Trend observations with a sociological eye from afar...
by Darryl S. Warren in Vancouver
A attention spans are split amidst multiple events the world over, and this does not stop the world from turning. Collections for the Spring Summer 2017 season are continuing, migrating now through Europe. In the short week it swept through London and, as we speak, is finishing up in Milan before making the final crescendo of major declarations in Paris. But if the major cities are having anything to say about fashion, it is these cities that are providing a sharp contrast to their fashion friend on the other side of the Atlantic. Whereas New York stated the predominant mood of retro via practicality, the European collections have (not all, but quite a few) challenged that via a different retro direction where excess and pandemonium were upheld in continued embrace of texture, pattern and applique to balance the mass textile usage in pleating, ruffling, and drape.
Fitting, isn't it? We are overloaded. We are hyper informed of the mess that is our planet's state of affairs on all fronts. The initial optimism to combat it cannot deny the truth that we are in over our heads and have a lot at stake. But what more can we do than our best? At least we are trying, and as we do, we reward ourselves with an attempt at balance. The cheerful colours, the forward all-systems-go now-or-never last hurrah we give ourselves was as fitting now as in the 80s when we saw the mess we created in trying to "fix" things accumulate and about to break. Talk of bubbles bursting loom...and yet...somewhere we know we aren't stopping.
Within these grasps of the past well-integrated as the go-to antidote for stress relief (the 80s stiff upper lip efforts mirrored in creative individualities we are embracing now) lie the revisit of seeds of exploration towards new forms as we inch closer to be our 21st century new "us". Technology has bestowed us with impressive textiles and made room for better execution of concepts where exactitude is our lowest bar. Some designers in the collections to date are taking the brave route to go forward within our familiarity constraints (remember, even our most visionary creatives are from the 20th century so they cannot escape that influence), fining room to bring some new form attempts in their collections. Collections from Joseph, Marni, Marques' Almeida, MSGM, Sid Neigum and Parson's hold play of unusual form with the exploratory fervour remembered by Comme des Garcons while infused with the mixology spirit of Maison Margiela that collections this season skillfully employ.
It is the new cuts and forms within these collections that will need to be remembered as we move closer towards the pivoting point: 2020. By this time, our 21st century identity, accompanied by technology we have yet to imagine, will have become apparent and the unique departures we are starting to see now will be the seeds from which we will revere.
Well, so far; after all, the collections are not finished. being shown yet. But if anything is an indication, we are starting to get a picture of what 2017 will be and, like life today, it's a lot to take in.
J ust as the seasons continue, so do the cycles of fashion presentations. And just as global warming has played havoc to our expectations of consistency, so do the changes presentations face. The introduction of concept of "see now buy now" into the traditional fashion calendar has resulted in shifts such as all-season collections that contain items for all weather situations and the encouragement of layering as an alternate solution. Vibrancy and variety of colour mix with neutrals and darks to appeal to all temperaments...and temperatures. That is not all that is noticed so far during the Spring Summer 2017 presentations.
While New York has demonstrated a preference for classics and references to days gone by, London has predominantly been on the other major expression seen in all collections so far: the reliable and now- acceptable mainstay of modern expression of deconstruction. The comparisons being made by editors such as those at Vogue are looking to global and local political events as inspiration sources.
The psychology of source in creativity would support this perspective to a large degree in that current events, heavily connected to politics, would leverage inspiration. The retro direction that has dominated fashion for some time, and particularly as seen in New York recently, show continues to uphold the reflex action of safety through sentiment. The continuous reference to the past provides security in the face of great change and fears of the unknown, something we collectively do as a survival mechanism when faced with threats connect dot the unknown, in this case our future. The nostalgic elements and warm off-colours appeal to our desire for what we now romanticize.
Meanwhile, those that may not have as rosy connections to the past (or those eager to grow forward but need a familiar springboard to feel safe to launch from) that want to grow forward connect with our last connection to the most extreme modernist expression available in fashion, which is deconstruction. Here, the platform is a concept that is familiar enough while allowing creativity in recombination of aspects and elements to bring new shapes and combinations to light.
The precurser for supporting this has been our willingness to embrace seasonless dressing, haphazard pattern mixing, asymmetry and proportion play at once. These have tested our willingness to go forward and, as these have been lauded in the face of larger chaos that we live through, the current conditions such as political uncertainties and instabilities coupled with runaway technological advancement in contrast to our awareness of our timeline and place in a new century and millennium have shifted our mindsets enough to willingly entertain unconventional concepts that break from convention but not too much that it alienates itself form what we know ourselves to have been. In short, we have so much going on , it's like we look in the mirror and say "oh what the heck, it's 2016". But by approaching for something we can refer to that has some bearing on the past (deconstruction is nothing new and this blog has revealed that in prior articles), we can embrace change with less stress.
And so, deconstruction is more prevalent, especially in the collections at London Fashion Week. If New York effectively stresses the practical side of clothes while introducing essential innovation, this zone of fashion has been supportive of the creative exploration of innovation in fashion. Given the proximity to the other major support of creativity, Paris, this platform allows and supports the kind of innovation we have deemed the final familiar bridge of the 20th century towards our new millennial approach of dress. The chaos becoming our new life is reflected in the design approach. It, as we, recombine elements of the past to make what is new. Technical innovation of the building blocks (in this case, textiles) form the foundations in which deconstruction takes over to provide new forms and shapes.
Many designers are utilizing this so far, and even the New York collections (outside of those from Parsons or from more avant grade collectives) contain streamlined aspects that some of the more modern designers deem ready to be absorbed by the larger public.
There are other trend currents to discuss that are being observed. As the collection season continues, you can be sure that they will be discussed, hopefully by others as we all increasingly embrace our fondness for depth beyond the images that fashion provides.
T he collection season for Spring Summer 2017 is officially underway, even though some designers tackled this during the last season’s presentations. As these come around, we will eventually save future articles for exploring the predominant themes that signify where we are collectively. For now, a broader overview will suffice.
Unlike the more targeted experimentation that Copenhagen produced, New York’s collections one the whole signalled extreme caution. There were some labels that experimented, particularly V Files and those from Parson's, but outside of that the collections showed great restraint and, when looking at the experimentation, even these fell upon us as something still familiar.
During uncertain economic times, especially after jarring economic circumstances, fashion gravitates towards the tried and true in the name of survival. And when 9/11 happened, creative expression experienced a regression in the name of personal security; hence that decade is known for being, on the whole, quite retro.
Brexit's effect on the EU, withdrawal of spending in Asia, impending global real estate bubbles, warnings of a market crash plus political uncertainty in the US as their presidential election sparks global concern are all not good news. Those who lived in the US after the bubble burst in the 80s and 90s remember the pain and struggle. They also know that those who survived provided what the public wanted as investments versus participation in fickleness as a display of wealth.
Now, with access to social media, it’s easier to have contact with the public and get better feedback in real time. Thus, collections can better reflect what the public wants. Is this good? Sometimes a leader needs to take us out of our comfort zone to show us what we have yet to realize we ant. That is progress. Fear can get in the way of that when safety nets aren’t present, and these days we have eroded enough of those globally to set us up for trouble a lot sooner. So the proliferation of simple, beautiful and, ultimately, quite wearable pieces (and the continuation of 70s 80s and 90s) remain.
Is that all? If history has anything to tell us, then the answer is a resounding "no", for there is always innovation. This blog will decide whether to wait until the collections close for us to talk about those.
T he Japanese influence that blasted the 80s into new fashion territory has been long coming into play for years; when proportion play and asymmetry become classics, you know the future is now.
The impending Olympics in Japan plus the replay of 80s revisited with delight in pop culture both in music and in entertainment throws open the doors for full revisits that really are just deeper interest in elements we haven’t left since they first arrived. The new generations are ready to relive the stories long told of excess and excitement, innocence and hardcore drama enveloped with the sophistication of art that the 80s was known for.
The influence is quite international, and trend-setting nations do not ignore the new norm. Rather, they join in the full expression. And when the cool kids on the block like those at Copenhagen Fashion Week surprise the industry with shows just before the Big Four, it’s hard not to take notice.
Barbara i Gongini brought tribalism and deconstructed drape with tissue roominess. Asger Juel Larsen had some looks amidst light structured oversize that appeared weather-wet while Freya Dalsjo also shared volume with the casual deflation rather than structure, falling away in volume and cut layers. Ganni found California 70s/90s normcore ease we’ve grown all too familiar with, adding a dash of nostalgia cowboy (a hint of Westworld, anyone?). Such homespun pioneering frill was seen in volumous knits at Lala Berlin as well. Dashes of Japan were seen at Han Kjobenhavn and Henrik Vibskov, while, amidst the overfill and pastel-rich volume at Nicholas Nybro, the tawdry 2000s got a nod. Even the understated got an 80s creative twist with separates at Mark Kenly Domino Tan and Saks Potts.
Our new norm is not the norm. The higher lean in style fulfills individuality while declaring the class distinction of mindful design versus are function and base utilitarian style. And it will be interesting to see how the Big Four respond in this international conversation of style.
D esigners take inspiration for a myriad of sources, combining relevance with familiarity. The successful ones introduce elements within reach that, only when brought to attention, will become incorporated into our consciousness and consideration as part of our experience.
International displays such as the Olympics play into those things that are part of the grander collective influence. Items seen are shared more broadly with wider swaths of the public, and because the “experience” is shared so widely, becomes more likely to make an impact with more people.
The introduction of high tech style merged with futuristic impressions that harmonize with our expectations of the future (and its fashions) was successfully implemented during the handoff of the Olympics from Rio to Japan. Here, the creative expressions via Rhizomatiks, as well as Perfume’s producer Yasutaka Nakata and choreographer Mikiko Mizuno with dance company Elevenplay, fuelled inspiration that is sure to find its way into fashion. The broad mixed gender cuts of stylish costumes layered in clean modern designs with minimal bold colours and hard geometry resonates as what’s next. Semaphore and signal flags denote international understood communication where image transcends language. It satisfies our visions of the future with a culture that symbolizes honour of the past connected with bold leaps into tomorrow.
As we approach 2020, another piece of the puzzle shows us how style will be hand-in-hand with our tech.
Y es, we know....Denmark just posted their recent fashion offering to the world and this blog will have something to say....after a few weekends of much-needed rest and relaxation that the rest of the fashion world has been having. In the meantime, please follow on Twitter (yes, tell everyone you know to do the same) and midweek while on holiday I will share items for your reading pleasure...just as we regularly do weekly. Happy Summer from Fashion Observed.
O f course the eyes of the world are on Rio de Janeiro as the 31st Olympiad takes place. Sports fans get their megadose of viewing pleasure while much of the world feels the collective pull of joint camaraderie that only global event can provide. The unease of world politics is hopefully put to rest as we engage in the simplicity of physical competition that underscores the power of democracy. That this year's theme is entered on hope is not lost in the long-reported ironies that somewhat stain the underlying message while shining uncomfortably vivid authenticity in the process.
Fashion has also waited for this moment as its role has become increasingly more pronounced. Not only do we look to the opening ceremony to see what the world is wearing but we also now look to see who is behind the creations as more designers jump on board to craft the wardrobes. Andre Tan (Ukraine), Castro (Israel), Christian Louboutin (Cuba), Dsquared2 (oh Canada), Georgio Armani (Italy), Lacoste (France), Masha Ma (China), Ralph Lauren (USA) and Stella McCartney (UK) were among the many supreme talents recruited to bring style to the games just as the fashion world enjoys athleisure as a predominant and now-anointed permatrend (or recurring one if anyone for the late 80s/ early 90s wishes to speak of the first sports wave that infiltrated fashion, thanks to hip hop). Countless other host labels that are the pride of each country join to bring the best to the world stage that truly signalled the cultural importance of fashion in our global culture by featuring a long solitary catwalk by Brazilian bombshell/supermodel Gisele Bundchen in a Alexandre Herchcovitch sequined gown. That this gesture is even part of the ceremonies at all speaks volumes of the power of fashion today, for this signals that fashion has currency in our global makeup. It also shows how we need a distraction to draw away from what is on the other side of reality; note that South Korea had their stylish uniforms infused with insect repellant to combat exposure to the Zika virus.
The message of hope was drawn against clear messages about current states of global poverty, growing strife of all manners and runaway ecological issues we cannot ignore; all are distressing and alarming and ever-present. The predominant colours of the ceremony in the fashion were bright and strong. True, the vivid colours from flags are always inspiration but the choices here were often hot and bright, filled with energy and reactive to fear; those knowledgeable on colour theory will attest to the ceremony show's leaning to alarm yellows and fantasy purples last reminiscent of the pre-Y2K and post 9/11 periods when such colours reflected the combined alert status versus the need to escape (note the fireworks and contrasting lights during the ceremony).
Also visible was the unspoken class distinction encompassed by the the incorporation of the traditional garment of formality: the blazer. This was joined this time by the more fashion-forward nod of athleisure and fashions subtle combination of the two as an unspoken gauge of relevance, showing the wealth and global status through this singular garment. Countries not as involved in the first-world fashion game tended to lean towards more traditional dress verse the more westernized uniform (and inadvertently provided more rich inspiration via cultural authenticity, African, Middle Eastern and island nations in particular). Much like the way those of higher means feel liberated to flirt with fashion versus formality in general life (largely due to the confidence that comes with deeper exposure to the world of fashion that the luxury of free time allows), those rising to the ranks but not yet in the "major leagues" showed up in more conservative tailored decorum of presentability, i.e. a safer approach. The jacket is what the suit was decades earlier or what the LBD is today: a general go-to when unsure but not wanting to be too underdressed, albeit in the Olympics colour play is welcome.
The takeaway for us today is how fashion will be influenced by what was seen during the ceremony and parade of athletes and mores what they tell us the world is ready for overall as fashion pushes us closer to the new identity that will be 21st century's overall cultural identity. The safer conservative cuts balanced by colour, some contrasts, vibrancy and flashes of ethnic rawness in between come against clean execution (supported by our image-conscious selfie culture) crafted with technical fibres combined with utilitarian function that sportswear offers. And for those concerned about whether one is underdressed, just bring long a blazer for added polish; that is now, as ever, universal.
T he lazy embrace of summer break allows the designer a chance to ruminate their work and direction, to ponder inspirations and new influences in order to remain at the precipice of creative innovation, and to consider all options with an eye on profitability. There is much to consider these days; one of these points of contention is our changing preference of proportion and dimension in the wake of diversity awareness.
For the longest time fashion has embraced a rather restrictive model that showcased the design, utilizing a body type, age and race that failed to represent the actual populace. Those designers fortunate to have an international reach are aware that different ethnic groups can have variations on proportion and fit; for example, local lines in Japan will not sit well on a more Nordic frame and need alteration to suit the body type it wasn't originally meant for. In our global market, designers need to consider the variations when creating design that goes global to satisfy diverse markets.
Cultural values has also recently influenced collections. Before, we'd find some years where covering up the body was preferred while in others the glorification of sexualization would allow strategic lack of coverage to be showcased. Now, with diverse values to satisfy we find designers providing both options, thus altering the formula and changing the trend landscape.
With the rising cry of inclusion for all body types and ages more pronounced, new challenges will shape collections further. Some designs translate better on a wider variety of body types, while others do not. Therefore, the maximizing of profitability will provide influence over which pieces become more pronounced and shape trend directions for a wider audience. As well, some design challenges for previously ignored body ranges may open doors to new design approaches that can alter the greater aesthetic. This new form of exclusivity (something that always is favoured in fashion) will shape influence in greater design collections and, eventually, the general public that gets influenced by them.
Our growing awareness inclusion and acceptance is fostered by the democratization that our connected world provides, yet this inclusion creates new exclusion as we create novelty in the "discovery" of new type territories to glorify; fashion feeds on this as it seeks newness as its constant.
So while the bad news is that, at some point, your "type" may not be the flavour of the month, the better news is that we have grown the roster so that we all have a chance to be special in the eye of fashion. And so it goes, so it goes....
N ow is the time when many are away recharging, resting from the hard work that will culminate in the 2017 Spring Summer releases. But what will come? Some hints have already arrived via early releases from Damir Doma, Julien David, Public School and Vetements regarding the continued experimentation influence of the 80s and 90s acting as a foundation for breaking new ground. Proportion play and silhouette/cut exploration hide within the desire for change amidst the need to cocoon and withdraw.
Already, the apocalyptic aspect is playing out in real life and in our entertainment mirrored in the measured tatters we saw in recent collections. But now we are past that. We aim for something more, something higher than ourselves. It comes from looking within and beyond. To do so, we take advantage of our technical advancements and balance this with a nod to what we know, what is familiar. This tether to the past is our safety line that grounds us as we take brave steps forward. This introspective and thoughtful part of us is coming as we face our fears, be they political, economic or otherwise.
We will soften as we create, open to our imaginations and play with form and pattern. We will embrace texture while rewarding us with tactile gentleness, and allow technology to bring innovation to continue comfort. Warmth will be light (textile innovation will rule here), colour will lean to fantasy as we allow darkness to have its place (think of the colours the last time we got lost in ourselves during those decades). Boldness is still among us but will not be alone, for memories we can lean on will guide us to attempt to recreate better times in similar circumstances and sentiments.
We want more. We want better. What this means requires tapping into our hearts and soul-search for what that is. Fantasy is subjective, and will be part of this expression just as it was during the last collective efforts of experimentation as we walked the precipice of our uncertainties. And, as before, technology will help us with the monologue, again fine tuning what creatives have in their minds to translate this aspirational escape.
The Haute Couture Fall Winter 2016 season is done, as is Resort 2017 and Men's Spring Summer 2017 while Women's Spring Summer 2017 Ready-To-Wear as you know already had some early showings breaking from the traditional calendar. But now is the time when fashion traditionally takes a break before jumping in to the full Spring Summer 2017 Ready-To-Wear season gets underway. The break is due to Europe's August tradition where most people go on holiday. Mills shut down; if you haven't ordered fabric beforehand, you are out of luck until September.
While "holiday'' might suggest something festive, we don't have much to celebrate these days. The UK revealed the power of ignorance and xenophobia in a referendum that has cost the UK already, while the US has shown how little has changed regarding issues of race as revelatory statistics of law enforcement and minority deaths, coming on the heels of public discussions on inequality ranging from gender pay to balanced opportunity as its political process underscores that peace relations are far from evolved. Ageism, fat shaming, and senseless random mass killings that now seem like a global phenomenon threaten the simplicity and innocence of daily life while further dividing the public on a myriad of sensitive areas revealing the power of our fears and the need for us to take a closer look at the choices we make and the consequence of our thoughts and actions. And let's not forget the recent coup attempt in the cradle of civilization; a cashmere urban camouflage print straightjacket seems "a propos" these days.
Our conscience has even struggled within the industry as we talk about what needs to be done yet seem hesitant to make the bold steps to embrace doing what we know would make the world a better place, be it better efforts on diversity or shifts supporting changes in what we consider acceptable body sizes in the runways and advertisements in the name of supporting healthier role models that contribute to better self esteem. And yet, on the whole, we cling to what has always been.
Changing what is aesthetically popular is the domain of fashion and it is powerful. Fashion is also reactive to the public as much as it is influential, and economics is part of that equation. Our choices to support and make popular personal aesthetics is the fuel that can initiate change. Right now, the social media landscape continues to support what we see. When the public decides by popularity to adopt a new preference of aesthetic standards, fashion will be on board.
Fashion can lead by providing the supportive platform for change. Many retro fashion creations that are continuously produced in response to big data based on public consumption habits. This data is brought to the designers in conjunction with forecasting information that informs the team to make sound design directions that will bring profit (remember, fashion is ultimately a business). But fashion is supportive of innovative design initiatives which shape other designers and the consumer. The continued play with deconstruction is fast becoming mainstream and its sophisticated evolution is supported with each season as the concept reappears in more complex execution stages.
As such, fashion can also be the agent of social change through the power of imagery. By making diversity of all types the new standard, fashion can be on the side of social advancement. It is the timely dialogue of common sense questioning why we aren't enacting the obvious changes in the face of our ugliness in our hyperconnected real-time technical world that signals hope.
It's not that we haven't had these topics discussed in length, but now we have the technology supporting hard data and democratic platforms to host these discussions to a broader audience in the name of betterment of man(and woman)kind.
So how does this relate to trends and what we wear? The clinging of the past via retro designs versus the newness of technology and new concepts that break for convention to become the new convention is something evident in current presentations these past weeks. Attempts to push boundaries versus tradition show a wide range, which represent the range we as people have. We're trying to figure it out and coming to terms with where we stand, what we value and what is right, all subjective and up for evolution...or revolution, which is the catalyst for evolution.
Some will lose interest in fashion citing that its place is low on the totem pole in the face of more important global concerns while others need it to soothe in the escape that it brings. Fashion has the power to distract, an antidote from the bombardment of world woes that seem too large to handle. It is likely that designers will find ways to react to all this seriousness in their own ways much as they did after 9/11. But it will go on because we do. The core inspiration from the 2000s, the best-of from past decades as a mashup revisited, will continue to comfort; that is a natural reaction when faced with fear. But...and this is a more positive interjection... there will also be defiance that deconstruction coupled with technical innovation provides. As Donatella Versace showed post 9/11 as a preamble to her show, she declared that our creativity will not be held hostage. We will find a way to cope, to express, and to move forward, finding a way to coexist with the chaos that is fast becoming de rigueur. It is what we as human beings ultimately do.