wrath was unsparing.
The Communist Party’s youth wing denounced H&M on social media and posted an archival photo of slaves on a Mississippi cotton plantation. Official news outlets piled on with their own indignant memes and hashtags. Patriotic web users carried the message across far and varied corners of the Chinese internet.
Within hours, a tsunami of nationalist fury was crashing down upon H&M, Nike, Uniqlo and other international clothing brands, becoming the latest eruption over China’s policies in its western region of Xinjiang, a major cotton producer.
sanctions imposed on Chinese officials last week by the United States, the European Union, Britain and Canada in connection to Xinjiang. China has placed hundreds of thousands of the region’s Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in indoctrination camps and used harsh methods to push them into jobs with factories and other employers.
“The hate-fest part is not sophisticated; it’s the same logic they’ve followed going back decades,” said Xiao Qiang, a research scientist at the School of Information at the University of California, Berkeley, and the founder of China Digital Times, a website that tracks Chinese internet controls. But “their ability to control it is getting better,” he said.
“They know how to light up those ultra-pro-government, nationalist users,” Mr. Xiao continued. “They’re getting very good at it. They know exactly what to do.”
rejected the notion that Beijing had led the boycott campaign against H&M and the other brands.
“These foreign companies refuse to use Xinjiang cotton purely on the basis of lies,” Mr. Zhao said at a news briefing. “Of course this will trigger the Chinese people’s dislike and anger. Does the government even need to incite and guide this?”
After the Communist Youth League ignited the outrage on Wednesday, other government-backed groups and state news outlets fanned the flames.
They posted memes proposing new meanings behind the letters H and M: mian hua (cotton), huang miu (ridiculous), mo hei (smears). The official Xinhua news agency posted an illustration depicting the Better Cotton Initiative, a group that had expressed concerns about forced labor in Xinjiang, as a blindfolded puppet controlled by two hands that were patterned like an American flag.
The buzz quickly drew notice at Beijing’s highest levels. On Thursday, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman held up a photo of slaves in American cotton fields during a news briefing.
shared a clip showing a worker removing an H&M sign from a mall. A user in Beijing who posts about television stars highlighted entertainers who had ended their contracts with Adidas and other targeted brands.
“Today’s China is not one that just anyone can bully!” he wrote to his nearly seven million followers. “We do not ask for trouble, but we are not afraid of trouble either.”
A fashion influencer named Wei Ya held a live video event on Friday hawking products made with Xinjiang cotton. In her Weibo post announcing the event, she made sure to tag the Communist Youth League.
By Monday, news sites were circulating a rap video that combined the cotton issue with some popular recent lines of attack on Western powers: “How can a country where 500,000 have died of Covid-19 claim the high ground?”
One Weibo user posted a lushly animated video that he said he had worked through the night to make. It shows white-hooded men pointing guns at Black cotton pickers and ends with a lynching.
“These are your foolish acts; we would never,” a caption reads.
Less than two hours after the user shared the video, it was reposted by Global Times, a party-controlled newspaper known for its nationalist tone.
Many web users who speak up during such campaigns are motivated by genuine patriotism, even if China’s government does pay some people to post party-line comments. Others, such as the traffic-hungry blog accounts derided in China as “marketing accounts,” are probably more pragmatic. They just want the clicks.
tests conducted by China Digital Times, internet platforms have been diligently controlling search results and comments related to Xinjiang and H&M since last week.
An article in Global Times urged readers to “resolutely criticize those like H&M that make deliberate provocations, but at the same time, stay rational and beware of pretend patriots joining the crowd to stir up hatred.”
The Communist Youth League has been at the forefront of optimizing party messages for viral engagement. Its influence is growing as more voices in society look for ways to show loyalty to Beijing, said Fang Kecheng, an assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Communications at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
apologized for the “bad impact” her post had made.
“Don’t just support Xinjiang cotton, support Xinjiang people too!” another Weibo user wrote. “Support Xinjiang people walking the streets and not having their phone and ID checked.”
The post later vanished. Its author declined to comment, citing concerns for his safety. Weibo did not respond to a request for comment.