Trend observations with a sociological eye from afar...
by Darryl S. Warren in Vancouver
I nnovation is always at the heart of modern fashion's evolution. The creation of new materials and techniques acts as societal benchmarks that advertise where we stand in relation to broader advancements that shape the direction our society is heading.
The embrace of man-made textiles that goes as far back as the turn of the twentieth century reflects our innovations in chemistry with materials advancement. As we celebrated the use of these materials, we found a new world waiting that was shaped by new compounds and, along with these advancements, new manufacturing processes that made them.
Something as mundane as a t-shirt can act as a hallmark for where we stand in the path of incredible advancement. Such is the case with 3D printing. This technology looks to be the next stage of domestic tools at our disposal in the same way that home printers helped make commercial printing accessible to all. One of the areas that have been explored is set to be a transformative game-changer in the fashion world: the creation of clothes at home from scratch.
Where the sewing machine allowed those with time and skills to take the reigns, this technology promises to take it a step further. Those without the knowledge of sewing, cutting or pattern-making need not worry as the printer looks to make the process easier through elimination of those steps.
In May the company ElectroLoom set up a crowdfunding campaign as they created a 3D printer for seamless garments that one can create at home. Meanwhile, graduating student Danit Peleg designed a graduate collection where a person could 3D print their own clothes at home using a strong and flexible material called FilaFlex. Some of the pieces were so normal that they could easily pass commercial approval.
The concept of 3D printing at home was explored earlier in 2010 when industrial and product designer Joshua Harris proposed a prototype that is expected to be common by mid 21st century. This centers around a printer where cartridges would contain colours and materials that would come with programs for patterns, all via design houses. The process would eliminate washers & dryers as the items could be put back into the machines where they'd be reconstituted to produce a new garment. Thus, if it was damaged or if even one was bored, they could produce a new garment on demand. Very lofty expectations that are being worked on as we speak.
While 3D printing is in the very early stages of widespread domestic use, remember that the microwave oven and the home computer had modest beginnings until the applications were more user-friendly and the costs were in line with what the public could agree was acceptable given their intended purposes to justify the expense.
What this means for the fashion industry is another matter entirely. When the sewing machine became popular, smart designers sold their patterns to capitalize on the increased use as a way of recouping lost profits that DIYers encroached upon. As the 3D printer and the accompanying programs are set to be more user-friendly, you an expect these innovations to further render ready-to-wear in current marketing platforms to be obsolete. The designers that survive will still create, but it will be their intellectual property...their designs & the materials they release for the corresponding technology...that will be the commodity as 3D printing becomes commonplace.
That's not to say that fashion will cease to exist. There will always be materials that can't be printed and techniques that the house will control. And the charm of old-school garment producing will become the new bespoke. Of course, that will mean the exclusivity of such fashion nostalgia will have the price to match.
A midst the variety of creativity the 2015 Fall Winter Couture shows provided, the collections bring slices of observations distilled into finery that will play a role in inspiring other collections. This is more to do with who wears it compared to before when couture set the bar for collection directions.
Now, our world has changed, and we not only have technology letting us know how global the influence sphere is, but also provides the tracking to see the origins and how it spreads. The democratization of information has changed our creative landscape to a degree, but in the end what we experience is what gets translated. Take out the source and we still get the observations worth reviewing.
Despite the advances we enjoy and the freedom of sharing information, other aspects are pulling us back. The archaic rejection of the modern world plays out in strange ways that defy rational thought: the rejection of modern medicine in communities avoiding immunization despite evidence to contrary concerns surrounding autism or religious groups resisting common scientific fact such as the age of the world or the process of evolution (or even whether the Earth revolves around the sun) in favor of preserving beliefs. Meanwhile, we fight the increased threat of drug resistant diseases becoming plague threats that demonizes health institutions. Public reaction becomes fear in general rather than via informed response. As the situation in Greece and the awareness of collective debt dependency fosters mistrust of the stability of our institutions, current events are bringing concerns of societal fragility that can reduce our way of life to the most rudimentary pending structural collapse. And in the name of real estate, empires continue the divide between have and have nots to levels of influence that seem almost...well...medieval.
And cue fashion slipping in a nod to it all, such as pone item out of Ateleier Versace that seemed like a hybrid of medieval and 70s, or the caped gown that was medieval-meets-goddess found in the collection by Giambattista Valli.
This isn't the first time this influence source has infiltrated fashion, and the timely and sustained interest that the pop culture sensation Game of Thrones inspired shows no signs of abating. But when influences return at this level, they are worth a glance. They warn us of where we're returning, which, in this recent downer of economic news between the extreme weather stories, is just another indicator that we are having trouble moving forward when it feels better going back.
J ust as the Resort collections wind down, the 2015 Fall Winter Couture shows arrive to refresh us with the possibility of glimmers of unbridled inspiration that unlimited budgets can provide. Sometimes, as this blog has before has shown, the inspiration can come from the top down and sometimes from the people and the streets as it nudges us forward. The tug of inspiration, like the tides, is continuously oscillating as it pushes us towards evolution of our current period costume.
Austerity has, of course, had an effect on the creative process in that practicalities cannot be ignored. Our wardrobe must meet the essential criteria of being utilized in real life, where dollar/wear matters for the bulk of the public. For the world of couture, while moments exist to indulge in fantasy in special occasions, the customer is more interactive with the world and, as such, the clothes are more in harmony with a market that has provided the democratic range accessibility that has edged into the necessity and relevance of couture.
That being said, it will always have its place, and as it dresses those in positions of influence, it has a role in the larger evolution of fashion. While the next article will touch on anticipated technical feats sure to mark the piece of our 21st century identity puzzle, this one will remind of fashion's role as a barometer of awareness.
The world is transfixed on the Greek bailout crisis and it's potential global impact. The ramifications are numerous and grave at its worst-case impact. And, of course, fashion has found inspiration even amongst the direst of circumstances. House labels such as Alberta Ferretti Limited Edition, Bouchra Jarrar, Giambattista Valli, Schiaparelli and Valentino all featured various goddess gowns fit for a Greek tragedy in luxurious splendor.
In prior generations, such inspiration would be seen as poorly timed. In our more candid times where our entertainment better informs our public than traditional outlets that have abandoned the objectivity in favor of sensationalism, we embrace the realities and find a place for it in our culture in an almost kitch-like appreciation of what we cannot turn away from. There is no glamour in misfortune, but the celebration of the beauty that the subject of turmoil holds touches our romantically nostalgic ruminations. That is, it might be our way of reaching for silver linings while we await with trepidation history to unfold. And of all places, the class act in this Theban showdown is dressed by the leaders of artisanal hands of the world's finest, hoping to make dreams out of what we hope are unmanifested nightmares.
B ack in January this blog correctly hinted at Cuba being a fashion influence. It wasn't hard to see; major international events such as the re-normalizing or relations between two countries is the global equivalent of a reconciling couple with a passionate past. Given the plethora of negativity the media pushes o the public, the contrast is a welcome remedy that would touch many, including those in fashion looking for inspiration from a more positive place.
The timing is great in the world of fashion. The Queen's jubilee a few years ago and the exploration of couturiere Cristobal Balenciaga's structured sculptural designs harmonizing with the current architecture influence and structured textile story brought back the interest in the 50s, when travel to Latin destinations such as the Cuba was at its height. The 90s resurgence opened the door to the revisitation of many trends again, particularly where powerful Latin demographic's influence in the markets was recognized and celebrated (and reflected in fashion) in the mid to late of that decade. Having the normalization bring back the Latin focus that fits well with this influence.
After many seasons of hardness in design, the structured curve appeal that ruffles provide connect the structure we still embrace with the Latin romantic edge these are associated with that the times remind of. Hence, they were in many places in the 2016 Resort collections, including those by Chloe, Christian Siriano, Ellery, Erdem, Givenchy, Lanvin, Louis Vuitton and Rosie Assoulin, to name a few. Meanwhile, Stella McCartney gets a nod by making her presentation Cuban-themed, acknowledging the influence.
As the doors swing further, we'll see how much influence this destination holds in the coming seasons. Of course, know that, in our times, we face multiple influences so it will be as interesting to see how as much as what is mixed together as we create our new century's identity. Our internationalization may be that fluid component to keep our interests afloat.
W e can finally relax as the 2016 Resort collections are rolled out and everyone hightails it to their actual resorts, a respite before the preparations for the impending 2016 Spring/Summer collections that are mere months away. For the designers, it's always too soon. For the public and it's conditioned short attention span, it's ages away.
Resort has adopted a dual purpose that aptly reflects our changing times. One aspect is the nod to tradition. After all, the name heralds a collection devoted to getting away from it all. The respite from the dreariness of the start of the year is reflected in clothes to appeal to our escapist bent and provide the wardrobe to our vacation drama.
The other, newer perspective is with our admitted obsession with sales and finance. We recognize that there is a segment that wants variety beyond what the actual season provides in the stores. This appeal to generate sales has resulted in utilitarian design with a multi-seasonal wardrobe approach. This realistically addresses consumer habits; not everyone goes away but retail therapy is alive and well when you give them what they want.
We know that fashion is a business, even if it seeks to reach us through the fantasy aspect of our egos. But few designers get as literal about how economically obsessed we have become. Cue the creativity of clever design talent to pinpoint this: the collection for Moschino by Jeremy Scott.
Within the 80s homage of credit cards as prints and Chanel detail imitations & distortions that almost mock the nouveau riche label status embrace, abrasive sale signs are rendered into pattern while shopping bags become inspiration for both accessories and details such as pockets and design twists. The constant focus on anything and everything economic is merely a well-designed mirror on our materialist blatancy, underscored by the reality: the bulk of the consumer audience will buy when on sale and even forsake the authentic for an imitation when it's out of reach.
This isn't the only label to borrow from classic status. In the early 90s, after the cutbacks were entrenched, there were several labels indulging in Chanel's classic jacket details as inspiration. The ongoing 90s resurgence also saw many accessories roll out for this season doing the same thing (not naming names but some were a surprise when they have their own identities well-set), knowing full well who is buying and why.
Our reality shows are about acquisition, elevation and profit through improvement. We literally dance for our supper in the name of entertainment. Can we fault a designer for calling a spade a spade? And when we celebrate the candidness of the execution of concept, what are saying about ourselves? Penny for your thoughts.
W hile the 2016 Resort collections continue, certain collections transcend the predominant 70s explosion that has again returned to the catwalks. In those that do venture forward, there are explorations of various details worth noting.
The very early 90s showed a loose connectivity as our world lied on the precipice of economic uncertainty. Held together by dillusion and sustained credit, the continued appearance of prosperity was losing some of its veneer, albeit quietly. For most of the public, things seemed to be moving along well. Spending was still happening and the industry was meeting demand for fresh, new and creative.
The Japanese was still on the tip of that wave, enjoying the prosperity even while other nations were starting to get the bills. Their designers met the demand for innovation, with design masters such as Issey Miyake on the forefront. In an early 90s line, there was a technique where garments were segmented, held by merely a metal connectors in places, acting as a delicate connection holding the garments together. Fitting in the larger scheme of things, this is how our world was then: held together by a thread, so to speak.
Cue to this season, and the fragile connectivity has returned, one of many late 80s/early 90s innovations mined from the past and brought back for a new audience to appreciate. Mugler and Dion Lee utilized this in their collections while Opening Ceremony had a larger scale version executed in the cut of their coats. Nomia's jacket back was held by a mere pin while ACNE had sections tied together..one pull and it's off.
And just as then, our current scenario is again a bit more precarious than the general public might be aware. While the world market is being explored and exploited for maximum profit thanks to our connected international economy, the rise in growth is fragile and its sustainability isn't as certain as it looks. The uneven prosperity, not addressed, can eventually contribute to a scenario where the chain gets broken and profits along with growth take a nosedive. Already, sectors like mining, the bellwether of our state of growth, are on an increased wane. if materials aren't being mined, then manufacturing slows next, and so on. The trickle down effect of interrupted productivity translates to lay-offs, closed contracts, and other less optimistic news that eventually impacts various consumption sectors and guess which one gets hit?
Expected slowdown may come just as we were starting to get optimistic about the future. Hopefully we can have a better grip on any interruption compare to the 90s. Either way, fashion will reflect that.
T he 2016 Resort collections offer some new experimentation that this blog has been relaying to you. Much of it has to do with our growing apart form the retro inspiration that many designers are still adhering to. This is not thier fault. Rather, they are merely reacting to our connections to the past that we the consumers are hesitant to outgrow as the imminent and unknown that is the future comes upon us.
Our culture admits our place in the winds of change and have put a lot of focus on the future and, in particular, the youth that will carry the torch we pass to them. This attention has resulted in two directions: the nod to the past in the form of reinforcing retro inspiration when youth was king before, and in inspiration of how youth wears fashion now. The last article in this blog saw how the new generation's ramshackle mixing and layering was helping to shape design collections as they guide us towards a new 21st century aesthetic. But our obsession with everything youthful can sometimes take another turn.
For some designers, youthful cuts can be the literal expression, such as in the proliferation of babydoll and super short hemlines or in baby-light pastels. Another lighter turn is in the use of animation graphics. I'm Isola Marras incorporated some in their collection, while Preen's nautical touches almost seemed comic-inspired. This childlike graphic use was combined with pastels in Peter Jensen's collection as well.
Just as the youthful cuts met the ageist concerns during the Boomer years, our current insecurity reflects two-fold: our regression as we have no choice but to brave the future and our desire to reverse the clock to fit. Someday, we may learn to educate our public so we don't have these sentiments. Until then, fashion just tells it like it is.
I f you have been reading the blog, you will know that the 2016 Resort collections have provided a new hint of the future of our fashion direction after years of retro indulgence. This new shift is slowly revealing itself in the same way that the sporty streamlined Gibson girl had done. In that case, it indicated the active sporty aspect the 20s would take our 20th century fashion towards as it liberated us from accepted constraint the century before had embraced.
Now we have a new freedom as our palette of artistic appreciation and craft takes a more sophisticated turn. The technology we have is providing the actualization of vision in greater detail matching the creativity designers craved. Not only if this possible in cuts and construction, but in materials and combinations with greater detail. Collections such as those from 3.1. Phillip Lim, Tess Giberson and Thakoon are carrying forward the haphazardness mentioned in the prior article.
What these are showing is the elevation of recombination and haphazard styling that the street level is experimenting with taken to another level in combination with the Franken-assembly we have been entertaining in collections for the last few years that Michael van der Ham started. Collectively, these techniques in tandem are forging new directions that give birth to possible combinations that no longer seem as familiar. true, they have some of the avant garde experimentation that the 80s and some of the 90s allowed, but there is more to this; the evolution revealed lets us know our hunger for a new way of being is dictating the permission for new forms and constructs that only advanced technology available can provide.
This new perspective may see further development as technology provides new processes, such as the recent Kickstarter campaign for a desktop 3D printer for fashion that Electroloom revealed to the media. This technology, as it becomes more sophisticated (as all our technology does), opens the door to further grassroots experimentation that will, in turn provide new combinations that defy convention. The support of DIY culture in recent years has laid the groundwork for enveloping this approach and, just as the streets influenced fashion evolution last century, you can be sure this stage will find similar cultural set-up. History repeats; that is nothing new. What is coming our way, though, will be.
A s the 2016 Resort collections continue to roll out, another pattern reveals itself. Each added aspect reflects our mindset as interpreted by the clever artistic foresight of the successful designer who know to tap into the current populace and pick up where to lead us forward.
As mentioned in previous articles, we are now at a stage where we have taken elements and mixed them up to find a new vocabulary for our 21st century. Some designers are handling this via detail assembly while tapping into retro aspects to win over customers with familiarity as security. Some, such as MM6 Maison Martin Margiela, are understanding that the restyling is a possible path towards finding this new approach, piling on layers and mixing new proportions of elements to lead us towards new cuts and silhouette aspects that act as an apt bridge representing where our new generation is hinting towards.
Preen is taking this approach with material layering to illuminate new texture via combination and architecture. That patchworking to create new perspectives was also seen by Clover Canyon in a few items. While the obvious details are long familiar, the recombination, especially with Preen, shows the haphazard assembly withing overall general form, thus the details show newness in perspective while familiarity is maintained with the overall silhouettes.
These approaches show the willingness to embrace the chaos as the new voice, much like how we are today as we brave a new world and, through trial and error, find a new way of being. Our new world is technical, will take out a lot of the familiar and introduce new aspects in all ranges of our daily lives beyond what we can see, especially as companies like Google are using their labs to find ways to introduce aspects of tech into things like textiles to interact with our environment.
Each season becomes a step closer to showing us what our new world will be. We are starting to get hints now and it's, like they noticed last century, not at all what was expected. It will be interesting to see what else the 2016 Resort collections will bring forward.
T he prominent focus is the examination of the details in looking for clues on the future. That is, that focus has been the tradition of trend sites and fashion publications looking to secure your faith in being prepared for better choices to remain fashion forward.
The problem we have is this holding pattern that is unfairly blamed on designers. They have a duty to balance their vision of the future where they want to lead you with the cultivation of security in creating items that will be sound purchases. Time and time again this blog has take the duty to remind all that fashion is a business, and good business requires producing products that will be sound investments, especially when finance has been a subject of concern this past decade.
With this concern, the penchant to experiment has been delicate. The need for fashion progress and evolution is tempered by strategic design directions that motivate the public to purchase. the return of oversize that was the hallmark of the 80s is a logical direction as most of those clothes are now gone or retailored so that few have access to these and thus the supply chain no longer has to worry about vintage encroaching on profit margins.
To be sure, there are underlying reasons to return to this comfortable cocooning that this blog has covered previously, surrounding our need to security as fear infantizes us. But other designers are not quite on board with this approach, instead choosing to return to security in form that the 90s brings. The Helmut Lang-inspired lab cut coats and 70s streamlined cuts that became 90s hallmarks speak familiar language to the existing shopping public, so it remains. But we are defining boundaries through the self-examination of our design approaches as we become aware of our enduring embrace of retro as inspiration; how fitting that seam detail comes through in the 2016 Resort collections. These acknowledge the subtlety of detail as prominent in design focus while announcing the lines we draw in our lives. We categorize and compartmentalize to better undestand, and i our currrrent introspection this is a necessary step before we strike boldly forward into the unknown.
There are other telltale signs of acknowledging our awareness, and that will be discussed in the next blog...as our way of drawing a line in the sand, so to speak.