Trend observations with a sociological eye from afar...
by Darryl S. Warren in Vancouver
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.
O ne of the underlying themes that 2016 Resort collections have revealed early is a theme that fashion has been embracing for some time: architecture. Of course our environment has been a consistent source of inspiration, especially as fashion likes to coordinate with their surroundings on a sociological as well as literal level.
While Nicholas Ghesquiere took inspiration from John Lautner, Dior's Raf Simmons utilized architectural aspects in the layering and structure of his garments for his resort collection, paralleling the current design hybrids we see in our modern architecture today. The variation of grids, screens, tulles and nettings layered over and inserted with architectural hardness underly our embrace of hybridization as we seek our new century's language.
This alchemic creativity will be more acute as we come closer to those of age who can take the reigns who have no connection with our twentieth century past. The mix-and-match platform will serve the next generation well as they pick and choose to show us what to say that best represents our next century and sets the tone for the foundation of our new millennium.
T he 2016 Resort collections have commenced, with a few of the heavy hitters leading the way. The ever cautious familiarity that fashion embraces is balanced with the high tech execution of material expression balanced with a venture that 80s experimentation allowed. That spirit is essential as we maintain a platform to provide the proper launchpad for whatever talent will shape our next century's direction. We need this allowance of play if we want to allow unbridled creativity to express itself, something we cannot have if our current fashion climate is too restrained.
The preliminary hints show us fixated on intricacy of details as the new status. The careful execution of stitch work, seams, and accents all hint at our level of technical expertise that we now expect in our age while creating a challenge to other labels looking to create more affordable inspirations by embracing complexity. The inspirations may be varied, from Chanel's appreciation of the K-pop influence that trending companies alerted us to years ago to Bottega Veneta's embrace of 70s 90s with a nostalgic colour palette to Louis Vuitton's use of organic multiplicity in its execution and material finishes.
That complexity reflects our current world where work life balance is challenged and where our very fabric of 21st century living has sent simplicity to the history books. Nothing is simple anymore, and our connected world has ensured we are not in the dark of how intricate our world is. The resort collections so far merely reflects the appreciation of that. Let's see how many designers agree.
A s we approach the last half of this decade, we inch closer to our new identity, not only for the century but for the millennium. A new crop of creatives will take the torch passed by previous geniuses of talent and present to us their vision. Theirs will be one of hearsay and disconnect; their voice will have no connection to the last century or millennium, and thus their virgin eyes will bring the first view of the future, influenced to some degree by the stuff of legends illustrated by online content and yet may be reactionary and defiant as do all new generations looking to make it their own.
We, armed with the technology to bring us cumulative knowledge never before seen in the recorded history of mankind, are able to review our past with unabashed totality. As well, we are now able to better examine ourselves and our habits as the internet of things and our connected world illuminate our influences and habits with a click of a button.
Gone are the days of relying on a conglomerate to access information once privy to only an elite group. Now the information is coming available to see, and this is being more widely shared (one of the perks of the democracy of the internet). We now see that the game of trends and influence comes in all directions and from unlikely places. Well...unlikely for those who aren't in the design business.
As such, fashion publications such as Style.com now have to look at fashion reporting differently. No more can we look at conventional categorization, although patterns do exist. In that regard fashion will never change. It always needs soundbites to include the public; making it too nebulous when we have trained the public to conform is bad business. But now we have general sweeping influences, such as the decidedly 80s aura in the 2015 Fall Winter collections (read: oversize) versus the more regional collage of inspirations that makes it hard for publications to quantify (international elements versus particular nationality focus, for example). These technically have a category, but now we have a new approach based on the variety as designers realize too much homogeneity in trends can be a death sentence in the industry. Look what minimalism did in the 90s...and what it was doing when it repeated (good riddance to normcore).
Now, the landscape shifts, reflecting our connected online world. It's a balance of variety and commonality. It connects with those who are born into the 21st century, even if the forms are still so last century. As we now take the time to open discussion of the torch passing, we admit we are openly curious. We don't know yet how it will be, but like the Gibson Girl's appearance hinting at the next century's new mindset, our approach to fashion is reflecting something similar that may give clues to how we are going to create our new millennial looks. And just as informed and sophisticated is the potential of our technological landscape, so too is the platform from which this new chapter may spring our new cultural representation.
These last few years will be brimming with speculation and examination to be first because that is how fashion is, and yet the overall trend that decides our new direction may be a rebellion against that very approach as a reaction against our formulaic marketing mindset. If a middle finger was given in the 20th century to those who wanted to restrict movement the century before, this new generation may do the very same with regards to our calculated conceptualization as a symbol of breaking free in the name of claiming their own voice. And that may blindside us just as the the flappers did for the generation before them. Curious? Excited? Aren't we all now.
S ome of the examination of fashion comes from more anthropological aspects, such as the origin of trends and their parallels with events in current times that recall similar moods. Our choice is to recall and recapture those originating sentiments as we remind the current fashionistas we are again feeling the very things that triggered inspiration for the source of creativity. For example, the high hemlines in line with our moments of empowerment via sexuality.
Other aspects are more symbolic, such as volume or textile choice in relation to our emotional state. in these cases, it is the representation that we seek to identify with, and trends that succeed tap well into these understanding of sentiments. The structure in textiles that we continue to embraced coincides with more aggressive defensive aspects, or how volume in the cut of garments is in relation to our personal security levels.
Sometimes we feel the need to be in order, and in other times we embrace the feeling of being out of balance as we attempt to make sense ff the world. The artful aspects of asymmetry fight this desire for order and celebrate letting loose, in response to our recognition that the world seems out of control or that we feel so. In points within various decades, where we feel safe enough to accept this lack of control, the unbridled asymmetry is unleashed.
There is no particular decade where this was more prominent, for each decade allowed this swing between sensible symmetry and it's antithesis. We have tended to utilize it more in our century if that tells you something about our willingness to allow ourselves some release. That the 20s, 50s and particularly the 80s, a period of great change and self-awareness, was a source for much experimental design within this execution of expression tells us where we are leaning to now.
Yes, there is economic uncertainty and global nervousness, yet financially things seem somewhat better in most places and as in past decades with similar cautious optimism woven through change we give ourselves permission to loosen boundaries. Sometimes we have to let loose to find our balance, particularly when we feel relatively safe to do so. The dichotomy of exploration and insecurity fits us well, even when swimming in oversize output.
F or those who have lived longer, repetition of previous decades can seem charming. Another generation revisits what was considered groundbreaking while seeing it as representation of the current voice of the times resonates as a harmony of shared values. And yet, those who care to observe the details know that minute differences in retro expression can illustrate how the adopted looks actually call in slightly different motivations.
The 80s took inspiration of volume from the 50s, where postwar excess was celebrated as an antidote to the years of rationing. allowing that generation to rediscover the joys of revived supply lines and rekindled abundance. The push for consumerism was "full on" and yet the cold war sentiments meant shielding us in structured and plush volume.
The height of the codl war standoff that the 80s hosted brought back those same fears, stoking revived inspiration in the last decade facing similar concerns while in the midst of a major consumerist push. the luxe excess took to a new level, supported by again structured armor of rigid textile and subsequent shoulder pad buildup.
This time the volume returns. the economic excess and whispers of instability of the late 80s also brought legendary creativity which collections continue to reference. But after years of form-fitting and body-honest fashion, our armored structure has given way to volume sans pads. If the 80s was self-reliant defensiveness, this time we take the protective volume and let it soften. The protective pads are gone and we let it all slouch. We allow ourselves to lose composure as we swim in comforting volume, akin to when, in our adolescence, we take comfort in wrapping ourselves in our protective parents' garments to play "adult".
We shamelessly and artfully let ourselves get swallowed. We recapture our innocence in our infancy, recreating those days of dress-up when we knew we were cared for and protected yet were allowed to playfully participate in the little understood yet inspirational role of our caregivers. We feel safe, yet touch base with being grown up.
Will we grow out of this is not the question, but how and in what direction should be. For designers, they are already thinking about that as we approach closer to the pivotal point just as we did the last century.
A s far as the business aspect of this creative industry is concerned, fashion must meet the essential needs of the consumer to remain viable. For some time, the customer has demanded a level of utility to justify their investment. The unsettling economic picture that continuously reverberates through the news does little to calm the nerves of a frugal yet vain public, hence the continued hesitation regarding experimentation has been more confined to the details such as new textures and textiles while keeping familiar shapes alive in collections. Thus, the customer can feel safe knowing their purchase has more dollar per wear.
Unfortunately, this means that the designer is limited in where they can take us as we remain rigid in more classic forms. Eventually the public has less incentive to buy if fashion doesn't evolve and that can kill business. The creative stagnation out of economic austerity of the early 90s saw the death of many inventive houses when creativity was curbed in favor of utility; the public was too afraid to buy something that was too specific to carry through the changes of the seasons.
But our culture has been well-trained to evolve and to expect fashion to renew. Our attention spans don't hold out for a prolonged state of stagnation, even if our wallets want us to say otherwise. And so fashion pushes us forth. The compromise? Prints become the new expanded vocabulary.
With our palette cleansed via the minimalist phase that accompanied our need to tune out the noise satisfied, our need to reflect the overload of our senses that our world allows us returns. We acknowledge the overload. We embrace it. We let it wash over us as we seek to blend into the chaos of our world and find ways to reclaim the appreciation of its calamity. The mixing of vibrant colours in conjunction with all we have been incorporating in the creative process bring everything to full life. Note that we still have these traditional shapes with us. But we expand our vocabulary beyond colour and textile to add visual texture.
We look to move forward. we will do that. what we are seeing are baby steps to bring us to receive it. And the next season that follows Fall Winter 2015 will let us know whether the consumer approves of the direction.
T he more observant individuals who know their history are well aware of the oscillating pendulum of fashion influence with regards to source. That is, sometimes it's the fashion house who brings innovation to the public. It could be a new cut, a new length, a new volume, a textile or colour combination...it could be any and all of the above. The new standard harmonizes with how we feel. Sometimes it can be for a season or two, and sometimes it can set a standard for a part or a whole decade.
Other times, the houses run their course and it is the streets that provide new direction. here, a generation takes the reigns to cultivate anew dialogue to make up for what fashion hasn't heard. The 1920s was a result of youthful rebellion wanting fashion to meet their needs for ease and mobility; the clothes of the previous generation failed to recognize the new freedom this creative generation craved. The new geenration wanted to run and dance with wild abandon, embracing the role of the new mindset for a new century.
In later decades, we saw the pendulum swing again, more so after the postwar where commerce become more reactionary and responsive to youthful expressions. The denim of the 50s, the go-go eclectic looks of the 60s, the glam rock gender testing of the 70s all influenced fashion, and all came from the playful experimentation of the streets.
The 80s, a period of great fashion rule-breaking and innovation, also owes a lot to street fashion. Designers reconstituted the past as we do now as well as looked to street fashion to find new combinations as design inspiration for collections. There was a lot to look at as the decade fostered individuality and supported fashion involvement that was way more immersed compared to prior decades, in large part to greater accessibility of information , materials and capital (even if, for many, it was borrowed). Also, the birth of street marketing photography for design teams gained traction, and some designers were known for parking it in a cafe with a pen and paper in hand. With avant garde expression more prevalent and more celebrated in the fashion world, the individualistic street styles fed our thirst for everything exciting and new.
Since that last decade, there has been creativity in various levels, and yet more seasoned industry players will readily admit that the 80s never really left fashion, so influential and creative its output was. Seeing quite a few collections carry creative expressions that seem right out of the 80s is most intriguing. We have come full circle: our insecurity cloaks us in oversize just as it did in similar unstable status-conscious times while the deviation from rigid trend hallmarks aim to excite the market, all while providing the best-known creative platform to help set an important fashion milestone stage as we inch closer towards a century we have yet to newly identify.
The streets led us into our last century with great impact. So to may the streets do the same again. For now, the collections admit the power of the people, bringing back legendary energy to a new generation looking to own its new legacy yet not yet aware of what that will be. It's OK; we have patience to give.
W e seek a new voice and yet we find it hard to let go to do so. The Fall Winter 2015 collections reflect this sentiment overall, no matter how one tries to compartmentalize it. It does this by showing collections that throw together prints, layers, combinations, mostly in a slouchy yet artful assembly brought together by the direction of the designer. The assemblies alert us to our siphoning through of our past in an effort to find new vocabulary. However, as this log has repeatedly suggested, the past has already revealed how new voices and new expressions need to come about.
Currently, that person is in their teens and may be playing with what is before them, soaking in our experimentation as a foundation for a new generational, centenary and even millennial platform form which we will see a new way of expressing. Our documentation of history already shows how we achieved this last century. Now, as we wait those already in the spotlight seek to retain influence as they attempt to contribute towards this new voice. They are, yet from a 20th century perspective. A few may have the ability to divorces themselves form their early influences enough to break free with virgin eyes, but ultimately that freshness has yet to mature and take the helm.
It's exciting, like a countdown to a new identity yet to be unveiled. Each season will seem to give hints, and yet the real page-turner is half a decade away. the question is now where this influence will emerge. Or, with our connectivity that our technology affords, will it be a collective shift by consensus? Throw together a few ideas for the next few years as we all keep our eyes peeled.
T his blog has long upheld the notion of fashion being the barometer of our collective social expression woven with our personal expressions. That is, what you wear reflects not just who you are but connects with where we as a society are. While some may feel otherwise, our previous articles outlined how available materials and choices are long planed in advance, carefully chosen to fit with our social evolution. Even those who revisit existing fashions via vintage end up choosing items relevant to what is existing; we can't help it because we ultimately are programmed to connect. That is in our nature as a species.
Some of the collections trailing at the end of the Fall Winter 2015 presentations feature aspects of sustainability practices where fabrics are reutilized. This time around, the patchworking reflect our sophistication and intelligence that our technology affords (such as Threeasfour), while the approach reflects our ecological and economical sensibilities the times demands (such as by Awaveawake or Raquel Allegra). This isn't limited to clothing. In the fragrance world, Mugler's perfumes are designed to be refillable, reflecting economy and ecology that speaks to the public. We choose the elements in fashion to meet our needs while honoring our aesthetics. the frugality may be on either end of the supply chain, but it tells us how we adapt as we aim to carry on.