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Monday, October 24th 2016

6:45 PM

At Least Stripes If Not Stars Forever

A s you recall, we were about to continue the technical details regarding the Spring Summer 2017 collections and how what was noticed reflects our current mindset. But before continuing that, Fashion Observed wishes to take time this week to segue on a broader trend direction that asserted itself quite noticeably this season.

Part of fashion's job is to inspire. Changes and fresh directions fuel interest that hopes to translate into involvement (i.e. purchases). If the trends are too new or too lofty then they fail to engage a customer to participate. If the trends are too familiar, they may bore the audience and, again, they will fail to participate. Having multiple trends intermeshed in the collections has the capacity to cover these risks. So, when the 90s was rebooted years ago, the normcore and minimalism trends that came about were embraced as something accessible and relatable that encouraged participation. And it did. But these things can't be perpetual. Eventually, the closets gets filled with a saturation of the said items and there is no reason to replenish. You don't want that; this is how designers shot themselves in the foot in the 90s when too many headed in the same wearable direction in the name of survival after being too different and unique in the decade before. The result was a thinning of the herd where only the strongest survived.

Now, we are seeing similar problems. A market that is supersaturated, offering much of the same in relation to their competition that has been a repetition of retro influences for far too long: the 70s. While the elements in that era are mirrored well today as justification for the reboot, too much of a good thing will only create the same climate that did damage to labels before. 

it is true that the online offerings of "Westworld" and Baz Luhrmann's "The Get Down" bring the cultural root similarities connecting relevance between these stories and our world today to inspire repetition in the fashion markets (we will cover why in another article). But these inspirations hinge on well-worn trends that may not fly if they mirror what has been in the markets too long already.

There are other elements intermixing that suggest our moving away from nostalgia as we redirect ourselves towards the present and the future. In this case we look towards the international language of modernity in the form of geometry. 

​The simplicity of stripes reflects much that we choices today. There are defined positions reflected as extreme contrasts between dark and light. The bold colours are strong and energetic. The overall translation is specific positions on matters that connect to us. We are not wishy-washy; we know what we want and who we are. High contrast stripes reflect this with precision and high order that we choose to embrace as an antidote to the times today. Assertions of our positions and opinions are spurred by politics and current events that we cannot ignore. Like the bold colours, these things in our world demand our attention fully.

Many collections from all major cities have this trend. They do not lie. The question begs: once we assert who we are and what we want, what is next? Think about that as we cover other matters next time.

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Sunday, October 16th 2016

3:37 PM

Programmed For The Future

W ell, now that one aspect of reality is covered, we return to the discussions regarding the Spring Summer 2017 season and how this reflects our current mindset. In particular, fashion has chosen to allow us to venture forward despite the overwhelming propensity to indulge in everything retro. Aspects of collections, modern material advancements aside, hold a mirror to our technical age. 

We are increasingly accepting the inevitable march towards the future, regardless of our trepidation. The growing comfort levels are largely due to familiarity. The things we once marvelled even a decade ago seem quaint in the face of current technological leaps that have become mainstays in our modern life. While the next blog article will touch on the more social component and its influence, this article is reflecting the obvious, our tech world at hand. Designers produced collections that din't just marry tech into the designs but allowed them to become the features. 

Recent collections from Anrealage produced pieces embedded with sensors interactive with apps to reveal imagery; Chalayan collaboration with Intel to produce pieces that projected emotions outside the wearer, created garment that inflated and hosted pixilation as print; never mind the robotic costumes from the opening models, Chanel showed its inspiration of back wiring of computer mainframes, laser spectrums and prints mimicking circuitboards; Courreges joined the 3D printing bandwagon with a few closing tops in showcasing technical structured opaqueness; Issey Miyake, long associated with technical advancement in the fashion industry, collaborated with Sony to produce handbags made of electronic paper that changed colours; and Louis Vuitton featured cellphone cases signalling a shift in accessory focus honouring our growing affection with our indispensable tech.

These collections are from major players in the fashion spectrum, and signal a clear announcement to move towards the future that we have, on the whole, been hesitant to move towards. It is one that we cannot avoid, no matter how much the past comforts, for eventually we must find our place within it. The future is upon us and we are getting the cue to embrace what must be.

​Next week, we will continue this dialogue, albeit on more intimate terms. Or as intimate as our new tech-framed world allows.

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Monday, October 10th 2016

11:40 AM

Reality Show

Y es, we are going to cover something that carries a lot of emotional attachment to many people, be it positive or negative. That doesn't mean that we are done covering the Spring Summer 2017 season, for there are some interesting topics to cover in the coming weeks. What you need to know is how this blog sees the world and how these things influence fashion, which is what this blog is essentially about. Fashion Observed wants you to see this connection because designers do.You can't build a successful business if you do not have relevance at its core. The designers we admire get "us". They know who we are and what we want. Some seasons a few get us more than others and so the crown of influence is passed around. But that crown is global; it gets to be worn by whoever leads. Sometimes, this is the public, sometimes it is an individual who triggers the public. This article today speaks of the latter.

At the last legs of Paris Fashion Week, a key cultural phenomenon got a massive dose of reality in the most negative form. You know who we are referring to: Mrs. Kim Kardashian-West. This is an intensely polarizing individual who deftly parlayed her image into a megamulti-million dollar business capitalizing on aspiration, ego (not necessarily hers) and social media. There is a lot of jealousy in how she got to where she is but her intelligence is underestimated, for she has fully utilized her communication skills, confidence and awareness to bring herself into who she is today (and how many of you can do that?). That, coupled with her more common approachable manner of communication and open (and seemingly shameless) ambition have attracted as many as are repelled. That she brings out such strong reactions is PR gold. Speaking of which, her success made highly visible has become her Achille's heel; the success in being a commodity of public domain has landed her in the kind of danger nobody should experience. You do not want a gun to your head for any reason, especially when you have children. Everything that you hang onto materially becomes nothing in that moment; everything that truly matters is front and centre. And those who lead a life profiting off of being a player in the public eye get added insult to injury through relentlessly endless scrutiny and criticism. Anyone who has been truly bullied knows how a crowd of negativity can not just be hurtful, but emotionally scarring. Imagine this coming at all sides internationally; nobody, no matter how much they made part of our lives for our entertainment, deserves this much heat for being human.

This is a hard lesson that has impacted her greatly. And, because she is a public figure with emotional connections to the public at large, it impacts many outside of her. We saw those from more established aspects of society such as Karl Lagerfeld simultaneously offering condolences (very humane) while making public admonition about being too public with one's material abundance...the very aspect of behaviour that got her the attention and following she has today. What Mr. Lagerfeld did in making these warnings was not just for her, but to take the opportunity to remind all of the upper class on the pitfalls of wealth inexperience; she was inadvertently made into a lesson to make all in the upper fiscal bracket aware of their conduct. Meanwhile, the media pumped the airwaves and pages of publications with finger-wagging to inflate egos in the sidelines. Good fun for all...except those who went through it. Yes, there was a mistake made. Kindness (and a little space) needs to be offered, for who has not screwed up in the obvious at one point or another in their life?

So...now the question on your end related to this blog is how this relates to fashion and trends. Some may remember how the late 80s and early 90s played out regarding conspicuous consumption and the changing economic picture in the world. The 80s was about spending and flaunting wealth. We admired it, we fetished it and celebrated it much the way we did in the 20s and 50s...as boldly with as much admiration as possible. It was fashionable to be high and mighty, to honour exclusivity and almost worship the power of wealth. But it was not sustainable; much was propped up by overuse of credit, especially in the 20s and 80s while the 50s was burning up what was frugally saved by the once-bitten-twice-shy parents of that golden age looking to give what they could not have (sounds familiar?). Then, the spending started to slow. Businesses started to ask for payment for all that credit. The bubble started to burst all over. Many lost their wealth, and economies tumbled. Homelessness became widespread, and, in the transition, our media highlighted how those who were still coasting on the consumption wave were expressing a level of callousness that became definitely out of fashion. When images of denizens of high society seen stepping over homeless to get into venues were featured, we knew we had gone to far. The conversation we needed to have was had, and it became out of fashion to flaunt our wares. Gone was the conspicuous consumption. It was rude to rub it in the faces of so many who now were doing without. Also, it wasn't safe; with so many now in need, wearing labels made one a target and nothing can spoil one's day like tempting desperation. The result was a shift to the initial incarnations of what we call normcore and athleisure and the 90s were born.

Today we have this explosion of conspicuous consumption again amidst a greater divide between classes similar to the Victorian/Edwardian periods and the 30s. The defiant enjoyment protected behind high fences and teams of bodyguards is justified by some as deserved entitlement or in others by honest acknowledgement of accepting the right to enjoy the spoils of success tempered with token efforts of balance in measured altruism to assuage guilt in the face of increasingly easy accessible information pointing out the growing economic divide (which is bad business; kill your customer base and nobody has wealth). It is less safe when the desperation grows while the consumption becomes bolder. And when you put social media into the mix, you provide fuel for acts of vengeful greed such as what dramatically took place in Paris. 

The situation that Mrs. Kardashian-West endured was met with a huge pull-back. The emotional withdrawal was understandable, but what was also noticed was the dialling down of her fashion expression. Gone was the runway-ready hyper consumption for all to envy. In its place was demure, almost nondescript attire. This is a signal that will have broader impact than one realizes. For those with ample means, her situation highlights the realities of the perils of living life large when moving through a public that does not share such generous living conditions. One's safety will come into question when being as careless. For others, her actions will trigger imitation just as the 90s dressing down inspired many to let loose and let go. Adding this to the haphazard individual styling that caters to influential younger generations and the falling away draping that allows for careless abandon, and you have a shift in place.

The reduced spending reported recently that is negatively impacting the luxury sector (even the luxury strongholds Chanel and Hermes are not untouched as recently reported by Reuters) will only underscore this direction. It doesn't mean that nice things will disappear. Rather, the public versus private appropriateness of fashion will come more into play, and unless society reversed the economic divide to allow for all to enjoy the finer things (and thus makes it safer for those with greater means to indulge in the finer expressions of fashion), fashion will find itself replaying the core that made the 90s what it was with higher end fashion staying "in the closet". That will not bode well for the fashion industry, which saw the culling of the ranks where too many entered the market too late, found the public no longer had faith in acquiring unique items that could not stand the test of maximum dollar/wear and were unable to compete with loyalty in the audience when it came to basics. That is too much reality that is not entertaining.

Next week, we'll get technical. Not everything...even in fashion... is about the Kardashians. ;)  

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Sunday, October 2nd 2016

2:54 PM

A Dream That Can Be Heard

T hrough the insanity of the world revealed daily, the Spring Summer 2017 season are continuing with the focus squarely on Paris. This city is the final destination that fashion aims for. This is the place where creativity is given full reign and traditionally it is here that trends are given the fullest attention. That's not to say that other centres do not bring contributions that shape fashion; we know that certain places have their day in the sun. But no matter what, we have it ingrained that Paris is the seat of fashion, and thus gives the final word on where we are and where we are going. While some designers choose to be strategic regarding exposure by choosing less saturated locations or by placing brand loyalties in line with their host cities that they origin from, many aspire to show in Paris as way of saying that they have "arrived". 

There will be much to examine when looking at details as fashion is providing more variety than ever before. The international market and changing landscape of how fashion is appreciate and consumed has supported this expansion of selection. Certain buying habits cement what we deem relevant while global circumstances temper our desires. It is no secret that recent media stories are illuminating the decline of consumption in the face of fashion's increased expansion of players in this competitive market. Despite our fascination with fashion and increased presence culturally, fashion has become more of a spectator's sport as of late. Economic insecurities cannot be ignored and threaten this industry much in the same manner as to what was happening in the 80s. The volume of creativity and innovation was enough to capture our attention in much the same manner but the harsh economic realities would prove to be its undoing.

Some of the larger, more established labels are sticking with familiar classics, albeit with variations colour and detail to provide a sense of newness. Yet the proliferation of classics will undermine survival for those less established or without a firm audience to support it in lean times. Others who decide to go ll out to provide newness forget how this approach in the 80s also led others to an unfortunate demise. Although the innovation was exciting, the cultural climates failed to show how these innovative creations could stand the test of time and justify their investment. Clothes too creative can become obsolete in the changing fashion environment, and can thus become seen as poor investment choices regardless of income available by the consumer. 

The saving grace that creativity has this time around lies in our embrace of the individual and the meshing of various retro influences that have allowed a larger variety. This has become a double-edged sword. On one hand it has made it harder to sell trends to keep the market circulating ( a long in-place strategy that 20th century employed to keep in business) as more variety allows for less consumption, and thus less spending. On the other hand the increased variety reflected in the global market and years of retro meshing with the creative sphere has allowed such pieces to be appreciated for their own merits  and thus have a better chance of being appreciated and therefore purchased. The trick it whether these creative pieces can be incorporated enough to be useful with the wearer's wardrobe or whether the uniqueness makes it too identifiable to give the customer the most dollar/wear which is how more people are approaching fashion these days.

So much that brings insecurity and all we want is to feel good. We have continued defensiveness expressed in our fashioning myriad ways, be it in hanging onto the past, in acting as protective armour or as being something to almost hug us in comfort. More recently in the Paris showing is a sense of weariness of being always on guard. We want levity, joy, romance. We want to be taken away from what we know and see. And we want to grow past what we have had too long. Being fiscally responsible has its merits, but too much practicality can be dull and tiring. So, it is noticed that more collections here versus other cities have a gentle flounce and a romantic swish of drape. Designers such as Balenciaga, Celine, Rick Owens, Vejas and Yohji Yamamoto honour the protective volume and swaddling comfort while brining the lightness and romance through artful twist and drape of the very fabric holding us safely.

The "joi de vivre" that Paris is know for has infected the collections. Or, rather this sentiment we desire has burst forth in the place it knows it safely can. And as we struggle in anticipation of dire warnings and familiar threats, aspirations of hope bleed through. We are not so pragmatic as to allow bad omens rule us. Our enduring spirit has seen us through worse and led us out. Our moods and circumstances are cyclic. This time we have different aspects that can lead us in different directions, and a wider platform to explore these expressions. And as complex as we and our lives are, there is much more to look at. But today, let us enjoy the moment that holds us in.   

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Sunday, September 25th 2016

6:55 PM

Shape Of Things To Come

A ttention spans are split amidst multiple events the world over, and this does not stop the world from turning. Collections for the Spring Summer 2017 season are continuing, migrating now through Europe. In the short week it swept through London and, as we speak, is finishing up in Milan before making the final crescendo of major declarations in Paris. But if the major cities are having anything to say about fashion, it is these cities that are providing a sharp contrast to their fashion friend on the other side of the Atlantic. Whereas New York stated the predominant mood of retro via practicality, the European collections have (not all, but quite a few) challenged that via a different retro direction where excess and pandemonium were upheld in continued embrace of texture, pattern and applique to balance the mass textile usage in pleating, ruffling, and drape.

​Fitting, isn't it? We are overloaded. We are hyper informed of the mess that is our planet's state of affairs on all fronts. The initial optimism to combat it cannot deny the truth that we are in over our heads and have a lot at stake. But what more can we do than our best? At least we are trying, and as we do, we reward ourselves with an attempt at balance. The cheerful colours, the forward all-systems-go now-or-never last hurrah we give ourselves was as fitting now as in the 80s when we saw the mess we created in trying to "fix" things accumulate and about to break. Talk of bubbles bursting loom...and yet...somewhere we know we aren't stopping.

​Within these grasps of the past well-integrated as the go-to antidote for stress relief (the 80s stiff upper lip efforts mirrored in creative individualities we are embracing now) lie the revisit of seeds of exploration towards new forms as we inch closer to be our 21st century new "us". Technology has bestowed us with impressive textiles and made room for better execution of concepts where exactitude is our lowest bar. Some designers in the collections to date are taking the brave route to go forward within our familiarity constraints (remember, even our most visionary creatives are from the 20th century so they cannot escape that influence), fining room to bring some new form attempts in their collections. Collections from Joseph, Marni, Marques' Almeida, MSGM, Sid Neigum and Parson's hold play of unusual form with the exploratory fervour remembered by Comme des Garcons while infused with the mixology spirit of Maison Margiela that collections this season skillfully employ.

It is the new cuts and forms within these collections that will need to be remembered as we move closer towards the pivoting point: 2020. By this time, our 21st century identity, accompanied by technology we have yet to imagine, will have become apparent and the unique departures we are starting to see now will be the seeds from which we will revere.

Well, so far; after all, the collections are not finished.  being shown yet. But if anything is an indication, we are starting to get a picture of what 2017 will be and, like life today, it's a lot to take in.   

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Monday, September 19th 2016

4:37 PM

ruction ur P ure Link ast Fut Deconst Is O

J ust as the seasons continue, so do the cycles of fashion presentations. And just as global warming has played havoc to our expectations of consistency, so do the changes presentations face. The introduction of concept of "see now buy now" into the traditional fashion calendar has resulted in shifts such as all-season collections that contain items for all weather situations and the encouragement of layering as an alternate solution. Vibrancy and variety of colour mix with neutrals and darks to appeal to all temperaments...and temperatures. That is not all that is noticed so far during the Spring Summer 2017 presentations.

While New York has demonstrated a preference for classics and references to days gone by, London has predominantly been on the other major expression seen in all collections so far: the reliable and now- acceptable mainstay of modern expression of deconstruction. The comparisons being made by editors such as those at Vogue are looking to global and local political events as inspiration sources.

The psychology of source in creativity would support this perspective to a large degree in that current events, heavily connected to politics, would leverage inspiration. The retro direction that has dominated fashion for some time, and particularly as seen in New York recently, show continues to uphold the reflex action of safety through sentiment. The continuous reference to the past provides security in the face of great change and fears of the unknown, something we collectively do as a survival mechanism when faced with threats connect dot the unknown, in this case our future. The nostalgic elements and warm off-colours appeal to our desire for what we now romanticize.

Meanwhile, those that may not have as rosy connections to the past (or those eager to grow forward but need a familiar springboard to feel safe to launch from) that want to grow forward connect with our last connection to the most extreme modernist expression available in fashion, which is deconstruction. Here, the platform is a concept that is familiar enough while allowing creativity in recombination of aspects and elements to bring new shapes and combinations to light.

The precurser for supporting this has been our willingness to embrace seasonless dressing, haphazard pattern mixing, asymmetry and proportion play at once. These have tested our willingness to go forward and, as these have been lauded in the face of larger chaos that we live through, the current conditions such as political uncertainties and instabilities coupled with runaway technological advancement in contrast to our awareness of our timeline and place in a new century and millennium have shifted our mindsets enough to willingly entertain  unconventional concepts that break from convention but not too much that it alienates itself form what we know ourselves to have been. In short, we have so much going on , it's like we look in the mirror and say "oh what the heck, it's 2016". But by approaching for something we can refer to that has some bearing on the past (deconstruction is nothing new and this blog has revealed that in prior articles), we can embrace change with less stress. 

And so, deconstruction is more prevalent, especially in the collections at London Fashion Week. If New York effectively stresses the practical side of clothes while introducing essential innovation, this zone of fashion has been supportive of the creative exploration of innovation in fashion. Given the proximity to the other major support of creativity, Paris, this platform allows and supports the kind of innovation we have deemed the final familiar bridge of the 20th century towards our new millennial approach of dress. The chaos becoming our new life is reflected in the design approach. It, as we, recombine elements of the past to make what is new. Technical innovation of the building blocks (in this case, textiles) form the foundations in which deconstruction takes over to provide new forms and shapes. 

​Many designers are utilizing this so far, and even the New York collections (outside of those from Parsons or from more avant grade collectives) contain streamlined aspects that some of the more modern designers deem ready to be absorbed by the larger public. 

There are other trend currents to discuss that are being observed. As the collection season continues, you can be sure that they will be discussed, hopefully by others as we all increasingly embrace our fondness for depth beyond the images that fashion provides.

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Sunday, September 11th 2016

9:06 PM

In The Grip Of The Familiar

T he collection season for Spring Summer 2017 is officially underway, even though some designers tackled this during the last season’s presentations. As these come around, we will eventually save future articles for exploring the predominant themes that signify where we are collectively. For now, a broader overview will suffice.

Unlike the more targeted experimentation that Copenhagen produced, New York’s collections one the whole signalled extreme caution. There were some labels that experimented, particularly V Files and those from Parson's, but outside of that the collections showed great restraint and, when looking at the experimentation, even these fell upon us as something still familiar.

During uncertain economic times, especially after jarring economic circumstances, fashion gravitates towards the tried and true in the name of survival. And when 9/11 happened, creative expression experienced a regression in the name of personal security; hence that decade is known for being, on the whole, quite retro.

Brexit's effect on the EU, withdrawal of spending in Asia, impending global real estate bubbles, warnings of a market crash plus political uncertainty in the US as their presidential election sparks global concern are all not good news. Those who lived in the US after the bubble burst in the 80s and 90s remember the pain and struggle. They also know that those who survived provided what the public wanted as investments versus participation in fickleness as a display of wealth.

Now, with access to social media, it’s easier to have contact with the public and get better feedback in real time. Thus, collections can better reflect what the public wants. Is this good? Sometimes a leader needs to take us out of our comfort zone to show us what we have yet to realize we ant. That is progress. Fear can get in the way of that when safety nets aren’t present, and these days we have eroded enough of those globally to set us up for trouble a lot sooner. So the proliferation of simple, beautiful and, ultimately, quite wearable pieces (and the continuation of 70s 80s and 90s) remain.

Is that all? If history has anything to tell us, then the answer is a resounding "no", for there is always innovation. This blog will decide whether to wait until the collections close for us to talk about those.

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Sunday, September 11th 2016

9:01 PM

Come The Danes

T he Japanese influence that blasted the 80s into new fashion territory has been long coming into play for years; when proportion play and asymmetry become classics, you know the future is now.

The impending Olympics in Japan plus the replay of 80s revisited with delight in pop culture both in music and in entertainment throws open the doors for full revisits that really are just deeper interest in elements we haven’t left since they first arrived. The new generations are ready to relive the stories long told of excess and excitement, innocence and hardcore drama enveloped with the sophistication of art that the 80s was known for.

The influence is quite international, and trend-setting nations do not ignore the new norm. Rather, they join in the full expression. And when the cool kids on the block like those at Copenhagen Fashion Week surprise the industry with shows just before the Big Four, it’s hard not to take notice.

Barbara i Gongini brought tribalism and deconstructed drape with tissue roominess. Asger Juel Larsen had some looks amidst light structured oversize that appeared weather-wet while Freya Dalsjo also shared volume with the casual deflation rather than structure, falling away in volume and cut layers. Ganni found California 70s/90s normcore ease we’ve grown all too familiar with, adding a dash of nostalgia cowboy (a hint of Westworld, anyone?). Such homespun pioneering frill was seen in volumous knits at Lala Berlin as well. Dashes of Japan were seen at Han Kjobenhavn and Henrik Vibskov, while, amidst the overfill and pastel-rich volume at Nicholas Nybro, the tawdry 2000s got a nod. Even the understated got an 80s creative twist with separates at Mark Kenly Domino Tan and Saks Potts.

Our new norm is not the norm. The higher lean in style fulfills individuality while declaring the class distinction of mindful design versus are function and base utilitarian style. And it will be interesting to see how the Big Four respond in this international conversation of style.

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Sunday, September 11th 2016

8:51 PM

T Minus Four Years

D esigners take inspiration for a myriad of sources, combining relevance with familiarity. The successful ones introduce elements within reach that, only when brought to attention, will become incorporated into our consciousness and consideration as part of our experience.

International displays such as the Olympics play into those things that are part of the grander collective influence. Items seen are shared more broadly with wider swaths of the public, and because the “experience” is shared so widely, becomes more likely to make an impact with more people.

The introduction of high tech style merged with futuristic impressions that harmonize with our expectations of the future (and its fashions) was successfully implemented during the handoff of the Olympics from Rio to Japan. Here, the creative expressions via Rhizomatiks, as well as Perfume’s producer Yasutaka Nakata and choreographer Mikiko Mizuno with dance company Elevenplay, fuelled inspiration that is sure to find its way into fashion. The broad mixed gender cuts of stylish costumes layered in clean modern designs with minimal bold colours and hard geometry resonates as what’s next. Semaphore and signal flags denote international understood communication where image transcends language. It satisfies our visions of the future with a culture that symbolizes honour of the past connected with bold leaps into tomorrow.

As we approach 2020, another piece of the puzzle shows us how style will be hand-in-hand with our tech.

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Monday, August 15th 2016

8:29 PM

Gone Fishing

Y es, we know....Denmark just posted their recent fashion offering to the world and this blog will have something to say....after a few weekends of much-needed rest and relaxation that the rest of the fashion world has been having. In the meantime, please follow on Twitter (yes, tell everyone you know to do the same) and midweek while on holiday I will share items for your reading pleasure...just as we regularly do weekly. Happy Summer from Fashion Observed.

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