All good things in your clothes’ life start with c. Catwalk, cloche, contempo, classic, calamanco,… Capsule. That trending capsule wardrobe is one in which everything has a purpose and you have no more than you need — though that need probably does change according to the person in charge. Nevertheless, when we start coloring outside that capsule canvas, there’s no style guide to rein in the clashes, only our natural instincts. In other words… Fashion forecasting, friend or foe?
Shanghai-living Stephanie Lawson, founder and designer of the ZODIAC Active brand (ZODIAC), in 2018 went through a major mental re-haul and streamlined down her possessions by an impressively calculated 70 per cent. So it’s not too surprising that the ZODIAC capsule collection came about for two main reasons:
- Lawson felt she was seeing too much badly-made, wasteful design — i.e. fast fashion that a) is not built to ﬁt you, but for you to “ﬁt in / become somebody else” and b) ultimately gets dumped either way;
- She wanted to make travelling and moving about from continent to continent easier so that packing wouldn’t cause such a headache and you could easily throw a few pieces in a bag, knowing that they were going to take you from place to place, light to dark and tick all the boxes.
The time has now come for us to leave the landfill nad fill our minds with a capsule fix. So in that fashion… Sleekly Shanghai streamline away, we say!
Most ZODIAC designs are trans-seasonal, so you generally need them all year round — if based in a temperate climate. In terms of wool, for example, we might add a lining for deep winter that you can take out for autumn/spring. Another option is to brand swim-wear as wintertime evening wear.
About Capsuling And Branding
Temper: What is the ZODIAC brand take on the capsule concept and what does it add?
Lawson: The intention is not for people to buy every ZODIAC item out there, but for people to just buy those ZODIAC items that work with their existing wardrobe. These should help them in daily life and could be mixed and matched with their wardrobe’s vintage/meaningful items — perhaps well-made designer pieces that have longevity. I’ve had customers say that buying ZODIAC, is like buying into a uniform, a statement I take as a compliment in the sense that the brands I like the most, I buy in the very same way. I am their target customer and they have clearly “hit the nail on the head”. There are obviously different capsule brands out there, speaking to different people and in that way, we have to ﬁnd something that works with our own lifestyles, ethics, tastes, etc.
Temper: Is the capsule wardrobe in your designer mind and collection based on numbers ( the “37 pieces rule”) or stylistic rules?
Lawson: Neither. I just try to create relevant items that ﬁt the current mood, but can still be worn for years to come. It’s not all cut and dry. Perhaps big data will change all this and we can literally create pieces that when merged add up to the perfect wardrobe for individuals. I believe it can only be a good thing for a brand to be able to do tailored design and production to ﬁt the exact clothing requirements of a customer, so long as the data collected is used responsibly — insert GDPR wink.
Tips and tricks: a) be able to layer items more easily and build outﬁts up or down according to the weather and b) use versatile fabrics that can be worn throughout the seasons. Wool is a warmtouch fabric that doesn’t really work in the heat of the summer, however merino is extremely versatile and whilst keeping you warm is also breathable.
Time Of The Season
Temper: What do you do with the pieces not in the current capsule? Hold on to them until next season?
Lawson: Most of the ZODIAC items have been designed to be trans-seasonal, so you generally need them all year round — if based in a temperate climate, that is. Now, in Shanghai summertime, I have all items still in use aside from the full-length denim jeans. [It’s hot, but in Shanghai’s scorching summer heat you will become a hot mess when wearing ankle-length denim — been there, done that.] As of next year, I will start offering winter/summer items and then I will try to make them all customizable to either season.
In terms of wool, for example, we add a lining for deep winter that you can take out for autumn/spring so you get the most use out of it. Another option is that of swim-wear which you could wear as evening wear in wintertime. I think it’s about maximizing the use we can get out of our clothes; there’s much room for improvement in that respect. [true dat]
With fashion, rules are there to be broken. The joy of styling means you can be inspired to wear one item in different ways and that’s the best part about it. The only issue I can see here is if your wardrobes are literally in different locations [hello!] and then it’s just
about planning plus, in the end, knowing your style and what you will want to wear in advance.
We need to be able to deﬁne within clothes-producing companies what best suits the needs of the most people and manufacture accordingly. From Uniqlo to small independent brands, I think this is where market data can be used to fully and very precisely understand the needs and wants of speciﬁc customer-bases.
Temper: The concept of a “capsule wardrobe” in the bigger scheme of slowed down fashion and sustainability: Major advantages? Other opinions?
Lawson: The issue with capsuling is that there need to be deﬁnitions on the side of the brand in “where do we draw the line?” terms. You might have a customer saying that life cannot be lived without a black silk jumpsuit! Does that mean you need to roll them out for everybody? If you think everybody will wear it, then perhaps yes, roll away. In reverse, take the classic case of the white Tee. Most people would say this one’s a classic item, but I have found that for me it’s not because they’re usually revealing, they don’t stay white nor do they continue to look good after a few washes.
We need to be able to deﬁne within clothes-producing companies what best suits the needs of the most people and manufacture accordingly. From Uniqlo to small independent brands, I think this is where market data can be used to fully and very precisely understand the needs and wants of speciﬁc customer-bases. Obviously the main threat here is a fashion business wholly focussed on pushing products and turning a proﬁt with no concern about the effects.
The art of capsuling can create a coveted contempo fashion forecaster. You may quote Temper Magazine on that one. Designers can be smart in their fabric usage to improve wearability throughout the seasons, but there are limitations.
Tips And Tricks
Temper: How would you go about making a season-less capsule wardrobe, i.e. a year round wardrobe?
Lawson: As I mentioned earlier on, the first ZODIAC collection was created experimentally in this vein. There are a couple of key things: The ﬁrst is being able to layer items more easily and build outﬁts up or down according to the weather and the second is to use versatile fabrics that can be worn throughout the seasons. A few tios and tricks:
- Wool is a warmtouch fabric that doesn’t really work in the heat of the summer, however
- Merino is extremely versatile and whilst keeping you warm is also breathable.
- Many coldtouch fabrics, such as silk, are not really comfortable to wear during the winter months, however
- You can ﬁnd blends that allow for a silky feel, albeit with a warmer touch.
I think designers can be smart in their fabric usage to improve wearability throughout the seasons, but there are obvious limitations. In this limited canvas case, designers can conduct their research and be inspired by different cultures or even by Mother Nature Herself! After all, the (is)lands are filled with knocking coconuts and rustling palm leafs. Nature as the original style guru.
Speaking of stylistic savviness… Some cultures residing in hot climates cover up to stay cool, as opposed to wearing less or simply going all Albufeira “style”. The Bedouins stay cool because their robes are so thick — the outer layer serves as an absorbing SPF, whereas thin black clothing transmits heat to the skin, making a person hotter — and also indigenous tribes who have been enduring extreme heat waves and cold fronts for hundreds or thousands of years in style.
Capsuling creates the ultimate fashion forecaster and the art of the capsule wardrobe is your friend in combatting any foe or faux pas crime. Content, we are.
All images come courtesy of Stephanie Lawson and ZODIAC Active
Copyright@Temper Magazine, 2018. All rights reserved
After tackling Beijing for some six years where she worked for China International Publishing Group, she spent a moment in time moseying down steep alleyways and writing about their fashionable and underground features in Hong Kong.
Van Paridon most recently managed to claw her way through a Europe-based academic endeavor called "Journalism". 'Tis in such fashion that she has now turned her lust for China Fashion/ Lifestyle and Underground into a full time occupation.
Van Paridon hunts down the latest in Chinese menswear, women’s clothing, designer newbies, established names, changes in the nation’s street scenery, close-ups of particular trends presently at play or of historical socio-cultural value in Chinaplus a selection of budding photographers.
Paired with a deep devotion to China’s urban underground scene, van Paridon holds a particular interest in the topics of androgyny, the exploration of individuality and the power that is the Key Opinion Leader (the local term for “influencers”) in contemporary China.