Dressing for a new world of work
“People don’t want to wear tracksuits to work,” says leading fashion designer Giles Deacon, who has created a concept collection of future-facing workwear, fit for what looks to be a new era of dressing for working from home, Zoom and in-person environments. Sophy Grimshaw reports
“Post-pandemic, I love the idea of people going back to work being given a clean slate,” says Giles Deacon. “It’s an opportunity for a quiet rewriting of ‘workwear’.”
A well-established and award-laden British fashion designer, Deacon built his reputation at luxury brands including Bottega Veneta and Gucci, before launching a fashion house under his own name. Today his Giles Deacon Group encompasses everything up to and including haute couture. But in mid-2021, Deacon has – like many of us – turned his attention to the possible futures of the work environment and, in his case, its decidedly new sartorial challenges. How should we dress when we might, on any given day, need to appear on Zoom, take a crucial meeting in person, and/or spend a few hours happily typing away without witnesses?
In response, Deacon has designed a concept capsule collection of workwear clothing, with versatile pieces that are appropriate to the demands of the new hybrid working culture. In terms of cut, what he has designed are “simpler pieces that can work across a diverse range of body shapes and people”.
“We discovered that people were not wanting to wear tracksuits to work, but comfort is a priority”
One immediate difference to the old order is an expansion of categories of those catered for, with Deacon creating clothing in men’s, women’s and non-binary categories. “I think we’d all got a feeling that the world was beginning to change, pre-pandemic, for all sorts of reasons, and having a non-binary category was important to me,” says Deacon. “And so was sustainability – as a choice for people coming out of lockdown. As we all make choices to move forward, people are wanting to buy less and buy better. So I chose to work out how these pieces could be made locally and in the most responsible manner at every stage.”
A creative brief that Deacon undertook as part of a commercial collaboration with International Workplace Group – the largest operator of flexible workspaces internationally – and one of its leading brands, Spaces, the IWG X Giles concept collection is also the first project for which Deacon has chosen to consult research data as part of his process. IWG polled a significant sample of professionals about pertinent topics, including their wish lists for post-pandemic workwear. “That data access was unusual for me to have,” says Deacon. “We discovered, thankfully, that people were not wanting to wear tracksuits to work, but comfort is a priority. So they want something that is comfortable if you’re working from home or at a hub, but that looks great on Zoom and is a real-life meeting outfit as well.”
This belies the Silicon Valley office culture as a future model for agile professionals. Has its proposition that we would all be liberated by wearing a hoodie to work not been borne out? “It doesn’t seem to be,” says Deacon. “People want to be comfortable but do absolutely like that difference – that you aren’t wearing your weekend home clothes to go to work.”
I once interviewed Deacon in person, where, at a distinctly pre-Covid press day, he dished out hugs and posed for photos against a studio backdrop with every journalist who’d come to speak to him. Today, we are talking on Zoom, where he joins me from his Islington studio in a bright lemon polo shirt and green cravat, a quintessential fashion designer’s tableau of sketches on the wall behind him. In some ways, the changes to the world of work are not entirely new to Deacon. “I’ve been doing the hybrid work model of a job for such a long time now anyway,” he says. “Working in my studio, travelling abroad and going to meetings in offices but also in people’s houses – always working everywhere.”
For his own work wardrobe, Deacon favours clothes that spark conversations, with his own go-to workwear being “a smart but semi-conversational trouser… with a slightly looser cut, good pockets for putting plenty of things in and interesting enough to suit whatever level of conversation you are after. And, if I have a particularly important phone call to make, even if I am just in the studio, I will always change into a pair of trousers and a pair of shoes, because it alters the way you sit. It is absolutely the case that the sense of dressing appropriately makes you feel good and confident and can influence your success.”
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