Like “creative director” and “sustainability” before, “revenge shopping” is the ubiquitous but opaque term in the fashion industry. “Is Revenge Shopping On The Horizon In The US?” asked WWD in March. A few weeks later, the national news came on: “Revenge shopping is expected to increase in the coming weeks,” NBC told Washington. iD even provided instructions on what “revenge dressing” could look like. The idea is this: after a year spent mostly indoors with no parties or hot restaurants to huddle in, people are ready to freshen up their wardrobes to avenge what they have been denied, especially the luxurious ones Dignity of life. There is also a sense of optimism, delusional or precarious, that vaccination rates in the United States will soon make parties and formal gatherings a reality. New outfits are fine, therefore, and consumers are eager to go beyond sweatpants and dress up, perhaps with a panache (panache!) That they hadn’t given themselves before. But aside from a few anecdotes – consumers in China flooded stores after the country’s lockdown ended, and a Hermès store reportedly made $ 2.7 million a day – most reporters and advisors acted like psychics while waiting for hard numbers.
Now comes the proof. This week LVMH released its first quarter report, announcing a 45% increase in sales for fashion and leather goods. Hermès is up 44%. And Kering, the conglomerate that owns brands like Balenciaga and Gucci, is up 25.8%. While most of the surge has come from China, which has always had a healthy luxury market and has recovered faster from the virus, there is also evidence that Americans are taking action. Kering reported that sales in North America increased 46% across brands. Hermès also reported that sales in America were up 23%.
So what is it about? One thought is that revenge shopping marks the reverse of the casualization of American casual wear: the entire latest issue of Town & Country is devoted to a new lust for glamor and features a photo of celebrity Jill Kargman burning her sweatpants up in flames. (The headline: “It’s time to burn our sweatpants.”)
But I sense something less blatant and something more optimistic about this new vengeful stance. The encouraging numbers from Hermès and Bottega point to a new respect for “stealth luxury” – a sense of well-made clothing as an investment, safe from the delicate understanding of trends. But logomaniac brands like Gucci are also trending upwards in terms of sales, so that the world has not just turned into sophisticated snobs. Luxury in general is recovering.
And so, it seems, is the flaneur lifestyle – the metropolitan desire to see and be seen that Instagram can only so much fulfill. Also this week, Grub Street reported that some New York restaurants are setting time limits on tables because diners simply won’t leave. Michael Kors told Vanessa Friedman of the New York Times that he recently went to Balthazar and enjoyed the experience of just going to the bathroom as a kind of ritual for entering a nightclub with all eyes on you. (Like the scene through the kitchen in * Goodfellas- *, but with influencers and financial brothers instead of gangsters.)
The idea of revenge shopping is that we seek justice for the year the pandemic stole. But we are recovering from more than just the pandemic! The previous years had been a horror show of overconsumption marked by a binge and neat demeanor that permeated the way we ate, shopped, lived and exercised. It’s been a decade of too much food, too much TV, too much fashion. Over time, this attitude seemed to be inextricably linked with the mounting climate crisis. Over the past year, many reports on fast fashion have made major headlines, including coverage of Xinjiang cotton from forced labor and the corrupt garment factories in Bangladesh, which have potentially armed consumers with a clearer understanding of the ethical implications of fast fashion. There seems to be a more general understanding that fast fashion is a humanitarian crisis and a feminist problem. Americans bought an average of 68 pieces of clothing a year (!), The New Yorker reported in 2018.
Just because a “new normal” appears on the horizon doesn’t mean vengeance means buying 69 items of clothing. Instead, the truest vengeance might look like a more handsome collection of clothes worth lingering in – showing off on the way to the bathroom. A restaurateur said across Grub Street, “People used to be busy. Now they like to hang out. “And to live well, as the poets say, is the best revenge.