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Monday, August 25th 2014

12:12 PM

Anticipatory Assessment

The next cycle of fashion collections are soon upon us. As we amble through our day, designers furiously work on finishing touches of their collections while they confirm presentation venues and themes that support them. Editors plan their grueling schedule and determine who on their teams covers what, given the volume of shows to cover. All aspects of the industry that support this collective explosion of statement creativity get organized for what will again be an exhaustive and exciting month as the Big Four let us know where we are going next.

There have been a lot of hints as to what to expect. The continued embrace of retro with technical overhauls via materials advancements continue to be a surety. Commercial staples will continue to reign as the overall component as well. 3D printing may peek through but hesitantly as the industry struggles to place it carefully without it becoming novelty territory. To what degree we see innovation depends on past sales, and not everything is as transparent. The collections will let us know which is stronger: tradition or innovation. recent couture presentations showed how to bridge the two.

Influences that pander to international markets will also be a strong possibility. The continued love affair with Asia and BRIC nations is up in the air in the face of various instabilities contradicting promise of growing lucrative markets. The underserved Muslim market is finding growing interest, underscored by fashion's dabbling with streamlined cultural territory (caftans, anyone?). The recent New York Times investigation of hijabs translated from a fashion standpoint shows a younger market wiling to break with tradition to find a medium between religious adherence and personal expression. Smart designers should have been jumping at this a long time ago and it's anyone's guess whether we might see some of this in coming collections soon. Perhaps the time is now, just as when kimonos showed up in collections in the late 80s to appease a very wealthy Japanese market.

A few maverick labels have ventured into stylish wearables. The continued fascination with tech has moved from wearables to integration with garments that seems more confined to novelty or sportswear.  There may be translation of fascination with our tech world's direction just as in the 90s when designs reflected our awareness of tech. However, this time it may be in digital art, coding and robotics. That being said, if sales from Saint Laurent are any indication this may take a back seat; that world may not be as alluring or comforting as we have yet to see how we will fit into a story where almost half of what we do is slated for obsolescence. Connectivity to the past may continue to be more preferably desirable and romantic as opposed to affinity with a world where we are predicted to be excluded from. But we are in the 21st century; evolution is expected so again the presence of the future won't be totally absent. Through it all, we do want to move forward, and each year brings a newer generation that wants to have a collection it can identify with. At this point they are telling us what the like, and in a few years they will be of age to more fully dictate via buying power...or through rental frequency.

Indeed all that can be offered right now is just that: speculation. This is the time to assess what has been before us, both in fashion and in the media. Together, these combine to become the platform of the informed designer who cultivates the right combination balancing the business aspect with the flexing of creative muscles to keep the public interested. Let's hope it's more than whatever is buried in a vintage McCall's catalogue.

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Sunday, August 17th 2014

11:05 PM

Underestimated Novelty

While we are weeks away from the Spring Summer 2015 shows, we are already anticipating the new looks that will carry forth from where the 2015 Resort collections hinted. And while the retro stories are almost a guarantee in the equation, there are more technical nuances that cannot be and are not being ignored.

Our world is increasing a technical one that cannot escape our attention. Technology grows more exponentially as materials development rises to make better wearables possible. Textiles with wiring embedded into the fibres not only allow wearables to be connected through the garment, but can include circuit board components printed into the textiles as well as tinier LEDs as part of the textile fibres. Multiple power options ranging from solar to kinetics are being fine-tuned to be incorporated into the garments. And screen tech innovations are producing thin flexible film that has potential to be added to garments. While start-ups are doing more of the developmental work it will be only a matter of time before the heavyweights find more stylish ways to incorporate these innovations.

The wearables market is also beginning to gain greater steam as Apple is scheduled to release its own anticipated wearable in watch form soon while it got in the news again by poaching another fashion executive this month, this time being ex-YSL executive Catherine Monier. And another option can find its way into fashion; wearables as tattoos are also being explored, and whereas last year saw Motorolla creating a wearable as a tattoo, one more recently created by the University of California is temporary and generates power via one’s sweat. That wearables can be this thin and placed anywhere like appliqués opens the door to further incorporation possibilities for the exploratory designer.

All of this makes us much closer to being connected in a different way: the cyber blending allows us to become part machine if you will. And this fits well with our societal movement towards robotics becoming our new future, an inevitability that is becoming of increasing concern in media that has long been inspiration for fashion.

Fashion, of course, has turned to robotics for inspiration in its marketing aspects. Alexander McQueen featured robotics in both his Spring Summer 1999 show in the finale and in the utilization of Milos on 50 foot tracks live streaming the Spring Summer 2010 show. In 2013, Vogue’s November issue featured a spread by photographer Steven Meisel that had robots in the shots. Robots were part of ad campaigns for Diesel in 2012, Henry Cotton in 2013, and more recently this summer for the Bjorn Borg label featuring a suggestive 3-way with a man, woman and robot.

The inspiration has grimmer aspects. Last year, Oxford researchers put out a report about half the jobs we know today as becoming obsolete via algorithm and robot replacement. It’s a huge concern when seeing that the Great Depression only had 25% unemployment; this is a future we have not prepared for. So while fashion has reflected the aspirational aspects of technology and the longer-rooted interests in robots that came post-war during the beginnings of the eventual space race, our better understanding of what a cyber-future will mean now may have different connotations.

Will fashion reflect a Luddite rejection as this realization of human obsolescence becomes clearer the way horses became unnecessary post-Industrial Revolution, or will it reflect a full-on embrace? Architectural modernity in fashion would suggest the latter while retro fashion with organic print inspirations might suggest the former. And as we have seen both in the 2015 Resort collections throughout in all major city presentations, we only know the market is catering to both perspectives. Ad campaigns reflect our fascination while tech becomes further integrated with fashion. Meanwhile, sales records show the successes with retro inspired fashion such as the huge success of Yves St. Laurent at the hands of Hedi Slimane.

We can speculate until the upcoming collections reflect what we favour. Or we could just consult a logarithm. Your choice…for now.

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Sunday, August 10th 2014

4:53 PM

Heil Kitty

Those who have been looking at the collections the past few seasons, including more recently, have seen the various retro influences incorporated, albeit with modern twists such as streamlined cuts and technical advances in textiles. Yet the sport (of sorts) of identifying decade residue in various elements continues as we observed design results and how they reflect on current moods and situations today.

While the more jubilant aspects are represented, we do not ignore others that reminisce as well as reflect on impending circumstances of the day. Sociological comparisons of similarities in circumstances between now and those during the edge of both world wars exist, and as some of the 40s was present in multiple decades, including being in the current 90s embrace, it’s no surprise to find elements with us now.

Also with us is the 30s and, for those who recall the early days of this blog, the Weimar years looked at as an influence in light of cultural factors such as political complacency and polarization of sexual freedom versus conservative views. This, plus economic and meteorological comparisons (dustbowl?) continue to make this decade worth referring to for inspiration. But now we have another aspect that brings a deeper level of introspection, especially as it signifies a shift in perception brought in part by inevitable generational inevitabilities.

Recently a few articles on Salon.com came up involving matters in the Gaza strip while highlighting the growing anti-Semiticism in Europe, something not seen since the 30s (this article, for example) However, the sympathy normally reserved for Israel was on a decline, most noticeably by Millennials. The rationale was due to having less emotional connectivity, having been born more further from events that touched older generations who either experienced the horrors of WWII or had relatives or people within their sphere to confirm and relay events that shaped our awareness of the dangers of bigotry.

Debate came from readers as well as a follow-up article, but there is no denying the growing sentiment and generational connection. Desensitivity of issues due to lack of connection is nothing new. Family members related to victims and survivors of the Titanic disaster would have been horrified to see the trend of having formal dinners mirroring similar menus around the time of the ship’s sinking made into a participatory fad during the 90s after James Cameron’s film was released, romancing what was essentially a maritime disaster where thousands died. But as there was distance between event and generation, the emotional bridge was gone, and thus was looked at more with curiosity than with reverence.

Now we face a similar issue, especially in light of some darker expressions of retro fashion revealed more recently in an article highlighting the trend in Asia of dressing in Nazi-related fashions (see article here) This kitsch application has justifiably angered anyone who upholds the reverence of those who perished. But this reminds of another rather public misstep, and in hindsight connected with the Salon article the revelation appears. Years ago, Prince Harry was chastised for wearing a Nazi uniform to a costume party, a rather horrid embarrassment for the Royal Family that underscored his insensitivity, something he long apologized sincerely for and has learned from. But the unfortunate reality between his and this trend in Asia lies in the realization that a distance in time coupled with education (or, in Japan’s case, a lack thereof) means successive generations will not carry the same emotional connections despite being aware of the history associated with the uniforms and swastika, and will inevitably express curiosity in ways we find offence now.

It doesn’t justify the acts and does bring into the dialogue the need to education of successive generations across nations so they can understand what is acceptable, but one needs to understand that each generation further from an event will carry less stigma that the one before it. We applauded Alexander McQueen doing a runway show based on Joan of Arc but you can be sure that generations around that moment would have rioted in disgust. And so we witness a chilling inevitability that holds hands with the passing of our cultural torch represented in, of all places, fashion.

We need to appreciate that the thing we find easy to belittle, such as the frivolity that clothes represents, can carry powerful cues to let us know who we are and what we think. And thanks to our connected worlds we can do more than sit by, unlike the decades when the source for such ugliness was allowed to grow when it came around the first time and our awareness failed to catch it at that time. The question is what we do with this knowledge now beyond whether to include it in a collection inspiration board for the next season.

 

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Monday, August 4th 2014

1:40 PM

Diversity of Influences

Fashion can not only reveal the aesthetic influences on our minds, but can also indicate influences that crossover from sociological origins. Observations on the workings of our world can create a tip-off to designers who connect events with fashions that came before. Knowing the public has similar connections within, the designer can create fashion that harmonizes with those sentiments.

Those who have been paying attention in the business world have seen the rise of articles on the value of diversity and the lack of it in various industries. The transparency our culture demands these days has revealed surprising revelations in unlikely areas. The assumption is how the tech world would be a place of innovation, yet companies who chose to be honest showed the severe slant in gender and age representation amongst their ranks. These join other various stories of the still-present lack of female representation in leadership roles, the income disparity that defies logic and yet is still present, and the climates that remain unwelcoming or limiting to females in the workforce (for example, this article here or, more recently, this article here).

Other articles reveal the importance of diversity for creating healthy workplaces and how more innovation, higher profitability and healthier environments depend on a rich mix of races, genders and ages and an environment that supports a variety that reflects the real world it serves, in particular looking at LBGT individuals who are left out of the equation unfairly (such as this article by the Harvard Business Review here). While there may be perceived social advances regarding areas like marriage, family formation and anti-discrimination laws, the reality is how sophisticated discrimination is, seen in economic data from a report by the Movement Advancement Project, Family Equality Council and Center For American Progress entitles “All Children Matter: How Legal and Social Inequalities Hurt LGBT Families that came out ion October 2011 which can be found at www.childen-matter.org that was more recently covered in the Washington Post dispelling the myth that LGBTs have more disposable income ( see article here).

So how does this talk about races, genders and equality fit into the fashion scope? History, of course, which is fashion’s ally when it comes to inspiration. Amidst other sociological similarities that trigger designers to look back are the rise of discussion and exploration of empowerment. In the 70s, minorities banded together to support each other in a united cause of addressing the issues of discrimination. Feminism, racial equality and gay rights all came about in the era of protest. We saw the return of empowerment for these same groups in the 90s when data showed inequalities remained. And here we are again, looking at issues with the same groups as dialogue over inequality returns to the table.

And so the 70s/90s hallmarks that proliferate the 2015 Resort collections isn’t merely about the typical succession of decades that comes back as fashion normally sees, although this too contributes to the return of such influences. Rather, the triggers or recurring issues triggers creatives to look back and re-explore influences from those decades. Whereas the 90s took inspiration in part from the nostalgic exploration of camp the 70s provided in childhood sitcom memories coupled with the drug experimentation that paralleled both the 90s and 70s, the more political aspects now fit. And where before female empowerment went hand-in-hand with male exploitation of the 90s, now we have a more corporate review with social responsibility mirroring the concern level the 70s brought.

Another and very important aspect needs to be looked at when determine why these decades have become ripe for trend revisitation. The original empowerment and quest for equality that occurred with the Baby Boomers has come around to match the social fairness now desired by the Millennials, a generational group that has been receiving a lot of attention for its size and market potential much in the same way the Boomers had before them. And as this comparative social revelation is made apparent, the assessments beg reinforcement of inspiration seen in retro fashion revisits such as indicate above.

That’s not to say these are the only decades of inspiration and we know that as the media has joined in for the examination quest this blog has long touted. There are other comparisons to other decades made to this much-studied generational group, and fashion is doing its duty to include these in its dialogue…fairly, of course.

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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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