As much of the sweaty population keeps one hand on a portable fan and both feet in a paddling pool, you can rely on fashion retailers to know what it is we’re in need of right now: full-body knitwear.
Clothing stores have been known to move half a season ahead, introducing autumn wear as early as late July to seed the idea in consumers’ heads that, yes, there are these things they might have forgotten about called sleeves.
But there has scarcely been a wider disparity than the current one between the weather retailers think we’re having and the September swelter we’re actually experiencing.
Physical stores – stuffed with quilted fabrics, long hemlines and colours as dark as the 5pm November sky – at least have the excuse of stock turnaround times. More surprising is the barrage of emails from marketers unable to adjust their scheduled messages to reflect the extreme heat.
“It’s jacket season!” declared Uniqlo. No, Uniqlo, no, it’s not. “Hello autumn,” French Connection gamely greeted as its models posed in faux fur. “Save on gilets – a transitional weather essential,” advised Mountain Warehouse.
Really, there’s just a lot to unpack there.
Marks & Spencer sounded more uncertain: “Autumn, is that you?” one email asked in its subject line. Subsequent emails promoted “new-season pieces” worn by the new face of the retailer, actor Sienna Miller, and entreated customers to “cosy up in cable textures”.
The serious point here is that as climate change forces us to re-evaluate the weather we have come to expect, unanticipated lurches in temperature will only catch retailers out more often. Some products – including the heavy wool two-pieces and knee-high leather boots that several women’s fashion chains are pushing this year – may simply be incompatible with our milder winters. Alas.
And then, of course, there is the broad and growing discomfort with the unsustainability of constant wardrobe refreshes. Just as it is hard to truly comprehend the concept of wool on a hot and humid day, soon enough it may be difficult to get our heads around the fact that the high-turnover culture of fashion thrived for so long.
In the meantime, some retailers did manage to be nimble enough to react to the conditions outside. “Hello unexpected sunshine,” wrote Nobody’s Child. “Forecast: seriously hot offers,” announced Sweaty Betty.
Anyone selling a hat made of ice?