The coronavirus has emphasized the need for personal space. And we’re now starting to see this particularly 2020 way of living play out in the clothes we wear.
Case in point? A recent graduate of Design Academy Eindhoven, Anna Dienemann, created a graduation design project, “Bounding spaces,” that makes it difficult for others to come within six feet of you, even if they try.
The adaptable “distance keeper” is like a more artistic version of a pitched tent that you wear on your body. Fabric is stretched across a pliable frame that the user compresses into a kind of vest when not in use. When the wearer enters a public space, they can simply unfurl the accessory. It’s like a modern-day hoop skirt but splashed with painterly colors and made in abstract shapes.
This isn’t the first social-distance-inspired fashion to hit the market. Designers have been creating solutions over the past several months, with results ranging from rattan cages that extend from the neck to extra-wide-brimmed hats. But many of these examples are even less practical than Dienemann’s apparel. Then again, fashion isn’t always about practicality. Just look to high fashion, where labels such as Hermès, Loewe, and Christian Siriano have used the pandemic to inspire their looks and their runway shows.
The fact that labels are adapting their collections for the COVID-19 era is also a good indicator of how the industry sees the market going forward. (Fashion forecasters such as WGSN make style predictions two years in advance.) But you definitely don’t need to be in the fashion industry to see unfolding. Many parts of Europe are reentering some level of lockdown, and infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci recently said the U.S. shouldn’t expect to return to normal until late 2021.
As for Dienemann, she collaborated with the Van-Abbe Museum in Eindhoven, Netherlands, to test the product during Dutch Design Week earlier this year. She’s worn the distance keepers when out and about, she says, and would love to provide them for people to borrow at public events. “I want to give a playful and fun approach to the current situation. . . . The pieces add something to an outfit while creating awareness to keep distance,” says Dienemann. “There are many ways to adapt to the new normal, and I feel fashion should definitely be one of them.”