Red carpets: Evening wear is making a comeback

Red carpet events have returned with revenge this month with the
MTV VMAs and the Met Gala. After a long pandemic-induced dry spell,
evening gowns, glamour und galas are finally back. With virtually no
more occasions to wear dinner jackets, cocktail dresses and high
heels, the evening wear industry’s sales plummeted last year. But now,
its showing signs of recovery.

At the beginning of September, the Evening Dresses Show (EDShow)
took place in Salerno. It focused on evening wear for women, men and
children and is organised by IFTA (Italian Fashion Talent Awards) with
the support of ITA (Italian Trade Agency). Held at the picturesquely
located Zaha Hadid Maritime Station, set against the backdrop of
Italy’s Amalfi Coast, the event was attended by companies from the
eight southern Italian regions of Abruzzo, Basilicata, Calabria,
Campania, Molise, Puglia, Sardinia and Sicily. They all came to
Salerno to present their spring/summer collections at the third
edition of the EDShow, which was themed “Come back to life!”.
FashionUnited spoke to buyers and exhibitors at the event about the
future of the segment.

Occasion wear has had a tough time

Maurizio Vessa of IFTA is happy that the third edition of the fair
could be held offline again, after the second one was only broadcast
digitally: “Meeting people in real life is something completely
different. Digital cannot replace that. Especially when it comes to
evening wear, which is made for real-life events.” Asked how he sees
the chances of the evening fashion exhibited there for the German
fashion market, he says: “We have a stronger tradition of galas in
Italy than in Germany. But I think this year everyone wants to
celebrate a bit more.”

Simona and Alessandra De Thomasis, Photo:

As formal wear for the office has seen low demand over the past
year and a half, retailers reduced their supply of blazers by 19 per
cent between April 2021 and April 2020. Simona De Thomasis, owner of
the Pascara-based bespoke men’s suit label of the same name, also
reports a drop in demand for formal wear: “Last year was one of the
toughest for us. Our production was almost completely down by
December.” She and her sister Alessandra, who run the company
together, started to produce certified face masks and were able to
keep the business afloat. “Since June / July, the demand for
custom-made suits has risen sharply again,” says Simona De Thomasis,
looking optimistically towards the future. “The demand for the
special, the handmade is back, and customers are even asking a bit
more for colours.”

Katrina Ryback, owner of the concept store Studio 183 in the Bikini
Mall in Berlin, hopes to discover new labels when she visits the
Evening Dresses Show to test out the German market in her shop.
Evening wear has been missing from her assortment so far: “Currently,
many customers are asking me for evening or occasion wear, so I want
to include more of it in the selection. Many of them are tourists who
are in Berlin for an occasion and want to buy something special at the
last minute.”

High heels make a comeback

Lipsticks and high heels are traditionally the winners in crises:
“During the Great Depression in the 1930s, the oil crisis in the 1970s
and when the dot-com bubble burst in the 2000s, demand for heel
heights increased noticeably,” writes Elizabeth Semmelhack, author and
fashion expert, in her book ‘Heights of Fashion: A History of the
Elevated Shoe’. But during the corona crisis, which differed from
other crises in that people stayed at home, sales fell sharply.
According to market research firm NPD Group, the segment shrank 71 per
cent year-on-year in the second quarter of 2020.

“Female customers tended not to buy shoes for ceremonies or galas
last year. Instead, they tended to pair them with jeans,” said Ninni
Mancone, owner of the eponymous label. She sells her colourful,
high-heeled shoes mainly in chic resorts like Saint-Tropez and Forte
Dei Marmi. When asked if she has thought about adding flat shoes to
her range, she answers with a laugh. She wouldn’t consider it, even
though she admits that there was a demand for them. But she is slowly
noticing customers return to buying shoes specifically for events.

Between April 2020 and April 2021, retailers reduced their range of
women’s heeled shoes by 23 per cent, according to an analysis by
Edited. In contrast, the assortment of flat shoes increased by seven
per cent, likely due to demand for sneakers and the resurgence of
comfortable shoe brands such as Crocs and Ugg, Edited writes.

But the trends for the FW 22 season (and beyond) confirm Mancone’s
observation: the high heel making a comeback. Searches for high heels
are up 135 per cent on fashion platform Lyst since the start of 2021,
which is 71 per cent more than usual year-on-year overall.
So, optimism seems to be in order.

This article was previously published in German on


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