As we wrap up our exploration of Newtopia, I keep thinking about connections. The last two years have been a true test of our ability to connect — to the world, to our work, to one another and even to ourselves. And while limited in many ways, we’ve found new methods to make and maintain those connections.
So, let’s look back at the last few months and see where some of those things we’ve been talking about connect to each other, and where we go from here.
Connecting to Our Work
There’s no question that how we connect to the work we do has changed, from where we’re working to the clothes we’re wearing. This has illuminated the fact that what we wear to work reflects how we feel about it.
“How people dress for work can be a reflection of the labor market,” as described in a recent New York Times article. “When the unemployment level has fallen to the lowest level since the pandemic took hold, employees might think: My employer is lucky to have me, so why should I wear pants that zip?”
Comments on the same article show that not everyone feels the same way about it. One commenter says that he doesn’t understand why people think shirts and slacks are uncomfortable. “Elastic pants?” he asks. “Not for this guy.” Meanwhile a school principal explains that she needs clothes that say “leader” while allowing her to move freely, and has adopted an athleisure wardrobe to accomplish this.
Where does all that leave us? My takeaway is that smart wardrobes mean finding a balance between feeling good, looking good and doing our work in the best way we can. What we wear is a positive feedback loop – wearing the right clothes can help us feel more confident and do a better job. The “easy+dressy” looks of Mercer+Mettle are an excellent example of how we can use our clothing choices to connect us to our work in meaningful ways.
Connecting to the World Around Us
With summer approaching, many are already making plans to take some time off and get away from it all. This too is a way to connect — we spend so much time and energy on our work that it’s a relief to let that go and forge a meaningful connection with the wider world.
As our understanding of that world grows, so does the rise of eco-tourism, as described in this Today story about eco-friendly cruises, citing an Expedia report that found that 90% of travelers are looking for sustainability when making travel plans.
“Sustainability is more than a trend for travelers these days,” says Melanie Fish, PR Director at Vrbo. “They’re looking for experiences that not only enrich themselves, but are doing no harm to the planet.”
The goal of “doing no harm” extends to the choice of where you stay, how you get around and of course, what you wear. This connects to the idea of making smart choices that emphasize sustainability and environmental responsibility while still being comfortable. Choices like the C-FREE collection, made from recycled materials and using carbon offsets to minimize its environmental impact, help to create even deeper connections with the world as we explore it and try to make it a better place.
Connecting to One Another
The connections to each other are perhaps the most important ones we can make, and are often the ones that require the most effort to maintain. This is where the collaboration we talked about in our Field Guide to Gen Z comes into play.
Joint projects like the one between Madewell and the Parks Project serve multiple purposes, feeding that world-connection we were just talking about but also expressing our support for a cause we believe in, giving like-minded people a chance to unite in a common cause. “To me, the driving force behind merch is community,” as SanMar salesperson Chris Clark said in an article comparing branded merch and promotional swag. “If I want a shirt from you, it’s because I’m supporting you.”
Collaboration and community are how we connect to one another, and one way we can express those things is through the clothes that connect us. From relaxed Allmade tees to buttoned-down wovens, the ways to express this connection are practically limitless.
What I think I’ve learned is that connection can take many forms. It’s in a smile, a laugh, a shirt, a conversation, a meal, a hat, a handshake. It’s the wind in the leaves and the sand between our toes. Put all this together and it creates a story. And that’s what Newtopia was always about – how we’re connected through the stories we share.
Next month, we’ll be introducing a whole new trend report to carry us through the rest of the year. And while it is new, don’t be surprised if you see many connections to what we we’ve already been discussing. See you then!