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Saturday, May 19th 2018

10:14 AM

The Scale Of Simplicity

W hile many have wondered about the sudden absence of Fashion Observed, rest assured that this blog is not gone. Far from it, dear readers. Rather, the realization of its role and, more importantly, its value is being carefully and thoughtfully pondered. Until a final direction is established and enacted based on such measured considerations, consider yourselves fortunate for now in what you receive. And...with that as a grand gesture established, let's look at other concepts of expansion, coming appropriately from an industry known for its largess: fashion, of course.

The multi-trillion dollar industry known broadly as "fashion" utilizes the finest sources of cumulative information and assessments from teams of sociologists and psychologists to forge measured paths of relevance that are fine-tuned each season to communicate in harmony with the general public. These days, fashion speaks in many messages, given that the fashion landscape is international, is well-connected due to technical advancements we now take for granted, and is multicultural, multigenerational, and multiclass-inspired.

Sometimes, fashion can be convoluted, such as what was revealed in earlier articles (like this one) that foretold the emergence of cubist assembly of design that deconstruction brought forth. It can be overwhelmed with detail and pattern, busy as our thoughts have been with the overload of information at our fingertips. After a while, though, we shift from one end of the spectrum to the other, seeking a "cleansing of the palette" that minimalist design tends to bring. This can be reflective in the safety of homogeneity that conformity brings, spurring directions such as normcore or monochromatic simplicity. At other times, the mere reach towards solids or color blocking often suffice (the minimalist design of Meghan Markle's wedding dress from Givenchy speaks well to this trend direction).

The recent commencement of 2019 Resort collections, a trickle at this early stage as they are being released, is fast alluding to a few major identifying points. One, that our retro embrace is at least moving more towards the 21st century, hovering within the last few more recent decades where the seeds of modern fashion expression were ignited versus the earlier decades that had clearer connections to the previous century. The other is found in the growing presence of simplicity in block cuts and solids, suggesting a return to clarity and simplicity itself. Prints that did show up so far tended to be more mechanized as were in the 90s, where pattern was rendered repetitious and uniform. That is, busy enough to offer contrast yet uniform enough to fit in the simplicity while subtly embracing a tech/machine age implementation versus something more organic and randomly naturalistic. The mid to later 90s grew more fixated on the technological explosion happening around us as the internet became more prominent as a new mainstay and more sophisticated innovations in textiles were being equally embraced. In fact, at one point collections were wholly influenced by tech itself, with collections finding inspiration in computer card and circuit boards, the extent of the worldview regarding tech at that time.

But these more established labels now showing also project a prudent awareness connected to the growing discussion regarding fiscal restraint that is becoming a rising presence in media. There are emerging murmurs that a rather dire recession (perhaps even a depression-era-level event) is confirmed as an expectation, and thus the formula of survival laid out in the 90s by designers who sought the streamlined simplicity were the ones who survived.

This blog has seen this before (long-time readers of Fashion Observed are quite familiar with this documented awareness) and has written about the insecurity that fashion has demonstrated, along with the effective countermeasures implemented in the design process that collections embraced. The oscillation and duality of the creative messages is present largely due to the complications of a more interconnected global economic landscape, where virtual economies are more omnipresent, and are more susceptible to change. And so we look at percentages of change as much as what is introduced. That there is always someone with money lets us know that the consensus of austerity isn't as broad...yet...but the manners of reacting with austerity in mind lets us know it's more present.

The simplicity of solids is the primary hint. The scale that the greater fashion world is currently playing with, though, is another story. While the 2019 Resort collections thus far are more carefully measured, the greater fashion world, along with newer, more experimental talent, has been letting us know that there is still room for grandness, and it comes down to scale (like this, this and this).

When looking at the Fall Winter 2018/2019 collections (and, in some cases, the Spring Summer 2018 collections) from Comme Des Garcons (example here), Dion Lee (and here), Gareth Pugh (and here), Jil Sander (and here), Issey Miyake (and here), Palmer Harding (and here), Rick Owens (and here) and Zero + Maria Cornejo (and here), we see that the implementation of scale is the prominent component. A garment of large, architectural scale provides shelter and cover, armour from the external, and connection to our long time expression of what we see as modern. Grandness of simplicity is, in itself, architectural. We saw this played with at times when architecture itself had a greater role of public inspiration, something that this blog observed in prior seasons (here, here, here and here, for example). Scale affords a manner of imposing grandness that can be appreciated if only for its magnitude, and more so can be altered should the times call for it should fashion scale down, such as in the contrast from the 50s to the 60s or from the 80s into the 90s. In both cases, grandness was insulating and protective, and when the times called for a change where body-consciousness prevailed over internal protectionism, the extra playing room of oversized design allowed the fashion customer the option of alteration to maximize dollar/wear (and one of the perceived drawbacks when looking at fashion from the business end).

This may seem counter-intuitive for a company to create items that later discourage consumption, but it subconsciously encourages continuation of brand association as the garment and the label stay in a longer relationship with the client and thus becomes associated with the client as a name that produces longevity. Thus, it conveys perceived durability, translating into a name associated with good investment versus temporary consumption that fast fashion eventually finds as its detriment. This is especially so in a climate where ecology is a factor within the conversation.

So, not only are established labels indulging in this more appealing form of creativity but emerging labels are doing so as well, such as those from Amsterdam designer Aimmea (example here), Berlin-based designer Anja Dragan (and here), London label BesFxxk (and here), indie designer Divna Davidovic (and here), Ukrainian designer Irina Dzhus (and here), newcomer CSM MA designer James Nolan (here, here, here and here), Spanish designer Jean Claude Court (and here), Ukrainian design company Lyskevych (and here), East London label thisisFred (and here) and designer Peter Do (and here).

The streamlined clean scale of expression serves to elevate ourselves as it does to insulate us from the woes of our modern world. Just as cocooning structured garments have done so in past seasons, the continued variation of this concept finds form reflecting with more inspiring incarnations that our external world provides. The world of dreams is what real estate promises, be it aspirational to the dreamers who find it out of reach these days to those who can and do participate yet feel the need to shield themselves from the tension these dreams have caused. Fashion serves greatly in meeting broad sentiments, and clever designers know to choose the most multipurpose affinities. The emergence of this balance of economy and demure ostentation is timely and, for now, given the convoluted aggressive chaos we find erupting around the world these days, quite apt.

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Saturday, May 19th 2018

7:34 AM

The Quality of Light

T o say that the world has experienced a whirlwind of change has been an understatement. Political tensions have accompanied chaos within the halls of the world powers, spurring a rise in public protest and greater mistrust in once-hallowed institutions. Issues of privacy, accountability, face-value information streams and technical advancements misused for chipping away at overall security has shaken many across the globe. As well, economic uncertainties and growing discontent amidst unchecked class division have interfered with the collective psyche; all quite grim when looking at it objectively from afar.

Central to all of this is the forward march of change brought on by the march of technical progress that causes the greater populations to question their place (or even fit) within. Further advances are making themselves increasingly present in all lifestyle aspects, with design hardly immune. In fact, the allure of advancements has always gone hand-in-hand with fashion, an industry that has long affinity with everything new. As we plunge deeper into the 21st century, we expect that our technology should progress. We may not have flying cars yet (expect drone technology to lead us in that direction by 2020), but the smart phone has become our second brain, a necessary tool for societal interaction, and wearables have moved from exciting novelty to practical accessories as a matter of course where the need applies. The latter has a while to go before the general public finds this as ubiquitous as socks or a tee-shirt, but that doesn't dampen their entry into our modern costume. We have certain expectations, and the role technology plays within our wardrobes is fast becoming one of them.

Thus, within the recent collections such as from Spring Summer 2018 Haute Couture and Fall Winter 2018/19 pret-a-porter, designers have been slipping in various innovations to not only meet our expectations to bring us in line with what we feel is a modern world, but also to reflect more modern sensibilities. In particular, the fixation of light and our interaction with light is an interesting fascination.

In the late 90s, our hopes were becoming more future-oriented. The promise of technological advancements and the hopes of a new millennium were stirring imaginations, with the overall climate at that time inspired by the emergence of computers growing in popularity and invigorating collections towards tech inspiration. While various prints and cuts played with things like computer punch cards or early tech imagery as print, some experimentation with reflective materials such as translucent reflective PVCs was touched upon by forward thinking labels such as Comme des Garcon while Alexander McQueen was playing with light and tech as pattern and accents in tech-centric garments, capturing the excitement of the future and translating this into invigorative design expression. They proved a playful antidote in a world where increasing tensions played out in the Middle East, drowning out murmurs of tech-inspired Y2K fears with visions of progress.

Now, while we struggle with very real issues regarding new global political tensions and growing fears of AI and robotics rendering most human participation as obsolete, we seek antidotes of expressive levity, if only to distract us. In a world where deception becomes a more permanent fog, our unity to remedy what has clouded our existence is through light. That is, when times are dark, we look for light.

Light illuminates. It shows truth. It chases away the dark and sparkles with joy, with energy. And in times of confusion and uncertainty, this electric life-filled expression finds its way into collections in various forms. The play of light comes through in holographic expressions from more established houses such as those from Balmain (here) and Maison Martin Margiela (here & here), and spilled into smaller fashion creators (such as Hong Kong based MolaMolastore; example is here).

But in our age of technical prowess, we are seeing more sophisticated versions implemented in textiles, such as those activated by flash (handy to grab attention in the age of Instagram). Sies Marjan (here, here and here) and Maison Martin Margiela (here, here, here, here and here) both use a similar variation that is flash-activated. The relationship between technical interaction and the wearer becomes symbolic of our increasing connectivity with all that is technical as a 21st century given. This prismatic aspect is taken to another level via Japanese designer Anrealage (here and here) where prisms are embedded into textiles and reflect depending on quality of light as well as its position.

The play of light and reflective materials is also finding more artistic and sophisticated execution from rising labels across the globe from various creatives such as Pakistani Designer Salman Javed Ansari (here and here) and UK designer Yufash (here and here). Meanwhile, play of light finds expression via the traditional, such as the gleam of changeant iridescence from Huishan Zhang (here) and from Iris Van Herpen (here).

The utilization of technical advances also is moving from novelty towards further integration as we edge further into our acceptance into a technical world. The long-standing utilization of light that Alexander McQueen and Hussein Chalayan have experimented with have paved the way for further innovation exploration. Some of these experiments are continuations of existing approaches from upstarts such as Canadian company Phi Illuminated Design (here) while other vanguards such as Parisian designer Clara Daguin seek more intricate couture-like execution (here, here and here). Further technical directions also open the doors to new forms resulting in rudimentary aspirations with experimentation (here, here, here, here and here) that, as technical evolution moves forward, open the doors towards new, broader creative possibilities while inspiring future generations to more sophisticated design directions.

The emergence of these innovations, tackled across the globe in seemingly small stages, collectively crowdsource our cumulative technical knowledge to set the stage for further incarnations, illuminating the way our fashion leads us forward. It's most optimistic and energetic, if only to take us for the moment from the kinds of realities that require us to seek...and go into... the light.

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Tuesday, May 15th 2018

8:12 PM

Coming soon....a double feature...

A fter the sustained absence (which you should have known was temporary) and while Fashion Observed decides how to proceed with its next "move", this blog will resume briefly for a limited engagement; a double posting is coming soon just to remind you of what you're missing. In the meantime, feel free to explore all that Fashion Observed has seen that is relevant in the world of fashion courtesy of the Fashion Observed gallery on Instagram (link is in the heading) and enjoy the recent postings on the companion Twitter feed (link also in heading). All in the name of enlightenment and education, readers.

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Tuesday, December 26th 2017

2:20 PM

After The Fall

T he world is in the midst of disturbing and chaotic change that is impossible to ignore, and yet is, unfortunately, extremely familiar if you have any understanding of history. And, yes, fashion is truly influenced by all that has overtaken our lives and minds these days.

The politics of the United States of America has infected global concerns with the deliberate and purposeful chaos as we steer closer to the kind of conflict that will not end well. Various aspects reflect the myriad of converging influences, as if the repeating wheels of historic instances are being mashed together to retry humanity to see if we have evolved.

Global economic patterns seem bent on tearing apart the middle class, reverting the world back to Edwardian standards where class distinction and a great divide become increasingly the new norm (and a huge business mistake; much of our economy is dependant on a healthy middle class and such actions are killing the food chain...as if we learned nothing from what happened on the Titanic).Victorian sensibilities regarding apathy towards the less fortunate have reared its ugly head.The repeat of economic speculation uncontrolled that triggered the Great Depression is finding erie similarities as the world plays chance with tech in the form of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. Cold War sentiments are in full swing with accusations of spying, net-based interference of policy and chest-thumping with war machinery and announcements of drills and updating of deadly weaponry while tensions in the Pacific Rim escalate amidst revelations of backwards sexist expressions coming to light...but not really changing. Bold racism and xenophobia hark back to the pre-WWII attitudes when racism crept into democracies and republics, now with more virulence than before despite dire warning form those who lived through the consequences the first time around. More disturbing is to see the same tactics being carried out in one of the world's most powerful nations to a stunned global audience aghast as to how such a nation could even entertain this seismic mentality shift.

When the ugliest of chaos reared its head gradually from the 20s through the 40s, art responded with various movements where experiment in perception meant the disassembly of traditional elements and perspectives, jumbled and tossed together to match the chaos the world proscribed to, resulting in groundbreaking brilliance. That beauty and innovation could rise from such ugliness was one of the few benefits of that era. In fact, if there is one constancy to take form the largess of humanity, it is that we rise like a phoenix fro the ashes of our worst behaviour to bring forth our evolution. Sometimes, it is in social mindsets, sometimes it is in our technology in response to the worst we treaded towards, and other times it is advances in our culture. It is how we are.

All that is quite a mouthful when looking at fashion. I mean, really, how does fashion take all of that and make it into things in a store? Ah, well, fashion has long been doing that and readers of Fashion Observed know the message well. We connect through what we have done before, add aspects that have become new connections to what we identify with as material. representations of now, and from there we have relevance that appeals on a subconscious level. It feels right, it feels now.

Many designers who have released collections for Pre-Fall 2018 collections tend to focus on more wearable items with subtle nods to themes that will be expanded upon when Fall Winter 2018 comes along. And, as indicated in this blog before, the in-between seasons like this one are great for testing out new ideas before expanding on them later. While most are taking the safe rout with already-existing trend themes where retro aspects are obvious, familiar and safely marketable, some collections are more willing to break ground, or at least carry the innovation torch. In part their market expects it, emboldening their approach.

The Dadaist miss-mash assembly seeks new form amidst hard lines in pattern and stripe, wide swath panels to shield with textile architecture, is softer than in the past as evident with the increase of "give" that allows for a bit of drape as compared to previous seasons (so we aren't as hardened as we are still in need of defence and comfort) and are still strong in mood with clean expressions that contain energy in its clarity of colour.

Designers such as Monse, Tome and Preen by Thornton Bregazzi demonstrate this cubist interpretation more thoroughly in their collections, and such examples are in sparser places in collections by 3.1 Phillip Lim and Rosetta Getty, where disjointed aspects are tested rather than dominate the release.

​The chaos is palpable. The uncertainty is as if we are walking into the eye of a storm that is still brewing, and we do not know whether the increasingly louder protests of reason will win over the emboldened fear that seeks the past as remedies for going forward. As we head closer to the edge of our worst expectations and our greatest hopes, our creative process also diverges between the safest versus the bravest. True in form does fashion reflect us better than ever. We shall see where we lead ourselves. And you shall wonder when this blog will next have something to say as cumulative events conspire to make some hard choices.

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Monday, September 11th 2017

7:51 PM

Fashion Future Humblebrag

B arely a week has passed and already the tsunami of Spring Summer 2018 collections have burst forth from New York City, the first of the Big Four to show over the next several weeks. The range of design approaches is vast when looking at what is coming out of this center, with collections covering every aspect of design. The subtle distillation of trends is found in wearable collections that meet the needs of daily life while more energetic expressions highlight a more cerebral sophisticated appreciation of fashion that also comes into play.

There are many trends spoken about in this blog due to early arrivals from those who decided to present outside of the traditional calendar, and trends from last season and last year also find their place as fashion strikes a balance between security and appeals for freshness to keep interests high...and dollars flowing.

The falling away and haphazard assembly that deconstruction first initiated has continued, in part inspired by the more experimental design approaches of the late 80s when fashion made its most dramatic impact towards modern design. The tech in textiles and experiments with layering and incongruence in pairings of the 90s along with continued technical assembly along more architectural lines also finds itself influencing current collections. The last memories of joyful experimentation along with more outre retro inspirations are merging in an effort to push us further towards the 21st century as we struggle to embrace change. The chaos in pattern mixing, haphazardness and incongruence reflect the "new ground" approach we are facing in life at large as traditional structures make way for new perspectives, and the response is not automatic embrace, but the range is looked at with dichotomies between resistance and inclusion. Such push and pull becomes the chaos we live in and, as we embrace it, we find beauty in it rather than fear, for we are in too deep now; it's only a few years from 2020 and there's no turning back.

Within this creative output, a few items of note were found that confirmed observations that Fashion Observed made earlier...as in a few years earlier (Recombinant Deconstruction Is Its Name-O, September 19, 2015). Within that article, this blog indicated that advances in seamless clothing and 3D printed clothing would yield designs that could morph one textile into another, like tweed into shirting or charmeuse, and design elements seamlessly organic, like a pocket turning into a partial jacket front that could sprout secondary layers that could become pants (or something like that; the combinations are endless); the equivalent of genetic mutations fusing unlikely items more seamlessly together rendered into fashion. 2018 is but a few years for the expected mark of 2020 when this concept was predicted to appear and fashion has not let us down.

So far, a couple of collections has demonstrated the idea of merging garment portions to each other to create new design executions. Alexander Wang, Public School and some offerings within Parson's MFA graduation class all provide expressions where unlikely items are merged not merely by stitchwork, but woven and integrated ;into each other.And when looking at contrasting textiles integrated into becoming one transforming to another, Creatures of the Wind contains such experimentation within their collection.

These are important hallmarks that will only further inspire greater evolution beyond fashion and into broader culture, just as this blog first imagined, and in ways that only those with no connection to the previous century and millennium will understand and execute. As we look more closely at what comes forth from each season (and this one as it continues to reveal more), fashion will let us know more and more what the 21st century will be about...and how we'll dress for it. This is truly exciting now, for fashion becomes more than just looking at pretty things. It's not about finding what it will reveal as our future.

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Saturday, September 2nd 2017

10:45 PM


While the world faces more pressing realities (Texas, North Korea), those within the world of fashion are in hiding, preparing for there next quarterly event know as Spring Summer 2018. A few collections have come out more recently, this time from Sweden as they hold their fashion week as well as the first roll-outs from Kiev. Vogue has been keeping an eye out as these centres are not among the majors yet are becoming more mature, demonstrating a capacity to rise up to international expectations regarding collection standards where cohesion, point of view and quality are benchmarked achievements to gain editorial respect.

Much of what is coming out is wearable and that's not a bad thing when remembering that fashion is, above all, a business. But business doesn't sell magazines, generate clicks on web pages or gain shares on social media. The passion of creativity is another requirement and the balance of commerce and personal artistry is what makes the designer worthy of attention beyond admiration for sales. It is a tremendous feat to create something not just functional, but desirable that resonates with inner sensibilities where the customer feels a connection...an inate relevance that speaks to them intimately.

Right now, the nostalgia for better times is crossing with the desire for creative exploration in the name of breaking new ground. This feel-good sentiment seeks to also run with the tech-dominated future focus where our modern world screams advancement as the new norm. Disruption, innovation...call these aspects what you will, they all indicate the focus on change, and if there is anything we know about the human species, it's that we don't always take well to change, but when push comes to shove we find our way forward. Not a straight path, though; we zig-zag back and forth as we climb higher, eventually getting there with a bit of passive resistance along the way.

This blog has long pointed the various ways we claw back, and the re-emergence of oversize was covered when it first started to re-emerge in collections several years ago. The awareness of fears bigger than ourselves in both the 50s and 80s when volatility involved nuclear realities resulted in not only finding clothes that became armour-like, but also infantized the wearer by swallowing them much in the way children wear their parents' clothes not just for play but as a subconscious way of connecting to security.

With rising tensions in the Pacific and unpredictable responses coming from US/Soviet interactions, the need for comfort has again found relevance. Practicalities are the increased appeal to larger markets where modesty is taken into account and rising temperatures where looseness wears more comfortably than body-con fits that fail in high temperatures. This plus the awareness of the future and the need to break away for the past is what gave the rule-breaking edge to 80s fashion experimentation, especially in the late 80s when it got more architectural in part due to the Japanese. Inching closer to the Olympics, the focus strengthens on Japan and before you know it, these cumulative forces match the future-seeking late 80s and thus the innovators so far such as Casely-Hayford, Demna Gvasalia's Vetements, Raf Simons (normally we focus on women's wear but this is an exception), Vika Gazinskya and the young unbridled talents from the Swedish School Of Textiles find volumous affinity.

​Twisted and draped, cut and recut, spliced additions, deconstructed and banded in naturalistic freeform where the textiles do the speaking translate to design giving voice to the materials in the name of innovation via the familiar. This sophisticated approach takes the wanton abandonment of rules launched from past inspiration and brings that experimental spirit as designers try out forward approaches in clean execution, harmonizing with technical expectations in this photoshopped and edited slick curation our reality promotes.

To be fair, the limits of creativity lie in current technology, and only when we have evolution of technical equipment and material development that we have seen but in glimpses these past few years will we see the next stages of design that can move beyond the past. By then, we will be comfortable in our next zag of our future; may the coming fashion weeks offer more glimpses as we get further settled into our new millennium.

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Saturday, August 26th 2017

6:26 PM

Natural Flow

The upcoming season we are awaiting is Spring Summer 2018. The last collection regarding this season, outside of recent reveals from Copenhagen that were discussed in last week's article, came out in mid-July. Since then, we have had to wait for the formal season to start in but a few weeks (September 7, in case you want specifics). But not all designers chose to adhere to tradition, deciding to release their collections earlier at a time when words such as "disruption" and "revolution" have been bandied about.

​The seas of change have swept over the world of fashion as the technical world has threatened to upend tradition in favour of remaining economically competitive and relevant. Online entities have successfully risen to meet the manner in which we now shop, spurred by younger generations and early adopters (yes, that would be primarily you, Generation X, the creators of all technical foundations we have come to rely on) that lead the charge. The handheld necessities we brandish have resulted in lifestyle and behavioural shifts and fashion has realized that "adapt or die" is now meant for it the most.

This translates into new approaches to every aspect from conceptualization and manufacturing to presentation and commerce. The struggle fashion now faces is figuring out how to navigate this landscape. Some, such as Burberry have modified its supply chain to accommodate the social media aspect of consumers lives. Others, such as Tom Ford have rejected the "see now buy now" model as they found it wasn't viable for the way their garments were created. The obstacle of forgoing craftsmanship and quality in the name of creating design influence benchmarks when it comes to trend leadership is a tough obstacle that still needs to be worked out within the industry.

​The result so far seems to be a release of rigid trend directions, favouring a wider latitude regarding inspiration and influence that balances individuality versus conformity. In looking at the collections released so far, the conformity is in the brand adaptation of communal agreement. The embrace of light structured volume, blocked assembly and 80s/90s cuts define the overall tone of the fashion conversation to date, while the individuality in the details needs closer attention when looking for common ground.

Naturalistic aspects honouring authenticity and the ecological conversation politics has shed light on has inspired in various ways. Some of it is architectural and deliberate in skew (A. F. Vandevorst, Cedric Charlier, Vetements) and some of it more organic (Kenzo, Proenza Schouler, Rodarte). Contrasting this, the lean towards the manufactured and technical is in gloss; the wet polish can be subdued (Kenzo, Vika Gazinskaya) or almost metallic (Julien David, Maison Rabih Kayrouz). These elements find themselves amidst their complements as we find ourselves at once seeking ways to preserve or save our natural world while marching forward with technology firmly in our grasp.

Whereas before the manufacturing times meant the conversations were more deliberate and the cut-offs limited, now we have much shorter design-to-market periods, and that means last-minute insights and conversational evolutions can mean new details in the name of being current and most relevant. So, between then and next month, a lot can become new inspiration that didn't appear when early releases were made. That is the danger in the fashion game that needs to be reconciled.

Some of the influence is due to reputation, and some of it is timely translation. Some designers are quite astute, and others might be too early to the conversation while others might miscalculate what matters since they spoke up. The only way we'll know and to what degree is when the Big Four release their collections and we find whether the unified voices are speaking along the same terms or whether they decided to change the conversation. Then, of course, the ultimate decision lies with the consumer and that is the part of the conversation fashion will be paying close attention to as these new designs come out.

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Sunday, August 20th 2017

1:55 AM

Delineate and Define

The next, or rather the upcoming season that fashion will focus on is Spring Summer 2018. Already, since June, there have been some collections released which is a departure from normal calendar traditions. We will come to those in another article. For now, as promised before, we are speaking about the new fashion interest: Copenhagen.

For the last few seasons, the fashion world has taken an increased interest in Scandinavia. Perhaps it is the clean palette and refreshing colour choices that appeal. When looking at colour theory and, in particular, the psychology of colour, we find moods can affect choices. With much of the world in a chaotic state in part due to readily available widespread coverage of global events, it's hard to keep positive without detaching from the world. But some cultures have a better grip of the world around them, and the colour inspirations form those places can uplift us by tapping into aspirations, with colour reflecting a hope of mood.

The clean architectural approach of Scandinavian design is also a refreshing departure that finds a place for those who don't or no longer connect with information's cacophony. The designs coming out of Copenhagen Fashion Week offer the balance of creativity with the signature clarity of Scandinavian design that becomes its cultural signature, and the apt antidote that distance from chaos provides.

​In much of the collections, we find a mix of 80s and 90s. In the former, the protective volume is met with lightness of structure, acting as an effortless protection from externals. The latter takes from it the combination of clean almost masculine cuts. Think of Helmut Lang's hard influence when feminism gained strength and how, in this era, we find our voice against rising right-leaning influences that remind us of past historic dangers. This clean almost clinical dry silhouette masculinizes and subtly empowers. The norm core practicality also comes into play; wearability translates into marketability, and that ensures practical survival via assured profit. And how about wet look pic coats and the return of midriffs...well...how 90s is that?

​Layering continues to add to the armour, while defined stances and positions comes into play via contrast trim (Astrid Andersens, Cecilie Bahnsen and Ganni) and contrast seam detailing (Henrik Vibscov), while all collections also contained stripes which delineate and define borders, limits and space. And not all of us are unified together as observed by Astrid Andersens who had disjointed pieces like the return of arm sleeves (2000s anyone?) and the segmented skirt portions separate from the rest of the garment. Some of us are hanging by a thread...or a strap in the case of By Malene Birger when looking at some of her tops. The observation of truth under an elaborate veneer is seen in the way detailed sheer items as overlays revealed simpler straightforward items underneath at Cecilie Bahnsen.

Our complex world is something we cannot hide from, especially in this age of connectivity. With politics in the fore, fashion can only translate in the discussion, providing visual dialogue to appeal to our subconscious. Sometimes, it takes eyes distant for the action to convey what we live and the rest of the world sees. It will be interesting to see how the Big Four relate to these observations, whether the dialogue is in response or in concert with what has been revealed thus far.

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Saturday, August 12th 2017

6:34 PM

AI, AR, VR: LOL No More, WTF Adressed

Fashion is already jumping on the first Spring Summer 2018 collections, offering recognition of Copenhagen Fashion Week as worthy of global attentions. This blog will, of course, look at what is coming out of that array of design reveals...but not today. Instead we continue covering last week's subject matter. After all, did you really think this blog would bring up something concerning the future without at least adding inspiration beyond observation? Those who have been following since Fashion Observed first arrived know that this blog does anything but.

​As mentioned last week, AR, AI and VR have a long ways to go before fashion fully incorporates these into the fabric of the industry. But fashion has not been a stranger to these, either.

Virtual reality, aka VR, has seen fashion dabble in it within the past few years but it has been a landscape barely embraced at this time. Topshop showed their Fall Winter 2014 collection to clients with headsets and a VR presentation. Then 7 For All Mankind created a VR fashion film for their Spring Summer 2015 collection, Rebecca Minkoff did a sample viewing ;in partnership with Google Cardboard for ;their Fall Winter 2015 show and Balenciaga did a VR presentation for their Fall Winter 2016 show when Demna Gvasalia took over. Meanwhile in 2015, Elle Canada did a behind-the-scenes peek at their cover shoot, TOMS took viewers to Peru, H & M played with an interactive VR presentation at Coachella, and Dior created a VR headset for customers to review the latest collections and behind-the-runway exploration. But for all the dabbling, fashion hasn't found a firm place for this technology yet, leaving it as a curious fad more than anything.

Part of this issue lies in the equipment, something the VR industry at large has yet to rectify. The cost of VR glasses is still too high to become an attractive investment for the mainstream while current resolution is not fine enough to make VR fashion-friendly when clients need detail to embrace the experience fully. Once these issues are addressed, then fashion needs to figure how to fully immerse this as a tool worthy of investment. Much the way that opera has broaden appeal by being broadcast in remote locations where opera cannot always travel, fashion will find VR useful for those who want the trunk show experience when not near a collection outpost. Think of it as augmenting the pop-up shop experience where clients can properly review collections more intimately in settings that allow for better marketing without the expense of full retail set-ups or investing too much on travelling trunk show set-ups (at least until haptics become sophisticated enough to further enhance this, and that is another whole article that might be only accessed through Pej Gruppen and its members who are lucky enough to be connected to).

The other end-use lies in the design team. Once design programs are sophisticated enough to allow for high quality textile movement and drape simulation, VR can allow better creative play for design experimentation without sacrificing textile usage, saving a lot of money while allowing for more opportunities for innovation along the way. This is where VR will prove invaluable for fashion.

​With augmented reality, or AR, the potential for customer use is more promising, and this goes beyond Snapchat's filters. Topshop dabbled in the early part of the century but the AR at the time was crude and did not satisfy customer needs to the extent it hoped. Years later, Couturier Franck Sorbier had an AR mirror available for trying on his Spring Summer 2012 couture line that at least showed some dimensional adaptation. In 2012, Uniqlo showed off a more developed AR mirror in San Francisco, providing customers the opportunity to see different colours in the dressing room without the customer having to bring in other garments or dress and undress multiple times, a huge convenience for the customer. ;Marga Weimans used a new textile in 2013 during Amsterdam Fashion Week that allowed interaction with apps to augment imagery when viewed through a tablet, something more recently prominently featured by Anrealage for their Spring Summer 2017 collection. Sephora launched an app a few years ago to help virtually try out cosmetics, allowing the customer to see via AR and Converse was also an early adopter for virtual shoe sampling. In publishing, W Magazine just recently put out an AR interactive issue featuring Katy Perry while Nike recently announced a new method of product launching involving a scavenger hunt that features GPS and AR.

This ease into AR makes more sense when looking at what we carry in our pockets and bags: our phones. With an addition of an app, AR becomes accessible to the world around us, something proven during the Pokemon AR phenomenon last year. And there is not shortage of where AR can fit with fashion. For printed media, AR can save that aspect of the industry by tying ad content in unique ways that make having the publication a necessity rather than a resource outmoded by duplication and redundancy. websites can provide virtual fitting rooms for new fashion on demand at one's fingertips not only for immediate use but for added sharing on social media as a way of brand dissemination and, for the customer, a way to gain immediate opinion that may better serve purchase support. And with new textile development, AR can be the added enhancement to broader brand engagement and make the garment more special beyond obvious function.

​The problem is apps. Because everyone is so bent on creating brand worlds, too much specialization forces the client base to accumulate all these apps, and thus burdens the customer base to the degree that it can backfire. Have you ever had to swing through all these apps to get the one on your phone you need after saving so many already? It's a drag; some apps languish because there are too ;many that are specialized. Instead, fashion needs to band together to decide on a few apps that will function across many brands and become standardized, like the way we only have a few platforms for logging online. Then the public is more likely to be onboard.

The biggest story we have yet to see is about artificial intelligence or AI and its role with Big Data, and this is no LOL matter. Here is where fashion can become powerful. Many sites are collecting information regarding habits and tastes already. Using this information requires a lot of time and resources to pour over all this information and most design companies cannot or will not allocate that much money to get the information it needs. But with AI, this power becomes more accessible. AI can take all this information and interpret it way faster, providing the kind of insights that allow for designers to modify collections to fit purchase patterns within the markets, gauge real-time responses when testing new design concepts, and in some cases even augment the creative process by allowing AI to introduce new combinations not found in current fashion databases; in effect, new design ideas generated by sifting through Big Data; Stitch Fix has been the pioneer in this very aspect. WTF, you may be thinking. Well, yes, the future is today and it's happening just the way you're seeing it: in a mind-blowing manner.

​Fashion will need to invest in accumulation, storage and examination of designs versus purchase history data to stay relevant and connected to their customer base while taking advantage of evolving AI innovation to better observe those who come across the brand to determine whether the customer base they are attracting is adding to growth or walking away because current image and product lines are not connecting and engaging the populace. Some, such as Burberry, have known this from the onset and have fully immersed themselves in tech to their benefit.

But in the end all this tech cannot replace the heart of fashion, which is the creative process. The ;designer has a certain quality that combines artistry and intuitiveness with spontaneity that tech cannot master. The soul, that something special still lies within the hands of the designer and their team, and those who choose to add to their tool belt the tech of the world will succeed...and lead...the world as we march forward into the 21st century.

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Sunday, August 6th 2017

8:21 PM


All the fashion shows have come to pass, and this month is the lull before the next onslaught of imagery and inspiration that locks down every person connected to fashion for the month as Spring Summer 2018 is shown. Resort offered hints of where fashion wants to go and these primary these have been explored in past articles, so there is little need to rehash what has already been written about.

Fashion media cannot walk away or go on hiatus for a month as many in the industry do (Europe shuts down in August and if you haven't placed your textile orders or got the work done you need from artisans and machinists by now, you are screwed...happy fashion week). Its audience needs to be continuously engaged and this can prove to be a challenge, especially in a blog such as this where examination off the recent collections hinges on having enough content to discuss. Some seasons have a lot of new subject matter and have too much to cover before the next season arrives. At other times, the collections either face a creative halt or narrow their collective narrative, having strong messages with less variety or complexity. While that signals solid trends, it also means the conversation can run short.

For the longest while, the technical side regarding AI, AR and VR have been increasingly hovering in the conversation, albeit more from a marketing or design team side than for the consumer. These technical developments will be part of the fashion landscape, without a doubt. The issue fashion has is how to deftly integrate these; any expenditure is viewed as an investment and needs to be carefully executed, as fashion is a business and this means being conservative where costs are concerned. one wrong move can damage or end the business if efforts and resources are poorly directed in the name of keeping current, which is why sometimes fashion seems to lag behind technology. You'd think fashion would be on the forefront as that is part of the DNA of fashion, but fashion is actually slow to adapt, especially when it comes to technology for the reasons stated above.

Also, much of the technology is still in infancy. The VR industry has yet to have the consumers fully catch on, and have decided to reduce prices to get the headsets into consumer hands while it struggles to get consumer confidence. These things are novelty until we find practical uses that make the investment worthwhile, and much of what is coming out is experimental as it requires overhauling conventional approaches to craft. For fashion, the uses aren't clear yet.

AR is another aspect that sees more promise as apps get configured and developed to enhance the consumer experience. Here, the issue is determining purpose and needs, and if that proves to be too specialized or specific, it won't go beyond being a fad.

​AI may hold a lot of potential and here the issue is control and trust. Can the technology serve the customer and the industry, and if so, how?

There are toes dipped into each one but more from a novelty aspect, and with the overhaul of the very way we do things happening around us, we may have to wait to see what works, what sticks, and what comes up as we decide what and how to incorporate the technological advances that will become interwoven into the 21st century way of life.

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