Merriam Webster defines a vibe as “a distinctive feeling or quality capable of being sensed.” As a lifelong empath and once-employed trendspotter, I can say vibes are my vibe, and I have a sixth sense for the moment and have also always been able to interpret what’s to come. So I read with interest the Cut’s article on February 16th, which was all about vibe shifts.
For the unindoctrinated, a “vibe shift” is a term coined by trend forecaster Sean Monahan to describe the cultural changes that occur every few years.
According to the Cut, “the new vibe shift could be the return of early-aughts indie sleaze. American Apparel, flash photography at parties, and messy hair and messy makeup.” Substacks and podcasts will replace blogs and “a return to irony.” Remember that post 9-11?
But just like that, the party was over before it began. Because just about a week later, on February 24th, the world changed radically once again as Russia invaded Ukraine.
Instantly, social media became flooded with ways to help. Airbnb pledged to house over 100,000 Ukrainian refugees. And brands from H&M to Louis Vuitton left Russia in droves.
There were shows of solidarity and fashion brands themselves became more than vibe-shift mediums
During Paris Fashion Week, Demna Gvasalia, the Georgian creative director of Balenciaga, issued a statement ahead of his collection, as reported by CNN. “Fashion feels like some sort of absurdity,” he wrote in a note to guests, adding that he had considered canceling the event altogether and that “the war in Ukraine had triggered the pain of a past trauma I had carried in me since 1993 when the same thing happened to my home country, and I became a forever refugee.” He also draped the Ukrainian flag across seats, and read a Ukrainian poem. His models walked the catwalk holding leather trash bags as snow fell. Initially a message to signal the climate crisis, it felt particularly indicative of our current mind and mood.
And amidst images of Kim Kardashian covered in designer gaffer tape, there were shows of solidarity as many carried war protest signs outside the venue, and fashion brands themselves became more than vibe-shift mediums. They became potent cultural bailiwicks.
According to Harper’s Bazaar UK, “global luxury giant Kering – which heads up the likes of Gucci, Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, and Saint Laurent – announced that it would be making a ‘significant donation’ to try and support the thousands of refugees who have fled the country and are now displaced.” And from the same article, Gucci donated $500,000 to the UNHCR through its Chime for Change initiative, and LVMH gave 5 million pounds to the Red Cross.
The life-changing consequences of our world stage are striking
Beyond fashion, the life-changing consequences of our world stage are striking. Those lucky enough to have survived the pandemic face a humanitarian crisis of epic and tragic importance. Everything feels incredibly unstable. Gas prices are skyrocketing, and many in Europe feel extra jittery as this conflict is too close to home. Here in America, we know getting involved in a meaningful way could mean the start of WWIII, though as we watch the 24/7/365 news cycle and witness the killing of innocent, free people, we feel a sense of helplessness and hopelessness as we struggle to cope with the tremendous insanity of it all, exposing the vulnerability of democracy and freedom as we know it. We reach across the aisle and the ocean to express our collective shock and sadness over these surreal evil events. Zelensky’s speech to Congress this week talked about Pearl Harbor and 9/11 to appeal to Americans staring down the barrel of a showdown we were not and are not prepared to fight, though we know the current administration in Washington saw it coming and did nothing to stop it.
I was prepared to write a very different piece about the vibe shift, and I would talk about whether a 51-year-old woman gave a hoot about hemlines or vibe shifts. But this moment is so much bigger. Because regardless of your preferences, the world is uniting against evil. This is yet another moment for young people to be robbed of joy or some semblance of normalcy. The trauma of growing up with the threat of Russia dropping a nuclear bomb on us has come back to haunt.
In his excellent piece on Buzzfeed, journalist Elamin Abdelmahmoud posits that “The world as we knew it is not coming back, and it’s entirely reasonable that we may find ourselves plagued with a general restlessness.” He later says that what we are all feeling is collective grief. A normalization of death from two years of a pandemic, nationalism run amok since Trump, a global climate emergency, rising crime, and now, a war so far out of bounds it’s hard to grasp its long-lasting implications.
We can’t go back to “normal.” As we return to the office and IRL exchanges, there’s not much solace in returning to the way it was because the “new normal” is anything but. I’ve noticed a surprising comfort in staying put. I have no desire to travel in a world gone mad and am still, for all intents and purposes, continuing to embrace my inner homebody, going out and about with discernment. So, where to next?
Suppose trend forecasting is all about pattern recognition. In that case, we’re experiencing something so illogical and chaotic the only thing we can do is accept that life is messy because the pattern and path forward are uncertain. We’re all feeling exposed and vulnerable. There’s no rhyme, and there’s absolutely no reason. There’s simply being present and trying to survive something far larger than any one of us. And listen to the new Tears for Fears album, “The Tipping Point.” Their thoughtful songs of loss are the perfect soundtrack for our so-called lives.
Predicting Future Trends
And though predicting the future can feel futile, here are some shifts I can see happening as the world churns.
Meet me in the middle. In the past decade, everything has felt extreme. Look for an “everything in moderation” ethos as we seek common and middle ground in everything from politics to fitness.
Eyes on the world. We’ve all been focused on our backyards. But with all eyes on Ukraine, the peril of the environment, and recovering from a global health crisis, will a new global citizen rise and give new meaning to “the whole world in our hands”?
Pastoral pursuits. With many staying close to home as the crisis unfolds, look for camping and rustic road trips to comfort jangled nerves as we retreat to the great outdoors.
Grief management rising. For years we’ve been talking about stress management, but look for our anticipatory and collective grief to give rise to a new industry focused on grief. We’ll see platforms like Modern Loss gain more popularity as we seek ways to deal with the pain and uncertainty.
Rebellious escapism. Though it may have felt like the roaring ’20s, it’s not all whoop dee doo and happy days are certainly not here again. An escapist, dark debauchery will accompany concerns around the global conflict. Bright colors that feel more punk than pop and a bit of that chic sleaze will fuel the fantasy. Because, as Harry Styles once sang in “Sign of the Times,” “We gotta get away from here.”