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Sunday, July 27th 2014

11:14 PM

Owning The Flow Of Sexuality

As humans, we rarely evolve in a steady linear fashion. Instead we swing from one extreme to another as the perpetual motion carries us towards the grander course of cultural evolution. Sometimes, this swing is towards a more modest, conservative direction as we grow more self-conscious of what our more liberal expressions have brought forth. In the other extreme, we break free of restrictions as we ponder, explore and test the limits of freedom we crave.

There are aspects that support one versus the other as we have grown in our last century. Growing tired of the physical limitations while capitalizing on the acceptance that entering a new century brings, we saw fashion in the 20s lift hemlines, embrace sheer and allow more bare flesh as women asserted their desires to be more equal while embracing a less-defined waist reflecting the maculinization that came with those freedoms that had long been property of men only. As economics changed and self-consciousness arrived, we shifted back during the 30s with lower hemlines while evening wear still revealed the female form, albeit more covered so that the power became via suggestion rather than through defiance.

Rationing supported short hemlines in 40s daywear while providing masculinized elements such as pants as women found more access to the working world during the war years and found ways to further equality aspirations. The 50s saw a return to traditional roles and a modesty in volume, layers and in the very restrictions women fled such as corsetry only to again rebel as the 60s saw huge shifts in mentalities fostered by a large Boomer population amidst a changing landscape where technological advancements and space travel upheld breaking convention to embrace the future. Women found their power, took ownership of their sexuality and owned it in even shorter hems and in more revealing cuts.

This empowerment carried forth in the 70s along with the rise of feminism only to be knocked back towards the end of the decade as more conservative views took hold over concerns of losing hold of tradition. Fashion covered up until the mid 80s when experimentation and creativity exploded in the hands of Gen Xer who embraced individualism and expression. Here, the stage was set for the 90s when the 70s were revisited hand in hand with Grrrl power, a second wave of feminism and empowerment. Again, sexuality became a tool of empowerment and we saw flesh revealed strategically.

The turn of our 21st century saw us again move back as we questioned taste values and self-worth versus blatant exposure, and we swung back into layers and covering up. The internationalism of our market also revealed the need to accommodate other populations where modesty is upheld as a continuous standard, and so the collections respond in kind.

Now, as the dialogue of equality has become more frequent and we expand on issues of diversity within those paradigms, we find ourselves reflecting on those times when empowerment meant one did not have to appease the opposite sex to hold one’s head high. Women owned their bodies along with their self-esteem and were in charge of how they wanted to present it. The revisiting of the empowered ownership of one’s sexuality has resulted in the willingness to embrace the option of how much one wants to reveal, and where.

The 2014 Fall Winter Couture collections showed a lot of skin, with bare shoulders at Atelier Versace, Armani Prive, Chanel, Christian Dior, Viktor & Rolf, Valentino, Vionnet and Zuhair Murad. The high slits of the 90s came back at Versace & Valentino while plunging necklines that were domain of the 70s were seen at Elie Saab, Alexandre Vaultier, Alexis Mabille and Valentino. Short hems that would have fit in during the 60s and 80s were found at Atelier Versace, Armani Prive, Alexandre Vaultier, Alexis Mabille, Viktor & Rolf, Ulyana Sergeenko, and Zuhair Murad.

These observations were not restricted to the couture collections, for the 2015 Resort collections reflected this shift in acceptance of aesthetics, nor are those offerings exclusive. One culture’s empowerment is another’s offence, and collections are made for more international audiences and sensibilities. Yet the rise of these expressions is letting us know that those who got it don’t just flaunt it, they control it, and these garments aid in the strategy while the attitudes let the other sex know who is in charge of one's bodies how one wants them presented.

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Sunday, July 20th 2014

2:46 PM

Elephants And The Blind

TThere is so much fashion to look at during a time when the distractions of summer compete, and a lot to ponder when looking at the collections. This blog has covered items that have recurred largely because the prominent and influential issues have remained with us. Fashion does move us towards new territory and yet it zigs and zags within the time period to eventually give us the general tone of that period.

One of the many nuances we have been focusing on in our society has been the acute awareness of generations and their role in or society at large. For the past few years we have seen a plethora of articles examining the Millennials and comparing them to previous generations. True to form, Generation X, which saw itself as overlooked, is largely exempt from these discussions even though many of its members are the current influences in our cultural landscape. This generation sought new paths that have set the stage for the direction for the new century, creating the framework and nurturing the newer generation that will take the torch to make use of all we have created.

These various generations carry unique experiences influenced by and influencing each other and our culture reflects the results. Unlike prior generations that held its own distinctive periods with knowledge passed in a linear generational relay, our collective generations that have technology bring with it a new approach. We have the capacity to have in-depth knowledge and communication between these groups like never before, and have the capacity to mix and meld this knowledge. We are more open to discussion to understand and to examine each other and the world around us.

In doing so, we have revealed our different ways of seeing the world around us, bringing this into discussions of generational differences in a quest to better identify the perspectives we interact with. Take, for example, geometry. To someone of the 20th century, its simplicity denotes modernity through reduction of form; that nuance of simplicity is a universal understanding we carry forward. For those who are nurtured with technology, the geometric simplicity and modernity comes not only from the established aesthetic message but gets an added influence from the graphics of the technology itself. And the more prominent the exposure to tech elements in one’s life, the more likely those aspects would be a go-to. Futurist and artist Douglas Coupland played with this observation in a social experiment during an interactive exercise in one of the Vancouver Art Gallery’s FUSE events, revealing his observation on how Minecraft influenced the expressions of creative play in younger generations.

So as we look at the cross generations that are creating the collections, we have some shared influences that have root in different perspectives finding agreement overall. The stripes, blocking, geometry and chunky hard cuts that were predominant in the 2015 Resort collections (far too many to list in this article) can have multiple affinities. For the younger, the video culture reinforces the pixilated hardness of the video aesthetic, and for the older the more traditional implications of masculinized expressions of power and control in the controlled harder forms hold firm. And as the older influences the younger, the preferences of this power perspective carry forth, appreciated by all…especially when times shows threats dues to perceived instabilities that call for strength.

Of course our technology grows exponentially and our recreational products reflect this in more sophisticated forms. Just as technology allows someone like Zaha Hadid to create more fluid forms that we now associate with the height of architectural sophistication, other aspects will morph in kind. The newer tech brings fluidity to the newer generations, influencing their aesthetics to form their foundations as it shapes our definitions we associate with the world today. And fashion will find the common ground of appreciation that reaches all existing generational groups, creating its universal language of appeal in the process even if the personal messages might come for a slightly different point of view.

Years from now, it’ll be interesting to see what is termed “retro”, what nuances help define that impression made, and how all that will plug into the world of tomorrow as it’s made to appeal to the various generations that will carry its own stories and insights to define to beast before them.

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Sunday, July 13th 2014

10:05 PM

Regulating The Exploratory

The Fall/Winter 2014 Couture Collections have come out this week, riding the crest of a wave of fashion saturation that started with 2015 Resort and Spring Summer 2015 Menswear filling schedules and calendars of every industry professional. As usual there is a lot to be learned about us if you’re willing to look past the pretty pictures.

There are things long mentioned in this blog that still hold true. Couture has evolved regarding its leadership in style trends. Given the easy access of fashion reporting thanks to the internet and the speed of prêt-a-porter, Haute Couture no longer calls the shots regarding silhouette and colour, but rather reflects the latest revealed trends that are established in the latest seasonal offerings. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t lead at ll, and that will be covered later in this article. Also long mentioned in this blog and mentioned more recently by The New York Times and Style.com is how fashion still takes reference from the past to go forward. Designers know that the general public can’t be thrown into the inevitable future but have to be gently immersed, so forms are still familiar. Also, when the future looks uncertain, the past becomes more alluring.

When September 11 happened, fashion saw a”reset” that pushed fashion back a decade, slowly replaying fashion from better times as it and we got the courage to eventually step up to its last innovation point; we had to have enough distance to be able to go to the last place of pain so we can attempt to move past it. The break was needed for us to examine and process, and the time also create enough distance where we could eventually get back some confidence that the future may not turn so abruptly as grim as it did that day. That we have recurring fears triggering our subconscious recollections of past pain in the face of more recent concerns, such as global economic reporting and recurring political strife in the Middle East, shows we are not yet over past emotionally destabilizing aspects. And so we still need our 20th century fix to address our needs to feel secure.

But the encouraging component is where we are brave enough to accept the parts of the future that offer promise. This comes in the form of our tech and couture, with its larger resources and the long-established permission to innovate with the latest techniques and materials, becomes the leader.

If fashion has found architecture as an influence, Chanel’s labs found a way to take that and introduce innovations in transforming concrete into wearable components into embellishments while Victor & Rolf used technology to explore ways to manipulate carpet into wearable couture garments. Hussein Chalayan's designs for Vionnet offered traditional silhouettes balanced with highly technical manipulation of materials and modern approaches to assembly. Others, such as Christian Dior and Armani Prive, distilled history to simpler, more streamlined form and used high tech incarnations of luxury textiles in their designs while Bouchra Jarrar decided to offer utilitarian modernity that prêt-a-porter gives, balanced with high tech luxe textiles.

Indeed, the others offered more traditional fare incorporating the latest technical applications to offer intricacies that handwork in the past could not provide. It shows how we will approach our transformation into the 21st century. It is rooted in the faith of our innovation and an area we deem favourable. as it is, unlike the more nebulous socially-dependant parts of mankind, within our control. And, when looking at our penchant to regulate public emotional expression (smile, everyone, and speak in an even, controlled tone) and where our celebratory focus lies (thin is still gloriifed as the preferred standard), if there is anything in our society we hold in high esteem, it is the capacity of control.

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Sunday, July 6th 2014

10:54 PM

When Everything Is Everything

Those who have been watching what happens in fashion have seen a more-than-usual association with art these past few seasons. Fashion has its creative aspect hand-in-hand with art because the creative aspects come from similar approaches. The artist takes inspiration from their environment and translates it into their medium of choice to communicate their observations and impressions to inspire emotional connection and reaction.

From time to time, fashion needs art when other avenues run their course, and art has no shortage of inspiration to offer. The textures, colour combinations, shapes and forms provide variety to satisfy the creative minds who create the collections. Some designers have the artists’ mind within, and understand the lexicon of the artist, finding harmony in the syncopated observations that become a collective “aha” within the more advanced creatives. They not only are inspired, they get what the artists see because they see it too.

Sometimes, art is inspired by what fashion conveys as fashion has access to the more pervasive influences that we label as trends. All trends are is the creative translation of interpretation of current and anticipated events expressed in materials much in the way that an artist does, albeit with more commercial applications in mind.

The excitement of youth echoing what happened in the 60s would find a reflection of pop culture and bold expression that hallmarked the original spirit. The rule-breaking exuberance and modernistic simplicity that accompanied the 20s would be revived as the same spirit returns today. As both art and fashion would catch wind of these similarities in mood, they would both reflect this while incorporating new twists that reflect current times.

One artist in particular has a connection with trending as he rose to fame providing an in-depth assessment of a generation and continuing to do so with others today. Douglas Coupland, known for giving the name “Generation X” to disaffected post-Boomers is a rare breed. Educated in at school yet having a trend forecaster’s eye for detail, he recently unveiled an art exhibition in the Vancouver Art Gallery in Canada that is very telling not only about our world but also, if you are willing to look, about what fashion sees and incorporates (some images of his art can be seen in the "Photos" section in the companion Twitter feed @FashionObserved if you are curious).

Some of the art takes cues for the art movements of the 20s such as Dadaist collage approaches with pop icons. Other works involve arts and crafts incarnations reminding of folk art of the 70s .Pop approaches merge our tech with the more geometric aesthetic with undertones of social conscience or appropriation of our tech world made into pop art. Colour and geometry in form borrow from childhood elements that connect old-school materials with tech inspired mindsets. Some paintings utilize algorithms to find new ways to execute a Mondrian-like reduction of elements produced by original Canadian artists in the 20s. Other sculptural found art assemblies bring the cacophony of the kind of modern landscape urban environments provide; some lean to the anti-naturalistic Japanese experience or others the cookie-cutter conformity of suburbia while others are piles of assembly of domestic and found items that trigger personal childhood associations.

The pieces are thoughtful and well-executed and, above all reflect aspects of elemental execution found in 2015 Resort collections. Our geometric obsessions and cuts find similar hybrid approaches; technology influencing modern materials creation is blended with cuts from the 20s, 60s, 70s and 90s. And the 90s, if you recall, was a 70s reboot for the bulk of the decade with latter inspiration for the Belle Epoch, the 30s & the 40s, similar to what we have today. And of course this blog has before and will continue to illuminate these “coincidences”.

That an accomplished artist with a successful background in trend observation can produce items with similar roots is not a coincidence, but a terrific example of how our access to information has generated a collective understanding of interpretation that we can identify with. Artists, like creative designers who have more latitude, lead the way to letting us know what we see and feel. As they do, we embrace them, not realizing they are merely holding a mirror of our psyche in new forms to get us talking about what is around us and before us.

To have us buy, we need to connect. Sometimes it takes the emotional invocation that art brings to get us to do that. Given the economic uncertainties we are aware of, art is going to be part of our fashion conversation for a while. Or at least for as long as our attention spans allow. Such is the demands of fashion, reflected in us the consumer.

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Monday, June 30th 2014

12:30 PM

Room To Breathe

It's Canada Day soon, the US has the 4th of July, and this is the perfect time to take a much-needed breather; regular programming returns next week. In the mean time, since the 2015 Resort collections continue the retro obsesson (how many incarnations of the 70s/90s do we need to relive?), there are many articles in the archives touching on why this still applies. Feel free to surf through to understand how rooted we are in repeating the past, and how observant designers are in catching this. And if you still need to be entertained, feel free to check out @FashionObserved on Twitter. Companion articles show what's going on and in the photos section there is lots to keep you entertained as well as let you know the man behind the blog; I don't mind being vulnerable for you.

Is there an article you liked? Tell us which one and why. I screen only for spam. Otherwise I'm pretty good about letting your comments come up here even if I might not agree (but keep it clean; it's a family show).I encourage your giving your opinion and prspective because you count too.

Have a good week from Fashion Observed.

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Sunday, June 22nd 2014

11:02 PM

Inequity Is Making Me Angular

It’s funny that, a few weeks ago, this blog explored curves only to come around now to the dichotomy of this season’s fashion expression found in the contradictions. As one looks at the 2015 Resort collections, one notices the continuation of some of our longer-standing aspects that have remained, such as structure in textiles and angular hard cuts that emphasize a more masculine approach in the design. That some of it reminds of the 70s obsession in the 90s is not surprising.

In both decades women found their voice as they sought equality. If borrowing the liberating androgyny of the 20s merged with geometry set the stage for exploring sharing empowerment playfully in the 60s, the 70s took that geometry and hardened it into basic forms as the stiff a-lines took femininity and reduced it to a harder expression. The structured textiles there were the armour that eased women further into challenging the male-dominated landscape.

The 90s revisited this search for empowerment coupled with economic similarities and an interest in nostalgic camp. As well, women started asking where their equality went as reinvigorated interest in equal rights regained momentum in the face of realizations that hard-won gains had eroded. On top of that, the generation at this time had no connection with the 70s and thus this decade was fresh for exploration. Done in cleaner colours and natural fabrics, the clothes in conjunction with cyclical similarities supported the retro revisit.

And now that the 80s has been thoroughly worked through we are ripe for watching the design aesthetic swing again, hand in hand with the cues that accompany associations with established aesthetics of this revisited decade. Uncertainty returns with political turmoil threatening things like oil and its impact on world economies just as in the 70s along with such 2.0 versions of recurring issues such as: the re-examination of diversity and equality as seen in gay rights (now concerning marriage); fashion’s ongoing discussion of lack of diversity in the runways now spilling into revelations in the tech industry; and the surge of articles confronting inequities for women ranging from pay discrepancies and representation in the workforce challenging stereotypes on leadership.

So as we find ourselves in fighting form, our wardrobes reflect elements mixing old and new sharing similar expression in cut and textile quality. While there were quite a few lines expressing this hardness, some examples were see in the hard swinging cuts in the coats and vests at Balenciaga or the clean cut armour-like structure in the roomy a-line jacket at Narcisso Rodriguez; the clean white a-line top with crisp flares at Giambattista Valli; the stiff angular qualities in a coat and dress at ACNE and Veronique Branquinho or in some of the skirts at Fausto Puglisi, Peter Pilotto, Louis Vuitton and Gucci; the angular blocking on a few dresses at Zero + Maria Cornejo; the asymmetric angles topping a few dresses at Dior; the a-lines and swing merged with structure holding those angles at Fendi; the triangular gaps at Stella McCartney; the sharp angle separating the textile and texture variation in a dress at Thom Browne; the sharp a-line gauchos at Maiyet; and the angular sharpness by David Koma at Mugler.

Clean hard angles are akin to the visceral sterility we associate with our modern age in the face of what we have available at our fingertips, reflected in pop culture expressions that underscore the embrace with masculine influences to bring associations of alignment with empowerment in various forms. So, like in the video for “Digital Witness” by St. Vincent, we are unnerved and in sync with our cold modern defences, lifted this time by nostalgia as we relive our issues, replayed in our wardrobe to bring affinity to the battle that brings us again into the past as we try to move forward. Good times, people.

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Sunday, June 15th 2014

5:13 PM

Knee-Jerk Normalcy

T he 2015 Resort collections are coming to a close. This blog of course will continue to dissect the details in coming articles as trends are examined for your benefit of understanding the depth of idea execution.

One of the main take-aways for the collections is the proliferation of normalcy. True, a designer’s job is to create collections that will sell; fashion is a business. And a designer is also looked at as the instrument of merging his practicality with creativity. With the hundreds of designer labels competing for consumer dollars, having some distinguishing aspects to their collection in balance with the pragmatic execution of function is tantamount to survival. On good years the public will spend and a designer can see their creative sides rewarded. In leaner times, the blend of practical with unique becomes tougher to achieve and more crucial as a skill set.

The dialling back of creativity goes hand-in-hand with economic austerity. Smarter houses see the signs and made inroads to establish themselves and instill the reputation as the label that offers essentials before the axe falls. Creativity can garner attention but when enough people are holding back due to anticipated economic cues, creativity can cost a company dearly.

In the 90s houses fell as the trend of more practical clothes swept away the uniqueness of the decade before. While some houses produced minimalism and what we now call normcore and did well, others that had established their identities on flourish and uniqueness could not compete as they were not looked at as the go-to for practical staples. So houses that built themselves on being creative became redundant when expression was scaled back. Others that overlapped by bringing high quality clothes with no distinguishing uniqueness nor prior brand recognition were vetted out. After all, in those times there were so many houses offering the same garment that it became about the best price, and not every house could survive that mindset.

Now we find that even the New York Times is commenting on the clothes in the 2015 Resort collections as, among other descriptives, “non-challenging”. Basically, we can read this as normal, boring clothes (and please don't blame the designers; they are doing their job). The only reason designers are heading this way is because the public isn’t buying enough of the creative items. That tells us that financial insecurity is coming to the fore. The problem, as stated in articles in this blog before, is that this move is dangerous in the industry.

When the trend moves away from creative to benign design, there is less incentive for consumers to explore designer lines. The quality of textiles and essential construction techniques are such that those on a low budget can find decent quality. Given that more people are dressing down (which is contributing to the streamlined and utilitarian direction that couture has been taking to remain relevant) this combination supports people willing to make more non-designer purchases., which eats away at the bottom lines of designers. Those who are more established will survive as those who do decide to spend money will go to more trusted labels. Those that are not as well-established who have not found a following will suffer the same fate as those in the 90s did.

The creative cusp between centuries gets a push back when uncertainty reigns. Given the easy access to conflicting news about economics and anticipated instabilities and financial blocks interfering with expansion goals that our connected world affords, it’s harder to instill confidence to ignore any signs that prompt reigning in spending. So although we may see some creativity, the predominant normalcy offered up is letting us know what designers are seeing: that as we pay more attention to world affairs and see their effects on the manufacturing and retail chains, many pull back as a precautionary measure out of habits based on previous experience. This, of course, contributes further to slowdowns and so the cycle begins. And the go-to becomes the familiar and tried and true. And we find ourselves back again at the familiar, the wearable, the normal. Or, for those who want to move forward into the 21st century, the stagnant the uninspired, the poison of inspiration for innovation.

The combination of information overload at real-time is playing havoc with our instincts for survival the same way that algorithms magnify buying and selling tends in the stock market. Too many of us are of a period when the information had time to filter through and make changes that could be mitigated or affected. Now, with instantaneous information so widespread we react en masse, creating more extreme effects. And just as the stock market is realizing the solution is to temper our dependence on technology to avoid creating worse problems, so too might we realize a solution to being too informed and too plugged in and find a solution that doesn’t result in creative pullback at the first sign of trouble.

 

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Sunday, June 8th 2014

10:49 PM

Curve Appeal

The floodgates are open as a multitude of collections for the Resort 2015 season unfolds.  As they do, the aspects of trend expressions reveal themselves. Observations find the patterns and clusters of similarities that comprise the consensus of influence, which this blog centres on discussing to help you better understand the depth behind the creative process.

How these expressions relate to the interpretation of our perspectives on our day-to-day life can vary. Some are historically linked where patterns emerge, such as when previous decades are referenced. Others follow translation of more esoteric concepts into symbology.  Colors and form can result from psychological associations that are culturally sourced.  The experts that collaborate to observe and translate these cumulative aspects contribute to reinforcement of existing observations as well as provide platforms for innovation as new creatives learn about this aspect of the creative process.

These expressions are symbiotic with other creative aspects; sometimes the world influences design and sometimes vice versa. Take, for example the hardness of design that has reigned this past decade. The hard cuts, hard lines and more masculine expressions have been in interior and fashion for many seasons. To us, they uphold the clean modernity we appreciate in design. But as we see this everywhere repeatedly, we reach a point of saturation; that is in our nature.

The hunger for a softer form has reached our more modern applications of design. In architecture, the sweeping curves from the buildings of Dr. Aziz Hadad have captivated our sensibilities. These represent the new limits of construction techniques we haven’t embraced for decades yet leaned to in visions of the future. Our tech world has scientists working on creating more flexible tech that, in turn allows for more fluid designs to emerge as well, such as large screen concave television sets and curved smart tech. The psychology of our quest for this was touched on recently in an issue of New Scientist as the association we have of softness with curves as being more emotionally charged.

Not that fashion hasn’t had that in previous seasons, but one cannot deny the proliferation of hard lines, cuts, folds, pleats and patterns have been long more masculine expressions, and this continues for much of Resort 2015. But all is not hard-edged; some collections have peeks of curvature coming through. 3.1 Phillip Lim had a few items with curvy hems; ADEAM had some curves in the black and white prints; Alexis Mabille had a structured boxy top crop top with a curve cut into the hem; Calvin Klein Collection had a couple of curves in the silhouetted high contrast prints in some 60s sleeveless shifts; Cushnie Et Ochs had a few contrasted curvy cuts layered; Donna Karan started their presentation with a floaty chiffon top with rounded pockets and rounded hems; Herve Leger by Max Azria had defining curves in the patterns; Honor had a wee curve in the laced edge of a pair of shorts while Michael Kors had curve appeal in a lace edged on a dress; House of Holland had horizontal wave appeal in some of the bolder prints; Issa had a lot of Matisse-like wavey curves in patterns, along with ruffling and a few curvey cuts; Josie Natori had curved optic graphics on opening ensemble; Monique Lhullier had a curved cutaway structured layer on a gown; Ohne Titel had contrasting curve detail on a few items; SB47 had the sweep of curves in the textile variation assembly; See by Chloe has the swoop of curve in a denim skirt; Versace had the swoop in the neckline of the closing gown; and Zero + Maria Cornejo had curves in a large scale graphic print.

These details don’t dominate the design aesthetic, but rather contrasts and compliment the predominant masculine edge that remains in the collections, for our hardness is far for over. But as we open our emotions to the world, our design responds in kind. How we embrace this may depend on our embrace of our softer side. That is another conversation.

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Sunday, June 1st 2014

11:07 PM

Configurations Of Evolutionary Ambition

The cycles of history have new facets and aspects that separate it from prior periods but the similarities we encounter reflect our habitual patterns. These behavioural similarities allow us an opportunity to have predictive expectations, something that titillates anyone who is fond of looking for and finding trends.

If you look at the years starting from the world of Art Nouveau leading up to the modernism of the Deco era, you’ll see a gradual shift in design expression. It shows as leaving one mindset peppered with experimentation in breaking away from convention. It didn’t quite reach the bold vision that the period entailed, but elements conspired to set up the necessary platform from which the new direction shot off.

A hundred years later and here we are again, in a 2.0 version of what we have been through before, partially inspired by our celebration of reclaiming the past as inspiration jumping points for innovation. The fascination of biology then is now biomimicry in design that extends beyond aesthetics the Art Nouveau period brought forth to now become more technical; design innovations at a nano-level allow us to exploit qualities from the best of nature to enhance design today on many more levels from materials creation to performance qualities.

But just as the exploration meant for general accessibility was hampered by production costs and thus prevented its popularity, our new innovations are not so easily at hand for the some economic reasons. Innovation has a price and so the bulk of the population waits for knock-offs or for innovations to reach mass production levels that scale back the costs.

Eventually we lead ourselves towards a similar path as the last century where new materials, techniques and technical discoveries lay in wait for a new generation to mature to take these and remake the world in the name of social progress. We are a few years from that occurring but the experimentation is now. The collections show us each season an evolution of trial and error where mercantile concerns blend with our demands for clothes to reflect where and how we see and want to see ourselves.

Right now, some labels are playing with new combinations within acceptable parameters. The new combinations test our willingness to experiment with the hopes of finding freshness resonating with the way the new minds will see our world versus familiarities so we don’t feel we have something too dated and thus become bad investments.

The experimentation is the mixing of elements at once. It’s kind of like throwing things together to see what sticks, albeit with a more heightened aesthetic palette to filter the results. It can be in the mish-mash of textured separates versus solids at Burberry Prorsum or of space and sport at Just Cavalli; the blast of patterns at once at Escada or the jigsawing of hard geometry at Roland Mouret; or the blend of asymmetric quirks with more classic cuts at MM6 Maison Martin Margiela.

This blending and Franken-splicing of elements has been seen for a few years now as we look for new ways to combining all that we know in the quest to lead us towards the new century. All this has importance, for these become the seeds from which the next generation will use as a launching point. The tricky part is to see what resonates and sticks.

While those entering the creative spheres are doing so sooner thanks to the accessibility of the tools, platforms and markets necessary to succeed in doing so, the maturity of the creative process is something that technology cannot truly accelerate. As bright as our new creatives are, they must have enough time to incubate and play with what we bring them. But it’s fun to see the steps unfold; we are in truly interesting times indeed.

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Sunday, May 25th 2014

10:07 PM

Subtlety In Normalcy

When the design community hops on a general trend direction, you have a more confirmed assurance of a global mindset. Collective ostentation can show an understanding of available capital and healthy economic expectations or a last grasp for invigorating the public. But when clothes become more conservative the move towards safety leaves little room for expectations of robust spending.

These signals are best understood by looking at the more maverick creatives who are known for leading rather than following trends. These designers demonstrate confidence in their vision, and their consistent affirmation of insight is reflected in their design history where their vision is powerful enough to inspire other labels to follow in their footsteps.

It’s not always the same names that make the call. The insights rotate as fashion seeks new input and inspiration to keep interest thriving. Sometimes it’s an unknown new player to burst with a fresh and timely point of view and sometimes it’s a more established label that hits the mark. But when the collective voices lean towards a general direction we can derive some reasonable expectations that go beyond aesthetics.

This week Maison Martin Margiela put out their Resort collection. Their line tends to be on the more modern edge of fashion where the details tell the story. In past seasons there was a more of a materials reclamation drive reflecting ecological approaches to fashion. In more recent seasons the creativity has gotten more minimal, utilitarian and somewhat retro, following 90s inspiration that has been infectious in many collections that wish to combine a forward-thinking yet familiar landscape for the public to latch onto.

Seeing a tube top, tank separates, clean lines, ribbon belts, tux/sports striping, tunics over leggings and lean lines all hint at the familiar. The extra set of sleeves or subtle construction details retain the DNA expectations one would have of MMM while fitting in within the greater more accessible theme we are seeing in collections to satisfy more conservative buying patterns.

The clean execution brings us to what is now. This measured approach is not restricted to this label as others in past seasons have gone this direction when the media keeps bringing economic concerns forward. It’s not to say that there isn’t money being spent. However, when the media trumps concerns over algorithms and robotics replacing labour, one has to factor panic into future projections.

The growing concern of technical evolution failing to provide enough assurance of transition for the bulk of then population to maintains consistent livelihood expectations is further exacerbated by grim news of the newest generation of economic focus to have less opportunity or as much earning power than previous generations. It’s not the complete picture but the concerns are emphasized in the general public which triggers survivalist actions such as belt-tightening. Awareness of such behaviour potentials activate the pragmatic aspects of those in the design business and produces the type of modern and subtle design executions we have from the more experimental creatives.

It’ll be interesting to see just how prevalent this point of view is as more collections come available in the coming weeks. For those looking to fashion to get clues on maters beyond what people are wearing, this will be interesting indeed. The messages may require more sensitivity here; subtlety now counts.

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