Trend observations with a sociological eye from afar...
by Darryl S. Warren in Vancouver
My apologies for the disappearance last week. I am still on hiatus on all channels and appreciate the continued loyalty during this interruption.
With the recent passing of Oscar de la Renta (he was a very nice and talented man) and the worldwide ebola scare amidst market panic and fresh politivcal uprisings, designers will have a range of new influences to cleverly work into their upcoming collections. It will be either in recognition of or in reaction to the frenetic energy we face these days.
And for now, you'll have to wait to see where Fashion Observed weighs in. Life, people.
The hiatus continues on all channels, and I deeply appreciate the continued loyalty and enduring patience. I proise to keep you abreast as developments occur.
This is an opportunity to comment on past articles. Which ones do you find still relevant to current collections?
Unfortunately, still on hiatus. I appreciate your loyalty and patience. In the mean time, are you also seeing many of the same themes continuing in the collections? A browse through my archives will tell the tale.
Normally Fashion Observed takes a more intellectual stance without getting too personal. The professional objectivity is purposely taken to contribute to the validity of perspectives detailed in each article, not to alienate or keep you at a distance. Today, however, I owe each and every one of you an apology. I believe in my values, and one of the main ones I am proud to uphold is integrity. And somewhere I feel that I insulted you by a small measure that challenged that value.
Each fashion season (there are now four major ones), I comb through every collection accessible while also reading many articles on fashion and tech daily through the year; some are found through digging deep online, some through reliable channels and some through you. The collective observations serve as the foundation for my blog articles as I serve to inform you on how what is happening in the world gets translated into something as seemingly mundane as a belt or a blouse. Maintaining the blog and the social media that supports it requires a lot of effort and time. To do it properly would require the time normally reserved for a full-time job, and that requires financial resources to devote one's efforts to doing so.
This baby of mine has been developed on the back of every available moment not consumed with existing employment (and the awful commute I had to endure along with it). It served two purposes, one already outlined above. The other is a bit selfish, I confess. I wanted this to showcase my skills and abilities regarding research, information interpretation, composition, and adeptness with social media tools with very limited resources to attract a better revenue stream (hopefully one that alligns with my broad interests) so I could ultimately take this blog and transform it into something bigger and better that can become economically self-sustaining while I continue through life. To make this into a money-maker requires... well... money, and I live in a lovely and beautiful country that unfortunately and unwittingly demonstrates a propensity towards supporting those who least need it (i.e. those already successful and have the means). Unless one wants to leave the country for more supportive and lucrative waters, one has to work with these challenges, compounded by the embraced international mindset of paying a dime for a dollar's wage (our own fault; we have become a society trained to shop via coupon, discount and sale so what else do you expect?) which slows the elevation process, especially when acting as sole entity.
I take great pleasure in sharing with others how a designer or trending company takes what is out there to give rise to what we wear. I also greatly enjoy sharing the articles I find that let you know what is so amazing about the world that is going on as we speak. I'm pleased with what I can do with so little (and imagine what I can do with more!). But most of all, I take great pleasure in doing so in my way on my terms. The results are a testament to faith in one's own vision above other voices to the contrary. I mean, I have a blog with no pictures! I force people to read...and they do! In this age, isn't that amazing?
My blog is supported by activity in social media, chiefly LinkedIn and Twitter. While my LinkedIn presence honors the more professional stance befitting of my personal image, Twitter is a valuable appendage of Fashion Observed. It is the abbreviated voice that shares and interacts. It mirrors my activity on LinkedIn by sharing article content that a designer would appreciate, providing items to spur the imagination while keeping informed in what is happening in the world of fashion and tech. These are two worlds are enjoying a new relationship that the polyamourous personalization of fashion already shares with its mistresses known as art, music and nature. The Twitter feed honors contributions by naming and appreciating contributors that accompany the Follow Fridays (Twitter users know this as #FF).
For the colour and layout of the blog to the images that accompany it and the Twitter feed, everything is carefully chosen to reflect what is anticipated and translated via trends into various creative industries, chiefly the fashion industry. Even the picture of my face in Twitter is no accident; a personal touch counters the impersonal platform you let your fingers graze as you read it. It is intimacy offered to you. When the 90s and normcore were anticipated (and who didn't see that coming?), I chose a straight-on simple headshot with a plain shirt. When fashion was getting more sculptural I chose a French cuff dress shirt worn to highlight the drama (askew with the cuffs extended) while showing my camera-phone taking my picture, anticipating the rise of selfie culture. The most recent picture was more casual and cavalier, with the continued normcore simplicity of the dress shirt and a sly wink, all backed by some flashy geometric art behind it all (and, truth be told, the painting is by me). It reflects the casual and playful nature that fashion is taking, while upholding the influence of bold geometry in art's graphic nature. And we're all still feeling a bit of science so the silver stays. It was deliberate and integral to the more personal identity that Twitter encourages. Even brands know to put a more personal edge to their social media as it's about interaction, not about the old-school Mad Men mindset of advertising. The choice was done with deliberation while the entire site and the feed retained the polish while upholding professionalism. But the price for individualistic expression can be a lack of concensus when not aware of the process and where economics lie this can turn from a no-brainer to a conundrum.
Meanwhile, the hiatus is due to more pragmatic realities; this blog cannot exist until the practicalites are tended to and in all honesty that is where my energy has been going. And pursuing opportunity to solve this dilemma required compromise that challeged set values... and here's the long version of why:
This blog is a testament to being true to myself. Over time, it has cultivated a wonderful following that has garnered some impressive followers that I am truly humbled by every time I look at them in the list. Incredible designers and design companies (Zero + Maria Cornejo, M. Patmos, KTZ, Guy Laroche, Gola Classics, Uniqlo, Sensoree), industry (NFT Lab, CDM UK, IMF Paris, 3D Printshow, International Colour Association), media (New York Observer, Variety, WFMU, Techweek, Deadline Hollywood,The Style Con, LDN Fashion, Blackbook Magazine, Musebox Magazine) ,tech (PERCH Interactive , Cubify, Embodee, The NEX band, Syncmetrics, Bytten, Kiroo, Frixion), and respectful professionals, individual and entity (Susan Natoli, Tom Cheesewright, Vincent Boucher (amazed by that one), Adam Chapnick, Linda K. Allen,The Denver Art Museum, The International Child Arts Foundation, Concordia University, John Street Advertising) are following my Twitter feed. I used to have Katherine Hamnett but I'm not as environmentally focused and had too much stuff on my feed but that's OK; I will always appreciate the love and will always support them and their altruistic cause in the name of our survival.
I am also appreciative of those that don't follow reach out to acknowledge so I know they are around...and totally welcome. I am deeply honored to be acknowledged by incredible heavyweights through Twitter interaction from the likes of Style.com, Costello Tagliapietra, Rachel Comey, Mary Katrantzou, Barbara Bui, Manolo Blahnik, FIT, and less often (and that's OK) Peter Som, Moschino, Zimmermann, Brandon Sun, Jonathan Simkhai, Fausto Puglisi, Francis Bitonti, Genetic Ink, Claude Montana (wow, huh?) and Vanessa Daou. And I will terribly miss the consistent supportive interaction with the late L'Wren Scott (and wonder where her followers are that started to follow the blog when she did). All this plus those I didn't mention...the incredible personalities and professionals who do follow that I did not mention but are just as valuable, some of which are in the margin (another feature I want to expand on)...is quite a list of amazing people and entities that would not be possible if they did not take this blog and social media nor the efforts behind them seriously. I thank God and the universe (or whoever you acknowledge) every day for this.
Newer opportunities arrived but sometimes these don't come with a fuller understanding of the intricacies of detail choices. Unfortunately this meant making a change that, while small, represented adressing values associated with ownership versus representation and its impact on audience perception.
My layout and feed style fully illustrate professionalism and inquiry into details would have satisfied the strategic aspect behind it; given that the Twitter feed retains three hundred and seventy-something followers of professional standing, I believe they and the body of work can attest to the professionalism represented. I understand altering professional presentation when working for others on their platforms as that means representing their interests; I have demonstrated the capacity to do so effectively through life. But it's another matter when it comes to my own personal projects as these are examples of results via full unencumbered expression. Doing so required compromise, and I believe I may have insulted you in the process. If so, I hope you can accept my apology as I aim to maintain integrity in all I bring to you.
My blog and the social media that support it are part of a brand initiative I undertake, and it succeeds because I do it my way; your support validates it. And the only reason it's not bigger has been outlined above. This baby has potential to be awesome...no, it's on it's way to where it should have been sooner. Be it courtesy of someone with deep pockets, an abundance of free time and an awareness of the potential contained or through serendipity where my financial abundance sees positive change, this is happening. And integrity is its foundation.
Integrity counts; I also believe one has to "walk the walk". As said already, there is purpose behind the selection which honors the spirit of social media, fits with the branding and does not detract from the professionalism of the site nor the blog it supports. It does so in partnership with values we can all stand behind. But now I stand at a crossroads as I realize my baby is growing up. In the meantime, I choose an icon for my Twitter feed while you weigh in and let me know how you feel as I hope whatever choice made does not compromise the integrity Fashion Observed represents to you.
I thank you for your understanding and your time.
You may be curious as to what is happening. I would like to share that but for now you will have to be content with exercising patience. In the mean time, much of what is happening in the Spring/Summer 2015 collections is a continuation of existing themes, albeit in continuous evolution. Feel free to look at archived articles to see which threads are consistent with past themes. As the smoke clears, I will certainly catch you up on how today's world connects with designers' interpretations.
Those who have been following on Twitter and LinkedIn are aware that I have advised I am taking a break for the moment; my apologies for those who look forward to my writing. You are very much appreciated, believe me.
This weekly effort takes a lot of personal resources and time, and pragmatic realities are revealing how current circumstances must change. I suppose being shameless is no harm; now is the time for aggressive and bold investor intervention to step up; this baby wants to live and grow.
In the mean time, the collections are starting to leak out in NYC, and I'll bet there will be more retro aspects at play. Four are out at writing today and it looks as though the word "glacial " is in my mindset. You can ponder that as you will.
You may want to look at past articles in the archives as well; many existing influences evidently remain.
The next cycle of fashion collections are soon upon us. As we amble through our day, designers furiously work on finishing touches of their collections while they confirm presentation venues and themes that support them. Editors plan their grueling schedule and determine who on their teams covers what, given the volume of shows to cover. All aspects of the industry that support this collective explosion of statement creativity get organized for what will again be an exhaustive and exciting month as the Big Four let us know where we are going next.
There have been a lot of hints as to what to expect. The continued embrace of retro with technical overhauls via materials advancements continue to be a surety. Commercial staples will continue to reign as the overall component as well. 3D printing may peek through but hesitantly as the industry struggles to place it carefully without it becoming novelty territory. To what degree we see innovation depends on past sales, and not everything is as transparent. The collections will let us know which is stronger: tradition or innovation. recent couture presentations showed how to bridge the two.
Influences that pander to international markets will also be a strong possibility. The continued love affair with Asia and BRIC nations is up in the air in the face of various instabilities contradicting promise of growing lucrative markets. The underserved Muslim market is finding growing interest, underscored by fashion's dabbling with streamlined cultural territory (caftans, anyone?). The recent New York Times investigation of hijabs translated from a fashion standpoint shows a younger market wiling to break with tradition to find a medium between religious adherence and personal expression. Smart designers should have been jumping at this a long time ago and it's anyone's guess whether we might see some of this in coming collections soon. Perhaps the time is now, just as when kimonos showed up in collections in the late 80s to appease a very wealthy Japanese market.
A few maverick labels have ventured into stylish wearables. The continued fascination with tech has moved from wearables to integration with garments that seems more confined to novelty or sportswear. There may be translation of fascination with our tech world's direction just as in the 90s when designs reflected our awareness of tech. However, this time it may be in digital art, coding and robotics. That being said, if sales from Saint Laurent are any indication this may take a back seat; that world may not be as alluring or comforting as we have yet to see how we will fit into a story where almost half of what we do is slated for obsolescence. Connectivity to the past may continue to be more preferably desirable and romantic as opposed to affinity with a world where we are predicted to be excluded from. But we are in the 21st century; evolution is expected so again the presence of the future won't be totally absent. Through it all, we do want to move forward, and each year brings a newer generation that wants to have a collection it can identify with. At this point they are telling us what the like, and in a few years they will be of age to more fully dictate via buying power...or through rental frequency.
Indeed all that can be offered right now is just that: speculation. This is the time to assess what has been before us, both in fashion and in the media. Together, these combine to become the platform of the informed designer who cultivates the right combination balancing the business aspect with the flexing of creative muscles to keep the public interested. Let's hope it's more than whatever is buried in a vintage McCall's catalogue.
While we are weeks away from the Spring Summer 2015 shows, we are already anticipating the new looks that will carry forth from where the 2015 Resort collections hinted. And while the retro stories are almost a guarantee in the equation, there are more technical nuances that cannot be and are not being ignored.
Our world is increasing a technical one that cannot escape our attention. Technology grows more exponentially as materials development rises to make better wearables possible. Textiles with wiring embedded into the fibres not only allow wearables to be connected through the garment, but can include circuit board components printed into the textiles as well as tinier LEDs as part of the textile fibres. Multiple power options ranging from solar to kinetics are being fine-tuned to be incorporated into the garments. And screen tech innovations are producing thin flexible film that has potential to be added to garments. While start-ups are doing more of the developmental work it will be only a matter of time before the heavyweights find more stylish ways to incorporate these innovations.
The wearables market is also beginning to gain greater steam as Apple is scheduled to release its own anticipated wearable in watch form soon while it got in the news again by poaching another fashion executive this month, this time being ex-YSL executive Catherine Monier. And another option can find its way into fashion; wearables as tattoos are also being explored, and whereas last year saw Motorolla creating a wearable as a tattoo, one more recently created by the University of California is temporary and generates power via one’s sweat. That wearables can be this thin and placed anywhere like appliqués opens the door to further incorporation possibilities for the exploratory designer.
All of this makes us much closer to being connected in a different way: the cyber blending allows us to become part machine if you will. And this fits well with our societal movement towards robotics becoming our new future, an inevitability that is becoming of increasing concern in media that has long been inspiration for fashion.
Fashion, of course, has turned to robotics for inspiration in its marketing aspects. Alexander McQueen featured robotics in both his Spring Summer 1999 show in the finale and in the utilization of Milos on 50 foot tracks live streaming the Spring Summer 2010 show. In 2013, Vogue’s November issue featured a spread by photographer Steven Meisel that had robots in the shots. Robots were part of ad campaigns for Diesel in 2012, Henry Cotton in 2013, and more recently this summer for the Bjorn Borg label featuring a suggestive 3-way with a man, woman and robot.
The inspiration has grimmer aspects. Last year, Oxford researchers put out a report about half the jobs we know today as becoming obsolete via algorithm and robot replacement. It’s a huge concern when seeing that the Great Depression only had 25% unemployment; this is a future we have not prepared for. So while fashion has reflected the aspirational aspects of technology and the longer-rooted interests in robots that came post-war during the beginnings of the eventual space race, our better understanding of what a cyber-future will mean now may have different connotations.
Will fashion reflect a Luddite rejection as this realization of human obsolescence becomes clearer the way horses became unnecessary post-Industrial Revolution, or will it reflect a full-on embrace? Architectural modernity in fashion would suggest the latter while retro fashion with organic print inspirations might suggest the former. And as we have seen both in the 2015 Resort collections throughout in all major city presentations, we only know the market is catering to both perspectives. Ad campaigns reflect our fascination while tech becomes further integrated with fashion. Meanwhile, sales records show the successes with retro inspired fashion such as the huge success of Yves St. Laurent at the hands of Hedi Slimane.
We can speculate until the upcoming collections reflect what we favour. Or we could just consult a logarithm. Your choice…for now.
Those who have been looking at the collections the past few seasons, including more recently, have seen the various retro influences incorporated, albeit with modern twists such as streamlined cuts and technical advances in textiles. Yet the sport (of sorts) of identifying decade residue in various elements continues as we observed design results and how they reflect on current moods and situations today.
While the more jubilant aspects are represented, we do not ignore others that reminisce as well as reflect on impending circumstances of the day. Sociological comparisons of similarities in circumstances between now and those during the edge of both world wars exist, and as some of the 40s was present in multiple decades, including being in the current 90s embrace, it’s no surprise to find elements with us now.
Also with us is the 30s and, for those who recall the early days of this blog, the Weimar years looked at as an influence in light of cultural factors such as political complacency and polarization of sexual freedom versus conservative views. This, plus economic and meteorological comparisons (dustbowl?) continue to make this decade worth referring to for inspiration. But now we have another aspect that brings a deeper level of introspection, especially as it signifies a shift in perception brought in part by inevitable generational inevitabilities.
Recently a few articles on Salon.com came up involving matters in the Gaza strip while highlighting the growing anti-Semiticism in Europe, something not seen since the 30s (this article, for example) However, the sympathy normally reserved for Israel was on a decline, most noticeably by Millennials. The rationale was due to having less emotional connectivity, having been born more further from events that touched older generations who either experienced the horrors of WWII or had relatives or people within their sphere to confirm and relay events that shaped our awareness of the dangers of bigotry.
Debate came from readers as well as a follow-up article, but there is no denying the growing sentiment and generational connection. Desensitivity of issues due to lack of connection is nothing new. Family members related to victims and survivors of the Titanic disaster would have been horrified to see the trend of having formal dinners mirroring similar menus around the time of the ship’s sinking made into a participatory fad during the 90s after James Cameron’s film was released, romancing what was essentially a maritime disaster where thousands died. But as there was distance between event and generation, the emotional bridge was gone, and thus was looked at more with curiosity than with reverence.
Now we face a similar issue, especially in light of some darker expressions of retro fashion revealed more recently in an article highlighting the trend in Asia of dressing in Nazi-related fashions (see article here) This kitsch application has justifiably angered anyone who upholds the reverence of those who perished. But this reminds of another rather public misstep, and in hindsight connected with the Salon article the revelation appears. Years ago, Prince Harry was chastised for wearing a Nazi uniform to a costume party, a rather horrid embarrassment for the Royal Family that underscored his insensitivity, something he long apologized sincerely for and has learned from. But the unfortunate reality between his and this trend in Asia lies in the realization that a distance in time coupled with education (or, in Japan’s case, a lack thereof) means successive generations will not carry the same emotional connections despite being aware of the history associated with the uniforms and swastika, and will inevitably express curiosity in ways we find offence now.
It doesn’t justify the acts and does bring into the dialogue the need to education of successive generations across nations so they can understand what is acceptable, but one needs to understand that each generation further from an event will carry less stigma that the one before it. We applauded Alexander McQueen doing a runway show based on Joan of Arc but you can be sure that generations around that moment would have rioted in disgust. And so we witness a chilling inevitability that holds hands with the passing of our cultural torch represented in, of all places, fashion.
We need to appreciate that the thing we find easy to belittle, such as the frivolity that clothes represents, can carry powerful cues to let us know who we are and what we think. And thanks to our connected worlds we can do more than sit by, unlike the decades when the source for such ugliness was allowed to grow when it came around the first time and our awareness failed to catch it at that time. The question is what we do with this knowledge now beyond whether to include it in a collection inspiration board for the next season.
Fashion can not only reveal the aesthetic influences on our minds, but can also indicate influences that crossover from sociological origins. Observations on the workings of our world can create a tip-off to designers who connect events with fashions that came before. Knowing the public has similar connections within, the designer can create fashion that harmonizes with those sentiments.
Those who have been paying attention in the business world have seen the rise of articles on the value of diversity and the lack of it in various industries. The transparency our culture demands these days has revealed surprising revelations in unlikely areas. The assumption is how the tech world would be a place of innovation, yet companies who chose to be honest showed the severe slant in gender and age representation amongst their ranks. These join other various stories of the still-present lack of female representation in leadership roles, the income disparity that defies logic and yet is still present, and the climates that remain unwelcoming or limiting to females in the workforce (for example, this article here or, more recently, this article here).
Other articles reveal the importance of diversity for creating healthy workplaces and how more innovation, higher profitability and healthier environments depend on a rich mix of races, genders and ages and an environment that supports a variety that reflects the real world it serves, in particular looking at LBGT individuals who are left out of the equation unfairly (such as this article by the Harvard Business Review here). While there may be perceived social advances regarding areas like marriage, family formation and anti-discrimination laws, the reality is how sophisticated discrimination is, seen in economic data from a report by the Movement Advancement Project, Family Equality Council and Center For American Progress entitles “All Children Matter: How Legal and Social Inequalities Hurt LGBT Families that came out ion October 2011 which can be found at www.childen-matter.org that was more recently covered in the Washington Post dispelling the myth that LGBTs have more disposable income ( see article here).
So how does this talk about races, genders and equality fit into the fashion scope? History, of course, which is fashion’s ally when it comes to inspiration. Amidst other sociological similarities that trigger designers to look back are the rise of discussion and exploration of empowerment. In the 70s, minorities banded together to support each other in a united cause of addressing the issues of discrimination. Feminism, racial equality and gay rights all came about in the era of protest. We saw the return of empowerment for these same groups in the 90s when data showed inequalities remained. And here we are again, looking at issues with the same groups as dialogue over inequality returns to the table.
And so the 70s/90s hallmarks that proliferate the 2015 Resort collections isn’t merely about the typical succession of decades that comes back as fashion normally sees, although this too contributes to the return of such influences. Rather, the triggers or recurring issues triggers creatives to look back and re-explore influences from those decades. Whereas the 90s took inspiration in part from the nostalgic exploration of camp the 70s provided in childhood sitcom memories coupled with the drug experimentation that paralleled both the 90s and 70s, the more political aspects now fit. And where before female empowerment went hand-in-hand with male exploitation of the 90s, now we have a more corporate review with social responsibility mirroring the concern level the 70s brought.
Another and very important aspect needs to be looked at when determine why these decades have become ripe for trend revisitation. The original empowerment and quest for equality that occurred with the Baby Boomers has come around to match the social fairness now desired by the Millennials, a generational group that has been receiving a lot of attention for its size and market potential much in the same way the Boomers had before them. And as this comparative social revelation is made apparent, the assessments beg reinforcement of inspiration seen in retro fashion revisits such as indicate above.
That’s not to say these are the only decades of inspiration and we know that as the media has joined in for the examination quest this blog has long touted. There are other comparisons to other decades made to this much-studied generational group, and fashion is doing its duty to include these in its dialogue…fairly, of course.