Trend observations with a sociological eye from afar...
by Darryl S. Warren in Vancouver
A s we ease into December, the Pre-Fall 2017 season collections start to come forth and, along with them, many observations to note that speak about realities, both ours and the creators.
The overall tone is one of pagmaticism. Collections are largely very wearable the way collections aimed for self-preservation in the 90s. In one recent review, Vogue Runway had noted how it was getting harder to discern one collection for another and that is not good news for any designer; that was also a similar sentiment in the 90s when economic constraints bled out the individualism that was taken to the extreme in collections in the name of survival. During that period many designers opted for practical items. The problem it creates, as explained multiple times in this blog, is that such a quest for wearable and practical can dilute the identity that made the design label unique and sought after in the first place. This results in weeding out weaker designers that failed to have a distinct voice or a confirmed following. You can guess what this might mean in the coming year if this continues.
Meanwhile, the predominant adherence to the 70s continues. Yes, that period resonates with those who lived through it the first time and during the 90s and 2000s when it saw resurgence. The common thread in these has to do with references to the initial nuances of the 70s. Here, it carried many associations that again this blog has referred to that match current social circumstances. On the lighter notes, the carefree yet more politically aware youth culture, sexual liberation and the experimentation and relaxed attitudes on soft drugs contrasts with the expression of dissent via protest and the demand of full equality for women, LGBT and non-white communities.
The politically charged environment that runs globally is not something that can be ignored, and the continued expression through organized and sustained protest harks back to earlier times where educated centres inspired reasonable demands for change. Politics has found its way into designers laps, with many forced to reconcile their business approach with conscience, seeking to strike a balance on many levels ranging for defining clientele to how far to tie in personal views to marketing initiatives in a social media landscape. All are very heady issues, and those familiar with the 70s know that the intellectual bent was very strong for most of that decade, especially the first half.
The 90s saw a revisit to both the political awareness and the resurgence of equality issues, and this plus the fetishing of 70s television pop culture inspired creatives and the public to relive their version of this decade. And when 911 struck fear in the public, retro was the only comforting reference that pushed through, sustaining all those aspects of the 70s further as we held onto the continued political will supported by the growth of the internet and our technology.
And that is what is cropping up in pre-fall collections so far. Bottega Veneta, Erdem, Red Valentino, Roberto Cavalli (and the bridge line Just Cavalli), Sally LaPointe, Sonia by Sonia Rykiel, Tanya Taylor and Tory Burch so far have featured elements of the 70s, and Bottega Veneta, Diesel Black Gold, Just Cavalli, Narciso Rodriguez, Norma Kamali, Sally LaPointe, Sonia by Sonia Rykiel, Tory Burch and Zac Posen had elements recalling the 90s. Yes, there is the more sophisticated blending of other period elements tempered by high tech textiles and new colours in all collections, each telling their own stories about where we are in greater detail. But once again we seem to find a period of choice that the public...or at least their customer base as they see it...feels comfort in revisiting something that represents what they feel in a vocabulary they don't have to try hard to express.
It will be interesting to see just how other designers measure up. The general sentiment so far is one of fear as motivation; fear of survival and fear of being to unique to placate a larger public showing signs of regression as very real components that will affect our larger life experience come into play.
I t is a slow trickle at present regarding the Pre-Fall 2017 season offerings. Another glimpse may be singular but provides another piece of observation that designers give in their interpretation of world events into things we find kinship in wearing.
The world's eyes have been squarely on the United States, in particular their election results and how this translates into world events. The ongoing onslaught of media attention to state position appointments, party member associations are equally discussed along with historic comparisons where policy and attitudes are concerned. It is common knowledge that history repeats. Those who proscribe to more spiritual beliefs regarding concepts such as those regarding material manifestation also find that expectations become reality; the long-trending apocalyptic sentiments that have strengthened post 9/11 only serve to reinforce this when looking at rising global tensions that are fed to the public.
The oscillation between our spiritual awareness spurred by such fears and precedence of history actions as the basis for repetition expectations is our current lot. We who have a more far-reaching communication base have access to a new form of "church" where community comes together to share and reinforce beliefs; we know this as the internet. Spirituality tends to rise when threats become more concrete. Periods before wars tend to trigger reflection and connection and current circumstances are no different. The fear of another Third Reich in the most unlikely of societies is gathering steam, with historians citing striking similarities in actions and approaches warning of fascism and dire outcomes.
For fashion any cultural elements supporting or translating comparatives can further inspiration, such as Natalie Portman's recent film "Planetarium" which features many inspirational fashion moments within a film touching on the spiritual and the historic, being the Weimar years as bigotry and fascism precipitates World War II...how timely indeed.
Seeing another pre-fall collection inspired by a similar time period is Bottega Veneta. Here the peaked shoulders and demure minimalism of the pre-war 30s finds kinship with current concerns grow as the world watches the morphing of the new US government's crystallization before official implementation...and it's potential ramifications...takes place.
Fears are a construct of the mind as a form of protection and survival inspiration. Not all fears are real and sometimes it is our fixture on them that leads our subconscious towards making these manifest..a self-fulfilling prophesy, if you will. While AI and deep learning algorithms along with more powerful computers can better pour over our cumulative information to make more accurate determinations of our fate in time, we are not fully there yet. So, our future is not in stone. Our fears, though, are certainly gelling, and it will be interesting to see how other designers broadcast their mindsets in the coming weeks as pre-fall collections continue to be released.
A s of now fashion has formally entered into the Pre-Fall 2017 season. As usual, it begins with a trickle, so there is not enough information as of yet to see where fashion is fully heading. But that never stopped this blog.
Early indicators show the continued late 80s creative streak where proportion play and 60s youth culture are featured. The energy of youth-as-king continues as society remains focused on shaping markets towards Millennials and Gen Z, while the 80s youth aspect takes this and adds the similar political climates covered in the last article. This was prominent in Diesel Black Gold's streetwise collection. Meanwhile, roomy comforting proportion and volume play is also maintained, albeit in more simplistic execution that late 80s early steered towards. The economic aspects of that reference matches the uncertainty juxtaposed with current extreme excess our entertainment media focuses on and this reference find similarities as per the collection by ATM Anthony Thomas Melillo.
In both, the forgoing of body con construction markers gives a nod to more androgenous shapeless cuts where gender becomes a shared balance. The waistless fits of the 20s and 60s appeared at times when women aimed for and got more rights to be on par with their male counterparts. With equality a heavy focus these days, the return of neutrality via fit is well-timed.
Whether all designers share this sentiment will be confirmed as more pre-fall collections come about. World events certainly have given a lot to draw from, as do current emotional states which influence the public's preferences. Anything is possible now.
T his blog recognizes key events that become worthy of note in how fashion is or is about to be influenced. From areas such as those of mass cultural interest like music and film to economics and political actions, we see fashion respond appropriately.
The anticipation of the results of the presidential elections of the USA have greatly contributed to the ongoing fashion dialogue that has manifested in a variety of trend expressions so far. Anticipated controversy and emotional highs find parallels with historic context bought forward via our penchant for incorporating past elements into current creative results. In the 1830s, similar emotional extremism and public dissent faced the president-elect Andrew Jackson. His appointment polarized the nation towards similar apocalyptic expectation that thankfully wasn't realized. Also, the appointment of Ronald Reagan in the 80s brought similar emotional outcry ranging from lack of faith in his qualifications to fears that he would trigger tensions past ongoing Cold War animosity, resulting in World War III. In both these periods, fear found itself manifesting in fashion through defensive design similar as well to during the Cold War period in the 50s. Clothes were wider and volumous, offering protection via a safety barrier between the wearer and external elements.
We see the embrace of these aspects in current collections where similar sleeve accentuation (albeit with more creative licence our hybridization allows for)from the Romantic era is repeated, such as those from Alexander McQueen, Carolina Herrera, Celine, Derek Lam, Dolce & Gabbana, Dries Van Noten, Gucci, Isabel Marant, J. W. Anderson, Jacquemus, Kenzo, Loewe, Maison Margiela, Marc Jacobs, Marques' Almeida, Oscar de la Renta, Preen by Thornton Bregazzi, Rodarte, Saint Laurent, Simone Rocha, Sonia Rykiel, Stella McCartney, Threeasfour, Tibi and Vivienne Westwood... along with the shoulder-padded width of the 80s as seen in collections from Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Celine, Comme des Garcons, DKNY, Dries Van Noten, Jacquemeus, Jill Sander, Louis Vuitton, Micheal Kors, Mulberry, Saint Laurent, Stella McCartney and Vetements now in full swing.
As well, the emergence of neons and hot colours that were prominent in the collections suggest public sentiments of fear (very bright colours tend to appear during heightened periods of tension) while the desire for change...the impetus for the ultimate results we see in the USA elections///shows itself in the form of black (a hallmark of the 80s) and will certainly see its place in collections looking for guaranteed profit.
The continued uncertainty and anxiety has been recently exacerbated by post-election violence currently tracked in the USA by watchdog group The Southern Poverty Law Centre that has found its way into the media. At time of writing this article, over 200 incidents and attacks entering on racism, sexism and homophobia connected with references to the Trump campaign (not all are independently confirmed but that is a lot so far) have occurred. The emboldenment of such exclusionary and hateful incidents mount with hate groups such as the KKK preparing a celebratory parade give great concern to the public that election results are supporting a rise in hate that may inspire beyond its borders, even if there are those who voted for Trump that aren't like that and fight for inclusion despite political differences.
Those who lived during the 30s and 40s know all too well how those hateful sentiments that percolated through the campaign ended up, stoking further concerns today. The continuous inclusion of wartime references in fashion plus the return of the 90s which included 40s references (there it was connected to frugality and rationing connected with awareness of America's wartime role in the Middle East) may see these militant aspects strengthen while apocalyptic fashion expressions of decay via deconstruction seen in the late 80s and early 90s might revive itself in kind.
While many lament the truth of how many people support a figure attributed with ideologies of hate and exclusion, others have asked for patience as we see how this new period plays out. If anything, the results so far have been revelatory of how much work needs to happen to move our culture confidently beyond the assumptions of inclusion we thought our greater culture was rising to and how we all need to strengthen resolve as we work harder to unify us towards a loving place. The social complacency and assumptions in dynamics like the digital landscape and roots of contrasting value systems are now under greater scrutiny, and the public is motivated to become more involved to address the underlying issues that brought about the turn of events we have before us today, something that wouldn't have happened if matters were "business as usual". Change is hard, but necessary for growth.
How will fashion interpret all that? Unity and optimism via imagery and print symbolism and gender empowerment in cut and element choice balanced by socially familiar and acceptable transition cuts and assembly. There may be a clawing back of experimentation as we seek to comfort those resistant and fearful of change while finding enticement through proven channels of beauty and sentiment to link positive emotions to messages of expansion and growth within.
Essentially, just as the USA expressed polarization, expect fashion to do so in kind as it, and our mindsets, moves towards a state of progress to find common ground. Hopefully, enough people, aware of fear's empowerment, will allow their awareness to look towards that.
F ashion is a global industry involving successful enterprises that know to cater to multiple markets where subtle cultural nuances require modifications to concept to better appeal for increased customer base, exposure and ultimately profit. Any fan of this blog knows the mantra: above all, fashion is a business. Unlike in the past where influences took romanticized aspects of foreign cultures and made them the trend of the moment, our fashion landscape has progressed to incorporate international inspirations to include the source in mind with the goal of inclusion.
Our international connectivity online has opened the doors to dialogue on cultural respect and honouring sensitivities. The delicate balance of inspiration versus cultural appropriation is one we are now getting comfortable with as our democratize voice, the platforms of social media, contribute towards clarifying our position through awareness and reciprocation on more democratic terms. No more does the designer call out for protected media walls to talk at the audience. Now, the designer hears the public and responds. Sometimes this is directly and sometimes in broader channels such as the media but regardless of where the response comes from, it is now as part of a conversation rather than a broadcast.
As we move forward into our 21st century identity, one of the components is inclusion via cross cultural inspiration from a point of view as identifying with the aspects and sharing in admiration. This is tricky territory that we are continuously trying to get right. KTZ faced unfair accusations of cultural appropriation not too long ago as it was assumed they were taking inspiration for mere commercial purposes when, in fact, the spirit of their clothing line lies in admiration from a more academically understood spiritual aspect rather than just because the patterns "looked cool". The shamanistic roots from the inspiration plus the time period was deeply admired, and the choice was reflected as an acknowledgement of this almost overlooked cultural expression. It was unfortunate that the source culture did not know this, and they misunderstood the way a designer would normally celebrate the appreciation via incorporation of the symbols, colours or patterns, taking it instead for cultural misappropriation when the spirit of the execution was anything but. Such are the lessons we are learning as we adjust to international sensibilities and search for a balance between inspiration and admiration versus disrespect for the sake of design.
We want so badly to be understanding and respectful that we risk sanitizing our creative process. The Japanese do not criticize the incorporation of an obi on a trench coat or a kimono cut on lingerie. Rather, the acknowledgement of their cultural contribution on an international scale is appreciated. The timeliness of Japanese influences to coincide with the eventual attention regarding the upcoming Olympics as seen in many collections is good PR for Japan.
Exploration of heritage and companion cultures such as in textile and element incorporation, such as using South American textiles by Zero + Maria Cornejo or African prints by Xuly Bet (note: the name gets an umlaut, but this platform does wonky things with additions such as accents and such so please forgive the omission) denotes cultural appreciation as much as incorporating the brand volume of caftans to honour Middle East culture's contributions or tribal accents to acknowledge both the tribalization within our social constructs as well as giving a nod to the increasingly recognized industrialization of Africa as an emerging market and fashion player (first covered here on March 29, 2013 "Digital Tribes"). The admiration of African cultural root expressions speaks volumes on an emotional level for all cultures that all our earliest roots at one time shared.
These inspirational aspects are our way of saying that we see and hear our fellow world citizens and know where they came from. That we fear being insensitive or exploitive is good; we should be, in this day and age of our civilization, we should be bold to have such dialogue as much as we should understand our history of taking inspiration from a place of admiration and shared symbology. It's a form of broad communication to recognize another's cultural contributions and expressions and to declare their powerful imagery as representation of ideological common ground as well as shared identification of emotional foundation of which those icons represent. Considering that the most popular global communications hinge on visual cues (look at our embrace of emojis as a chief example), it makes sense that we find expression and identity on historic meanings from shared elements that individual contributions represent.
So as we look to inspire for Spring Summer 2017, we find multiple international influences to hold much information about not only how we feel but who we might identify with. The meanings we derive on these aspects shape the translation of mood fashion brings forward. The ceremonial austerity and emotional control that we uphold as status within as from Japanese traditional dress; the neutrality of modesty tied to practical comfort from Middle Eastern volume and cut; and the creatively spiritually-rooted force of boldness in community that speaks from cultural African elements all mesh well with where we stand as we look to others for commonality as we face a world we are trying to make sense of.
There will be much soul-searching as we continue forward, especially as the international landscape is facing great change and highly charged emotional energy. We'll let you digest what we covered today until next time to look at how fashion is tipping us off on that sentiment.
A few articles ago this blog brought up the influence our technical world was having on the creative expressions found within recently revealed fashion collections for Spring Summer 2017. This took form in execution of print and pattern as well as in incorporating technology in design. But another aspect of our technical world is how our communication has transformed and influenced the industry on many levels.
With the introduction of the internet into society, we have developed many platforms of communication to convey our thoughts and interests with the goal of sharing and interacting with others, i.e. social media. These have allowed us to further access and share information in real time and have disrupted very aspect of the industry. There has been no shortage of discussions on how it has impacted the media, marketing platforms and strategies, and distribution chains. It has also impacted design itself, as noted when Comme des Garcon reacted with what really was a 2-dimensional collection for Fall Winter 2012; the concept noted how fashion was viewed on social media from the front, as if the sides and back did not exist or matter in our image-centric world where Pinterest and Instagram hold such sway. it's becoming common knowledge that collections seem to be increasingly designed with an eye on how many likes or shares it can generate within social media.
The democratic involvement of the public on such a wide scale demonstrates the power of these communication tools. A company does not exist if it does not have involvement, something that Tom Ford and Hermes learned the hard way when they dragged their feet and risked enduring rumours of redundancy by not joining Twitter.
Instagram is the current necessity and every fashion label that matters is on it. That fact is not lost on those in design. The collecting and sharing of imagery is the heart of such platforms that have replaced traditional advertising, and having ongoing fresh content worthy of sharing can mean the difference between relevance and antiquity. The picture is worth more than a thousand words here; it's the difference between profit and loss. But how does this find its way into collections themselves?
Before the internet, posters were the images in pop culture that we had our hands on. Although postering had been in our culture since it became cheaper to create en masse in the 1880s, it was post war and especially in the 60s and 70s that photo imagery in posters and calendars were big business. Pop culture found a way to fill our walls cheaply and stock imagery found its way into our lives to fill a wall.
Oddly enough, the humble T-shirt in those same decades became a suitable billboard to take those preferences with us. Technical advances were such that imagery could be transferred and during the 70s we saw a rise in photo images on our bodies as well as in our homes.
Today, the ubiquitous presence of stock images has become a hallmark of the times, so much so that Adobe recently put out stock images on T-shirts to acknowledge its influence on pop culture while transforming it into a marketable commodity. Meanwhile, during the Spring Summer 2017 collections, we saw similar acknowledgements snuck into collections from Adam Selman, Alexander Wang, Alyx, Ashley Williams, Bernhard Willhelm, Each x Other, Fausto Puglisi , Kenzo, Molly Goddard, Pyer Moss, Rosie Assoulin, Simon Miller, Undercover, V Files and Zadig & Voltaire.
it's interesting to note how cities where fashion companies have more social media involvement seemed to have more designers exhibiting this trend expression, although this wasn't a major influence. Nevertheless, its presence in connection to the technical expressions covered in the previous article in this blog on the technical trend demonstrate the shared awareness of our increased involvement with what is transforming us and shaping our 21st century: our evolving environment.
Fashion, like us, is divided in its attentions. Some of it is here and some of it is over there. Perhaps next time we can talk about where "there" is that's making us dress like "there" here...and why.
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.
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.
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. ;)
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.