Trend observations with a sociological eye from afar...
by Darryl S. Warren in Vancouver
© 2011-2017 Darryl S. Warren/Fashion Observed All rights reserved
N ow that we have spoken of the Haute Couture Fall Winter 2017 shows, we can return our attention to the move extensive Resort 2018 collections as we further speak of other observations made and how they reflect the world at large. In particular, the topic centers around a few influences that come under one umbrella of expression: all that is random.
The current global climate is dominated by a major world power that is undergoing tremendous upheaval. The long-standing order of process and procedure has been upended and joins global chaos where political structures are either threatened or undermined. For all the wisdom that our evolution produced, we have succumbed to the most base of emotions where fear translates into what we are experiencing today. This is not just the obvious regarding American or European regime struggles. It also incorporates the challenges of modern terrorism being a nebulous random force that acts unpredictably, breeding insecurity as it challenges peace globally and feeds further fear, triggering xenophobia and eroding focus from our evolution the way a cancer saps energy from a body looking to thrive unimpeded. Then we have human rights abuses that seem to be gathering strength in nations regressing as the once-influential watch of wild powers becomes further distracted and fails to uphold the values that counter growing behaviours. It's animalistic, haphazard, and weirdly natural the way out-of-control weeds overtake a curated garden.
Out of chaos comes new forms and evolutions. As we move further into the new millennium and new century, the shakeups become necessary. Growth seldom comes for stagnation or lack of challenge, and we are surely growing. Fashion reflects this in its quest for new forms, silhouettes, shapes and cuts that break away from the old to speak the new language that is the future. Through random layering in collections from Aalto, Altuzarra, Antonio Marras, Christopher Kane, House of Holland, I'M Isola Marras, Thom Browne, Tome, Unravel and 3.1 Phillip Lim and through random segmentation as seen in collections by Carven, Christopher Kane, David Koma, Fausto Puglisi, Jonathan Simkhai, Missoni, Off-White, Stella McCartney, Vivetta and Yigal Azrouel, we see the world, its chaos and its evolution translated into fashion.
Enough voices tell us this is not an isolated perception. In a way, just as in life, we need to shake life up sometimes to get us form where we are to where we need to be. We hope that our knowledge and technology can be our salvation to take us beyond where we have been before, as such chaos in the past precipitated the kind of trouble that we fear may be repeating. Time will tell whether we are our own worst enemies or whether we can indeed move beyond ourselves, and it will be interesting to see what fashion will be should we head in that direction.
S ometimes fashion hangs onto certain qualities for but a moment. These are innovations that fail to resonate and therefore get shelved. at other times, a general expression can take hold and become a strong perpetual presence that eventually becomes a decade definer. Take shoulder pads (which, towards the end of the 80s people were begging you to do). When strong shoulders came about in the 40s and 50s, they represented strength via defence. As the return of cold war threats emerged in the 80s, we saw the shoulder pads return, and this quality was clear in the context of psychological interpretation. To see them return now makes sense as we have become again a culture of fear and in need of protection.
Another one of these material aspects has repetitive roots with multiple meanings, which is what makes decoding fashion so interesting. When we look at sheer textiles such as chiffon, organza and tulle, we see varying levels of structure, and that is what these textiles literally are about as far as function. In the context of artistic expression, choice of materials carry with them the versatility of relevance translating mood and sentiment the way an artist innately chooses colour and texture of a brushstroke or manipulation of mixed media to convey message into objects to inspire and provoke.
The bold assertion of seizing power via sexuality in the 20s upheld the use of sheer textiles in design, while the gossamer lightness and gentle heavenliness of sheers offered respite in the contrast of the ugliness of war when used in the 40s and 50s. That recapturing of power via assertion of sexuality brought back use of sheers in the 80s as empowerment of sexuality was given a boost, while its spiritual associations helped reinforce collections inspired along those lines in the early to mid 90s, only to see the sexuality message further emphasized in this century.
Now we have deeper thoughts and sophistication in our net-enhanced vocabulary growing in this decade, and one of the undercurrents is, oddly enough, the message of transparency. While sheer textiles have been handily added to enhance architectural formations and dimensional effects, it has also served to convey our desire for transparency. This is found in the way the sheer has become used. Instead of just being a foundation or simple layer, newer approaches have seen formation of one kind of shape or cut to distort or give illusion of one cut over the "truth" that is underneath. much the way we find information these days.
We have advertising crafted into articles and infomercials disguised as informative input. We have entertainment and news lines blurred and distorted by tabloids and independent sources with targeted ulterior motives. We have social media influencers now alerted and required to disclose their reviews and endorsements as brand-influenced versus independently recommended, but only after concerns brought this possibility to light. Politics has caused us to demand fact-checking as we now find exposes and discussion on universality of standards under circumspection.
The comparison of what we see versus what is and the desire to know has been long in development, and all this time fashion has been hinting at this through the sustained use of materials that take the conceptual into the literal. It is no wonder that we have continued transparency in most collections to the degree that it has become a mainstay feature that has been ongoing for several seasons, and is not expected to diminish as we continue to seek the truth as we come to understand what is versus what seems. Until we gain satisfaction, expect this see-through aspect of fashion to sustain, and I think we can agree that is not going to happen overnight.
A s quick as Resort 2018 finished, the Haute Couture Fall Winter 2017 shows arrived, flexing creative muscle to mirror many statements already made on the ready-to-wear runways while subtlety hinting at future directions in the finest of materials and craftsmanship available. So, before we finish looking at Resort 2018, let's spend some time on this brief but impartial phase of fashion.
Those who know fashion know that the pendulum of influence swings between influence on the grandest of collections at the top and the innovations of the street. Current social media influence has empowered the public to make their mark and do so in a more pronounced manner as social media and the world online reigns. This has resulted in more attention to what is worn on the street and what appeals to those on social media; those leaders tend to be from the general public, as is their audience, and they can "throw down" with the best of them. As they are more relatable and have more sway (and thus more market power), they and the looks of the street have been dominating the design directions in the larger arena. But haute couture is the land of dreams where designers are expected to bring their game, especially as their audience is of more sophistication and of influence in a different manner.
Pop celebrity has been courted and has partaken in wearing of their craft as a sign of social arrival, and they bring Instagram-worthy promotion to the brands they collaborate with, giving them street credibility that further enhances their role as status brands. this is further coupled with a few other influences: the impact of powerful retrospective fashion presentations in museums for Comme des Garcon, Dior and Balenciaga and the retro influences that have been further embraced as we edge closer to the end of this decade. As stated in earlier articles in this blog, the grip we have on retro influences is double-edged, being our reaction to fear expressed as reluctance to go forward and they deeper introspection of our path in humanity triggered by negative stress events as we seek to understand where we've been before as we look for solutions and signs to guide us through such stressors. The truth, or lack thereof these days, compounds interest in getting to the bottom of what is authentic, and, compared to mainstream media, museums are institutions with a more reliable record of offering just that. This is reflected in greater interest and attendance compared to past years, and these fashion retrospectives are no exception. What is also apparent is that we are becoming desensitized to the chaos and this is allowing more technical aspects to take place as we become more accustomed with the inevitability of our modern world.
Looking at Iris Van Herpen's collection can tell us about how the maximum of technical embrace is finding expression. The techniques and craftwork is highly engineered and technical, yet the silhouettes and aura of the collections find an almost modernity echoing the overlap between naturalistic Art Nouveau and statuesque Deco, an era Atelier Versace nodded to in its technical execution of textile manipulation and cut that was architecturally precise. The laser precision in collections from Chanel connect with more historic silhouettes, albeit the technicality in materials has given armoured lightness with familiar while historic silhouettes resonate with current museum influences that celebrate a time where artistry and demure sensibilities prevailed. Maison Margiela and, to a lesser intensity, A. F. Vandevorst and Jean-Paul Gaultier, both lean to layered modern deconstruction to balance the scales of handiwork as they test limits of cut and form within traditional constructs. Fendi and Francesco Scognamiglio takes our Snapchat add-on fixation and makes it dimensional with traditional flourishes on a few choice items within their presentations while Viktor & Rolf let emoji-as-models start their handmade quilt-inspired show, and Valentino lets pattern versus solid minimalism determine whether the cuts take us forward or back.
These hybrid sensibilities seem to be finding a place in current society where sentiment offers comfort that uniqueness and the unknown cannot, and yet the modern world is one that cannot be turned away. That is, the variety of looks reflect the shift from specific conformity of direction in favour of more independence of character that the shift in fashion and in the world at large, under technical overhaul, offer as we see it currently; the opportunities of sophistication that the internet provides to the general public via ease of accessibility means that we no longer are resigned to rigid directives regarding what to wear. Trends now are an amalgam of looks where the trend threads become more conceptual versus exclusivity to simple cues such as one particular era, silhouette or construction aspect such as a gathered shoulder or bell sleeve. Instead, they are becoming more all-encompassing, such as extremes of architecture, naturalistic asymmetry or material complements. For those who are not as entrenched in the nuances, it can appear as confusion when actually it is just our world expressing its growth of sophistication that may take getting accustomed to. No longer are we satisfied with the obvious, and sometimes it takes the height of expression to spell it out for us.
So, like the 80s, where creativity exploded, fashion is throwing everything out to see what resonates, and the future economic picture will tell us whether it will revert to simplicity as when the economy tanked in the late 80s/early 90s or whether it manifests in further individuality supported by robust economies that empower the public to further participate. For now, the uncertainty rooted in global political upheavals and identity shifts are triggering an all-or-nothing phase of creativity and until we know more in the coming months, what we see is what we get. it's beautiful, it's inspiring and its offerings are vast and familiar as is our history.
T oday Canada is celebrating its 150th year "birthday", and while most nations on this planet will find this a small milestone, for a new country this is a milestone of pride. Of course, those such as the First Nations will see this quite differently, indicating that the country has been populated for over ten thousand years, and have a justifiably different perspective regarding the celebration of colonization that nearly wiped out their culture. Canada has taken the unusual step of recognizing this as it reconciles with the past and heritage versus more recent cultural celebrations. This new healthier approach is but a small step, yet it signals great and admirable maturity in accountability that would not have been possible in earlier times, showing an encouraging sign as to how mankind is shifting as it becomes more self-aware...even though we have a long way to go when looking at the global picture.
Canada is young place that actually owes its existence to fashion; beaver hats were all the rage in France and this spurred the fur trade that founded the country itself. Today, it has a fashion industry that is well-situated yet has a long way to go before becoming significant in the way other major fashion capitals have made their mark. There is no shortage of talent, with designers such as Erdem and D Squared the most prominently known in the global industry. The problem in Canada is a double-edged sword entered on its mindset. That is, it's salvation has long been its cautiousness, yet this has also been what has sometimes held itself back, particularly in the arts, and it's not a fault as much as a tough habit to break.
Canada has an esteem issue. For all the international awareness it cultivates and all the travelling its people do, it has tougher time balancing this awareness with the need to take risks. Fashion is about risks. It's how we get new ideas, new movements and new designs. unfortunately, risks come with costs and there isn't as much resource as in international capitals, so the attention tends to be placed on those who are already successful or already have resources versus incubating unknown talents and taking a chance (and supporting) on groundbreaking talent.
Fashion weeks are more interested in collecting entry fees and nurturing friendships than in delivering industry standard quality. Vogue is a red-eye flight away and doesn't bother to attend the shows with good reason; for every good talent there is double of talent where the collections are poorly edited yet allowed to proceed due to having the entry fee or through patronage. Poor or irrelevant textile and design choices, construction flaws and irrelevant collections more often than not plague these presentations. No editor wants to sit through mistakes as time is money. Plus, the inability to utilize social media to deliver international-standard PR is also lacking, so these organized shows fail to live up to their potential. Many a talent (not just fashion) has had to move onto Europe or the USA to get the recognition it deserves, and we'd never hear about Erdem or D Squared if they didn't leave for more supportive environments.
Bringing this information only served to elicit gentle ostracization, as its seen as meanness rather than as the blunt wakeup calling the name of elevation, and "Project Runway Canada" underscored this. I mean, people, it's Iman; you can't get better than that to have fashion royalty communicate truth in the name of progress.
When Iman was hosting "Project Runway Canada", she brought heavyweight industry experience with her, and at one point during the series lamented how the contestants were playing it too safe. She was correct in telling them how the industry is highly competitive and that it requires taking risks (of course while balancing this with ensuring the collection is relevant to the international market). She reminded them that they had a fantastic opportunity to elevate their place in fashion by being on TV. Unfortunately, this was received as harsh criticism. with designers taking personal umbrage and feeling that she was mean. Well, she was not. She was honest and trying to help them to grow and measure up to the international market in which they aspired to. But this sensitivity and inability to accept external advice form unknown sources is, to a large part, why the industry in Canada has yet to mature.
Another issue is lack of vision. We have to remember that Canada is young country, and many cities are not that large when looking at international standards. The reality is that there needs to be a population size minimum where sophistication becomes embraced more generally for vision to be cultivated on an international scale. Many a talent either come for smaller places or retain a mindset that is more in line with smaller centers. Despite the potential in the power and reach of the internet to grant anyone access to the international market plus having the proximity to massive markets hours away, many in the industry fail to think beyond the block, opting to be satisfied with a few locations or a limited market and little or no long term plans for expansion.
The Canadian government has not done the industry any favours, either. Accepting the Free Trade Agreement decimated local industry; designers face a huge tax for materials that travel through Montreal en route to New York City. It's way cheaper to get silk in Manhattan than it is to even get polar fleece in Toronto...and the selection is...well...pitiful. Its one saving grace was a program where designers were reimbursed for the tax they paid (on a quarterly basis) for materials purchase if they expanded south of the border. That needed when the Harper administration (Canada's prior government before its photogenic Prime Minister was voted in) cut the Remissions Program, so now it's not even profitable to design locally. You can't grow an industry if it cannot be fiscally competitive; the lack of reimbursement means raising the prices past what the market has as its benchmark, thus putting lesser quality items in the market at an unfair advantage and reducing profit potential.
And yet, despite these challenges, the country has talent worthy of consideration. Designers such as Adrian Wu, Amanda Lew Kee, Beaufille (who is hot now), Choryin Choi, Greta Constantine, Hayley Elsaesser, Lucian Matis, Maram, Markoo, Matthew Gallagher, Mikhael Kale, Sid Neigum and Urbanovitch are showing that Canadian design talent is stepping up to change the internal climate as it defies earlier self-limitations. Canada has a lot to be proud of and these designers are testament to that. If it can ensure these talents to become enduring entities, they can represent international potential of maturing design community worthy of recognition...and maybe a visit from Vogue.
Meanwhile, another opportunity awaits serious initiative with massive return. Outside of London, the only other eco-fashion week with promise is lying in wait in Vancouver. With markets south of the border near the right-now hot design hub in California and near the lucrative Pacific Rim, it has the potential to become a huge fashion powerhouse in the eco-fashion world, especially as younger markets seek environmentally respectful brands to support. It comes with great challenges, though. Canada is unfortunately infamous for long-bred clique-like mentality that often excludes unknowns or resource-poor talents, and it needs to overcome patterns such as these if it wants to go anywhere. If it can: overcome editing issues; find ways to grow and enter the international market cohesively; take risks in innovative design approaches to demonstrate freshness in talent; allow, mentor and support outsider talent regardless of current resource levels; and take advantage of social media channels in a coordinated effort while shedding local mindsets in favour of international aspirations and international relevance, it can be an influential jewel in the international design community.
The good news it that it has rich potential, and each time it steps out of its comfort zone, such as the way it overcame cultural modesty to shine when it hosted the Winter Olympics, it wows the world.
Meantime, it's time to indulge in some cake and watch fireworks as it recognizes its age and how far it has come. Canada was founded because of fashion, and hopefully it can have yet another reason to be proud that donors these roots. It has so many reasons already that are well-deserved.
W hile the summer sun roasts those in the north with summer in full swing, the current Resort 2018 collections continue to reveal the shift of what the collection's role has become. Some designers have maintained the traditional core, entering on collections to inspire relief-bringing getaways while others are including pieces to reflect the timing of the collection to when they will appear in stores. These, like pre-fall, are collections that tend to steer towards practicality with a few hints of coming trends thrown in for experimentation's sake. Should a stray effort catch the attention of the public and the media (both traditional and social) it is more likely that it will manifest further into other collections. Fashion can be infectious that way; it's almost organic how concepts and ideas morph and grow.
Those who have been paying closer attention have noticed a few dominant directions regarding overall concept foundations. In particular, the naturalistic bent fond in the abundance of florals and use of frill suggest something more organic as well, reflecting the current focus on the environment, much of it reactionary in the face of current political affronteries challenging unity towards reversing human impact on our climate and environment as well as continued revelations within and beyond the industry itself on the scope of environmental impact the industry is having. The industry is slowly seeking solutions and calling out offenders, and newer generations are making a pronounced impact via their purchasing decisions and vocal contributions on the subject via social media. yes, we know there is more lip service than progress, and part of the continued focus is the relentless attention to indicate that talk is not enough. The current reversals of environmental policies in particular being spoken about are in happening primarily in the USA, and in a weird way those actions are only serving to strengthen efforts globally and locally to take on the work that the current administration seems to be seeking to undo.
You'd think that environmentalism is a relatively new concept, with many under the impression that the 60s and especially the 70s were the foundation eras for the environmental movement and in some ways the organized concerted efforts we see today do have many roots in what was organized back then. However, environmentalism went further back, particularly in the UK when it came to managing resources in their colonies. During the late 18th and through the 19th century the UK focused on land management and irrigation, further study of flora, subsidized botanical studies and agricultural research. By the early 20th century, particularly in India, forestry management practices and preservation was further instituted and inspired many to become further interested in nature, spilling into architecture and fashion.
Here we are, one hundred years later and collections are filled with flora and naturalistic touches galore. many collections have this floral touch and many continue the ruffling and curvy cuts that harmonize with naturalism. In some collections we also see organic rambling segmentation evident in collections by Monse and Preen by Thornton Bregazzi; organic overflow at ADEAM, Faith Connexion, Hellessy, Naeem Khan, Preen Line, Roksanda and Stella McCartney; and organic freshness in colour on form at Delpozo. And let's not forget the increase in use of reclaimed materials and the stepping away for chemical processes within the denim industry as new crops of designers incorporate cumulative environmentally-freindly textiles and processes as a way of doing our part to repair the damage we have done.
The use of cut, colour, shape and form to translate sentiments and thoughts on behalf of their audience if not merely themselves is part of what makes the examination of fashion more than whether it can make it to a subjective "best or worst" list; the impact of politics has resulted this season in statement efforts that art trains creatives for to relay where we are and what we are looking towards. Is it all cohesive or on the same page? That is a good question that we can address next time. For now, a walk in the park to enjoy the sun is the order of the day as we ponder what's next.
T here is so much to look through regarding the current Resort 2018 collections. The sizeable array of images tell a lot more about what designers are paying attention to...and what they are banking on that you will identify with. There are a few prominent themes emerging, so this blog will have something to say over the next few weeks. For now, let's talk about cold hard facts.
The largest cultural influence that has dominated our attentions revolves around the concept of truth. Years ago, the public reacted increasingly to the use of photoshop in fashion imagery and advertising. The distortion of the human body was said to have fed unrealistic expectations that were having a negative influence over their audience, especially those who were susceptible to the power of fashion regarding our sense of belonging. So powerful is fashion's reach that the resulting dialogue inspired authenticity in fashion imagery and re-evaluation of what constitutes as healthy regarding body image; some places even instituted minimum standards within the industry to curtail the negative influence. Now we are finding further support and celebration of all body types as we become more sensitive to each other's well-being.
The issue of truth and authenticity, now a buzz word in the marketing world, shifted focus to ethics within and beyond the industry. The magnifying glass held by younger generations who reject hypocrisy as "business as usual" has spurred the industry to embrace higher standards from ethically sourced materials to better global labour standards...well, at least the dialogue is here. The industry has a lot more to go, but this time the public is not letting things slide. Authenticity is not just a fad but an expectation. It's also a reaction to our unbridled world at large.
It's imposible to ignore the political landscape of the USA regarding the issue of truth. Almost every other day, truth is being debated as the media and the public are at war with itself over authenticity versus manipulation of the truth towards serving ulterior motives such as creating confusion and distorting trust within mainstay institutions. We've gone from a public that tests authority to segments of the population debating obvious fact ranging from the shape of our planet and true age of the world and universe to witnessed and recorded behaviour from those who determine the fates of the people they serve.The frustrating discussions are supported by our very own technology that has given us the tools to find contrary information and the ability to spread it in record time before we have the chance to call out the lies before us. And yet we, as a species, freely lie.
We have charming names for the lies we deem less serious (white lies) and clever ways of relabelling the bending of the truth (alternate facts) that we reframe i our entertainment, which only serves to condition us into accepting this as normal behaviour. We downplay deliberate misinformation while others just repeat the lie over and over until the repetitive nature tricks the brain into believing the lie as a possible truth, and that is actually a psychological trick well used by those in leadership roles. Did you not know this? If you repeat something often enough, the mind thinks it's consensus and is more likely to accept it as truth. And once a person is convinced, challenging them on their beliefs actually reinforces it, even if you have bonafide evidence to the contrary. And yet, we also have the capacity that previous generations did not have to address this in real time. Those who uphold the truth help quantify and qualify and use the same tools to get the truth out there. We also have information on how to break past our own internal barriers to give truth a chance.
This issue of exaggeration and clarification is very hard to miss, so it is no wonder that we find fashion reinterpreting this in textile form. We find the sharpness of opinion and exaggeration of word in sharp cuts and exaggerated forms as seen in collections from ADEAM, Beaufille, Chloe, Dion Lee, House of Holland, Issey Miyake, Louie Vuitton, MM6 Martin Margiela, Natasha Zinko, Palmer Harding, Pringle of Scotland, Rosetta Getty, Rosie Assoulin, Sportmax, Stella McCartney and Vionnet. And the crisp quantification and pressing order of clarification we respond with comes through in the hard contrast of grids, boxes and defining lines; some of this is found in collections by Givenchy, M. Patmos, Issey Miyake and Oscar de la Renta.
We respond directly and defiantly in response to each others' convictions as we defend our beliefs amidst the war on truth. The passion is almost like a civil civil war, where we teeter between the urge for calm and reason versus outbursts of uncontrolled conviction demanding validation. we based the response partially on memories of when we had a better grip of ourselves and our passions to regain control and restore order. And so the sharpness and contrasts remain, interwoven amidst the themes that Resort 2018 brings.
For some this will make perfect sense while, for others, all of this will seem like rambling, and, with that a clue for the next topic, I leave you until next week where we continue discussing the many things seen so far in the current collections.
T he deluge of collections for Resort 2018 collections are now upon us, and the range of what is offered is part of the story today. The other part is about history repeating and being called out in the digital age. For now, let's take us back a few decades to the full story surrounding the creative explosion of the 80s.
In the 70s, the "me" generation was at its height, and it encouraged quite a bit of self indulgence and, unfortunately, a glorification of arrogance hand-in-hand with a rise conspicuous wealth and material consumption for the sake of status. These were more innocent times where easily accessible knowledge was not the convenience we take for granted today, and thus the psychology and pragmaticisms surrounding such a lifestyle was not in mindsets fro discussion and circumspection. Rather, the media fed this appetite and the public was all too eager to participate.
Increased opportunity for women where not much previously existed meant more purchasing power for the household, and credit was becoming more prevalent. Meanwhile, entertainment and more prevalent advertising furthered consumption status. Fashion licensing supported the development of the label craze that only increased as the 80s rolled around. The climate for fashion as a more prominent and accessible status marker meant that fashion became a new social commodity for exclusion in the name of elevation. Feelings didn't matter. Image did.
With new technology and more sophisticated media reach developing, the 80s encouraged the knowledge of fashion. The increased encouragement of credit to support the economy translated into further participation in the fashion status game, with television unwittingly shaping our tastes. Before, programming focused on the story and the actors. But in the 80s, the wardrobes became an influence, and program wardrobes became more varied and diverse; rarely did characters repeat wearing the same item. before long, having a wide variety of items to rotate and retire became the new norm. This only spurred further consumption during the days when money seems plentiful. But it wasn't. It was propped up by discrete credit debt accumulation for most, hiding this in the name of keeping up appearances in an age where status was viciously upheld.
Meanwhile, fashion rose in focus as more people consumed. It was the new gold rush where the creatives were rewarded. Around this time, the rise of interest in art (a byproduct of absorbing culture to enhance one's status that the 80s encouraged; good for art but not necessarily for the right reasons) further propelled creative boundaries in fashion. We owe a lot to this age, for the results it fostered are still reverberating in collections today. The issue was form over function. There was a lot of creativity, but as the decade wore on, the effort was pushing not only the creative limits but also the budgets of designers who had to compete to stay in the public eye. The increasingly fashion-educated public was also increasingly fickle by design; the very market that trained their audience to consume in the first place had turned their customer base into an unreliable market where trend pumped brand loyalty.
More and more collections had pieces that were for the press and for brand image. But this also meant having deep pockets, and economic conditions were changing. As in, those credit bills had accumulated and needed to be paid. As most people who played the consumption game were forced to reconcile their accounts, austerity snowballed. The customer base was tapped out, and as trend cycles of fashion had become too fast to keep up with, more and more people opted out.
The crash of the late 80s into early 90s wiped out a lot of design talent that couldn't figure out how the world had changed, and it brought fashion down to earth. A lot of those wonderful creative pieces were for a lifestyle few could actually participate in, and failed to have staying power in a world where media was getting better at reinforcing the need for every picture to require a new outfit at every turn. It's true that individuality was supported through that decade, but the caveat of a big budget and mass wardrobe changes as a condition to play was too much. With huge bills, necessities took precedence and the creative explosion imploded. And with that, it became vulgar to wear statement items in a new era where ostentation and conspicuous consumption in the face of growing economic collapse was frowned upon. It would be several years, slow economic recovery, and the emergence of fast fashion to restart the game.
Now we are back at the same point as before. There is a lot of innovation and creativity, and, just as in the 80s, there is also a lot of envelope-pushing that triggers reconsideration of fashion's role in our lives, especially in the face of economic factors where necessities become harder to maintain for the bulk of the consumption class that the market is aimed towards. This is despite the rise of more accessible fast fashion as we find label obsession reintegrated into pop culture and thus our current social fabric. The fear of being poor has fueled overpriced items that, more increasingly, make it to the wrong lists online (clear-kneed acid-wash denim in deliberately unflattering cut got attention for the wrong reasons, and being several hundred dollars in a luxury department store does not make them "better") and an increase of items that we learn are "made-to-order" that make no sense in our daily world. A glance in myriad settings find these are worn in a few places at best and are unlikely to make it past a season or two for the same reason that creative items in the 80s had a short shelf life: items too easily recognizable that cannot bring versatility into the wardrobe cannot fit with a social media world where sitcom-style wardrobe variety is still upheld.
The declaration of Vetements, a recent trendmaker in the fashion world, was one of bold admission. It called out the futility in remaining viable in the market by wasting resources on impractical expense in a changing landscape. Runway shows that were originally meant for buyers and press are nothing if not turned into mega productions. Those who are not part of the fashion world have no idea how much producing one show costs and would be stunned to learn just how much. And the added cost of producing a collection where the bulk of the showings are made-to-order items that do not represent to actual utilitarian line-up. The total expense may get some press, but it may not attract buyers or customers who are looking for a hint of edge only to walk away without exposing the store because they fail to see this in what is presented in the media.
That's tough, isn't it? We need fashion to be wild to excite us but in truth we need fashion to be wearable, and when we see that we get disinterested. It becomes a losing proposition for the designer trying to stay in business. This balance, supported by crafting brand loyalty, is a greater challenge in a world where smart tech allows us to swipe left at the first sign of consumption ennui. That innovative approach seems to be coming outside of the convention design community and is currently being attempted via initiatives by a company called Stitch Fix, where they are working with an algorithm program that uses big data accumulated from their customer base to have their AI create designs via machine learning that fall between individual and conformity of trend...with profitable success so far. But the current ranges we see during fashion weeks mirror a repeat of the past where creativity goes too far without considering the present background of the audience, and Vetements' declaration with explanation is the first label to call out the unfortunate reality that may signal further changes in the design landscape along the same manner as to what happened post 80s when reality set in.
This season offers a lot to look at. Right now, some of it is the all-too safe retro route that will inspire market fatigue (nobody loves that much of the 70s for this long), some of it is wearable to the degree that it is hardly media-worthy, and some is envelope-pushing that, in the highest appreciation inspires wonder and excitement while also, at its lowest, illicit wonder at the impracticality and waste for the sake of attention-getting existence on social media.
Likes don't necessarily pay rent. For an influential label to make sweeping changes based on fiscal prudence, fashion will take note and will be effected as a result. Thus, this season may become the one that will attract the most scrutiny as we edge closer to the next decade. It is usually the end of a decade that offers hints on what the next decade will be about, and the slap of economic pragmatism may be the corrective measure that will push forces to edit and filter the current offerings to help shape what 21st century fashion will be about. Perhaps the innovators embracing 21st century tech that are outside convention might lend further clues as well.
N ow we see an increase in Resort 2018 collections being released into the fashion media, and this is where is gets interesting. Here is where we start to find general commonalities as well as the crystallization of primary trend direction expressions. We see this in the beginning stages as more and more primary trends start to become frequent.
The general theme, of course, is our search for what we decide as modern. The haphazard layering and incongruent elements (or at least incongruent from traditional approaches we came to accept in the past) reinforce our desire to search for a new voice. The various new mixes and blending of once-separated components can be seen as symbolic of our global intermingling. We are no longer separate, but increasingly mixing and celebrating internationalism...well, many of us. There is still fear supporting xenophobia as the force of love and light publicly challenge this, knowing togetherness is preferable to division. Fashion takes the high road as it seeks to address its own issues. The push for diversity and inclusion is uphill but there is progress. In the meantime, our awareness that the future is one of bringing unlikely aspects together remains as a dominant thread, possibly our decade's hallmark.
One of the directions that serve to remind us of our hesitancy is connected to our penchant for hanging on to the past. Recent years have shown our willingness to look back to go forward, reflected in our entertainment, our music and our personal costume. Various similarities between the past and now support continuation of favoured retro choices, with each season reflecting our focus. If the economy was a factor before, this has taken a partial backseat in favour of morals and values. Given that diversity and equality, particularly along gender lines, have been a growing and easily relatable focus (in part due to vocal opinions from the American political landscape), it makes sense that inspiration would come from this direction. But rather than rehashing the same cuts, lines and silhouettes to bring history to fresh eyes as had done in decades past, our current aspect involves upgrading the approach. Fashion isn't the only area, either.
Fifty years ago or thereabouts, the Beatles decided to break away from their image as they participated in a cultural shift that the youth culture spearheaded, spurred on by mind-expansion experimentation. The rejection of prior generations and a desire to find their own voice opened the door to new everything, including wilder fashion play. Gone was the innocent clean cut order, ushered in with the maximal expressiveness of Sergeant Pepper and his Lonely Hearts Club Band; the world hasn't been the same since.
Now, the groundbreaking album has been remastered, which means they deconstructed, cleaned up and reconstructed the album from what was released from technology back then (mono sound) to what we have now (rich stereo), in effect modernizing the work in time for the fiftieth anniversary. How fitting of an inspiration that works with us now. Fashion takes what was, remasters concepts through finer materials and better technology, and brings the essential spirit that we find affinity with (the sexual revolution and beginning of female empowerment) in a format that relates to what we recognize as now. Materials, assembly and some creative spins that we consider current such as bridge details (Victoriana carry-over or 90s reboots) are infused to ensure we have enough that is familiar and our own while upholding empathathetic historic homage. We see this spirit being tapped when we observe collections from Cinq a Sept, Coach 1941, Gucci, Just Cavalli, Kitx, Orla Kiely, Rebecca Minkoff, Tomas Maier, Veronica Beard and Warm. Here, the relatable retro roots harmonize with the cues of similar times when murmurs gave way to open vocalizations for what we should see as givens today: equality for all and judgement on character, not what's between our legs.
Of course, fashion has not strictly relied on the past alone as a default trend. There are also collections lighter on retro and heavier on future-forward implementation, and while some of it takes from other areas of the distant past, some inspiration comes from current cultures, carefully honouring inspiration that connects with deeper reasons...reasons we will cover in another installment.
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.