Trend observations with a sociological eye from afar...
by Darryl S. Warren in Vancouver
© 2011-2017 Darryl S. Warren/Fashion Observed All rights reserved
T he steady streaming of collections for 2018 Resort have yet to fully pour forth, but more are coming in and are giving an interesting perspective on the bridge between the familiar and innovation. This blog has long predicted the gradual shift as we approach the 2020s, where our full 21st century identity will be realized via new minds that take the creative helm, and part of that process is increasing experimentation with all past innovations with the hopes of nailing what that future voice will be. Of course, it will be those with no connection to the past century whatsoever who have mastered their creative streak and honour their unique voice that will laugh for the least familiar of past influences. Just as it was a century ago, it will be exciting for us to see this shift unfold with greater awareness (and more intense documentation).
Right now, the 90s and 2000s seem to be more dominant, although the 2000s is a cheat; it contained a lot of trashy and, frankly, lazy design that rehashed the past in crude mashups out of comfort, so really the last innovations came courtesy of the 90s taking on 80s spirit with innovation in textiles and colours from a celebratory body-con slant.
This time around, we embrace sport just as the 90s did while toying with minimalism, 80s layering and late 20th century rule breaking in cuts and assembly while maintaining familiar silhouettes, with the 2000s portion of past embrace being the subconscious inspiration; our current world is still too scary to not have a security blanket.
The athleisure, minimalism and familiar cuts also speak of 90s economy. After the huge shakeup that designers faced when economies took huge hits in the late 80s/early 90s it was important to make clothes that people would actually invest in for longer-term wear. Clothes that appeal to function reigned higher in the 90s until we got our moxy back. It is this courage and tentative security coupled with a few years of creative independence supported in individual design approaches that allows for innovation to continue, albeit it is the balance that is being worked through. Some collections are more pragmatic while others allow for creative exploration, but again the balancing act is what is coming across in the collections so far.
As more collections come forth, we shall see how much, and which parts of the world, are feeling braver and which ones are taking the safe route into the future. Either way, the offerings are proving their worth while watching for further signs of what 2018 is meant to be.
A few more collections for 2018 Resort have surfaced, and here is where we see multiple themes coming up. These are noted and watched to see whether ideas are unique and fleeting or representational of something that will grow to represent a larger point of view. Some concepts can usher in new changes in mindset while others will be momentarily relevant and subject to changing whims of the public. In any case, all must be scrutinized and logged, and such is the behind-the-scenes job for anyone watching trend directions and something this blog undertakes for your benefit.
The expansion of origins takes on multiple facets as more collections come forth. If collections have been geared towards maximizing international appeal, it has been largely to satisfy the business aspect that is crucial to survival. But what of the soul? Part of the appeal is the unique personality that draws one to a specific designer that may either speak the same shared internal language or conveys a similar sentiment that connects with one's life circle. This matters when looking for something that bridges external relevance with internal emotions. Those that succeed with their chosen demographic grow while others that do not will have to go back to the drawing board. The balance of these approaches is what makes a designer successful, and we see the oscillation as certain brands reign from season to season; some are hot, some are not and as long as they adapt they all remain.
So how does this connect to the concept of origins? The international thread is one of the collective navel-gazing as we try to understand how we got to where we are while witnessing extremes of humanity brought forth with greater ease and greater detail thanks to our advancements now at hand. To know our origins is to know ourselves, and the immersion into history and the past has gained strength to the degree that it now has openly become a theme this season, so we know the concept is strong. Our entertainment in film an television covers open exploration of histories and origins in the form of prequels and in proliferation of time travel exploration as vehicles for light introspection. The attention to past actions come up every time past social media and internet information is mined and resurfaced.accountability of opinion and action has more meaning (thank you, American politics) as we watch events toying with darker possibilities and we struggle to find solutions as knowledge means we have less excuses to know and do better.
For design this also means opening the doors to more personal focus regarding origins. The heart of what matters...the source of inspiration... is the connection. For Dion Lee, Just Cavalli, Kitx and Prada, it's about personal history of what the label is known to be connected to at its most core level or what it upholds as personal values, translated into the collection as a reminder to the public of what it stands for. For Dior it's the connection to its own historic influences revisited while for Chanel and Louis Vuitton the incorporation of historic references as inspiration was part of its roots towards collective internationalization as its platform. The balance of personal values and history allows the consumer to view a window into something at once intimate and universal. They invite to share, to communicate if we are willing to listen.
In these consulted times, we are attempting to do the same. There is realization that empathy and connection are far more powerful than demonstration and force are more persuasive on social levels where acceptance and inclusion become worthiest of noble goals. On a superficial yet meaningful level, fashion seeks to do the same. We will be listening as more collections come forth; we may have more to learn.
S lowly the 2018 Resort collections come forth with the big players coming forward. For those newer to observing the collection process, it starts with a trickle. Then, the other houses all show, so a flood of collections come forth to examine. This goes on for a few weeks as we find patterns and similarities that spell out the established largess of trend voices summing up what the season will represent. This blog, of course will look at what those may be and how they connect to the daily life we live.
Prada and Dior have now shown, and so far we see little in common when looking at face value. Prada finds experimentation with form and shape while layering various grades of textiles in modern assembly while Dior finds softer and more primal expressions. In all and with Chanel, we find the raw edges showing the deconstructed aspect played with. The apocalyptic anticipations are hard to ignore these day, and just as in the late 80s and pre-9/11 collections, such fears found ways into collections through the finishing process. The undone threadbare edges show order coming undone in the face of threats to society unravelling before us.
Another early theme that seems to be explored is one of origins. For as Chanel look dot the birth of democracy, Prada incorporated founding hallmarks interspersed within the modern DNA of architectural challenges to feminine form while showing at the place where Prada began. Meanwhile, Dior looked to archives when the founder looked far back to early expressions of man's creativity via images from Lescaux cave paintings and the founder's penchant for the metaphysical, utilizing more primal magical imagery with a feminist slant rooted in anthropological findings in a deck created during the heyday of the birth of feminism in the 70s.
In all of these, we see the importance of examine our deep past, rudimentary connections and sources of who we are as we forge forward weight what we have created to push us towards the future. History matters now (this blog feels humbled in being long ahead of that curve) as we seek to understand ourselves and our place in this complex world.
Does this mean we have it all figured out? Well, at least we are looking beyond the surface. Fashion certainly wants us to do so. This should make for an interesting season as designers decide what they want us to look at and just how much of it relates to the larger of the population...or whether it tells us how far we are from the segment that is being now openly introspective.
Time will tell; the 2018 Resort collections are just beginning.
B ehold the 2018 Resort collections begin, with none other than Chanel taking the opportunity to lead our imaginations into the bridge between the past and future.
Our minds are on politics, democracy, freedom and equality. We see threats to this in manifestations of fear misplaced; want has fed ignorance and triggered primal reactions that are more befitting of less evolved societies of our past that we know should be behind us, and yet the more base level of satisfaction comes from embracing insular defensive mannerisms as we had done during the era when the last world war came to fruition. We look back for solace, for reason, and find a connection in the upcoming global competition where brotherhood and camaraderie are meant to be upheld.
With the coming Olympics being held in Japan, we have multiple reasons that sharpen our attention. There is the fact that it is a technical destination; it is a culture that experiments with innovation on the streets first and foreshadows well ahead of the rest of developed societies how tech will integrate into our larger vision of society. That it is in prime focus only means greater enhancement and flexing of technical prowess that will rival most world's fairs and put forth further inspiration to go forward, for mankind is inherently competitive. Then there is the location adding focus on global tensions made real between North Korea and the USA. The threat of another world war triggered are now seeming far more possible, and global activity in the region will only put further focus on the Pacific region as tensions gain
Olympics are rooted in the founding Greek culture that created these games, and another current global trend is adding to the focus on a product of ancient Greece as inspiration: global strife over rights and freedoms seen as threats to the long upheld institution of democracy. Fascism and right-wing expressions seems to threaten multiple countries where democracy has long been embraced since the concept's inception in ancient Greece. Much like in the 30s and 40s, blaming racial groups and immigrants for fiscal woes rather than holding public servants accountable for fair practices and good governance was easier. And while our technical playing field (i.e. the internet) has allowed us to call out on these threats with a greater unified voice more publicly, social science has also shown us how we can transcend reason out of stubborn habit despite all proof to the contrary, just as we did back then. Around the pre-war era, one designer was very much inspired by fashion of that ancient period and found herself involved with other artists who voiced protest via creativity as fascism rose to power. And when the Nazis invaded Paris, they attempted to force this designer to design against her signature draping and pleating to make bland and utilitarian clothes. She responded by openly rebelling, making Greco-Roman draped gowns in the colours of the French flag. They shut her down, she fled France and, after the war, she came back to restart her couture line where her signature pleating still inspires designers to this day, especially one highly technical and influential Japanese designer named Issey Miyake who has become well known for creating heat-set micro pleats that recall the handiwork of Madame Gres, the rebel designer who refused to back down from the Nazis.
Her spirit of rebellion in the name of upholding the tenets of democracy while channelling the spirit of democracy from its founders finds resonance today, and it is her presence in the 30s and 40s as a fashion influence while other wartime fashion aspects find their way into designer collections the past few seasons only serve to signal a larger sentiment of defiance in the face of adversity. We will not agree to division or erosion of what we know is just and fair for all, and designers recognize this, finding connectors to incorporate into collections today.
Fashion knows it has a long way to go, but it is now having the dialogue and exploring how to make things better within its own industry (well, talking is the start which is better than denial or silence). The continued focus on diversity, open combatting of body and gender shaming, open discussion of wage and opportunity equality is holding steady along with exploration on labour practices and ecological responsibilities as we ask deeper questions in the face of results on complacency and exploration of larger societal ignorances that have found courage to come forth and push us into a form of regression that ultimately threatens us all.
The archeological and anthropological examination of our roots and influences serve us to steer us from repeating mistakes, and perhaps that is how we found Chanel setting their collection in an archeological dig amidst the ruins of where democracy was born. The seemingly superficial inspiration holds a lot behind the scenes. We looked to the past for comfort and solace, and now we also look for answers and reminders of what we value. The work of human hands in the face of robotic replacement and AI is spoken in the craft aspects alongside the reminders that we rose from and because of, not in spite of, democracy. We'll see just how many other designers reflect an inspiration that is feeding the largess of our global society in such turbulent times.
W hile we wait for the next round of collections to appear and the fashion world is busy at the Metropolitan Museum in Manhattan celebrating Rei Kawakubo, designer of the rule-breaking label Comme des Garcons at the museum's annual Met Gala, now is the ideal time to further speculate on the coming fashion direction. This is especially as the exhibit focuses on the massive influence this designer has had on fashion while taking fashion towards new visions that have made it easier for fashion to forge into new directions well beyond the constraints the last century has instilled in us.
The realities of the world will not stop the higher forms of creativity, for there is a market that always exist to keep this level of fashion going. The retro foundations have been set, and as we slowly let go of our past, trend organizations are bracing for technical expressions that are shiny, silvery and technically based.
The high ideals of modernity of the 1920s that fashion delved into as the decade progressed meets the experimentation foundation that culminates in expressions the Japanese brought forward in the 1980s. Together, these spirits that are more legend for the new generations already shine forth, bringing inspiration while making it easier to charge forward with new incarnations that embrace technical applications in the form of groundbreaking materials, cuts and assembly techniques that we have been witnessing in early stages now.
The retro visions of the future will merely be a rough launch pad as those we based on materials, cuts, techniques and aesthetics of frozen moments in the past that we may borrow from out of irony more than anything while fitting it with current modern ways of living. The gender-neutral, faith-sensitive, environment adaptive and function-ready aspects all play as markets aim for international reach, meeting nuances of lifestyle while being flexible enough to suit wide appeal.
All in all, exciting moments to look forward to. Only textile labs and technical advancements now need to reveal what will be next. After that, the passing of the torch to the mature 21st century citizens will see how it plays out. And that's not far way anymore.
S oon we enter the next season in fashion that is traditionally called "Resort". It harks back to a time when fashion was more a reserve for the exclusive clientele that would attend by-appointment shows to choose what to wear for their next vacation. While many, upon read this will rightly indicate that current conditions that present these collections as described above find that little has changed (the irony of this was not missed; look to announced locations for upcoming shows if you need validation), the purpose of collections of these have shifted to reflect both the power of social media on its effect in all markets and the how the supply chain incorporates these to keep options fresh for a broader consumer market. The market we speak of has grown accustomed to variety that satisfies short attention spans and feeds our desire for choices that keep up with the emotional power of relevance.
The trouble with pondering the future is that it can be easily affected by unknowns such as cultural innovation. New faces and new ideas have a better chance of being noticed in our democratic platforms but it can be a crapshoot as to whether they hit the right tone that speaks to us the most. The apocalyptic distressing shifted towards incarnations that honoured machination and technical craft rather than veer towards the more natural and shopworn versions in its first wave. This is largely due to our deeper embrace with technology and identity with upward mobility versus community with global descent and recognition of impending decay, and so now anything deconstructed stains a hallmark polish or telltale on-purpose effect that lets the wearer know they are still different for the one with a natural hole in their shopworn things.
The current embrace of workaday items translated into luxury good such as Balenciaga's megabag that all-too-resembles an Ikea tote is how we are finding fashion incorporating the mix of luxe and the real world. It blends via appearance while operates in material and construction, much the way utilitarian inspiration hit the 90s after conspicuous consumption and high design that represented it took a dive along with global economies.
The alarm bells of current scenarios, such as the global real estate bubbles' and market valuations' impending collapse coupled with the lack of consumer power in the face of growing economic class divides undercutting wide swaths of customer bases have cause a repeat of similar design approaches such as pedestrian identification and demure brand identity execution that will only grow as more dire warnings play out in the marketplace. An aside to consider: really, dear readers, when systems fail to offer decent wages for a few decades while raising cost of living basics across the board for the bulk of the population and particularly the middle class to which the consumption market is targeted, where do you think customers will come from that will have resources to be your customers? Only so many wealthy people can shop so much, and when they can't even walk out the door for fear of being targets to the degree that it affects their consumption habits you really have problems in retail. That nothing has been resolved has unfortunately brought us to where we are now.
Fashion will repeat the approaches that we did pre- and post-9/11 regarding luxury and exclusivity as long as economic and political climates do not change. That is, there will always be some aspirational fashion as there is just enough wealth to indulge in it, and our traditional mindsets will continue to dangle this as both show of creative strength to reinforce the power of the designer's creative reach as well as to entice us towards desire (and hopefully a sale). But fashion looks to also recognize the need to check out. We are trading things for experiences and while we always need clothes, the reasons behind them and inspirations that connect with them will shift towards where we want to go versus where we are. The fight we put up with will continue in optimistic and genuine hues with the authenticity of nature coupling with comforting and gentle textiles. the energy we bring will remain, but it will be deeper as we take the time to ponder what we really want as we take time to live instead of exist. So, the athleisure influence in textile and function will be a mainstay.
Modernity will not leave but the human touch will matter more than before. We have more than enough tech in our daily world to the degree that we have been in a long conversation about shutting it off to get back in touch with ourselves. The personalization of this will be straightforward and direct in pattern, repetitiously expressed as nature does when it grows. The natural layering and falling away that recent seasons have put forward will continue as languid natural cuts help us merge with our surroundings.
Subtle hints of these in textile and cut choice are showing up in recent bridal presentations for SS 2018 as they take nostalgia and hold it naturally and calmly. The romantic aspects mingle with naturalistic leanings that connect with tradition, save for some forays into non-traditional dressing for a few labels, the balance of these uphold the nostalgic embrace fashion and the world at large continues as a coping mechanism.
But bridal does not have the latitude of creation as compared to a standard collection, given that it hinges on narrow cultural constraints long ingrained over the past century. The breadth of execution will come soon enough when the resort collections kick in, and when they do we shall see what previews of Spring Summer 2018 hold forth.
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.
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.
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.
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.