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The Stunning Sales Figure That Shows Nobody Wants to Grow Up

Businessman carrying backpack and briefcase
Bloomberg via Getty Images

Working professionals seem to be trying really hard to look like they're still in college.

It’s not exactly like Wall Streeters have started wearing hoodies to the office, but it’s in the same ballpark. In a sign that indicates working professionals are embracing the delusion they could still pass for college students, many are skipping the tired old briefcase and turning to the youthful backpack as their go-to office bag of choice.

AdAge and GQ, among others, have noticed the trend, quantified by data from the NPD Group, which has it that for the 12-month period ending in May 2014, backpack sales among adults 18 and over were up 33%. Among adult women, backpack sales were up 48% over that time span, though men still outspend the gals on backpacks annually: $385 million vs. $311 million.

Clearly, one reason that backpack sales are soaring is simply that they’re practical: They can handle your gym gear, sunglasses, snacks, and an ever-increasing amount of gadgets that just wouldn’t fit in even the largest briefcases. Backpacks are also easier to tote around, especially if you’re on a bike or have a long walk.

We also must acknowledge that the rise of work backpacks goes hand in hand with a turn to more casual dress in the workplace, prompted as least partly by all of those scruffy, hoodie-wearing tech workers. By now, the Swiss Army backpack has become a key component of the official Silicon Valley tech uniform, alongside Warby Parkers, skater sneakers, and a general lack of grooming.

Professionals are allowing themselves to strap on the kind of bag they used when they were 15 without embarrassment or totally looking foolish thanks to the introduction of a wide range of packs that are more, well, professional. Tumi lists dozens of understated, black and earth-tone backpacks in the category of being appropriate for business.

What’s more, the backpack’s versatility and youthful cachet sends a certain message, to the wearer if not the entire world. The message is one of adventure and possibility—that you can jump from the boardroom, to a mountain bike, to an impromptu flight to Copenhagen. The backpack says I may work in an office, but I’m not just another drone commuter. I have more going on in my life than any sad, slim briefcase can handle.

Then again, maybe instead it just says you like pretending you’re still in college.

TIME Iran

Despite a Crackdown, Iranian Fashion Keeps Pushing Boundaries

Iranian fashion
Tehran fashion houses are pushing boundaries in Tehran ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images

In the latest case of Iranian authorities cracking down on fashion they deem “un-Islamic,” a famous clothing design institute called “Khaneh Mode” or Mode House was shut down last week in Tehran. The fashion designer had caused a controversy last month when it held a show with models wearing coats which appeared to be made of the Iranian flag—minus its religious symbols. Nor did it help that the show had allowed men among its audience, which violates conservative Islamic taboos.

This was followed by intense reaction from conservative politicians and religious groups, who cited the show as yet another violation of Islamic mores and traditions, which in turn forced the government to react. “This fashion show did not match the regulations of the Fashion and Clothes Management Workgroup and therefore we have taken legal action,” said Hamid Ghobadi, the workgroup’s secretary according to the official ISNA news agency. “The Khaneh Mode institute has been shut down until further notice.”

The workgroup, which was created by an enactment of parliament, is tasked with organizing Iran’s emerging fashion industry and making it compatible with Islamic standards. It is headed by a deputy minister of Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance and its members are mostly government officials, with a handful of representatives from the fashion industry. Pictures of the show first emerged on Iranian websites in late June and showed men among the audience—until recently was unheard of in the Islamic Republic. The young female models, who wore white leggings, sported loose coats in the green, white and red tricolor of the Iranian national flag.

Iran’s fledgling fashion industry has begun to evolve in recent years, with shows on the rise. Most of these shows have permissions from the authorities but also underground shows are on the rise which depict more risqué dresses and even lingerie. However, until recently all shows for female clothes were held behind closed doors with no men allowed inside. The audience was also not permitted to take pictures or film.

Following the furor of religious and conservative groups the designers, Khaneh Mode immediately tried to do damage control with a statement on their website apologizing for having inadvertently offended anyone and reaffirming their commitment to “National and Islamic values.” Nonetheless, the authorities acted a few days later and shut them down.

Javid Shirazi, the director of the fashion house, told TIME in Tehran that that “we are completely committed to working within Iran’s native and Islamic framework and we tried to observe these in our show. Inviting men to view shows is permitted since last year so long as the clothes completely cover the body of models and models do not catwalk but walk in a normal and modest manner.”

The shutting down of the fashion house is just the latest instance of an endless tug of war between authorities and women in Iran, one that has been fought since an Islamic dress code was enforced in the aftermath of the 1979 revolution. This clash comes to the forefront every summer, when the latest female attire trends pick up with a tendency towards shorter and skimpier coats and ever tighter legwear, which has been epitomized this year in leggings.

The authorities react every year by escalating their “Morality Patrols.” The outcome is a cat and mouse game between more fashionably dressed women and the authorities. The results can be bizarre—women sporting trendy attire will sometimes take taxis from one side to the other side of squares and junctions just to bypass the morality police.

But over time the will of Iranian women has slowly but surely prevailed, with acceptable dress these days now far beyond the harsh codes of the first years of the revolution, when practically no makeup was tolerated and anything less than a chador—a loose robe that covers the body from head to toe—was frowned upon. And with the election of the more moderate Hassan Rouhani as president last year, many hope that the authorities will relax their strict stance on what women can wear in public.

Officially there has been no relaxation, in fact the authorities have tried everything they could think of to counter it. But in practice it’s a losing battle.

“Since last year there’s been a transformation in the framework of the permits we can get and what we can do,” said Shirazi, who sounded upbeat in spite of the closing of his business. “With the great potential this country has and the great desire young Iranians have, there is a bright future for the fashion industry in Iran, and this [the shutting down of Khaneh Mode] is just necessary experience we need to gain to go ahead.”

TIME gender

Fashion Model Comes Out as Transgender Woman

Jean Paul Gaultier - Haute Couture Spring Summer 2011 Runway - Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week
Andrej Pejic walks the runway at the Jean Paul Gaultier fashion show during Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week on January 26, 2011 in Paris, France. Nathalie Lagneau—Catwalking/Getty Images

Andreja Pejic was famous for her androgynous runway look.

Andreja Pejic, the famously androgynous Serbian fashion icon who has modeled both men’s and women’s styles, came out as a transgender woman on her Facebook page Thursday.

Pejic, who was known throughout her fashion career as “Andrej” but has changed her name to Andreja, posted a selfie along with an announcement that she said she hoped would inspire other transgender youths:

I think we all evolve as we get older and that’s normal but I like to think that my recent transition hasn’t made me into a different individual. Same person, no difference at all just a different sex I hope you can all understand that.

I would also like to to reach out to all young gender non-conforming youth out there: I know it’s hard, I’ve been there, but remember it’s your right to be accepted as what you identify with—you deserve the same respect as any other human being on this planet. As a transgender woman I hope to show that after transition (a life-saving process) one can be happy and successful in their new chapter without having to alienate their past.

The model told People.com that despite her long and successful career modeling both women’s and mens’s fashions, she opted to have gender reassignment surgery in order to identify as a transgender woman. “I was proud of my gender nonconforming career,” Pejic says. “But my biggest dream was to be comfortable in my own body. I have to be true to myself and the career is just going to have to fit around that.”

Like other major transgender activists like Laverne Cox, who was featured in TIME’s cover story on the transgender movement, Pejic declined to discuss the specifics of her surgery with People.com, saying that “what’s in between anyone’s legs is not who they are.”

 

TIME fashion

Chrissy Teigen: Forever 21 Fired Me From a Modeling Job For Being ‘Fat’

"I hate you, Forever 21. I hate you so much. Honestly, you're the worst"

Even supermodels suffer from ridiculous body standards. Chrissy Teigen, one of the cover models for Sports Illustrated‘s 2014 swimsuit edition, told Du Jour that clothing retailer Forever 21 fired her when she was younger because she was too fat for them.

“I showed up on set and they asked me if they could take a photo,” Teigen told the magazine. “And they shoot that photo off to my agency, who then calls me as I’m sitting in the make-up chair, and they say, ‘You need to leave right now. They just said that you are fat and you need to get your measurements taken.'”

Luckily the 28-year-old model, who is known for her off-the-cuff humor on Twitter and Instagram, keeps a healthy outlook on the situation years later. “I hate you, Forever 21,” the model told Du Jour. “I hate you so much. Honestly, you’re the worst.”

 

TIME fashion

J. Crew Introduces a Size Smaller Than XXS

J. Crew Shopping Bag
A women holds a J. Crew shopping bag. Bloomberg—Bloomberg/Getty Images

It's for those with a 23 inch waist

You know how it is when you’re in a dressing room and even the smallest size available is still too baggy? What, that’s never happened to you? Well, just in case you know someone who is too small for a XXS or ’00,’ J. Crew has introduced a new ‘000’ size for women with a 30.5″ bust and a mere 23″ waist. What does someone with a waist that small look like? Probably a little like Keira Knightly who is famous for her waspy middle. Or burlesque star Dita von Teese who says she’s been wearing a corset for decades to keep her 22-inch waist as she ages.

However, the retailer has received some criticism for introducing the triple zero or ‘XXXS’ size. “J.Crew’s vanity sizing has reached a whole new level of crazy,” wrote the fashion blog Racked. “What’s next, negative numbers?” But is a triple zero really that much smaller than a regular ‘0’? After all, a ’00’ or a ‘0’ can range from a 22′ to a 25′ inch waist depending on the brand. And the fashion industry has long been accused of vanity sizing, a downwards trend in size numbers in recent decades despite the average woman becoming heavier over the same time period. According to the 2003 SizeUSA study, the average woman is about 5’4″ and 150 pounds, which is 20 pounds heavier than 40 years ago.

“According to standard size measurements, that average 155 pound woman should be wearing a size 16, but thanks to vanity-sizing, she’s probably buying a size 10 or 12,” Jim Lovejoy, the industry director for the SizeUSA survey, told Newsweek. “Most companies aren’t using the standard ASTM [American Society for Testing and Materials] sizes any more. Sizes have been creeping up a half inch at a time so that women can fit into smaller sizes and feel good about it.”

But J. Crew insists that the new ‘000’ size has nothing to do with vanity. “We are simply addressing the demand coming from Asia for smaller sizes than what we had carried,” a J. Crew spokesperson told Today. “Our sizes typically run big and the Asia market tends to run small.” And it’s true that all that vanity sizing has left the truly small out in the cold and not just in Asia. Nicole Miller introduced a size 0 (25½-inch waist) about 15 years ago because the company had a strong presence in California there was lots of demand from their Asian customers for something smaller.

In the meantime, we’ve all gotten used to the idea of a size zero—and thanks to vanity sizing more of us can fit into one. Even the double zero doesn’t look as strange as it used to. So who knows, maybe sizes will keep creeping into the negative side of the number line and we’ll all be some kind of zero.

TIME Culture

The Unforgettable Fashion of Seinfeld‘s Elaine Benes

In honor of the 25th anniversary of the famous sitcom's premier, here's a gallery of some of our favorite Elaine looks. (If only we could order them directly from the J. Peterman catalog.)

Twenty-five years after the premiere of Seinfeld, there’s no question about the show’s outsize cultural influence. In its nine-season run, Seinfeld changed the way we talk, the way we joke and even influenced our spending habits. And, yes, the way we dress. You can see deep Seinfeld influences in what’s now called “Normcore,” a fashion trend New York Magazine identified with a photo essay in February 2014. It’s a look best described as the clothes your dad wears when goes to the mall. You know, ill-fitting jeans, fleece vests, flat sandals or white sneakers that are all about comfort.

But forget about Jerry and his famous Puffy Shirt for a second. We should be focusing on the show’s real fashion star: Elaine Benes, played by the incomparable Julia Louis-Dreyfus. We’re not the first publication to point out that many of her outfits look like something you’d find today on a hipster in Williamsburg or an American Apparel mannequin, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take a minute to appreciate her. Elaine’s real strength came from her ability to look modest but stylish: just check out the pattern mixing, the oh-so-90’s light-blue denim, the shoulder pads, floral dresses and more.

So give your BFF a shove, tell them to “Get Out!” and start doing the Little Kicks dance: It’s time to celebrate Elaine.

TIME royals

See Kate Middleton’s Stunning Fashion Evolution

Wearing everything from sleek wrap dresses to those inescapable royal hats, the Duchess of Cambridge is creating her own style — and inspiring countless copycats.

TIME United Kingdom

Julian Assange May Be Britain’s Next Top Model

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaks to the media inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London June 14, 2013.
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaks to the media inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London June 14, 2013. Reuters

The WikiLeaks founder is reportedly set to strut his stuff on the catwalk at London Fashion Week this September

Julian Assange, the fugitive founder of WikiLeaks, may be making a guest appearance at London Fashion Week in September, the Independent reports.

Ben Westwood, son of acclaimed British designer Vivienne Westwood, has reportedly asked Assange to model in his show, which will be held at Ecuador’s embassy.

Though an international embassy might seem a strange choice of venue for good-looking, well-dressed people, Westwood has little choice. His sartorial star has been taking shelter in the embassy for the past two years to avoid extradition to Sweden over allegations of sex offenses.

Unfazed by his model’s infamy, Westwood commented: “I want to highlight Julian Assange’s plight. What happened to him is totally unfair.”

Should the WikiLeaks founder participate he’ll by joined by six other models wearing clothes inspired by Clint Eastwood Westerns and what Westwood called Assange’s “combat-beret look”.

Though Assange has yet to comment on this latest job offer, he is no stranger to publicity, even when in hiding. In October 2012, Lady Gaga swung by the embassy to pay him a visit and in Nov. 2013 he opened rapper M.I.A’s “Matangi” tour via Skype.

Tantalizingly, Westwood has also suggested he’ll showcase a “garment with a Julian Assange print”. Whether this look will be hitting the stores in a few months time remains to be seen.

[Independent]

TIME Music

Five Years After Michael Jackson’s Death, Take a Look Back at His Iconic Style

This infographic highlights the King of Pop's 10 fashion trademarks

Today, June 25, marks the fifth anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death. The folks over at Stylight created this infographic to pay tribute to the King of Pop and his iconic style. Behold, MJ’s 10 signature fashion trademarks, plus some fun facts about each one:

Michael Jackson King of Style Infographic

 

TIME royals

A Prince George Photo Album: See the Royal Baby Grow Up

The newest and arguably cutest — sorry, Prince Harry — member of the British royal family continues to attract attention wherever he toddles.

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