'Industry' Is a Love Letter to Getting Dressed for Work

·6-min read
Photo credit: Nick Strasburg
Photo credit: Nick Strasburg

There’s a moment in Episode 4 of the new season of Industry when Yasmin—a rich-girl London banker played by the magnetic Marisa Abela—recounts the bizarre banality of pandemic lockdown life. “I became obsessed with finding the perfect white pajamas,” she says. “So on one tab, there would be these fucking pajamas, and on the other tab it would be these images of piles of bodies in New York. … And then, I would buy these pajamas in four or five sizes. … I still have every single pair. The ones that fit me made me feel really fucking good for a bit. The worst part is, I think it was the best fucking summer of my life—all I had to worry about was pajamas.”

Same, girl. The pandemic will go down as one of those strange moments in time when we as a human race were collectively dissociated. On one hand, we were relentlessly assaulted with news of massive death tolls and economies crumbling. On the other, many of us spent our days immersed in small domestic comforts like baking banana bread and finding the perfect pair of all-day pajamas. Was 2021 the year of the delta variant, or was it the year I tried to buy every last pair of tapered sweatpants from the Entireworld liquidation sale?

Industry is about Very Rich Bankers who wear Very Expensive Things, and Yasmin’s monologue strikes me as one of the show’s most emotionally resonant moments to date, probably because it was something experienced by so many people at exactly the same time: the moment that we hung up our work clothes and put aside what we thought was our everyday lives, and retreated to the loneliness of lockdown. Even now, more than two and a half years into this pandemic—after countless articles about how COVID-19 has changed everything about our lives, including in no small way the ways we dress—the slick officewear of Industry feels like a time warp in all the best ways.

Yes, many of us have gone back to our offices in one way or another, but almost nothing feels as formal as it once did. Perhaps you’ve dusted off your favorite dress or tux for the occasional wedding here or there, but tried-and-true business formal is not what it once was, and maybe that’s why I’m falling so hard for Industry; this show is the love letter to officewear that I didn’t know I needed. Industry is a nostalgic peek into the way things were, or perhaps a prayer for how they can be again. It’s about the statements we make and the power we find when we get all buttoned up—and better yet, when we get unbuttoned afterward.

Photo credit: Amanda Searle
Photo credit: Amanda Searle

Part Succession, part Billions, part Euphoria, part The Hills, Industry introduced us in Season 1 to fictional London investment bank Pierpoint, where its class of recruits danced, drank, snorted, and hand-jobbed their way through their initial months on the job. Season 2 picks up roughly a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, when familiar faces Harper Stern (Myha’la Herrold), Yasmin Kara-Hanani, Robert Spearing (Harry Lawtey), and Gus Sackey (David Jonsson) are called back into the office, back into the fray.

But, boy, do they make office dressing look good. The blouses! The Savile Row suits! The coats! Each character’s take on “officewear” is an evolution—they’ve now been with the bank for three years, and their style reflects the journey they’ve been on since we saw them in Season 1.

Costume designer Colleen Morris Glennon tells BAZAAR.com that she wanted to make sure Harper’s style reflected her journey, but retained “that Americanness” that sets her apart. That’s why this season we see Harper in Theory blouses, a camel coat from Reiss, a number of J.Crew sweaters, and—now that she has a couple bonuses in her bank account—what is hinted to be her first Prada handbag.

“First season, [Harper] had just come from America and didn’t come from money, so her clothing was very, very simple,” Morris Glennon says. “We see Harper being a bit more confident in herself. … There’s a definite confidence in the way she dresses, and this sense of actually being able to spend some money.”

Photo credit: Nick Strasburg
Photo credit: Nick Strasburg

For publishing heiress and posh Notting Hill resident Yasmin, however, spending money has never been an issue. Season 1 was all about trying to navigate the male gaze of her colleagues and be taken seriously in the workplace, so we saw lots of tights, super-high heels, and pencil skirts. This season, Morris Glennon made Yasmin’s look “a lot more confident” and “more thoughtful.” We see Yasmin learn to stop expecting her male colleagues to grant her power and, instead, seize it for herself. No longer afraid of flaunting the privilege she comes from—but rather, owning and, eventually, capitalizing on it—she glides across our screens decked out in Burberry coats and Hermès bags and jewelry.

Whether at a client dinner or fielding office drama on the trading floor, Yasmin always seems to have the perfect, expensive-looking blouse that sits on her décolleté just perfectly. There’s even a slouchy brown suit by Maje that rebukes the “pencil skirts and tights” cliché of what a woman in the workplace can and should look like. It’s cool, it’s empowered, it’s distinctly her. It makes us forget about the white pajamas.

Photo credit: Nick Strasburg
Photo credit: Nick Strasburg

“I made a concerted effort … to look a little more polished, a little less about wanting to get attention and be pleasing,” Morris Glennon says. “Marisa has the perfect body for that trouser suit, so I knew she would carry a boxy suit so well. … Just to see the confidence of her in that suit!”

Even the men’s fashion delights. Robert Spearing, a Brit from humble beginnings who was the laughingstock of the trading desk for his funerary black suit last season, now sports the panache of Hugo Boss suits, shirts with French cuffs, and Hermès ties. Who can say no to a man in an expensive suit?

Morris Glennon, a Savile Row trained tailor by trade, also took great care to make sure you’re not looking at “a sea of suits” onscreen, so fashionable (yet Pierpoint-appropriate) details abound. From the lapel sizes to the fits, no two suits look the same, and even when two men in white shirts appear on the screen, Morris Glennon made sure to use different textures so they remain visually interesting.

Photo credit: HBO
Photo credit: HBO

There’s plenty of buzz around Industry at the moment: for its writing, for the compulsively watchable party scenes, for Abela getting cast in next year’s Greta Gerwig Barbie film and being rumored to star in the forthcoming Amy Winehouse biopic. But if you ask me, people love this show because it’s a peek into a rarified world that all but disappeared during the pandemic, a world that 99 percent of us never get to see. It’s a world of billion-dollar deals happening on a whim over the phone, where dressing the part isn’t just about your office dress code but the sincerest expression of your ambitions. It’s both a love letter to, and a searing indictment of, corporate culture, and everyone looks damn good in it.

As a result? I’ve never wanted an office job more.

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