When it came time to write the end-of-the-year article, I found myself sitting in front of a blank screen, itching to lament. Looking back at 2022’s major events and happenings, all I could recall was the continuous stream of a messy mess – here, there, everywhere.
The room behind me was quiet, except for the TV in the background, where breaking news crawls were waiting to announce if there would be a Russian nuclear attack on Ukraine or not. To me, that meant waiting to hear whether a nuclear charge would be deployed by Putin somewhere near Snake Island, about 20 miles from the Danube Delta border of my native country. It felt surreal. I couldn’t help but think that by the time Westlake Malibu Lifestyle’s December issue would hit the racks, including my two cents on the 2022/23 Holiday fashion trends, the world could look – and be – completely different. It could be on its way to an eagerly awaited mending peace process, or it could be on the verge of WWIII. A truly frightening prospect.
While scrolling absentmindedly through social media reports just to avoid the white screen’s disapproving stare and the TV news tickers’ tension, I came across the buzz about Paris Fashion Week’s Coperni show, where Bella Hadid emerged in nothing but nude underwear, before a group of scientists sprayed on her a brand-new dress, under the mouth-gaping audience’s incredulous eyes. Wait, what? The show’s grand finale was a beautiful moment, an emotional peek into a possible future. I played again the video experience, mesmerized by its uncanny choreography – two scientists spraying on Bella the liquid that contained cotton fibers suspended in a polymer solution; the way it evaporated at contact with her body, transforming into an actual dress; Hadid, taking a final turn on the runway to show the spray-on dress in action; audience breathing out; surprise and awe; applause. For a moment I almost forgot about the real world, with all its worries and hurts.
Then the ongoing speculations on TV about where Russia would nuke first made me break into a fit of giggles verging on hysteria. I imagined one asking the Coperni’s science people to focus on finding another cutting-edge solution, something to maybe be sprayed inside us this time, which at contact with our darkened depths would evaporate to leave behind fibers strong enough to mend the fraying fabric of our souls. I imagined us begging the scientists to not find yet another pill for happiness, for so many exist already and we know too well none of them works; better find the antidote to this self-destructive malaise that has infected humanity in the last decade or so – worse than any epidemic, unshakable and totally consuming.
Going over what has been happening in the world in 2022, and everything and everyone we’ve lost, a great sadness befell me. Severe climate issues, political tensions, conflict and diseases compounding economic crisis, violent deadlocks, and growing insecurity of all kinds across continents. The fashion world lost Thierry Mugler, Hanae Mori, Issey Miyake, Nino Cerruti, Franca Fendi. The political world lost Madeleine Albright and Mikhail Gorbachev. The world lost Queen Elizabeth II.
No doubt about why we’ve fallen over to the dark side towards the end of this year, afraid to shake off our moral numbness and question the status quo, not daring to disturb the sound of silence. Darkness engulfs us as we carry on our mostly-digital daily actions and interactions, oblivious to their increasing lack of significance in the chaotic worldwide context, making us feel disempowered and alienated. We got used to talking without speaking and hearing without listening, which dooms us to meaninglessness in most of our personal interactions. As we brace ourselves for 2022’s winter holiday celebrations, what we feel is a deep sense of drama and much-needed soul-searching. And as it always has been, fashion styles reflect spot on this dark and dreary social mood.
The partywear du jour, from Halloween to New Year’s Eve, doesn’t shy away from the dramatic look either. Holiday fashion styles toy with the histrionic goth aesthetic, its symbols, mood, and atmosphere, yet they throw shrewdly in the mix a not-so-subtle vibe of Y2K, boho-chic, and glittery maximalism, as the brightest ways to fight the winter blues.
All-black is the norm – in strong silhouettes with vampy cutouts and high-shine fabrics, emboldened by eye-catching accessories or jewelry – but naughty pop-ups in electric hues like acid green and aquamarine, as well as silver, gold, and champagne pink, add longed-for sparkle, which serves as proof that a little bit of fizz can go a long way.
Coming from a pandemic-induced urge for joie de vivre or maybe just from our feral narcissism, this winter is the season of showing a lot of skin – vive le cut-out, cold be damned. Dresses dotted with cutouts on the arms, at the ribs, and almost everywhere, are barely holding themselves together, and the reinvented little black dress is no exception. Hip-less trousers are worn paired with skimpy bohemian off-the-shoulder and bare-midriff blouses, whose billowy sleeves seem to have used most of the fabric, by far. Iconic thigh-high boots complete the theatrical look, in certain styles even replacing pants.
As for outerwear, we layer up to fight the cold in maxi XL coats, with balloon sleeves, broad shoulders and collars; in linebacker-pads statement blazers; or in leather, denim, or faux-fur bomber jackets.
Truth is, going over to the dark side has never looked so good. And never have the traditionally-muted winter tones been so beautifully sabotaged by sparkles of spirit and liveliness. Could that be a sign that we are coming out of our emotional numbness, silent indifference, and loneliness? That we finally understood the dangers posed by the ‘neon gods’ of our present-day life, which trick us bit by bit into a life of selfishness, consumerism, and isolation? I wish I’d know the answer – the roadmap back to joy in kinship, to a renewed sense of togetherness we so clearly crave. But I don’t. The best thing I learned in 2022 is, in fact, a testimony. 2022 confirmed to me how crucial it is to make your life worth living, giving it all your heart and your devotion. Choosing to show up no matter what.
Nobody has ever embodied this belief like the Queen. I felt grief-stricken at her departure in the most perplexing way, as she was someone I didn’t know personally, of course, a total stranger. Yet grief is not a matter of kinship, they say, it’s a matter of attachment and relevance. And in this respect, Queen Elizabeth’s presence for 70 years in the public eye without once making a faux pas, her grace under pressure, and the values she stood for her entire life, mattered immensely to me.
I also revered her unique fashion sense and everything it signified, as one of a bright power dresser who had modeled what resilience looked like long before resilience became the axiom of the day. With her ceremonial rainbow-hued and sharply tailored wardrobe, a fabulous matching hat, a message-carrier brooch at her left lapel, a triple strand of pearls, a worldwide famous handbag with mysterious content hanging from her left wrist, gloves, and block-heeled shoes – she was the ultimate style icon, the very picture of warmth, generosity, and rock-solid dependability. She never faltered in carrying the torch for the cheerful endurance that builds character.
That’s why my early and only New Year’s Eve resolution is simple. I’ll borrow a page from Her Majesty’s book and wear in the night between years something fiercely blue, that splendid color of water which is the perfect fit for an Aquarian. So that when Fate will check us at the dawn of 2023, to see me standing out in the crowd – present, wide-awake, and lighthearted – and bestow upon me in the new year the most precious thing one needs in life, besides good health and great humor: a sense of possibility.
Here’s to still believing in a time of reason and possibility. Here’s to making it happen in 2023!