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Saturday, April 15th 2017

3:02 PM

Last Hoorahs

W  hen contemplating the fashion cycles, the prominent cities fashion pays attention to are the "Big Four": New York, London, Milan and Paris. During the 80s, Tokyo's explosion of influence had temporarily made this into the "Big Five", but the major players moved to the European cities and the recession in the early 90s knocked the wind out of the sails for that city as the rest could not compete in a climate that tempered creativity in favour of demure utility.  For a while, the lesser-known labels could not regain interest, even when the focus returned to Asia in the early 2000s with the rise of China. But as K-Pop brought new attention to Asian fashion and the 80s returned along with an interest in the fruits of the Japanese creative force from the more avant garde aspects, Japanese and Korean fashion gained a new audience.

Youth reached an age where they heard the tales of the free-wheeling and innovative 80s. With pop culture, especially music further mining the era for inspiration, fashion found itself revisiting its glory days of rule-breaking inventiveness. Similar spirit was spurred on, in part, to spite the negativity of reality that both now and then finds in tandem. Plus, there was an innocence the past held compared to now; in no way could we do the things we tried then in our hyperaware and self-conscious star we live in...but we could sure dress like it now.

Those who lived in the pre-9/11 days recall a lot more freedom and free-wheeling adventure that asked for only one's participation that we won't dare do now. Our technology has revealed the raw ugliness of humanity just as much as it has unleashed the full amazing beauty and incredible range of spirit in all media. the fullness of mankind, before a mystery to be dug out though getting out of the house and living it is now at our fingertips, poured onto threads on every app invented and merely a click away from devices we have made indispensable. And the celebration of individuality we allowed in the 80s and 90s seemed as legendary as then fashion we are rediscovering with fondness for those who lived before it and with awe for those who are seeing it for the first time. 

If there is one chief association with everything storied, it is the soul and genuinity of the creativity versus how efforts are seen now, particularly by younger generations who are keen on differentiating between the two. For all the perfection technology can offer today, somehow it is too perfect; it doesn't offer the humanity of imperfection, especially in an era where we have made the human experience into branding thanks to our connectivity tools such as social media and easily accessible editing tools to make our lives a little too perfect for words.

How funny to see this interest propel designers to reach back to entice us while appealing to our desire to live through legend. that is not new; in the 80s the spirit of the 60s was tapped with glee during the heart of the daily fear fest media was feeding us as nuclear tensions rubbed padded shoulders with increasing pushback for gender equality. The lightness of the mod, go-go energy was only part of the story, but youth back then took the highlights just as we do now and embrace the good vibes.

You can see when the good times were for each city or region by noticing which dominant retro era dominates the collections. While this blog has covered the "Big Four", it's also interesting to see this in the cities being watched beyond the "Big Four" to see what eras dominated the retro exploration, telling us when they felt were days worth reminiscing. 

For Tokyo, it is clear that it was all about the late 80s. That was their last real hey-day when Japan ruled fashion and had the world at their feet. It was a different world there when looking at the global picture where economies were crumbling while Japan still was giddy on prosperity. The long silhouetted layers, clean volume and handpuppeting sleeves that most localized collections draw from all signal the seasons before the global crash pulled Japan, a country heavily dependant on exports, down by the protectionism of the "Buy America" campaign. With the promise of renewed attention as the world's eyes turn to their hosting of the Olympics, Japan looks fondly to what was and hopes will happen again. 

Meanwhile, collections in Seoul splits their retro focus between the 80s and the 90s as their economic measures helped their stability right through to the late 90s when they could not sustain the larger crash that swept through Asia. The sportier and clean grunge tweaks mix with the late 80s edge to dominate the creative zones explored in recent local presentations tell us when it was better before the political machines put fear on front and center (especially now).

​Clothes don't just make us feel warm or protected from the elements. They are our psychological armour to help us connect to each other when we further isolate ourselves. They also comfort us with imagination and adventure that we live when we put these on to take us through our day. The drama of a coat or the mood of a shirt adds to the roles we play when we step out the door or lock ourselves up in privacy, and it's those from the creative past looking to the future with wonder that we are drawing on. Hopefully that is what we will find as we live our journey; fashion will tell us if that's true.

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Saturday, April 8th 2017

3:30 PM

Working Out The Future

O  ne of the aspects this blog continues to explore is the ultimate question of where we are heading regarding our 21st century identity and how fashion will evolve as we settle on this identity we carve out. As indicated before in previous postings, the issue with determining the future is about experience versus perspective. Designers born in the 19th century could not conceive of what the 21st century would come to represent, although marketers who decided on the Edwardian Gibson Girl concept were headed in the right direction regarding fashion's evolution towards greater wearability and freedom of movement and modern aesthetic. But the languid length and covering up of the body was still rooted in the values of the 19th century, and it would take a whole new generation rejecting these values to put forth the standard we have these days.

Over time we have found fashion embracing technology to fine-tune various aspects of the 20th century regarding cut, fit, embellishment and detail. The democratic access, functional utilitarian slant, and variety of artistic expression has grown more sophisticated as technology and a global marketplace has afforded the variety the century before would only wish was available. And yet, for all the sophisticated ideas and creative designs out forth, we hear of traditional fashion not doing as well, and that is starting to include fast fashion. In fact, many factors have recently come about that have changed the way fashion is evolving, and all are important when looking at what the 21st century will be.

In a previous article in this blog (Recombinant Deconstruction Is It's Name-o - Saturday, September 19th 2015 5:25 PM) technology's role was taken into account regarding the creative aspect that fashion would embrace, with deconstruction, seamless construction and 3D printing seeing possibilities within the design processes that will act as foundations for modern design aesthetics that would be mainstays of the 21st century. The wear habits are another factor. If the women of the early 20th century shed corsets, demanded shorter hemlines and more gender-neutral simplicity, then our 21st century seems to be shifting gears.

Athleisure's central core involves more sophisticated embrace of performance fabrics that reply well to real-life demands. The feel of textile, ease of use (they come on and off in seconds), ease of care (one wash and they're good to go) and practicality of design fits the modern day to the extent that workplace codes are being rewritten to accommodate them just as athleisure is moving forward with more presentable versions that fit the demands of more professional presentation. The multi-functional aspects are steps ahead of anything made by more traditional fashion design, increasingly putting the latter on notice as less necessary for daily wear versus special occasion, and even then that is not attracting customers as much as the growing rental fashion market that is declaring just when and how such fashion is required in this age (hunt down my article for Pej Gruppen [entitled "Rented Fashion; A New Business Model Emerges" CIFF No 1 Section 2 January 2016] if you want to know how this was anticipated).

Think about this: with all the fabulous design ideas (and the past few years have produced a lot), how much of this are you seeing in the real world on a daily basis? How many innovative designs do we see worn by world leaders...or even local ones? How many clever gowns do we find in award ceremonies or most special occasions versus the streamlined simple column gowns that have become the mainstay of anyone in attendance? How much of the high-minded concepts get past a few downtowns of the world and behind the select closed doors of a few elite functions? That's right. The London Telegraph recently disclosed that less than 25% of people dress up to dine out. And when Royal Ascot finally allows pants and style vlogs address how to wear sweats to a boardroom then you know things as a whole are moving in a new direction. The proliferation of designers showing social media-friendly images that are worth collecting and admiring fail to underscore the reality: that these items in those lovely images are largely nice to look at but aren't being sold or worn nearly as much as fashion would like or hope. Even our media is alerting us of the reality that we cannot ignore: the traditions of what the 20th century has long sold us as fashion are changing.

If we are looking for the next clues of the 21st century wardrobe, the acceptance of athelisure and performance garments as standard wear is it. Technology will not only offer new ways of creative clever design, it will also hinge on use of textiles that fit environmental demands. Clothes that breathe yet maintain the temperature we wish to feel; textures that soothe or invigorate; materials that work with our body rather than constrict it so we can run when we need and kick back without fear over the garment not handling the wear and tear of unrestricted movement; pattern and colour capabilities that work with our tech and our environment to offer choice and flexibility that a full life demands; and materials that require so little to care for to free up our time. These aspects will shape design and set the tone for 21st century.

Does that mean fashion will lose the look? Will it radiate athleticism? It's hard to say at this time, although it's bound to contribute to the aesthetic of modernism and its essence is bound to be incorporated at some levels...and in some ways it already has. That athleisure is morphing into appearing full function for exercise and the workplace is a signal of hybrid use leaning to the presentable. A suit made of sweatpants material that can pass muster in boardroom yet wick sweat away (and contain silver fibre to keep door at bay) so the person remains fresh while running to and from the office is a design challenge that athleisure's innovations can offer. And for those raised in the environment of rental fashion for occasion and athelisure for daywear, the new generation taking the region in a few years and calling the shots will demand nothing less than this as the norm.

For fashion to survive, the choice of material and testing of its wares in wide ranges of performance use as well as ease of care will be the hallmark of who survives and who "dies". And as we inch closer towards the full settling of this century and millennium, we will see whether any more hints will give us the visual vocabulary of what it means to dress in the 21st century.

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Sunday, April 2nd 2017

7:28 PM

Feel Good

T  he borrowing of fashion concepts from past decades has been a long standing theme that goes beyond the phenomenon of 20th & 21st century fashion; this blog looks at the reasons behind them so you can understand what we are seeing that is on the runways today...like this persistent adherence to what we've done before.

For the retro inspiration that has been happening post 9/11, the roots are regression as a source of comfort. This is especially as the future we have been sold did not come with realities that we now live through. Be it political discord, fiscal instability, nebulous enemies of peace that threaten of safety, livelihood replacement via robotics and algorithms or security threats infiltrating the technology we have come to depend on, these pessimistic aspects were too much to handle after the shock that 9/11 brought as our global innocence was ripped apart.  

The first decade of the 21st century was marred by such events that propelled us to look backwards and retrace where we last felt good as a coping mechanism. It was so concise that the colour palettes reverted back to ones chosen several years earlier, and for many seasons followed the similar path as we seemed to retrace our steps slowly until we could come to a point where we could face our nightmares openly. From this, various decades as inspiration appeared at once, albeit in a more casual and accessible manner. The trucker hats, track suits, draped sparkly halter tops, boot-cut denim, thongs and printed/studded/appliqued items and flared edges shared space with normcore staples, minimalist wave basics and simplistic retro cuts from every postwar era were all blended to reach each and every person's comfort zone, and did so successfully to placate the widest audience seeking something that felt good. While distance and desensitization aided in our capacity to look forward (and embrace appropriately), more recent upsets ranging from economics to politics coupled with further advancements viewed that exacerbate current threats have pushed many of us back.

The current exploratory climate also involves multiple decades mashed together, albeit a more refined and artistic level based on the more optimistic reminiscence as we seek inspiration for new directions. As we get further entrenched in our "future", the fears that have resurfaced are finding a place in the current retro exploration, offering the same range as what the world is experiencing. That is, some are feeling the pain, and some are not. Some people are afraid, while some are seeing opportunity much in the same way as the last century hand-over when we transitioned from one way of life to another. Also, whereas we had resignation with more pedestrian or base-level expressions featured, this time around we seek a more sophisticated reminiscence that feeds our creative souls and sophisticated appreciations that came from fashion history. The intellectualism behind deconstruction, surrealism and experimental layering lend us towards a hand-held walk to the future, with that hand holding much that we found dear from before.

Our uncertainty that has found us straddling approaches (or rather those as we still explore what have had in order to create something new) will tell us where we are going next. When someone is referencing the 2000s, really they are forgetting that this decade referenced every decade before it that was thrown together before we started blending elements instead. But a few things are for sure: we are insecure and the past is what we cling to, and only time will tell when we will move beyond as we get comfortable with our brave new world. But at least we are trying.

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Sunday, March 26th 2017

10:57 AM

Incongruencies Unite

F  ashion constantly holds a mirror to ourselves through inspiration translated into trend identifiers. Our current sentiments and perspectives get woven into almost symbolic expressions with great sophistication. Some are obvious and inspire collective complicity. Others are cues for those more knowledgeable, yet still connect on subconscious levels and thus resonate with the greater population as "getting it innately"; uncovering the connections by revealing the psychology or historic parallels help us see behind the magic. With current volumes of information at our fingertips, the Fall Winter 2017/2018 collections show us quite a bit, both about the designers' mindset as well as the greater collective realizations they bring to us in material form.

The issue of division and unity has been a growing concern manifest in our global political climates that, in turn, has affected many aspects of our daily lives. the years of allowing candid conversation and healthy  emotional exploration have yielded willingness to continue exploring cultural aspects that we would have before brushed off as the norm. Currently, issues surrounding our differences are central. We ask for fairness while recognizing the world is anything but, and with the wisdom from the purity of virgin eyes ask "why". Why do we pay less for those who work the same when the difference is gender? Why why do we bypass equal representation in our media when our real world is made of so many races? How is it fair to offer rights freely to one yet deny another merely due to who we are and who we love when all are worthy of equal opportunity? 

And yet, by addressing or even pondering these, by testing our conscience we challenge entrenched values that pit what we have learned versus what we are learning as we grow. Not always are these on the same page, and some tap into more primal reactions. We pick sides, seeking until in our differences as we protect our egos until we are healthy enough to challenge those on our own. And knowledge today, even permeating through our pop culture the common sense that we are all one, finds an uneasy challenge against each other seeking the same in our individual differences.

From time to time, the strain that tests who we are and where we stand becomes too much and we rebel, dig in our heels and declare our version of life to be the ruler only to find we clash with our fellow man/lady. The push and the pull happen as we seek common ground, and sometimes we have to fight to find this new place we eventually come to. 

​The volatility of the war years, particularly mid-century, saw this exploding all over before the world erupted in a great release of built tensions that became World War II; a check in history reveals rising tensions all over, like an out-of-control infection before it grew to the scale that nearly claimed us all. And fashion had a lot to say. One aspect was the division carried literally in almost heraldic fashion with a minor trend of bisecting colours. Here, the differences merged reflected the way many nations were feeling as internal tensions gave way to feeding the highest manifestation of division: war, most territorial and barbaric with an almost medieval fervour over imaginary lines fueled by economic insecurities.

It wasn't a huge trend but its timing was one of many expressions exploring division and upheaval that the  world would feel. Cue to today and ours take a more pronounced expression that latches onto the deconstruction and surrealism phases currently embraced in fashion. The more sophisticated understanding of our differences are brought together. Incongruence is merged to make whole, much like our current world is today. Our societies are made of differences not always fitting but existing as together. The recognition of unlikely cohesion is who we are now. So this division connected is found in bisecting colours or in whole assembly of divergent items brought together, seen in collections from Central St. Martin's graduating class show as well as at Calvin Klein, Christopher Esber, Christopher Kane, Delpozo, Emilia Wickstead, Erika Cavallini, Marques' Almeida, Mara Hoffman, Milly, Mugler, Pamella Roland, Paule Ka, Pucci, Sportmax, Stella McCartney, Vejas, Vionnet and Vivienne Tam. This almost literal interpretation of differences together made apparent reflects who we are. We are the unlikely now as one unit, one society; we are a world of cultural uniqueness and similarities, with our differences now under the microscope. And yet, unlikely pairings have become the styling go-to over the last few seasons suggesting our future is the sum of our differences made as one, now the fabric of each component becomes the highlight of the differences. Do we focus on what is seemingly incongruent, or that what is seemingly incongruent is held together with purpose?

​That is part of the dialogue we seem to be having these days, and fashion again has found a way to turn this into something we wear. This, of course, like any conversation we now have, is but a facet. And this blog will find more to talk about as we ponder what we have seen versus what we are seeing today.

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Saturday, March 18th 2017

5:19 PM

When Sockdollagers Shape Glad Rags

T  he Fall Winter 2017/2018 collections for the Big Four are done. As we catch our breath, we have time to review the many things that have happened , much of what was discussed in this blog during the past weeks when the main collection weeks were covered. As promised last week, this blog would continue on another trend thread within the retro-sourced framework.

The global political climate coupled with issues surrounding equality and the economy are powerful ones that connect with these collections. All have touched designers as much as they have the general public and the media who inform them, so it is not a surprise that designers would explore various translations of perceived shared observations via the current fascination with history that has permeated pop culture. 

In the USA, some of the same eras reflected in fashion have been touched on in television programs centering on time travel, especially in the program "Timeless" which reads like a designer inspiration list for current collections. Other programs such as "Time After Time", "Making History" & the long-running cult favourite "Dr. Who" also bring visits to rather timely periods that connect to current sentiments while "Westworld", "This Is Us", "Stranger Things", "The Goldbergs" and "Frequency" explore our fascination with reaching out to, interacting with or experiencing a window of another time.

Within fashion, we find a few reasons covered in this blog before regarding this retro exploration. Part of it lies in familiarity as connection. By finding similar patterns in our past and past actions, we can better digest current events as they unfold. This is more likely when we have societal stress and are hesitant of the future, with the post-retro explosion of post 9/11era being the strongest reflection of this impulse. Part of this is romanticization as a coping device. By connecting with earlier periods, we can "travel" away from the deeper understanding of our current world to eras where our surface impressions are glossed over. The last part is identity through history. For us to move forward, we have to start form somewhere. By mining the past and experimenting with combinations, we seek something that can lead us forward without straying too far into unfamiliar territory.

Some influences are honest in pessimistic connection, much like what was mentioned last week. Others are just as much connected but can be in earlier stages. Even though the romanticized view we have of the 20s connects energy, technical and design innovation and youth running with the torch from the old (and an old century) to the new, it also has prohibition, morality and value system challenges, gender role exploration and a struggle with finding one's place in a changing world. Plus, the earliest stages of authoritarianism and xenophobia started hand-in-hand with the threat of cultural change.

​That's a lot of depth for something we wear on our backs, and yet designers are sophisticated and informed creatives; you can be sure, even if the explanation isn't all-out confessed at press time that the recognizable elements let us know otherwise that there is more going on than a few lead-ups. Be it a drop waist by Alyx, Anrealage, Blumarine, David Koma, Jourden, Lanvin, Loewe, Paule Ka, Prada and Stella Jean; jazz age energetic swing of fringe by Andrew Gn, Balmain, Celine, John Galliano, Pucci and Wanda Nylon; exoticism of monkey fur by Francesco Scognamiglio, Gareth Pugh, Libertine, MSGM and Zimmermann; a nod to the cloche by Jacquemus and Marc Jacobs; a defiantly Dadaist aura by Rick Owens and Gareth Pugh; or even bold geometry as hints of roaring spirit by (loosely) Arthur Arbesser, Leonard Paris and Pucci all simultaneously grasp the political awareness with optimistic reminiscence, hope in current times still showing promise that not all history has to repeat where awareness lies, and a sly nod that our roaring 20s and all the convoluted promise it holds is but a few years away.

That it is but a slice of the many inspirations serves notice that there are many perspectives at play, and fashion...and we...are ready to have these before us to ponder. Does it bring us together? It turns out, there is another aspect addressing that expression and we'll let the next week tackle that.      

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Sunday, March 12th 2017

6:56 PM

Whether It Was Dirty

T  he Fall Winter 2017/2018 collections are winding down and now we have time to catch our breath before the next quarter when the Resort 2017 collections are presented. So, for now, we can further examine the various prominent trend expressions that designers have collectively chose.

​The choice of historical references by tapping past trend characteristics is a common expression amongst designers. Current events can remind one who is well-versed in history with regards to parallels or patterns. For example, the current political climate exhibited in various western nations regarding xenophobia has been emboldened as political changes have allowed more right-wing views to come into play in response to the sudden influx of refugees that have strained resources at a time when many nationals are facing growing economic divides and hardship that erodes compassionate support. This, plus the political climate change in some larger western powers such as the UK & USA seem to be emboldening extremist sentiments along racial and gender lines; all this reminds heavily of the 20s and 30s where similar economic strains resulted in increased xenophobia and decreased tolerance overall, contributing to the lead-up of the rise of fascism and authoritarianism in Europe that sparked World War II. Those who lived through this tumultuous period are doing their best to speak out to warn the general public of the similarities as event unfolding seem to bring about similar paths that we will regret should they repeat. However, the current population, especially those who are younger that have no connections directly or through living relatives who lived through those times, are not emotionally connected to the past, and thus do not experience the way history is unfolding in the same way those who lived it do. That is, they don't have a connection, so it seems less likely, despite grim parallels.

Most designers, though, are closer to that connection and are better connected to those who have the time and means to indulge in further education and understanding of the nuances that parallels can be drawn from. And so, we see decades carrying such similarities tapped and brought into the creative fold. 

The darker expression of this is, of close, closer to the war years and those involve more dire economics. Collections from Belstaff, Christian Siriano, Elizabeth Kennedy, Ermanno Scervino, Gareth Pugh, Jacquemus, Jonathan Simkhai, Leonard Paris, Loewe, Marissa Webb, Rosetta Getty, Sacai, Sea, Trina Turk, and ZAC Zac Posen all contain whisps of components, be they a fur collar, a hallmark cut of a skirt, or even vague silhouettes and/or textiles that capture the mood of the 30s. It was a time where creativity and criticisms via artistic voice responded to growing entrenchment of the worst of ourselves yet manifest. And it was those most progressive and bravest of arts that eventually saw the wrath of a relentless evil that took advantage of a weary public that just wanted to be heard and looked after in the most stressful of growing circumstances via scapegoating.  

​But what about the lighter, earlier expression? Does that not merit a mention? Well, of course, and even better, it deserves a separate platform that will be covered in the next article.

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Sunday, March 5th 2017

8:59 PM

Nuclear Fall/Winter Traditions

H  ere we are, now in March as the Fall Winter 2017/2018 collections are nearing the end with yet a few days left of showing in Paris before they wrap up. In doing so, fashion publication editors and staff will pour through all that has been seen to bring to the public their cumulative observations of trend summations. These will inform the public of directions that will shape purchase decisions and dress codes that will shape our larger cultural expression direction.

​This blog has mentioned many times that the current technological landscape has brought up to a more sophisticated level of interpretation, resulting in more complex combinations of influences highlighting the wide scope of world events that affect us as a global whole. Some trend expressions tend to be universal, signalling a commonality of international agreement that our connected world supports. Gone are the days of distinct cultural separation in dress. Rather, within each culture, subtle variances in the strength of trend aspects denote what level of affinity any one culture may have on a mindset or emotional placement manifest as material representation.

For example, the proliferation of strong shoulders in fashion have multiple meanings when examine source versus impact. The 40s and 50s were the source of these design features. In the 40s, more women assumed roles reserved once for men as more men went to war and women took over to keep the "machine running". Women were empowered symbolically with clothing reflecting this rise of active participation in what was once domain of men. Fashion responded by offering a form of corporate armour that masculinized women to help them fit the roles that bucked tradition at the time. As there war ended, men returned and many (but not all) women went back into traditional roles. however, the shift of purpose of armour went from supporting the war effort to defence in the face of communist threats (and along with those nuclear ones), and the strong shoulder remained until it phased out as the next decade emerged.

The return of the threat came back in the 80s when the USA and the USSR began their showdown with nuclear weapon proliferation in a tense arms race with much of the free world caught in the middle (Europe in particular feeling the heat the most). President Reagan represented a generational mindset from the 50s where the drive to innocence and patriotism amidst McCarthyism and sometimes it seemed as if the administration under his helm was almost attempting to bring this back. This more conservative direction was met with a cultural shift as the decade moved forward via avant grade expression supported by the entertainment industry as personal rebellion, embracing diversity, equality and gender variation acceptance was made fashionable along with individuality, open expression and more open communication (really a continuation of groundbreaking work from the decade previous). But the threat of global extermination still reigned and the reminders of McCarthyism in the form of anti-Soviet sentiment all triggered the return of the personal armour: the strong shoulder. This lasted right through until the 90s when mindsets and the fashions they influenced changed.

Now, here we are and these have returned. During the period when these collections were being conceived and created, the hotly contested political race in the USA saw a traditionalist rising in the ranks towards victory that was not globally favoured, carrying a reputation of views that many justifiably see as regressive in the face of social advancements that affect women, minorities and the LGBTQ communities while broadcasting protectionist policy ideologies that hark back to less tolerant times. The potential fallout of someone at the helm of one of the most powerful countries in the world with such views triggers many sentiments that have seen expression in fashion this season, and the defensive hallmarks of the 40s and 50s have found a place to come back to.

True, some designers are embracing the cues where the strong shoulder reigned: the 80s. The exciting creative explosion that is the foundation of the most experimental cuts, shapes, assembly techniques and silhouettes is recalled during a time where individuality was lauded, and thus we see the defensiveness coupled with joyous expressive creativity that, for younger generations is legendary, embraced in its oversized comforting glory. But other designers feel the political connotations of a more historic connection and present a different relevance for the public to connect to. 

​The sexually repressive and limiting aspects of the 50s seem like a threat today when we recognize how far we have come regarding acceptance and equality. That some wish to return us to more regressive times would seem preposterous, but history has shown that our culture has the capacity to both progress and regress as we eventually grow forward. This social oscillation is long embedded in our history, so those who know history and trends know that we do waver as we progress.

​Some publications, such as the astute Vogue Runway, have noted the appearance of 50s elements in some collections the season, attributing these to a growing interest in a return to feminism. That is not untrue, especially when we have years of masculine slants and gender neutral athleisure; eventually the pendulum does swing to satisfy waning interests. It's the global political awareness that the fashion press recognizes regarding the fears and fear sources that inform this trend connection further, especially as designers tend to have deeper and more informed observational foundations that trending organizations support. Add cultural inspiration such as the upcoming Victoria & Albert exhibition on the history of Cristobal Balenciaga as well and we have enough reasons underscoring the complexity of the creative mix.

Thus, it is not a surprise to see other hallmark aspects besides the oversize shoulders central to the 50s such as long wide skirts or portrait necklines that were slipped in at collections in New York by Elizabeth Kennedy, Jill Sander Navy, Oscar de la Renta, and Rosie Assoulin; in London at Barbara Tfank and Temperley London; in Milan at Antonio Marras, Aquilano Rimondi, Gabriele Colangelo, Luisa Beccaria, Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini, Rossella Jardini, Sara Battaglia and Vivetta; and in Paris so far at Balenciaga, Dior, Jaquemus, Manish Arora, Paule Ka, Rochas, Talbot Runhof and Undercover.

The ladylike tweaks may signal a glance at a potential new cultural influence element, honour femininity's extreme or comment slyly about the source of those upholding traditional gender foundations in the quest to bring the public back to "simpler times". But we know that we are not of or in those times, and that aspects that may connect us to memories don't necessarily mean we have returned to those moments rather than noticing how our present reminds us of connections to the past as part of our mutual unspoken dialogue we wear to relate to each other and the times. That these are but a slice of the total combination of multiple aspects that make up various collections show how complex we and our lives have become. In that respect, we have certainly changed.

As we uncover more sources, we will find the other parts of the dialogue that informs what we feel is going to be the Fall and Winter sentiment of 2017.

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Sunday, February 26th 2017

3:01 PM

One Shoulder, Two Reasons

A  new moon and a new day upon us as the Fall Winter 2017/2018 collections continue. This week we saw London and most of Milan showing and this blog will come more specifically to these...another time. There seems to be a predominant thread that is holding a dual purpose that couples well with current global political climates as well as with anticipated current events (something fashion always connects well with). 

​As you know, Japan will be hosting the next Summer Olympics and, as we get closer to this event, the public will find its focus on that country, its culture and most certainly its reputation for leading the way in technology. It worked hard to get that reputation and is a foundation for some of its chief exports. In most countries the military (and, for the wealthiest of nations, their space agencies) tends to get first access in any technological advancements and experimental materials. Once these have been well-utilized and/ or find replacements with newer technology or materials, the well-worn and much tested items trickle down to the commercial sector where the public finds myriad applications for incorporating these innovations into our daily lives.

Japan is unique. Having its military restricted as part of the concessions after losing to the American forces in World War II, it proved adaptable in keeping its scientific communities busy. Where there was no military to test new technology on, it found a willing general public. Over time, its society started to incorporate into domestic life the kind of advancements that other public domains would only hear of. Merging traditional with technical, Japan found a unique way of living that inspires other cultures as well as informs our vision of the future. Things you would get used to would take as much as a decade to eventually find its way into Western society. 

For the Olympics, automatic cars an robotics are expected to be the norm in Tokyo, and AI will be the host and translator for the world that depends upon it. You can be sure that ever aspect of experimental technology will be in full play, meticulously tested and ready to showcase Japan's craft while upholding honor, wrapped in respect for tradition.

​Part of tradition is to also pay homage to the Greek roots of the Olympics. The Greeks were also known for another major contribution to the world: democracy. the respect of our fellow man as all part of a unified whole, entitled to equal representation for the fairness of all is a value to be cherished. Not all countries of the world have such a luxury and those that do sometimes find this gift squandered, such as when we see low voter turnout or apathy regarding a country's political process, especially when the fundamentals of democracy are challenged.

The global awareness of this happening in various forms is not lost on the design community, caught between finding diplomatic appeasement to preserve its economic base versus the innate duty to utilize one's good fortune to seize a public platform to make a difference by using one's voice and point of view to hopefully inspire and enlighten those same people watching. Now, more than ever, we are seeing extremism being brought out on both sides fearing an erosion or encroachment of their perspectives. For those on the right, they see a challenge to gains that support response to their fears. For those on the left, they see an erosion of cultural advancements that encroach on gained freedoms. Rather than taking time to understand each other, we have found forces feeding fear with confusion and anger, and these seem to be pushing back in ways that are causing us to wonder whether democracy is being challenged unfairly. The fears, whether real or imaginary, are felt as real and we have lost our ability to reason and communicate, and that goes against how democracy is fortified.

So...something as simple as the one-shoulder toga style gowns that have permeated in most collections in all major fashion centers presenting thus far (of even the inspiration towards Greek traditional dress foundations as per Hussein Chalayan) is honouring on both the level of acknowledging the Greeks as happens every Olympiad and in honour of what we see as threats to democracy, with the most glaring coming for a country whose central pride point is being the bastion of democracy: the USA. It is unfortunate and truly saddening to see a country so divided that has long broadcasted as wanting to uphold the tenets of democracy globally. And fashion notices this, as well as the divide which is, at times, even putting a demure, quiet strain within those in the grand family of fashion and design that must wrestle with what to do to keep the peace while respecting its individuality.

There are foreshadows of what is to come from designers showing thus far, and it is interesting to see what they are saying. We'll talk about that another time.

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Sunday, February 19th 2017

10:16 PM

Facets Of Engineered Inspiration

P  lease forgive how this starts...

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Now, let's return to your reason for reading.

The Fall Winter 2017/2018 collections are in full force with matters wrapping up in New York and London now capturing media attention, and one of the more prominent expressions is the clever articulation of deconstruction that has been taking place. Those who know fashion history have seen some clever technical expertise in the exploration of this design approach executed over the years when deconstruction has been explored. 

Part of the evolution lies in the technology at one's disposal to take imagination and inspiration from conceptualization into actualization. Over the years, as technology has become more sophisticated, so have the results. Right now, a lot of the deconstruction is within craft lines, with extended dimensions to morph proportion, accent layering aspects and accentuate new silhouette variations. It almost is like genetic mutations of classic design where portions are being stretched and cut apart. But not all deconstruction follows this formula. That is, other approaches take the recombination of elements that is traditional deconstruction and adds proportion play and element distortion to produce new elements to incorporate into construction and this create new design. 

This blog foresaw how this evolution coupled with technological advancement would evolve as we morph towards a more 21st century design as per the Fashion Observed article "Recombinant Deconstruction Is It's Name-o" (Sept. 19, 2015). Here, as seamless weaving and 3D printing becomes more commonplace regarding technical execution (most likely merged with VR imaging in the design process for enhanced design conceptualization), we would see more organic expressions in design; it would be like a 2.0 version of deconstruction. For example, a dress with a collar that slowly drapes into a sleeve that would have a segment becoming a cape, all seamlessly together as the textile slowly morphs from a tweed into a solid wool felt from one of the tweed's colours while an underlay of nearly clear translucent silk degrades into a solid monochrome micro-plaid with fiberoptic threading in places for added glow and cross-threads with binary colour range based on temperature sensitive dyes transforms from a sheath to a drape in a skirt-train that splits into multilayers to complete a wrap skirt and separate from behind like petals of a flower, the whole layer itself also seamless, with various pockets woven within to add volume in strategic places (neat stuff). 

​While the technology mentioned above is in various stages, right now such technology that studios have access to now is enough that we can design the type of deconstruction that resembles such morphing, and various collections this season that have deconstruction are taking this possibility to the kind of levels of execution that requires a textile engineer of sorts; the combinations of drape and element inclusion that verges on cubist or surrealist vision is fast becoming more present on the current runways. A glance at some of the pieces within collections by ADEAM, Casely-Hayford, Monse, Ports 1961, Preen by Thornton Bregazzi, Proenza Schouler and VFiles' Snow Xue Goa & Danielle Cathari show hints of this alluding to the kind of transformative handiwork that will one day involve complex weaving and textile "printing" to inspire even more sophisticated future efforts as intricate technology becomes more accessible.

The cubist effect that these design results conveys fits nicely with the 20s/30s themes that have been seen in some collection influences as well, and we know of course the reasons for such presence of those decade influences that fashion has been flirting with in seasons past. Well, if you have been reading this blog for a while you will. For those who are newer to the blog, we will revisit and revise the background behind these...and other...retro influences again. That is, just as the collections seem to have this season.

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Monday, February 13th 2017

5:21 PM

Long Division

N  ow the fashion floodgates fling open as the Fall Winter 2017/2018 collections stream in. While other world capitals have shown, the Big Four really got formally underway at the beginning of last week. But those who have been watching know that collections started streaming in earlier in the month from London, Paris and New York in advance of their proper calendar. The fabric of formality is slowly being torn asunder as she collections test the "see-now-buy-now" model while others stay with tradition with pragmatic caution.  

The collections so far are being scrutinized in a large part to the past political changes represented in ideological shifts within various western nations. The struggle of "left" versus "right" has seen the kind of political overhaul that brings great stress. Not only form a business standpoint as immigration sentiments and tax changes loom, but also the revelation of the degree of xenophobia and nationalism that prominent  democracies contain leave the fashion community in a range of turmoil that the largess of the general public is radiating.

But as fear-based division threatens the kind of growth first-world societies have cultivated, just as many are holding fast to uphold what we know makes sense for the greater good of mankind. As New York is near the epicentre of the most aggressive of tumultuous change, it seems fitting that it conveys this chaos succinctly. Vogue Runway in particular is finding a few choice approaches designers are making regarding the translation of sentiments that reflect the public's equally diverse mindset, especially where economics is involved.

The segmenting of the public is one influence that cannot be missed that is easy to translate in fashion almost literally. Collections from Beaufille, Milly and Prabal Gurung took to segmenting to emphasize the growing division (similar at Katie Eary on the "other side of the pond") while those from Custo Barcelona, Gary Graham, Gypsy Sport and Public School had the ecological effort of textile collaging or even patchworking (with sentiments reflected overseas at Cedric Charlier and Vivienne Westwood) to show a diversity at odds yet still together somehow. And most collections involved the haphazard styling of incongruous pieces layered to form our 21st century uniform of confusion; wearing our chaos in mismatched print or contrast of textile and textures seems more the norm for now as we struggle to find our footing now that we know we are not all on the same page.

And yet, we are together. While some find comfort in feeding ignorance, fear and ultimately separation, many more know the cost of this is too high and are seeking ways to find a solution to keep us together. It is a long journey that comes from not just recognizing the sources of division, but to find ways to reach out in the name of cohesion. The recognition of the value of each others diversity is a good place to start.

We'll see what else the collections have to say about us...next article.

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