Trend observations with a sociological eye from afar...
by Darryl S. Warren in Vancouver
© 2011-2017 Darryl S. Warren/Fashion Observed All rights reserved
B arely a week has passed and already the tsunami of Spring Summer 2018 collections have burst forth from New York City, the first of the Big Four to show over the next several weeks. The range of design approaches is vast when looking at what is coming out of this center, with collections covering every aspect of design. The subtle distillation of trends is found in wearable collections that meet the needs of daily life while more energetic expressions highlight a more cerebral sophisticated appreciation of fashion that also comes into play.
There are many trends spoken about in this blog due to early arrivals from those who decided to present outside of the traditional calendar, and trends from last season and last year also find their place as fashion strikes a balance between security and appeals for freshness to keep interests high...and dollars flowing.
The falling away and haphazard assembly that deconstruction first initiated has continued, in part inspired by the more experimental design approaches of the late 80s when fashion made its most dramatic impact towards modern design. The tech in textiles and experiments with layering and incongruence in pairings of the 90s along with continued technical assembly along more architectural lines also finds itself influencing current collections. The last memories of joyful experimentation along with more outre retro inspirations are merging in an effort to push us further towards the 21st century as we struggle to embrace change. The chaos in pattern mixing, haphazardness and incongruence reflect the "new ground" approach we are facing in life at large as traditional structures make way for new perspectives, and the response is not automatic embrace, but the range is looked at with dichotomies between resistance and inclusion. Such push and pull becomes the chaos we live in and, as we embrace it, we find beauty in it rather than fear, for we are in too deep now; it's only a few years from 2020 and there's no turning back.
Within this creative output, a few items of note were found that confirmed observations that Fashion Observed made earlier...as in a few years earlier (Recombinant Deconstruction Is Its Name-O, September 19, 2015). Within that article, this blog indicated that advances in seamless clothing and 3D printed clothing would yield designs that could morph one textile into another, like tweed into shirting or charmeuse, and design elements seamlessly organic, like a pocket turning into a partial jacket front that could sprout secondary layers that could become pants (or something like that; the combinations are endless); the equivalent of genetic mutations fusing unlikely items more seamlessly together rendered into fashion. 2018 is but a few years for the expected mark of 2020 when this concept was predicted to appear and fashion has not let us down.
So far, a couple of collections has demonstrated the idea of merging garment portions to each other to create new design executions. Alexander Wang, Public School and some offerings within Parson's MFA graduation class all provide expressions where unlikely items are merged not merely by stitchwort, but woven and integrated into each other. And when looking at contrasting textiles integrated into becoming one transforming to another, Creatures of the Wind contains such experimentation within their collection.
These are important hallmarks that will only further inspire greater evolution beyond fashion and into broader culture, just as this blog first imagined, and in ways that only those with no connection to the previous century and millennium will understand and execute. As we look more closely at what comes forth from each season (and this one as it continues to reveal more), fashion will let us know more and more what the 21st century will be about...and how we'll dress for it. This is truly exciting now, for fashion becomes more than just looking at pretty things. It's not about finding what it will reveal as our future.
W hile the world faces more pressing realities (Texas, North Korea), those within the world of fashion are in hiding, preparing for there next quarterly event know as Spring Summer 2018. A few collections have come out more recently, this time from Sweden as they hold their fashion week as well as the first roll-outs from Kiev. Vogue has been keeping an eye out as these centres are not among the majors yet are becoming more mature, demonstrating a capacity to rise up to international expectations regarding collection standards where cohesion, point of view and quality are benchmarked achievements to gain editorial respect.
Much of what is coming out is wearable and that's not a bad thing when remembering that fashion is, above all, a business. But business doesn't sell magazines, generate clicks on web pages or gain shares on social media. The passion of creativity is another requirement and the balance of commerce and personal artistry is what makes the designer worthy of attention beyond admiration for sales. It is a tremendous feat to create something not just functional, but desirable that resonates with inner sensibilities where the customer feels a connection...an inate relevance that speaks to them intimately.
Right now, the nostalgia for better times is crossing with the desire for creative exploration in the name of breaking new ground. This feel-good sentiment seeks to also run with the tech-dominated future focus where our modern world screams advancement as the new norm. Disruption, innovation...call these aspects what you will, they all indicate the focus on change, and if there is anything we know about the human species, it's that we don't always take well to change, but when push comes to shove we find our way forward. Not a straight path, though; we zig-zag back and forth as we climb higher, eventually getting there with a bit of passive resistance along the way.
This blog has long pointed the various ways we claw back, and the re-emergence of oversize was covered when it first started to re-emerge in collections several years ago. The awareness of fears bigger than ourselves in both the 50s and 80s when volatility involved nuclear realities resulted in not only finding clothes that became armour-like, but also infantized the wearer by swallowing them much in the way children wear their parents' clothes not just for play but as a subconscious way of connecting to security.
With rising tensions in the Pacific and unpredictable responses coming from US/Soviet interactions, the need for comfort has again found relevance. Practicalities are the increased appeal to larger markets where modesty is taken into account and rising temperatures where looseness wears more comfortably than body-con fits that fail in high temperatures. This plus the awareness of the future and the need to break away for the past is what gave the rule-breaking edge to 80s fashion experimentation, especially in the late 80s when it got more architectural in part due to the Japanese. Inching closer to the Olympics, the focus strengthens on Japan and before you know it, these cumulative forces match the future-seeking late 80s and thus the innovators so far such as Casely-Hayford, Demna Gvasalia's Vetements, Raf Simons (normally we focus on women's wear but this is an exception), Vika Gazinskya and the young unbridled talents from the Swedish School Of Textiles find volumous affinity.
Twisted and draped, cut and recut, spliced additions, deconstructed and banded in naturalistic freeform where the textiles do the speaking translate to design giving voice to the materials in the name of innovation via the familiar. This sophisticated approach takes the wanton abandonment of rules launched from past inspiration and brings that experimental spirit as designers try out forward approaches in clean execution, harmonizing with technical expectations in this photoshopped and edited slick curation our reality promotes.
To be fair, the limits of creativity lie in current technology, and only when we have evolution of technical equipment and material development that we have seen but in glimpses these past few years will we see the next stages of design that can move beyond the past. By then, we will be comfortable in our next zag of our future; may the coming fashion weeks offer more glimpses as we get further settled into our new millennium.
T he upcoming season we are awaiting is Spring Summer 2018. The last collection regarding this season, outside of recent reveals from Copenhagen that were discussed in last week's article, came out in mid-July. Since then, we have had to wait for the formal season to start in but a few weeks (September 7, in case you want specifics). But not all designers chose to adhere to tradition, deciding to release their collections earlier at a time when words such as "disruption" and "revolution" have been bandied about.
The seas of change have swept over the world of fashion as the technical world has threatened to upend tradition in favour of remaining economically competitive and relevant. Online entities have successfully risen to meet the manner in which we now shop, spurred by younger generations and early adopters (yes, that would be primarily you, Generation X, the creators of all technical foundations we have come to rely on) that lead the charge. The handheld necessities we brandish have resulted in lifestyle and behavioural shifts and fashion has realized that "adapt or die" is now meant for it the most.
This translates into new approaches to every aspect from conceptualization and manufacturing to presentation and commerce. The struggle fashion now faces is figuring out how to navigate this landscape. Some, such as Burberry have modified its supply chain to accommodate the social media aspect of consumers lives. Others, such as Tom Ford have rejected the "see now buy now" model as they found it wasn't viable for the way their garments were created. The obstacle of forgoing craftsmanship and quality in the name of creating design influence benchmarks when it comes to trend leadership is a tough obstacle that still needs to be worked out within the industry.
The result so far seems to be a release of rigid trend directions, favouring a wider latitude regarding inspiration and influence that balances individuality versus conformity. In looking at the collections released so far, the conformity is in the brand adaptation of communal agreement. The embrace of light structured volume, blocked assembly and 80s/90s cuts define the overall tone of the fashion conversation to date, while the individuality in the details needs closer attention when looking for common ground.
Naturalistic aspects honouring authenticity and the ecological conversation politics has shed light on has inspired in various ways. Some of it is architectural and deliberate in skew (A. F. Vandevorst, Cedric Charlier, Vetements) and some of it more organic (Kenzo, Proenza Schouler, Rodarte). Contrasting this, the lean towards the manufactured and technical is in gloss; the wet polish can be subdued (Kenzo, Vika Gazinskaya) or almost metallic (Julien David, Maison Rabih Kayrouz). These elements find themselves amidst their complements as we find ourselves at once seeking ways to preserve or save our natural world while marching forward with technology firmly in our grasp.
Whereas before the manufacturing times meant the conversations were more deliberate and the cut-offs limited, now we have much shorter design-to-market periods, and that means last-minute insights and conversational evolutions can mean new details in the name of being current and most relevant. So, between then and next month, a lot can become new inspiration that didn't appear when early releases were made. That is the danger in the fashion game that needs to be reconciled.
Some of the influence is due to reputation, and some of it is timely translation. Some designers are quite astute, and others might be too early to the conversation while others might miscalculate what matters since they spoke up. The only way we'll know and to what degree is when the Big Four release their collections and we find whether the unified voices are speaking along the same terms or whether they decided to change the conversation. Then, of course, the ultimate decision lies with the consumer and that is the part of the conversation fashion will be paying close attention to as these new designs come out.
T he next, or rather the upcoming season that fashion will focus on is Spring Summer 2018. Already, since June, there have been some collections released which is a departure from normal calendar traditions. We will come to those in another article. For now, as promised before, we are speaking about the new fashion interest: Copenhagen.
For the last few seasons, the fashion world has taken an increased interest in Scandinavia. Perhaps it is the clean palette and refreshing colour choices that appeal. When looking at colour theory and, in particular, the psychology of colour, we find moods can affect choices. With much of the world in a chaotic state in part due to readily available widespread coverage of global events, it's hard to keep positive without detaching from the world. But some cultures have a better grip of the world around them, and the colour inspirations form those places can uplift us by tapping into aspirations, with colour reflecting a hope of mood.
The clean architectural approach of Scandinavian design is also a refreshing departure that finds a place for those who don't or no longer connect with information's cacophony. The designs coming out of Copenhagen Fashion Week offer the balance of creativity with the signature clarity of Scandinavian design that becomes its cultural signature, and the apt antidote that distance from chaos provides.
In much of the collections, we find a mix of 80s and 90s. In the former, the protective volume is met with lightness of structure, acting as an effortless protection from externals. The latter takes from it the combination of clean almost masculine cuts. Think of Helmut Lang's hard influence when feminism gained strength and how, in this era, we find our voice against rising right-leaning influences that remind us of past historic dangers. This clean almost clinical dry silhouette masculinizes and subtly empowers. The norm core practicality also comes into play; wearability translates into marketability, and that ensures practical survival via assured profit. And how about wet look pic coats and the return of midriffs...well...how 90s is that?
Layering continues to add to the armour, while defined stances and positions comes into play via contrast trim (Astrid Andersens, Cecilie Bahnsen and Ganni) and contrast seam detailing (Henrik Vibscov), while all collections also contained stripes which delineate and define borders, limits and space. And not all of us are unified together as observed by Astrid Andersens who had disjointed pieces like the return of arm sleeves (2000s anyone?) and the segmented skirt portions separate from the rest of the garment. Some of us are hanging by a thread...or a strap in the case of By Malene Birger when looking at some of her tops. The observation of truth under an elaborate veneer is seen in the way detailed sheer items as overlays revealed simpler straightforward items underneath at Cecilie Bahnsen.
Our complex world is something we cannot hide from, especially in this age of connectivity. With politics in the fore, fashion can only translate in the discussion, providing visual dialogue to appeal to our subconscious. Sometimes, it takes eyes distant for the action to convey what we live and the rest of the world sees. It will be interesting to see how the Big Four relate to these observations, whether the dialogue is in response or in concert with what has been revealed thus far.
F ashion is already jumping on the first Spring Summer 2018 collections, offering recognition of Copenhagen Fashion Week as worthy of global attentions. This blog will, of course, look at what is coming out of that array of design reveals...but not today. Instead we continue covering last week's subject matter. After all, did you really think this blog would bring up something concerning the future without at least adding inspiration beyond observation? Those who have been following since Fashion Observed first arrived know that this blog does anything but.
As mentioned last week, AR, AI and VR have along ways to go before fashion fully incorporates these into the fabric of the industry. But fashion has not been a stranger to these, either.
Virtual reality, aka VR, has seen fashion dabble in it within the past few years but it has been a landscape barely embraced at this time. Topshop showed their Fall Winter 2014 collection to clients with headsets and a VR presentation. Then 7 For All Mankind created a VR fashion film for their Spring Summer 2015 collection, Rebecca Minkoff did a sample viewing in partnership with Google Cardboard for their Fall Winter 2015 show and Balenciaga did a VR presentation for their Fall Winter 2016 show when Demna Gvasalia took over. Meanwhile in 2015, Elle Canada did a behind-the-scenes peek at their cover shoot, TOMS took viewers to Peru, H & M played with an interactive VR presentation at Coachella, and Dior created a VR headset for customers to review the latest collections and behind-the-runway exploration. But for all the dabbling, fashion hasn't found a firm place for this technology yet, leaving it as a curious fad more than anything.
Part of this issue lies in the equipment, something the VR industry at large has yet to rectify. The cost of VR glasses is still too high to become an attractive investment for the mainstream while current resolution is not fine enough to make VR fashion-friendly when clients need detail to embrace the experience fully. Once these issues are addressed, then fashion needs to figure how to fully immerse this as a tool worthy of investment. Much the way that opera has broaden appeal by being broadcast in remote locations where opera cannot always travel, fashion will find Vr useful for those who want the trunk show experience when not near a collection outpost. Think of it as augmenting the pop-up shop experience where clients can properly review collections more intimately in settings that allow for better marketing without the expense of full retail set-ups or investing too much on travelling trunk show set-ups (at least until haptics become sophisticated enough to further enhance this, and that is another whole article that might be only accessed through Pej Gruppen and its members who are lucky enough to be connected to).
The other end-use lies in the design team. Once design programs are sophisticated enough to allow for high quality textile movement and drape simulation, VR can allow better creative play for design experimentation without sacrificing textile usage, saving a lot of money while allowing for more opportunities for innovation along the way. This is where VR will prove invaluable for fashion.
With augmented reality, or AR, the potential for customer use is more promising, and this goes beyond Snapchat's filters. Topshop dabbled in the early part of the century but the AR at the time was crude and did not satisfy customer needs to the extent it hoped. Years later, Couturier Franck Sorbier had an AR mirror available for trying on his Spring Summer 2012 couture line that at least showed some dimensional adaptation. In 2012, Uniqlo showed off a more developed AR mirror in San Francisco, providing customers the opportunity to see different colours in the dressing room without the customer having to bring in other garments or dress and undress multiple times, a huge convenience for the customer. Marga Weimans used a new textile in 2013 during Amsterdam Fashion Week that allowed interaction with apps to augment imagery when viewed through a tablet, something more recently prominently featured by Anrealage for their Spring Summer 2017 collection. Sephora launched an app a few years ago to help virtually try out cosmetics, allowing the customer to see via AR and Converse was also an early adopter for virtual shoe sampling. In publishing, W Magazine just recently put out an AR interactive issue featuring Katy Perry while Nike recently announced a new method of product launching involving a scavenger hunt that features GPS and AR.
This ease into AR makes more sense when looking at what we carry in our pockets and bags: our phones. With an addition of an app, AR becomes accessible to the world around us, something proven during the Pokemon AR phenomenon last year. And there is not shortage of where AR can fit with fashion. For printed media, AR can save that aspect of the industry by tying adde content in unique ways that make having the publication a necessity rather than a resource outmoded by duplication and redundancy. websites can provide virtual fitting rooms for new fashion on demand at one's fingertips not only for immediate use but for added sharing on social media as a way of brand dissemination and, for the customer, a way to gain immediate opinion that may better serve purchase support. And with new textile development, AR can be the added enhancement to broader brand engagement and make the garment more special beyond obvious function.
The problem is apps. Because everyone is so bent on creating brand worlds, too much specialization forces the client base to accumulate all these apps, and thus burdens the customer base to the degree that it can backfire. Have you ever had to swing through all these apps to get the one on your phone you need after saving so many already? It's a drag; some apps languish because there are too many that are specialized. Instead, fashion needs to band together to decide on a few apps that will function across many brands and become standardized, like the way we only have a few platforms for logging online. Then the public is more likely to be onboard.
The biggest story we have yet to see is about artificial intelligence or AI and its role with Big Data, and this is no LOL matter. Here is where fashion can become powerful. Many sites are collecting information regarding habits and tastes already. Using this information requires a lot of time and resources to pour over all this information and most design companies cannot or will not allocate that much money to get the information it needs. But with AI, this power becomes more accessible. AI can take all this information and interpret it way faster, providing the kind of insights that allow for designers to modify collections to fit purchase patterns within the markets, gauge real-time responses when testing new design concepts, and in some cases even augment the creative process by allowing AI to introduce new combinations not found in current fashion databases; in effect, new design ideas generated by sifting through Big Data; Stitch Fix has been the pioneer in this very aspect. WTF, you may be thinking. Well, yes, the future is today and it's happening just the way you're seeing it: in a mind-blowing manner.
Fashion will need to invest in accumulation, storage and examination of designs versus purchase history data to stay relevant and connected to their customer base while taking advantage of evolving AI innovation to better observe those who come across the brand to determine whether the customer base they are attracting is adding to growth or walking away because current image and product lines are not connecting and engaging the populace. Some, such as Burberry, have known this from the onset and have fully immersed themselves in tech to their benefit.
But in the end all this tech cannot replace the heart of fashion, which is the creative process. The designer has a certain quality that combines artistry and intuitiveness with spontaneity that tech cannot master. The soul, that something special still lies within the hands of the designer and their team, and those who choose to add to their tool belt the tech of the world will succeed...and lead...the world as we march forward into the 21st century.
A ll the fashion shows have come to pass, and this month is the lull before the next onslaught of imagery and inspiration that locks down every person connected to fashion for the month as Spring Summer 2018 is shown. Resort offered hints of where fashion wants to go and these primary these have been explored in past articles, so there is little need to rehash what has already been written about.
Fashion media cannot walk away or go on hiatus for a month as many in the industry do (Europe shuts down in August and if you haven't placed your textile orders or got the work done you need from artisans and machinists by now, you are screwed...happy fashion week). Its audience needs to be continuously engaged and this can prove to be a challenge, especially in a blog such as this where examination off the recent collections hinges on having enough content to discuss. Some seasons have a lot of new subject matter and have too much to cover before the next season arrives. At other times, the collections either face a creative halt or narrow their collective narrative, having strong messages with less variety or complexity. While that signals solid trends, it also means the conversation can run short.
For the longest while, the technical side regarding AI, AR and VR have been increasingly hovering in the conversation, albeit more from a marketing or design team side than for the consumer. These technical developments will be part of the fashion landscape, without a doubt. The issue fashion has is how to deftly integrate these; any expenditure is viewed as an investment and needs to be carefully executed, as fashion is a business and this means being conservative where costs are concerned. one wrong move can damage or end the business if efforts and resources are poorly directed in the name of keeping current, which is why sometimes fashion seems to lag behind technology. You'd think fashion would be on the forefront as that is part of the DNA of fashion, but fashion is actually slow to adapt, especially when it comes to technology for the reasons stated above.
Also, much of the technology is still in infancy. The VR industry has yet to have the consumers fully catch on, and have decided to reduce prices to get the headsets into consumer hands while it struggles to get consumer confidence. These things are novelty until we find practical uses that make the investment worthwhile, and much of what is coming out is experimental as it requires overhauling conventional approaches to craft. For fashion, the uses aren't clear yet.
AR is another aspect that sees more promise as apps get configured and developed to enhance the consumer experience. Here, the issue is determining purpose and needs, and if that proves to be too specialized or specific, it won't go beyond being a fad.
AI may hold a lot of potential and here the issue is control and trust. Can the technology serve the customer and the industry, and if so, how?
There are toes dipped into each one but more from a novelty aspect, and with the overhaul of the very way we do things happening around us, we may have to wait to see what works, what sticks, and what comes up as we decide what and how to incorporate the technological advances that will become interwoven into the 21st century way of life.
T his year, Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary, and this blog already had much to say about this (Birthday Party - Saturday, July 1st 2017 1:12 PM). One of the aspects mentioned was how this celebration opened deep wounds that First Nations felt as they rightly pointed out that Canada existed long before Europeans imposed themselves and forcefully colonized the land. It also marked the first time the government was taking steps to be more sensitive and honourable about sharing this and making room to share the spotlight, making room to showcase First Nations culture along the way.
Fashion has a funny place in this matter. For the longest time, fashion has been inspired now and again by indigenous cultures, but as we grow more self-aware and more mature, fashion has found itself embroiled in the heated debate of appropriation versus inspiration, something this blog spoke of as well (Appropriate Appropriations - Saturday, November 5th 2016 5:50 PM). However, more often than not, what is missing from the conversation are those from the source itself who felt that the inspiration did not properly honour the specialness and heritage behind what we see as pretty or cool patterns. That, and failing to include the source itself in the creative process; the act becomes an artistic form of colonization that further insults those who saw invaders wipe away their long-standing history with little thought. Understanding this perspective adds a dimension to sensitivity that we now appreciate in volatile times such as these where sensitivity sometimes seems in short supply.
A few designers have made the steps to work with rather than merely borrow from indigenous cultures, such as Donna Karan when she collaborated with Cochiti fashion designer Virgil Ortiz in 2002 and with Australian indigenous Walmajarri artist Clifton Bieundurry in 2011, or when Valentino collaborated with Metis Artist Christi Belcourt for their Resort 2016 collection. But those are few and far between, and fashion really hasn't consistently made great strides when it comes to honouring design inspiration where deeper cultural ties are involved.
This year, model Joleen Mitton of Plains Cree-Blackfoot heritage founded a very pivotal first: a First Nations Fashion Show called Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week, hosted (obviously) in Vancouver, Canada this year. The show itself celebrated indigenous talent while providing a platform that is supportive and uplifting in an industry that normally takes inspiration without much involvement beyond a passive nod to those at the source. In a way, it is not as much to combat appropriation as it is to take control of it by having the source create. By providing a proper platform she has offered a template in which indigenous cultures can bring heritage on their terms into the fashion landscape. She, along with co-producer Christine Spender, took their professional experience to showcase a refreshing approach to cultural inspiration by letting the source do the "talking".
The initial day featured a formal welcome by Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations, and the successive nights is where the talent was given a platform. Many creative were offered the opportunity to collaborate and participate, and the shows included designs by Jeneen Frei Njootli, Loraine Guss, Michelle George, Pam Baker, Sho Sho Esquiro, and Tyler Jacobs, among others. One night featured a powerful statement on missing and murdered indigenous women, especially as that has been the subject of a terribly lengthy and particularly unsatisfying inquiry within the country's borders concerning a stretch of highway in British Columbia known as "The Highway Of Tears"; the solemn ceremony was titled the "Red Dress Event". The emotional communication was raw, skillful and heartfelt, and the designs that accompanied that night's event demonstrated the power that fashion can have when one has a specific point of view.
Many of the designs throughout the four days were modern and inspiring in the manner that they incorporated heritage and hallmark aspects from cultural origins. It also highlighted how fashion can approach a new sensibility regarding inspiration and collaboration versus appropriation which only underscores the colonization mentality and disrespect that historic actions madden the quest to own a piece of the world, and that collaboration makes total sense. Here, the merging of modern design with traditional connectivity elevates all through working together.
Collaboration has been a shift more than a trend, brought on by the evolution of social media and accessibility of handheld technology. as new economies are formed along these principles and new creative projects have benefitted by this approach, it seems odd that fashion has not found a solution to its issue regarding inspiration by working towards collaboration wherever possible. This is a new world we are approaching in this 21st century, and part of growth is to move above old ways as we evolve. Fashion can only respond in kind.
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.