Trend observations with a sociological eye from afar...
by Darryl S. Warren in Vancouver
This blog draws connections between the world at large and the fashion industry. In particular, it often speaks of the way the components of the industry observe and are influenced by events and icons spanning the past, present and future and translating them into expressions represented by materials and composition into garments that seem innocuous when landing in the retail chain. Some are connected to the harder aspects such as politics and economics. Others deal with the arts as one creative expression fuels inspiration for others.
The symbiotic connection between music and fashion was touched upon multiple times here as well, most recently during the industry's reaction to the passing of David Bowie not too long ago. Some creatives strike a chord with designers much the way they stir the hearts of the greater public, especially when they reciprocate in kind in connecting with the very industry it inspires. These two industries go hand-in-hand; fashion looks to musics in contributing a soundtrack to accompany the mood it explores as it creates and subsequently communicates its vision to the public. Music relies on fashion to breathe visual life in communicating its personality as it projects its voice or message; fashion adds the seasoning to building the connection or adding power to delivering its message. So, when a music icon passes, fashion reflects its power not only within its own industry but what that icon has on the public and its culture as well.
It's no joy to bring up the passing of yet another great entertainer, in this case the amazing talent known as Prince, when speaking of the connections between fashion and the world. Yet Prince represents an important fashion connection that emerged during a time when fashion welcomed breaking boundaries, and he represented the creative expression at its fullest quite well. His brand of style was exploratory and, at times just as Bowie had, was sexually powerful in testing limits. His energy was electric and his love of theatrics inspired the fashion industry, albeit more recently as we find ourselves revisiting the flamboyance and creative expressions that the avant garde designs of the 80s continue to make their return.
Prince has long made contributions, some we didn't realize were from his hand as revelations of his collaborations and songwriting stream forth. And, as the news sinks in, the public will respond in kind, reflecting on his music and his style. Fashion will thus have another component to add to its repertoire of influences as collections come out (his practical ownership of the colour purple being one) to honor another member of the fashion family that has left our world into the beyond.
But will these passings be as powerful when the collections honoring them come to market? Once upon a time when influences were not as numerous and the market wasn't as far reaching, we could say so. That these creatives so far this year that have passed (and have been written about in past articles here) line up with current fashion inspirations is coincidental (80s and architecture, if you're wondering), and the love of them and their work are no less meaningful...nor are they trivial. And yet, as our attention spans and overload of stimuli compete with those sentiments as we race forth taking on more and more each day, the power of those that matter may no longer hold as much sway.
Ours is now a world that does not react the way it once did. The New York Times not too long ago anticipated the power of the recent Star Wars film as a fashion influence post-release but we now see that as fleeting and the time during its anticipation was more influenced than whatever came after it ran through the theatres of the world. Save for personally jarring events such as 9/11, the anticipation, the hype of an event, is what we have trained ourselves to connect to. The passing of icons that hold intimate emotional connections that we can take with us, such as music from our favourite musicians or actors from films we can cuddle up to, runs contrary to that. That is to say, if the person is far-reaching i.e. connecting to multiple generations, then they will have more of a collective effect but with so much happening to digest, their passing will, whether we like to admit it or not, get lost amidst the ongoing events of the world that we pour over. And so, fashion may have aspects thrown in, to be sure, but in the greater scope of the world there is too much going on to not notice. Designers will, without words, acknowledge that as they blend homage with other components that reflect just how overwhelming our world has become. It is the price of being connected. It is, regretfully, the sign of the times.
We look to fashion to serve multiple purposes. The obvious is to cover ourselves. It offers protection from the elements and comfort in our daily lives. It serves our morals, upholding modesty or framing our hedonistic desires. It serves to advertise to others our desire to blend in or stand out. It signals to others our affiliations and broadcasts our tastes. Sometimes it broadcasts our beliefs, our politics and our values. Other times it carries our dreams and desires. It allows us to be our fantasy, to role play, and to add to our projections. Fashion does a lot for us while navigating the fickleness of relevance.
Most of the collections for Fall Winter 2016/17 presented their language "as is". The various elements to be dissected helped to tell the tale of where we are and want to be. Some are proud in their sophistication of message, bringing intricacy of craft and complexity to the design process. These clothes make us think and stir reflection. Others are more straight forward, be it in utilitarian obviousness or in common trend vocabulary that allows us to connect more easily.
Occasionally we find the desire to be more direct. If we are communicating ourselves, why not do it through language? Literal messages were commonplace in the 70s during the t-shirt craze as we wore our hearts not on our sleeves, but blazoned across our chests for all to read. Messages were cheeky or provocative, but utilization of language cut to the chase and made our thoughts direct. This carried off and on in subsequent decades as we oscillated between the satisfaction of our creative process versus the desire to let our clothes tell it like it is.
At times, this wording can be cheeky, reflecting our appreciation in silliness or the absurd. Other times times, it can be moralistic or provocative, such as the awareness-inducing messages that were hallmarks of the astute eco-warrior Katherine Hamnett. (who is a proven role model that sustainability and ethics are easy to achieve in fashion).
For the most recent collections, some designers gave us range. Just as current trends display the hybridization of influences and references showing a wider range, so are the selections of word utilization. Be it poetic or declarative, a few design houses such as Chalayan, Red Valentino and Vetements utilized wordplay to communicate their sentiments. Meanwhile, Chalayan also played with graphics simultaneously and Anrealage with concept in pattern to convey deeper meaning to the fashion audience.
Designers work to relate to the audience but also take time to reach out and communicate, to engage. The relationship they form with us is not to talk at us but to intermingle with us. They listen to what we feel and relay this to further connect. That is all we ask in return: to communicate so that we can connect. And subsequent fashion collections will let us know who is listening and speaking our language, as it always does.
When looking at fashion and the recent seasons, there are certain patterns that become apparent. Some are more fleeting and are merely a fad while others last longer and can become even a characteristic that defines a decade. Shoulder pads were a hallmark of the 40s, the 50s and the 80s, and tend to reflect the defensiveness and call to overt displays of strength, manifest in behaviours relative to the events of the times. Short skirts, such as in the 20s, 60s, 70s and 80s, go hand-in-hand with overt displays of sexual empowerment. look deeply enough, and fashion will let you know what we are thinking and doing.
The Fall Winter 2016/17 collections reflected a longer lasting theme: excess. It takes form of the overabundance of patterns and layers. Details are piled on and crammed together. Even cleaner minimalist items are styled to bring more to the seasonal story.
One would think it reflects our abundance, but a better indication is how it reflects the growing accumulation that sometimes manifests itself unhealthily in our society. Reality television capitalized on the phenomenon of clutter and hoarding, combining our fascination with public behaviour while educating us on what qualifies it as a problem and, more importantly, how to tackle the material byproduct. But as for the root cause, the messages of our society today hold the key.
We have created a culture that depends on consumption for survival. our typical activities on even our cultural celebrations seem to rely on mandatory levels of consumption to qualify as successful social participation. Visual entertainment such as film and television often features endless wardrobes that set up viewers as to what would be the norm for personal acquisition. The constant bombardment of messages push qualifiers of self-esteem, centering on having the newest of new as the solution. And even though there is a slowly growing voice for less consumption, it's more often than not falling on deaf ears by our choice.
The connection of happiness and social acceptance is deeply tied to this elevated level of material acquisition; too many industries have carefully crafted their messages and marketing strategies to ensure this through manipulation of emotions, more recently via strategic approaches such as storytelling, emotional connectivity and authenticity. And when we create powerful connection between people and things, it becomes harder to separate them. Since the late 50s, we have created an whole new industry devoted to self-storage that is growing tremendously, despite the trend of personal downsizing.
When looking at hoarding, we find the emotional connection between people and their things is powerful. The disposal of things is rendered difficult due to the magnified connection between things and their history. We fail to throw out things due to sentiment or "just in case". Either way, the emotional self has overtaken common sense, fuel by our consumption culture. We find comfort on over-accumulation. It is soothing to surround ourselves with overabundance, and so the Fall Winter 2016/17 collections reflect where we are; we carry as much as we can to the point of overflow.
Those who have long read the blog can see the cumulative them that fashion is conveying. We are stressed and exploring ways to cope, and we literally wear our hearts on our sleeves...and lapels...and waistbands...and inseams...and pockets...and in layers...in vain. But take heart: fashion, like everything else, is like the waves on the high seas with peaks and valleys. For every action and reaction, we oscillate and switch as we grow forward. We just have a lot going on right now, both in our wardrobes and in our lives.
Normally, this blog covers the roots of current fashion, leading you to understand the design process as something more than superficial pairings of colour, texture and form. Designers, especially the influential ones, possess the powers of acute observation and connectivity, leading the consumer to new discoveries that honor relevance while providing fresh inspiration with new ideas. It's a very delicate balancing act, and although the volume of designers seems huge, it is a small number when looking at a percentage of the global population.
These brilliant, hard-working minds are open to influence to keep the creative process...and their businesses that allow continuity of participation...alive. This blog hopes to open your eyes to see how the process of translating inspiration into garment creation works.
As said many times here at Fashion Observed, the current technological landscape has provided an overload of information, with collections reflecting this via myriad inspirations now mashed together as we evolve our collections and aim to dress our future. The more fashion-forward designs are not afraid of breaking new ground to get us more thoroughly to the 21st century; after all, our clothes are still largely 20th century in design. To get us there, designers embrace the highest of modern influences.
Our technology of course is central to this. Wearable technology is becoming more expected as as we move forward. advances in textiles and creation techniques abound. 3D printing, in conjunction with more sophisticated software innovations in particular, has opened the door to complex and intricate design approaches that we could not have dreamed of a decade earlier. Fashion has evolved as have we.
Fashion reflects the world at large as much as takes inspiration from it. Not only is our technology incorporated, but our surroundings do, too, and these have also felt technology's influence. The limits of shape and form have transformed before us, becoming more sculptural and innovative. lucky are those to have such structures within their reach. The world has many modern wonders that, in turn influence fashion. We see it in collections that take on sweeping shapes and cuts in honor of the very architectural wonders that fuel the imaginations of designers everywhere.
Last week, we lost a brilliant mind and an influential inspiration. She was a vanguard championing equality in a field where women are rarely part of, producing architectural masterpieces that were awe-inspiring. They reflected the height of technology to take our imaginations beyond the conventional. Each creation pushed the envelope further, exposing those who took in her work to believe in the power of the future. We speak of Dame Zaha Hadid as fondly as we did in June 8, 2014 ("Curve Appeal") for her influence was powerful as it was hugely relevant.
She inspired fashion greatly, something that was acknowledged by W magazine & WWD in a touching and fitting tribute. She was as big a fan of fashion as fashion was a fan of her. She worked with Karl Lagerfeld and Chanel, Donna Karen, Louis Vuitton, and Pharrell Williams for Adidas. She collaborated with United Nude's Rem D. Koolhaus to bring her architectural sensibilities to create sculpture that was footwear and partnered with Georg Jensen. She was a fan of Issey Miyake, Commes des Garcons and Miuccia Prada, a friend with Stella McCartney and a huge supporter of high design. Chanel, in turn, held their Resort 2016 show in Hadid's DDP Building in Seoul. The love was mutual as it was sincere, and the inspiration flowed as magic.
The loss is palpable. however, the vast inspiration of what remains, what was left for us to remember, will carry on and will influence collections to come. For as mentioned before in past articles, the passing of fashion's favorites finds their way into design; it is how the industry honors what moves it.
Dame Zaha Hadid created poetry from stone and steel to reflect who we are and to lead us forth. As fellow creatives take time to reflect on the legacy she has left the world to enjoy, we hope her power to stand tall will inspire more women to take equal footing in the formation of our future as we embrace not only the forms that will inspire our world towards environmental innovation, but also to the spirit that forges greatness equally amongst all.
Out of the Fall Winter 2016/17 collections, the most obvious pattern is that we are taking from the past to create our future. That is, the currently produced collections are an amalgamation of various periods brought together to convey how we feel (or how they believe we will feel) as the clothes hit the retail floors.
A part of this has to do with making emotional connections. This is much easier when referencing something that is already familiar with the public, such as cliche elements from various periods. We equate energy with the flapper look of the 20s or the micro-minis of the 60s, elegance and sophistication from the sculptural volumes of the late 50s, strength with 40s suiting and brash power with an 80s shoulder pad. A designer will take inspiration from the world around and translate the overall vibe into a collection of elements to create.
This brings up the larger reason we see the past referenced. The larger reason is that our creative talent draws form what is familiar in their lives, and as this blog has repeated before, our current wave of talent is of the 20th century, and so a designer born of that period cannot escape the source in one's creative foundation. It is what they know.
There is no denying that creating anything for the future is a daunting task. Our historic review of futuristic fashion and predictions of fashions to come brings great amusement, revealing more about the existing period than anything else. A quick online search confirms this. Some aspects can be prescient, but only as one lives through the future predicted do we see how much they missed the mark versus what they got right.
Our fashion always tries to aim forward. Sometimes, in the interests of profit it sticks closer to the present. At other times the more adventurous creativity aims forward. The avant garde, in particular, seeks to break new ground and can be more instrumental in leading us forward. The avant garde of the 20s would be decades ahead of the pop art print expressions of the 60s and 70s or the free form architectural cuts of the 80s. the masculine embrace of the 30s and 40s would later be the gateway to androgynous dressing we now take for granted while the experiments with texture and dimensional detail would be at home in our 3D print landscape. We owe our current draping and asymmetry to the experimentation of the 80s. Dig deeper and you will find prior time periods forging deep paths.
But just as our fashion has power to push forward, we also tend to reach back to, as said earlier, connect at an emotional level. And while the last few years have seen more variety in the combination of past references, the more recent collections are not afraid to go past our last century either.
Designers are a curious lot. This is not to mean that they cause wonder (they do) but that they, like artists, hunger for inspiration and reach out to fill that need. They read, they explore, they open their eyes wide to draw in knowledge to broaden their information stores of inspiration. They bring knowledge of the past forward, knowing that we are cyclical in nature, and incorporate that into their collection's story, drawing elements that relate to our "now".
Creatives that know their history would get how our exploring boundaries and debate on open marriages as solutions to divorce rates parallels the demure acceptance of open marriages as an antidote to impersonal and sometimes resented arranged unions during medieval times. They would also know how contributions within family units for survival meant gender equality was far less an issue for the same period. no surprise to see such elements in collections from Fendi, Mother of Pearl, Nicopanda and Threeasfour.
The rise of creative expression in the arts, the growth of sciences and increase in our hunger for exploration is very much now...and was also a Renaissance and Elizabethan hallmark. Gucci cited the Renaissance as an inspiration source while Luisa Beccaria had some Renaissance elements. Giambattista Valli had hints of Elizabethan inspiration in some of its collars.
The economic instability of the Jacobean period that followed the Elizabethan era also dealt with disease; if they had the bubonic plague, we have Ebola and the Zika virus. But all was not bad back then: while beliefs ranged from religious to the supernatural and satire rose in entertainment, science experienced some great advancements, much like today. And the romantic dramatic fashion of that era found its way to Aganovich's collection as well.
As we have more technology at our fingertips, we gain a greater capacity to learn more about ourselves and our past and how much it relates to ourselves today. And perhaps the greatest surprise of our future will be how much we, with our knowledge of our past, may find continued integration a 21st century aspect in our design. Until we have a time machine, we will have to make do with something more holistic: being patient.
There are stragglers still coming through regarding the Fall Winter 2016/17 collections from the Big Four, but, for the most part, we now can concentrate on what has been seen and what to make of it all.
Our obsession with time and our connection to the past as well as past behaviour is acute, with the collections reflecting this. We look back to learn more about who we are as we seek answers on where we are going and whether we are repeating mistakes. To be sure, we are keenly aware of those. We see the results of our behaviour affecting our environments. Not just physical aspects like the weather and its toll on the environment, but also our cultural landscapes as well. Our technology reflects back to us our behaviour, our prejudices, our discriminations. We show ourselves the contradictions we embrace. We know equality is what is right yet we uphold inequalities such as pay issues along gender lines or opportunities for all, the Oscars being the most recent public outcry. We know violence is senseless yet watch as politics and frustration over security and self preservation turn man against man. We know to help those in need as others openly resent the disadvantaged.
Our world is awash with contradictions, clashing of ideologies and points of view, with conscience versus ego in full real-time glory. Is fashion immune? For those who have been watching the collections, the answer is clear. For those that have not, the tone of this article should be a dead giveaway: contradictions abound and designers have obliged. Within most collections we see clashing of patterns such as florals, blurred abstractions and curves with hard lines such as stripes and plaids and harsh geometrics sometimes against the calm of solids and sometimes altogether, one on top of another. We see mixing of structure with drape, soft with hard, sometimes all at once fighting for placement on the wearer. unlikely contradicting textiles jump together, while contrast in colours and contrast trims all at once join in the cacophony that is our world translated into the material. And as everything at once is thrust forward onto our backs, we take it on. There are too many examples to list designers. This is a very universal theme for this season that begs exploration via the epitome of fashion resource, Vogue Runway.
Our lives are a constant bombardment of information at our fingertips that we wade through and digest lightly while we take on more than ever before in the name of living. Our awareness of this overwhelms us in layers...and our waiting wardrobes have the vocabulary to empathize as it seeks to explore combinations that will speak to us about what our century should mean.
While it does, it will do what we know best: to draw upon what has been in an attempt to form new thoughts until the untainted representatives of the new century come of age to speak. We at the cusp are laying the foundation vocabulary, and with our knowledge we are clearly not sticking to one thought or one period to express the world around us. Next article will explore that further while we wait for the next wave to come of age.
The Fall Winter 2016/17 collections from the Big Four have concluded. There is no denying that creativity has been ramped up as designers seek to move forward. However, the collections also show how much of the creative process is rooted in the past.
There are many factors to consider as to why particular periods have become part of the the design lexicon. Readers of this blog know that current events and sentiments mirroring past scenarios form the basis for such references. Also, associations of vibes for respective periods becomes part of the reason for their inclusion.
The subject of class inclusion and growing divides has been a great concern, and well it should be. The erosion of a significant consumer class threatens the very fabric of our economic structure that we have come to rely on. Fashion, like any business, needs customers. It is in our best interests to have a healthy economy at all levels to not only maintain balance but to ensure there is enough liquidity to support the growth that the industry encourages.
The issues of class and economics has increased , especially where politics have taken a front seat in our attentions. In particular, the upcoming presidential elections of the USA have underscored the gravity of such issues with an increasingly frustrated public. The resulting possible candidates reflect the desire for profound change but also show the tensions of conflicting values within the population amidst a world that is undergoing incredible transformation beyond paces normally experienced.
The rate of changes covers many areas. We are bombarded with advances in medical, scientific and technological areas that are exponential as they are powerfully influential. Our arts and culture are enjoying the fruits of what we are achieving, and yet also calling to action our need to value our humanity. All these changes are forcing us to revisit our laws, ways of living and even future life plans as proclamations of major shifts and obsolescence become unavoidable in our daily news feeds. And this dialogue does not exclude, for the 1% movement has shown the potential power of an angry populace that was seen as less politically relevant due to less purchasing power.
The promise of technology...the bigger, faster better that we continue to create...has opened up fears of where we fit as our increased technological world shares the growing contradictions we live through. Amidst advances and discussions of inclusion and equality we see proof to the contrary: wage disparity along gender lines, statistics on discrimination confirm how we have much yet to advance to meet our ideals, backlashes within borders by those resisting change as fear fuels xenophobia and challenges freedoms.
Data comes out contradicting itself, adding to public confusion and fear. According to the Economist, the IMF recently reported that countries need to increase stimulus to offset weakening global demand and yet a private international economic institute (Peterson Institute in Washington, D.C.) released a report by one member who was once the IMF's chief economist, stating that the concerns are overblown. The Americans are spending as their economy shows strengthening yet you can't bypass constant broadcasted fears vocalized. For politicians, the economy is still a major issue. And did we mention the possibility of inflation rising?
Such concern yet there's growth. And with that, voices of conscience fill the airwaves as we continue to support doing the right thing, be it in how we treat our fellow man or how we conduct ourselves. Human interest stories continue to center on conduct as we share information on behaviour and etiquette.
We celebrate controlled sexiness in collections as we do in societal behaviours. Our gossip magazines scandalize poor conduct while feeding a vaudvillian interest in the same. We profess restraint and control yet our bawdy closed door behaviour is a click away.
And while we do we continue to live large. We admonish conspicuous consumption yet celebrate it in our entertainment. And we continue to support it in the way we spend, economic news be damned. it distracts us from the ugliness of politics both domestic and global, where tensions seem to increase rather than wane.
Were that this was new, but it's not and our designers know that. For all that has been mentioned can just as easily describe the Victorian and Edwardian eras. In those periods we had the same influences and the same fears. We lived with the same concerns, the same contradictions and increasingly the same extremes. So it is that we see elements from both periods in collections spanning the globe for Fall Winter 2016/17. The list is huge and prevalent, too many to list. It is a unifying observation that we have come full circle in a 2.0 version of where we have been before. And it fits.
The modesty is reflected in the high collars, caped layers and extreme hem lengths. The frill trims and hobble-like skirts honor traditional expressions of femininity and restraint while the sleeve play with peaked shoulders and leg of mutton sleeves add to period affinity.
Of course, fashion's not exclusive to these periods and the prevalence of short hems in contrast were also noticed. We combine these with other aspects as we become more sophisticated in our self-awareness. We have tools to inform and broaden our knowledge, and this opens the doors to complexities we are more ready to handle, and the collections reflect ideological convolution. Whether we use these tools to evolve past what we are repeating or to relive our past is another matter. And that, of course, is another article.
Fashion waits for no one. It charges ahead whether you are ready for more or not, with the endless cycle of offerings continuing for as long as we do. And so, from Milan, fashion now comes to the last major zone where the high of creativity traditionally aspires to show. Paris is the last leg of the journey that is Fall Winter 2016/17. As each collection is released into the throngs of editors, buyers, privileged customers and fans it also joins the greater connected world thanks to our world wide web.
The fashion industry is affected by the march of technology as are we. Collections are immediately reported on in real time, spread through various social media to share the vision each designer labours over. As a result, the industry wrangles with the ramifications that affect spending habits and have forced redesign of the supply chain...or to explore how to communicate the public why it needs to wait patiently, something mentioned in this blog's last article in length. Whatever comes of it, the fact is that our world is at one with technology, and our fashion reacts in tandem or in spite of it.
True enough, the daunting impact of accelerated technology and its pervasiveness into our daily lives has been continuously jarring for quite a few. The pace, faster than the traditional speeds of cultural evolution in the past has triggered reactions to reach back to find comfort in the familiar. To have aspects of so many parts of daily life altered due to advanced technological integration on top of it can push us beyond our limits. Thus, the range of retro influences isn't just for concept exploration and form experimentation alone; the familiar elements help anchor us lest the pace of newness threatens our inner security. As is, many find our world events giving reason for feeling out of control. Having elements that reflect familiar times from our past offers a sense of control that the unknown cannot.
That being said, our fashion has taken the foundations of retro sources as a security blanket as we nevertheless forge forward. After all, we are almost into the second decade of our new century; at some point we have to move forward. Experimentation with shape and form, particularly but not limited to within the Paris collections, reveals the push for new shapes and approaches as we explore and aim for our new 21st century identity. Demna Gvasalia, creating for both his line Vetements and now for Balenciaga, is currently being celebrated for bringing freshness within those constraints. Whatever you may think of those new explorations, they are in part embraced by some of the very new generations that are taking the torch forward. The street-born sensibilities are still twinged with the 20th century, as many in the world who can buy and wear these clothes are still from that era. But the bulk of their lives are not, and they carry less attachment to past aesthetic versus what separates from the old...as each generation coming into their era does.
The attachment to the new technological world and its symbiotic connection is where we are today. You may be reading this from your smart phone or your laptop but the bottom line it this is at hand on technology you now expect to have at hand. Our world at every turn is touched by technology, covered by the glow of the screen. is it new for fashion to acknowledge this in design? No. incorporating technology via pattern has been with us for a while. The atomic age found its way into fashion the 50s while the space age was keely reflected in the 60s, both in pattern and cut. The explosion of television influenced the 70s and 80s while the arrival of the home computer influenced fashion design in the 90s. Meanwhile, textile innovation has been part of every fad since the 20s.
We may be overloaded by it and crave traditional materials and cuts at times but we love our tech and we keep coming back to it because it is part of our lives. Fashion takes cues from its environment, so tech gets it's day as it re-emerges within new incarnations. The glowing screens that surround us and greet us everywhere have caught our attention. No surprise to find our tech in current collections, at times reflecting the same computer fixation we had in the 80s when we started to see tech evolve in our entertainment.
Pixilation was seen at Daks, Emporio Armani, Iceberg and Tim Coppens. Digital displays graced Chalayan's garments while Anrealage focused on the play with static and digitized images hidden within. The inspiration comes via the elements that are part of what bring the world to our eyes. And it blends with all the other various aspects of the past and the future, together as we have it now.
We are on the edge of tomorrow, braving each step as we reluctantly push forward. We carry the security of the known as the root and watch us grow towards the light of our future yet known. But we do not deny that we have much held with the past. The familiar is a strong anchor and there will be reasons to explore that; this blog, as before, will happily oblige.
The wave of fashion continues with more Fall Winter 2016/17 collection presentations, where the shift changes from London to Milan. As each designer releases their point of view, we learn more about the general, more global sentiments as well as those that are "domus centrica". Fashion, of course, takes these observations and interpretations of internal as well as external stimuli and translates them through colours, cuts, patterns, materials, techniques and source references to bring you what seems relevant. The harmonization of these interpretations strikes a balance between individual expression and collective connectivity that we find affinity with. Those who are more in tune with what is around are the more relevant brands; some will find the words we want to express while others reflect the words we already now as speaking of ourselves in the now. It is a magnanimous evolution with various grades of change. Fitting not only for the world at large but currently for the tumultuous shifts going on within the industry as well.
This ongoing struggle of evolutionary progress within the confines of fashion are currently hotly debated regarding direct-to-consumer models that threaten to upend the status quo. Our technological world has presented another challenge as our creations move us forward; in this case the tools of connectivity regarding social media have revealed the changes of attention and relevance in our fast-moving information overload environment and how this has affected consumer activities. The shift has presented a stark reality that pits commerce versus creative execution, quality and craft. On one hand, the industry realizes that, as a business, it cannot maintain the current model it has long enjoyed. Fast fashion takes presented information and capitalizes on immediate demand versus concept fatigue by presenting garments as soon as trends appear during runway collections. If designers do not succumb to "see now buy now" they lose out on capitalizing on the wave of interest their very participation in social media has garnered. The other side of the argument is coming from Paris and Milan primarily, where craft and workmanship is heralded. They argue that their approach is one that needs time; these designers require months to execute the level of workmanship that backs up their ideas, and a "see now buy now" model does not fit with the timings in the chain of production. But if they don't adapt, they lose out as trends will bypass their wares by the time those reach the stores. The immediacy of our information age has revealed a shelf life of interest that wasn't present before the advent of the internet and the solution threatens tradition via evolution.
This "damned if you do, damned if you don't" feeling oddly fits with the largess of the world today. We know we must move forward but we don't have the security of knowing which way will work so we hesitate. And some aspects of change are such we are not prepared for. Some ways are too foreign and we freeze, afraid to lose what we have long held dear for an unknown we may not be emotionally prepared to handle.
This out-of-control feeling confines rather than liberates. Where we should feel excited by the future some feel trapped, helpless by the winds of change and somehow unable to participate in gaining control so the change can fit with our capacity to adapt. Some feel bound and restricted by change itself, helpless to navigate it all freely.
During the 80s many factors (political and economic primarily) generated a feeling that larger global forces were taking us into directions we either didn't want or weren't prepared to deal with. That helplessness was reflected in design aspects similar to what has been appearing in collections currently. Woven within a multitude of other components (reflective of the overload of information our technological age provides) the appearance of bondage elements were seen in collections from Adam Selman, Herve Leger by Max Azria, Hood by Air and Moschino. Richard Malone for Fashion East and Toga showed textile binding. The wrapping of fabric in on itself was seen at Baja East, Christian Siriano, Emilio de la Morena, Herve Leger by Max Azria, Ji Oh, MSGM, Nicholas K, Pringle of Scotland and Sophie Theallet.
This restrictive feeling we have...to conform and restrain versus to be free...is finding interesting manifestations in various aspects of our lives. Some of them are technically rooted that affects commerce and creativity, others are internal confrontations as we find the global information age causing us to reflect and discuss ourselves with greater depth. And as we inch closer to getting settled in our new century...and millennium...these growing pains are only going to magnify. They are necessary as we figure out where we want to take what we have and have created as we figure just exactly we need versus desire to go.
Now the whirlwind of Fall Winter 2016/17 collection presentations moves from New York to London. With each passing day, the collective inspirations reveal the many facets of our attentions, revealing our dreams and our fears in equal measure.
Our social condition and the predominant mindset that fosters this weaves through each collection, rendered in associative symbolism that the public can grasp and relate to. Some can be high minded, supporting a level of exclusivity the brand's clientele desires and maintaining the restricted status the brand wishes to keep. At other times, fashion wishes to reflect that it is of the people to broaden its appeal as it declares greater shared relevance. This satisfies the desire to increase exposure for a brand by widening its audience.
Regardless of the result, fashion and its creatives work the artistic gifts of environmental interpretation into its wares, giving us clues as to where our minds and sentiments are. and there are many things fashion is telling us...not only about our world at large but about ourselves.
There has been no shortage of concern over our cumulative values versus the toll of global fiscal imbalance. over the years, the concern has grown of the widening economic imbalance as has the impact. Global financial structures are under threat and unfortunately the years of erosion of the societal safety net (in this case the middle class) has contributed to situations where existing measures and fixes are not working this time around. Consumer confidence is shaky in Canada & the USA despite news of the contrary, and as a result is negatively impacting the go-to for economic survival: retail. Meanwhile, spending is pulling back in Asia and banking concerns only add to economic tensions in Europe. The solution to stimulate economies may not be as successful when the public is holding back after reaping benefits. And the shift to tap into the luxury market has only served to burden it with supersaturation and subsequent profit shortfalls hindering confidence, much as in the 80s before everything fell apart.
But the less than secure picture has not brought out the best in mankind. Charity fatigue and survivalist attitudes have almost moved some backwards in our social evolution. Recently, the Guardian featured a story of a San Francisco tech worker who lamented the proliferation of the homeless with open disdain, stating that he "should't have to see the pain, struggle and despair of homeless people to and from my way to work every day". While he did endure some backlash, his is not a singular opinion but a bellwether of changing sentiment that seems more in line with the coldhearted era that Charles Dickens lived through and wrote about while hoping to inspire compassion for those less fortunate.
This compassion fatigue is exacerbated by common fears, as unstable economic conditions and rapid technological changes that erode confidence in once's certainty of place conspire to weigh heavily on those who no longer have sufficient assurance in the ability to weather the future. The result triggers defensive self-preservationist reactions such as what that worker expressed. Gated communities, elevated gentrification, poor doors in mixed income buildings... all these reflect social separation rather than inclusion, and its roots are unapologetically economic.
Such disdain for those less fortunate is reminiscent of an earlier time, namely the Victorian and Edwardian periods where the class divide was as prominent as was the apathy that accompanied it. It's not a favorable root for inspiration, but it exists nontheless, compounding more vibrant aspects that speak of similar inspiration for both eras.
Far too many collections hold elements both traditional and streamlined from both eras within, spanning both sides of the Atlantic so far: for Victorian, look to A Detacher, Adam Selman, Alexander McQueen, Alice + Olivia, Anna Sui, Area, Derek Lam, Dion Lee, Emilia Wickstead, J. JS Lee, J. Mendel, Karen Walker, Katie Ermilio, M Missoni, Molly Goddard, Nicopanda, Peter Jensen, Prabal Gurung, Preen by Thornton Bregazzi, Reem Acra, Rodarte, Rodebjer, Rosetta Getty, Rosie Assoulin, Ryan Roche, Saloni, See by Chloe, Simone Rocha, Sonia by Sonia Rykiel, Sophie Theallet, Suno, Thom Browne, Tome, Trademark, Ulla Johnson, Warm, Wendy Nichol, Yigal Azrouel, Zac Posen (and ZAC Zac Posen), Zimmermann and in some collections from Central St. Martins graduates. Edwardian aspects were seen at Anna Sui, Bibhu Mohapatra, Dennis Basso, A. V. Robertson of Fashion East, Jason Wu, M Missoni, Naeem Khan, Paul Smith, Preen by Thornton Bregazzi, Rodarte, Simone Rocha, Vivienne Westwood Red Label and again in a few graduate collections from Central St. Martins.
Too many can see what others wish to tune out, yet our actions and sentiments are nonetheless highlighted by our creativity. When it appears here, we know that it matters. Our survival hinges on paying attention to what is around, and our conscience thankfully allows voices of awareness to penetrate the seemingly benign to reflect what matters within; we have to if we want to turn things around.