Trend observations with a sociological eye from afar...
by Darryl S. Warren in Vancouver
N obody is immune to the events that effect us on a global scale, especially when economics are the central focus. The recent jolt that impacted international markets have sent chills resulting in immediate speculation through various media channels beyond industry concerns, some of which are certain to impact aspects of design.
This can take on many directions. For one, it could mean the pulling back of creativity in favor of essentials for the general public who will react with conservative habits, much as what was seen in the 90s when the global credit bubble burst. Meanwhile, there's an oversaturation of manufacturing efforts aimed at a small affluent percentile, much as what happened in the late 80s, contributing to profit dilution and serving to exacerbate the issues that impact more broadly.This is what fueled normcore design aesthetics in periods of austerity in the 70s, early 90s and, more recently, in our earlier decade.
Another aspect is the shift of cultural appeasement. With China looked at as a culture of great economic potential, designers sought to explore how to add to their collections to appease that market much as was done in the 80s for the Japanese when they were a desirable market due to their unprecedented affluence. As their wealth dropped, designers no longer felt the need to appease, and designs reflected this. With this new economic outlook, we may look towards either a new source to appeal to or, more likely, find a broader aesthetic that is more international and general.
A contrary (and more likely) expression may be the economic divide mirrored in collections, with modesty for the public and austentation for the couture and higher aspects of pret-a-porter, supporting a divided class distinction with fear motivating defensive dressing. here, the fear of being poor drives the public to do all it can to avoid looking that way, even if it means alternate modes of fashion participation. That is where luxury consignment has been on the upswing, while current business models such as those introduced by Scandanavian company Fillipa K go further by allowing others to rent high fashion.
No surprise that the 80s cannot leave our grasp. Not only does it represent a spirit of creativity in the face of technology that current designers of 20th century origin find favor in, but also the era represents the exhaustion of compassion in favor of self-centered support as a survival mechanism. Our technology has created a false sense of community while supporting narcissism, i.e. our selfie culture and self-promotion on social media, and allowing us to be together being happily alone. Our fears drive us to fit in, and tech lends us the tools to do it more stealthily.
So much happening, who can't wait for what the upcoming collections will bring? And some new questions will be these: which designers will do last-minute tweaks in the face of current economics to gain the advantage in order to thrive? And how will these aspects tie into our direction towards a new identity that becomes our 21st century costume? Both are good questions that we will eventually learn the answers to as the Spring Summer 2016 collections unfold in the coming weeks.
I n fashion right now, we are seeing the pendulum swing again towards the embrace of sexuality's spectrum. With Caitlin Jenner the new reality darling to the stylings of menswear collections taking on a more creative and feminine approach and lines such as You Do You coming into our fold, fashion is back to repeat the exploration forged in past sexual revolutions before.
Of note is the progressive coupling that accompanies each move that seeks to inform and expand the male while empowering the female. In effect, to bring us towards true equality. This concept is something we attribute as modern, as forward thinking.
Our science fiction finds this androgyny to be the personal expression of liberation via empowerment, in tandem with periods where turbulence opens the gateway towards unabashed attempts of freedom exploration, such as those experienced in the 20s, 60s 80s and 90s. we carry the torch forward, and, despite whatever is pessimistic in the world, seek now to look ahead. We found our selves by looking past fear. We'll see how far fashion tries to take us versus how far the public wants to go.
F ashion gets its cues from multiple sources now. Our technology illustrates this as tracking algorithms become not only more sophisticated but also more commonplace.
Among the many influences this blog past mentioned included the influence of Cuba's normalization of relations with the USA. Alone, this may provide an aspect that can blend with other influences competing for relevance in our cultural dialogue. But some parts of the dialogue gain more prominence when other components serve to magnify the likelihood of presence as influence.
The political activity in the USA is among the more closely observed activities worth paying attention to, for the results matter on a global scale. Sometimes, the issues and demographics that relate to such issues can be of note with regards to trend influence.
In the 90s, the presidential campaigns and economic scholars took notice of the growing Latin demographic within the USA...and subsequently globally. The recognition of the purchase power of this demographic translated into a trend influence that merged entertainment with fashion and saw the more cliched aspects manifest in design. The last time Latin culture got its due was during the 70s, which the 90s mined for inspiration, so the trend found strength amidst the retro revival.
With the 70s & 90s returning (again) in fashion, we have Republican candidate hopeful and outspoken billionaire Donald Trump inadvertently bringing attention to the Latin community via comments on immigration that negatively inspired the Latin community to rise up. This awakening of the sleeping giant and the underestimated power of this demographic during what is anticipated to be a crucial and hotly contested candidacy only adds to the power of the Latin influence in coming collections.
The community not only finds itself under scrutiny over a sensitive political topic. It works in conjunction with the already notable focus in Cuba coupled with more recent economic attention due to dollar devaluation in South America; finding luxury goods at a bargain which will only further drive international attention as the luxury class heads to where their dollar finds better bag for their buck. This mass travel is sure to spur on attention to a part of the world already getting attention for the upcoming Olympics.
How does this translate? It already has, and now we wait to see how much further as the Spring Summer collections edge closer to unveiling next month to see to what degree the design community captures what the world already is focusing on.
T his blog enjoys sharing observations regarding how the world becomes translated into something as seemingly innocuous as a garment. The influences are numerous largely due to the volume of information we now have a our disposal, a fact repeatedly shared in articles from time to time if for no other purpose than to remind you of the process. Designers intuit the influences that seem relevant, with the leading creatives balancing between the familiar and the new to show us the way. It is a delicate balancing act that cultivates the right level of trust with prescience that all good artists possess, communicating effectively via the mastery of their chosen media.
Part of this astuteness is being aware of one's environment. As we find ourselves deep in 80s/90s retreads, the socio-economic conditions centering around oil amidst the climate of united protest lean also into 70s territory.
The 90s found a new generation that had not experienced the 70s first-hand and was fascinated by the freedom of that era that was being explored thanks to the sexuality exploration the 80s brought forth as a trend. At this time, much of the vintage clothes had disappeared as the 80s purged the landscape of clothes from that era as irrelevant. This is coupled with renewed interest in body consciousness plus rebellion from years of oversize fashion. Add the scarcity of 70s cuts and the market was ready to revisit similar cuts and fits without concern of vintage impeding on profits while satisfying the collection of conditions that welcomed this retro revisit.
This is further enhanced as we find science closer to cures for some of the more virulent diseases as well as increasing control of a major killer that connects with our carnal activities. The AIDS epidemic brought an end to the era of free love, but as we get closer to reigning it in, the barriers to sexual exploration loosen much in the way they were in the 70s. Current behaviours are bordering on the almost dangerous as we get cocky about the assurances our advances are promising. And, the sexiness the 70s and 90s embraced may find its way back as we see more advancements close a chapter on what held back our sexual exploration with a wardrobe to match.
Another aspect invited the 70s return. The realism we now embrace, further celebrated in social media (and noticed recently by Style.com) is another aspect the 70s was known for, seeking to be more natural as the current generation looked for authenticity that was eschewed by the generation before.
All this brings us to the renewed aesthetic that competes with its opposite, the sweeping, architectural drama that is also enjoying its place in fashion. And as our information age support those influences responsible, the dynamics of multiple looks and trends is well-reflected in our wardrobes as it is in fashion publications and the world that we find online.
Yet it is that vast world at our fingertips that is nebulous and complex that drives us to simpler times, and fashion reflecting this perception continues, offering what we desire on dichotomous fronts. Ironic that, as we ask for technology to make our lives easier, we find ourselves reliving the past to reclaim what our creations cannot yet provide: satisfying simplicity. Notice the word "yet"? I thought so.
T he textile revolution continues to shape our 21st century direction. Along with new innovations with nanotechnology are new compounds via intricate examination of molecular properties that were, before now, impossible. But with the increased power that our computers hold, we can find solutions to complexities that unleash untold variety for us to indulge in.
Fashion is not afraid of the new when it comes to materials and techniques; there are a steady stream of vanguards that bring in new techniques and textiles to move us forward. Our focus is on what will shape our coming century.
For decades we have toyed with the concept of seamless garments, such as when seamless pantyhose was made in the mid-60s or when the first seamless technology for knitwear was patented in the early 80s. We have long dreamed of relinquishing the seams to liberate us from the subtle bulk seams give.
In 1999, Issey Miyake, already known for innovation in design and textiles, decided to depart for his label to focus on textile creation, leaving with a subtle yet powerful creation called A-POC i.e. a piece of cloth. This was a tube where the wearer could cut out their garment and customize it. What made it genius was that the resulting garment was seamless. His concept was an incredible foreshadowing of what was to come, but only years later after technology had time to catch up. The further revelation was that this was in creation and experimentation back in the mid-90s, demonstrating the visionary capacity this master had to merge seamless technology with the personal applications that a DIY culture such as what we've had for a while now would desire.
Cue to our decade as seamless garment technology has grown up. While commercial manufacturers are playing with the concept (particularly in Italy), it has been more limited to manufacturers. However, one company called OpenKnit created a knitting machine last fall that could produce seamless garments in an hour...without any knowledge of pattern-making, cutting or even sewing. The democratization of seamless garment creation got personal.
This May, another company called Electroloom started a Crowdfunding campaign for a 3D printer that can spin seamless garments, again for personal use at home.
Chanel has jumped on the bandwagon by adding seamless garments to their most recent couture show, the Fall Winter 2015 collection to bring the Chanel aesthetic into the 21st century. When a fashion powerhouse embraces an idea, you know the concept will reverberate from aspirations into mainstream.
And so, between the exclusivity that brings attention and the viability unleashed in existing as well as newly released technology, we can see the newest piece of the puzzle regarding how fashion is shaping to be for the coming century. And this shaping looks to be dependent on the way we mold, craft and print rather than cut our proverbial cloth.
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.