Trend observations with a sociological eye from afar...
by Darryl S. Warren in Vancouver
T he Italian Spring Summer 2016 collections have come and gone and will be mentioned in the near future, for they too have shown the emerging security of exploration as we edge further into our new century. Now, the focus is on Paris, known traditionally as the platform of creativity.
As our technology breaks down the walls of compartmentalization, we find that other designers in various places are not letting location stop them from vying for our attention. Some are playing with a change of locale to gain footholds and exposure in different markets (such as what KTZ did in a previous season or what Givenchy or The Row did this one), while others are testing other locations to take advantage of less competition to access better attention in our global net world (such as by Damir Doma in Milan).
We are testing our limits, exploring new areas, new methods, new materials and new techniques. We do so as we have little to lose, seeing the possibilities and the tenuousness of these simultaneously as we brave efforts. We feel the hope and the fear and do it anyway. It is the intimacy of personal chance that we are taking in the quest for authenticity.
Just as in the late 80s, we let loose on creativity as we took chances to break new ground. We knew the economy couldn't survive the credit bubble it was built on. But to inspire those to participate in the continued creative explosion fueled new ideas. Although the issue is not in similar foundations, the unease is back again rooted in familiar fears, so we can hold onto fear or we can push ahead; fashion has decided, like us, on the latter.The freedom of "going for broke" is how Alexander Wang expressed it as he made his last collection for Balenciaga. It was noted by Vogue Runway as the best he put out if only because he felt he had nothing to lose. And so, just as in the 80s when we unleashed ourselves we find again breaking new ground because...well...what do we have to lose? Such was a similar sentiment with Hussein Chalayan as he gave commentary on his Cuba-themed collection and the collaboration with his show's sponsor, Swarovski with plain paper dresses melting into glamour mid-show as they met a rush of water from shower heads above (along with his self-admitted amusement of the occasional model slipping on the water or the lost heel of those fabulous cylindrical-heeled shoes).
And so, in the Paris collections...and, really, of the globe's more progressive collections this season so far...the ease of slouch and drape is met with the freedom to create in the mix of deconstruction and architecture, upholding and upending structure. The play of assembly, layering and form is the personal risk, the go-for-broke approach, the fearless ascent we take because the future waits for no one and to be part of history requires to participate in its incarnation, even if it means some retreading as part of the process.
T he Spring Summer 2016 collections have left London and are brushing through Milan towards the home stretch that is Paris. The dialogue is now, besides the examination of trending details is the comparisons of what is coming out of each major fashion center.
Common within each city is the continued homage to the 70s and 90s, which is where the 70s first returned. And while the experimental spirit of the 80s is said to have never left fashion since that decade, the current modern incarnations are more of a 2.0 version of this. If New York's take on modernism was more architectural, London's contains the artist, released from the confines of the mind in the quest for the new.
Sometimes this requires breaking away for convention to achieve new inspiration that takes the designer out of the comfort zone of all that is familiar to move fashion forward. While New York holds the position of leading the way for commercial appeal, London has had the reputation of catering to breaking with convention when it comes to its more expressive class of talent, competing with the ultimate stronghold of fashion that is Paris. And as the economics pull many towards what is safe, others see the dangers of that strategy that brought down many houses in the 90s. Unlike the early 90s, we are in a different position as we are now heading into a new century and millennium and are aware of this unspoken expectation to go beyond what has been worn for too long: the 20th century costume. This different circumstance competes with the desire to remain static, challenging us to evolve lest we remain stuck in the past.
To balance this, the forms conform to convention in the ultimate silhouettes for the most part. But even then some of the more progressive labels are looking to push meeting those expectations by toeing the line towards the edge of what was accepted that is on the edge of the norm. Our past avant garde has provided the platform for us to play without straying too far from the familiar, even if what was familiar before was originally pushing the limits.
The evolution comes in the manner in which designers play with shapes and forms that contributes to the assembly, allowing for exploration where no precedents have been established nor has there been any accompanying instruction or structure to guide the creative process where new territory is concerned. The outsider approach, if you will, working towards evolution has begun.
Collections such as those by Alexander Lewis, Christopher Kane, Fashion East's Caitlin Price & Richard Malone, J.W. Anderson, Jean-Pierre Braganza, MM6 Maison Martin Margiela, Phoebe English, Roksanda and Toga took the artistic route of unbridled combinations with portions and pieces. Some played with shapes exploring literal concept execution while most incorporated component layering to create new expressions of form. The overall effect sets the stage for departure from convention while retaining enough of the familiar. The latter honors economics as fashion is a business but the former cannot be ignored as we head further into our new century and millennium. we're too far into the century to keep holding onto the past. We have to grow and sometimes this means taking the path less traveled to get there. This innate drive couples well with our acceptance that we are no longer in our last century, even if we are from it and still enjoy cultural ties to it.
Milan, of course will be about impeccable construction, craftsmanship and materials that bow to tradition (barring a few exceptions...but that's another article). This will always have a lace in our world. But as we now look towards the future, the next platform supporting this evolution this season is bound to be seen in Paris as well, and it will be interesting to take their pulse on looking forward versus holding onto the past as we look for what creative clues will show how they embrace what is to come.
N ow, as you read this, the Spring Summer 2016 collections are continuing in London, while discussions about the impact of the collections shown in New York are underway ...well...everywhere that fashion matters. There is much dialogue about the energy of the collections as, amidst the retro continuance, there was also some experimentation from some designers. These braver souls want us to move forward and have the customer base that can share similar sentiments while sustaining their existence. While the safer routes such as the dominance of 90s and it's primary retro influence, the 70s, have come into play, another aspect of the late 80s/early 90s has returned again to foster this noted creative effort: deconstruction.
Not that it ever really left. Its formal introduction in the 80s is only partially correct. The 70s punk movement was the precursor for the cut-and-paste approach while the combination of artistic recombinant chaos noticed in art via groundbreaking movements such as Dadaism and the exploration of deconstruction as philosophy by 60s Jaques Derrida (two period sources that had impact the 80s) provided inspiration for the next logical step.
Next step? Well, fashion was getting more creative and changing more frequently. It was becoming a game amongst the fashion conscious to speculate what was next. Clothes were increasingly heavily structured with a focus of cuts and detail of execution. After years of carefully measured and structured garments, one could not shake that the source had remained static in the face of changing times. Look at men's wear; in two hundred years the basic components had barely progressed; you still had a jacket, vest, shirt and pants, no matter how you dressed it up with flourishes such as a new collar or hem length. Women's wear fell along classics from the decades that preceded it and we were hungry for more.
With technology on the rise came new textiles with qualities that gave room for new possibilities. The full globalization our technology was beginning to offer combined with the encouragement of consumption the times supported to pull us out of the frugalness of the decade before. All this was a great recipe to open our minds to what was new. The future...the 21st century...was coming fast and many of us would live to be there.
The Japanese, in particular Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcon, Yohji Yamamoto and textile genius Issey Miyake, were flush with cash and eager to make their mark. They brought new visions and ideas sorely needed in fashion to a generation hungry for change. Their groundbreaking designs challenged convention in a quest for a new form, a new silhouette, a new voice to take us into the future instead of being stuck in the 20th century. And in that play, they further inspired designers such as Jean Paul Gaultier to push forwards with new combinations of elements much like we are doing now. His protege, Martin Margiela, took this a step further, following the deconstructive philosophy of destruction in order to create. Out of the shreds and loose threads came new shapes and new ways of being. If fashion was about structure and order, deconstruction was to turn it on its head to uncover what was never even before conceived in the quest for something truly new. this meant eschewing convention in construction techniques, mixing up the order, leaving hems undone to celebrate the nature of the textile, pulling together new assembly to find new forms and throwing together any addition or absence of the process in the name of innovation. The period had provided the mindset to invite and appreciate it. The conditions were perfect. But the flaws came just as the economy tanked. The appreciation of decay was an ill fit, for it reminded of those less fortunate who were increasingly present casualties of a new economic condition, and the times just weren't mature enough for creativity on this level to be accepted in the mainstream. So it took a rest in favor of what we have relabeled (or marketed) as normcore, of grunge, of sportswear of what was widely palatable.
We know the rest. We lived the path to where we are now. We lived through deconstruction's reappearance that came, again, ill-timed when the event of 9/11 made shredded clothes an exercise of insensitivity and bad taste. But the draw of its concept as a vehicle for finding new forms and new silhouettes did not leave us, and so it continues to be part of our vocabulary of who we define ourselves. We see the world through a highly charged cacophony of information in real time at our fingertips, a mixture of everything the world offers as we become truly global. And we have drilled in the message of uniqueness as having value despite our penchant to conform. The DIY movement, 3D printing, increased customization offered online...all of it now before us...support our desire for what is new. Even the retro looks contain the details that our 21st century cannot avoid, be it in the tech intrerwoven or the innovation that comes with new concepts in textile science. Despite whatever may touch our fears, it is perhaps our desensitization of the facts we have grown accustomed to as we push forward. The future will not stop coming and ultimately we will not stop evolving.
And so, with each season closer to the 2020 mark, we find every component that takes us step by step to our impending 21st centrury identity. So we see deconstruction. It is this time polished and clean, exact in the execution as we find a way to preserve our class distinction while providing the service of throwing new ideas to see what connects and carries forward.
The issue now is not merely where we are taking this, but how. These elements all still hinge on everything that is 20th century. The collars that become cap sleeves or upended bodices may explore new forms, but the components are still assembled from the minds and parts of the 20th century. what is missing is what is 21st century: our technology. We have innovations in seamless construction and 3D printing now explored in garment construction. The new level of deconstruction will be recombinant deconstruction, made of entirely new forms not seen before, morphed as a new generation of parts created and linked to bring never-before-seen shapes and details.
So watch closely at not only what is being deconstructed now but what is sticking. These experiments and embraced changes in our personal architecture will be the foundation for what the next generation will make just as the Gibson girl hinted at what the flapper was to be a century before. We knew in the very early years of the 20th century that the hallmark was simple and about ease, but it was only as it arrived that we saw the shapeless short sporty flash of the 20s was connected to a change in the mindset of the times in a way we could not anticipate. Then again, we have technology now...exponentially growing... and it has us trained to think and see differently.
T he Spring Summer 2016 collections are underway, and for those reviewing them it brings a sense of deja vu. Not only is it largely due to the second revisit of 70s fashion not seen with such fervor in the New York collections as since the 90s, but also as it comes during many events that concur with that era. that is, if it isn't economic, it's cultural mixed with political. But just as the political fervor gave way to more material commercialization that turned the hippie subculture into a mass-marketing dream, the 2.0 version of activism has found a backseat to the desire for more frivolous distractions.
Many designers providing their inspiration thus far have looked to the easy carefree vibe of L.A. and to more easygoing sentiments as the root of their creation. A deeper look shows the careful attention to the business aspect in the face of economic uncertainty. So, what works is what is familiar, and the comfortable familiarity of better times is what makes the retro inspiration a no-brainer. but not all collections are firmly rivited in the past and in future articles those aspects will be revisited ads they hold clues to what's ahead.
The real story of the moment is this anachronistic aspect to the world of fashion. The subject matter is looking to the past while peppered with the tech of our current world, framed in our tech-savvy medium that has trumped the message and has taken some of the spotlight.
Social media has become necessary partners with the fashion world as the firm and entrenched way of connecting with the general public. While Burberry has long lead the charge, Hermes, long avoiding social media, is now finally on Twitter as it partners with Apple to bring a fashionable touch to its wearables. Marc Jacobs jumped on Twitter's Periscope feature for its Resort collection months earlier, inspiring others to look into how to incorporate this into their arsenal of presentation and interaction. The bulk of fashion is now dominating Instagram. Some designer such as Stella McCartney and Calvin Klein now post photoshoots aka InstaShoots while others such as Moschino, Rodarte and J.W. Anderson prepare to do the same. DKNY is utilizing the hashtag feature to get more interactive while Misha Nonoo went a step further by hosting an InstaShow in lieu of a catwalk production. Yigal Azrouel posted portions of its collection on the Covet Fashion app, a highly interactive app that digitizes the garments, allowing users to play with and eventually buy online. Givenchy showed out of Paris as a gesture to recognize that fashion is no longer tied to a place but to the people and utilized social media to offer hundreds to attend via a lottery. Thus the world of fashion is embracing the future, if only in how it administers itself to the public. We, starved for what is new, have focused on that.
We cannot shake our current reality that our future is very much tied to the tech of the world we live in today. But while we may do so, we may long for familiar to comfort us from the uncertainty of the future that we cannot escape. And so, some collections let us know that we are not falling so closely with all that is retro. the future is inevitable, even if not entirely knowable. And the news for now is that it's being livestreamed, shared and finding new ways to be ours.
A s we head closer to the unveiling of the Spring Summer 2016 collections, the fashion world at large has time to speculate about what will come, largely based on the combination of what it emerging versus what has been along with awareness of current sentiments emerging. The sensitivity of these factors is much what a designer atunes themselves to as they translate this into tangible expressions. The translation of mood into material is the domain of the artist, of which the successful designer has within, balanced by great business acumen because fashion is, at the bottom line, a business.
Among those pondering the direction of fashion is the fashion powerhouse of Vogue, who recently restructured their style archive Style.com, transforming it into Vogue Runway. Here, the article refereed to research done by fashion collective K-Hole (the ones who rebranded the resurgence of 90s utilitarian fashion-as-trend as "normcore"), suggested that fashion was moving towards an aura of magic, albeit the personal variety by indicating the growing cultural obsession with spiritual attunement towards manifestation of reality.
The examples were meant to provide support towards this acute observation (our spiritualism mirroring the 90s exploration post-economic stumble) but actually provided a window towards what is occurring due to the evolution of various factors that our current marketing landscape has been crystallizing.
Our technological landscape has been pushing us towards personal customization with 3D printing leading the way as we create new platforms to propel individual manufacturing. This moves with our increased variety in our daily choices ranging from increased style options supported by the DIY movement to increased variety in our consumer goods and increased individualization in selection of a range of items as we introduce apps and algorithms to comb through the mass information now available to tailor what is available to our personal needs.
All this allows us to tap more into what we want and, in turn, supports learning more about who we are. The marketing drive towards authenticity and emotional connections in message delivery through storytelling have allowed us to explore vulnerability.
Now we struggle with transparency as our technology shows cracks via information leaks such as the Ashley Madison hacking scandal that has opened dialogue on what is personal and private as we've been increasingly sharing our lives and opinions on social media. Now, faced with the prospect of addressing what matters regarding what is private versus what is public, we find our willingness to let our guard down in the name of manifestation; you cannot get if you do not ask (in the spirit of this I ask for massive backing to expand now ;) ). And so designers are opening up their hearts to share what matters, what is intimate, and what is close to their heart just as we are all exploring to do.
What this may mean, for fashion, in the authentic opening of the soul to provide individual choices in the hopes of securing business in the face of economic uncertainty, the likes not seen since the end of the 80s excess. Our fashion has already nodded to this over the last few seasons, with both the 80s and 90s mined for inspiration. Perhaps we have manifested this repeat unwittingly in the name of creativity, with the byproduct of pushing us towards the moment of unabashed introspection made public to turn our fate. If nothing else, we may have clothes that have meaning beyond the translations they already provide.
N obody is immune to the events that effect us on a global scale, especially when economics are the central focus. The recent jolt that impacted international markets have sent chills resulting in immediate speculation through various media channels beyond industry concerns, some of which are certain to impact aspects of design.
This can take on many directions. For one, it could mean the pulling back of creativity in favor of essentials for the general public who will react with conservative habits, much as what was seen in the 90s when the global credit bubble burst. Meanwhile, there's an oversaturation of manufacturing efforts aimed at a small affluent percentile, much as what happened in the late 80s, contributing to profit dilution and serving to exacerbate the issues that impact more broadly.This is what fueled normcore design aesthetics in periods of austerity in the 70s, early 90s and, more recently, in our earlier decade.
Another aspect is the shift of cultural appeasement. With China looked at as a culture of great economic potential, designers sought to explore how to add to their collections to appease that market much as was done in the 80s for the Japanese when they were a desirable market due to their unprecedented affluence. As their wealth dropped, designers no longer felt the need to appease, and designs reflected this. With this new economic outlook, we may look towards either a new source to appeal to or, more likely, find a broader aesthetic that is more international and general.
A contrary (and more likely) expression may be the economic divide mirrored in collections, with modesty for the public and austentation for the couture and higher aspects of pret-a-porter, supporting a divided class distinction with fear motivating defensive dressing. here, the fear of being poor drives the public to do all it can to avoid looking that way, even if it means alternate modes of fashion participation. That is where luxury consignment has been on the upswing, while current business models such as those introduced by Scandanavian company Fillipa K go further by allowing others to rent high fashion.
No surprise that the 80s cannot leave our grasp. Not only does it represent a spirit of creativity in the face of technology that current designers of 20th century origin find favor in, but also the era represents the exhaustion of compassion in favor of self-centered support as a survival mechanism. Our technology has created a false sense of community while supporting narcissism, i.e. our selfie culture and self-promotion on social media, and allowing us to be together being happily alone. Our fears drive us to fit in, and tech lends us the tools to do it more stealthily.
So much happening, who can't wait for what the upcoming collections will bring? And some new questions will be these: which designers will do last-minute tweaks in the face of current economics to gain the advantage in order to thrive? And how will these aspects tie into our direction towards a new identity that becomes our 21st century costume? Both are good questions that we will eventually learn the answers to as the Spring Summer 2016 collections unfold in the coming weeks.
I n fashion right now, we are seeing the pendulum swing again towards the embrace of sexuality's spectrum. With Caitlin Jenner the new reality darling to the stylings of menswear collections taking on a more creative and feminine approach and lines such as You Do You coming into our fold, fashion is back to repeat the exploration forged in past sexual revolutions before.
Of note is the progressive coupling that accompanies each move that seeks to inform and expand the male while empowering the female. In effect, to bring us towards true equality. This concept is something we attribute as modern, as forward thinking.
Our science fiction finds this androgyny to be the personal expression of liberation via empowerment, in tandem with periods where turbulence opens the gateway towards unabashed attempts of freedom exploration, such as those experienced in the 20s, 60s 80s and 90s. we carry the torch forward, and, despite whatever is pessimistic in the world, seek now to look ahead. We found our selves by looking past fear. We'll see how far fashion tries to take us versus how far the public wants to go.
F ashion gets its cues from multiple sources now. Our technology illustrates this as tracking algorithms become not only more sophisticated but also more commonplace.
Among the many influences this blog past mentioned included the influence of Cuba's normalization of relations with the USA. Alone, this may provide an aspect that can blend with other influences competing for relevance in our cultural dialogue. But some parts of the dialogue gain more prominence when other components serve to magnify the likelihood of presence as influence.
The political activity in the USA is among the more closely observed activities worth paying attention to, for the results matter on a global scale. Sometimes, the issues and demographics that relate to such issues can be of note with regards to trend influence.
In the 90s, the presidential campaigns and economic scholars took notice of the growing Latin demographic within the USA...and subsequently globally. The recognition of the purchase power of this demographic translated into a trend influence that merged entertainment with fashion and saw the more cliched aspects manifest in design. The last time Latin culture got its due was during the 70s, which the 90s mined for inspiration, so the trend found strength amidst the retro revival.
With the 70s & 90s returning (again) in fashion, we have Republican candidate hopeful and outspoken billionaire Donald Trump inadvertently bringing attention to the Latin community via comments on immigration that negatively inspired the Latin community to rise up. This awakening of the sleeping giant and the underestimated power of this demographic during what is anticipated to be a crucial and hotly contested candidacy only adds to the power of the Latin influence in coming collections.
The community not only finds itself under scrutiny over a sensitive political topic. It works in conjunction with the already notable focus in Cuba coupled with more recent economic attention due to dollar devaluation in South America; finding luxury goods at a bargain which will only further drive international attention as the luxury class heads to where their dollar finds better bag for their buck. This mass travel is sure to spur on attention to a part of the world already getting attention for the upcoming Olympics.
How does this translate? It already has, and now we wait to see how much further as the Spring Summer collections edge closer to unveiling next month to see to what degree the design community captures what the world already is focusing on.
T his blog enjoys sharing observations regarding how the world becomes translated into something as seemingly innocuous as a garment. The influences are numerous largely due to the volume of information we now have a our disposal, a fact repeatedly shared in articles from time to time if for no other purpose than to remind you of the process. Designers intuit the influences that seem relevant, with the leading creatives balancing between the familiar and the new to show us the way. It is a delicate balancing act that cultivates the right level of trust with prescience that all good artists possess, communicating effectively via the mastery of their chosen media.
Part of this astuteness is being aware of one's environment. As we find ourselves deep in 80s/90s retreads, the socio-economic conditions centering around oil amidst the climate of united protest lean also into 70s territory.
The 90s found a new generation that had not experienced the 70s first-hand and was fascinated by the freedom of that era that was being explored thanks to the sexuality exploration the 80s brought forth as a trend. At this time, much of the vintage clothes had disappeared as the 80s purged the landscape of clothes from that era as irrelevant. This is coupled with renewed interest in body consciousness plus rebellion from years of oversize fashion. Add the scarcity of 70s cuts and the market was ready to revisit similar cuts and fits without concern of vintage impeding on profits while satisfying the collection of conditions that welcomed this retro revisit.
This is further enhanced as we find science closer to cures for some of the more virulent diseases as well as increasing control of a major killer that connects with our carnal activities. The AIDS epidemic brought an end to the era of free love, but as we get closer to reigning it in, the barriers to sexual exploration loosen much in the way they were in the 70s. Current behaviours are bordering on the almost dangerous as we get cocky about the assurances our advances are promising. And, the sexiness the 70s and 90s embraced may find its way back as we see more advancements close a chapter on what held back our sexual exploration with a wardrobe to match.
Another aspect invited the 70s return. The realism we now embrace, further celebrated in social media (and noticed recently by Style.com) is another aspect the 70s was known for, seeking to be more natural as the current generation looked for authenticity that was eschewed by the generation before.
All this brings us to the renewed aesthetic that competes with its opposite, the sweeping, architectural drama that is also enjoying its place in fashion. And as our information age support those influences responsible, the dynamics of multiple looks and trends is well-reflected in our wardrobes as it is in fashion publications and the world that we find online.
Yet it is that vast world at our fingertips that is nebulous and complex that drives us to simpler times, and fashion reflecting this perception continues, offering what we desire on dichotomous fronts. Ironic that, as we ask for technology to make our lives easier, we find ourselves reliving the past to reclaim what our creations cannot yet provide: satisfying simplicity. Notice the word "yet"? I thought so.
T he textile revolution continues to shape our 21st century direction. Along with new innovations with nanotechnology are new compounds via intricate examination of molecular properties that were, before now, impossible. But with the increased power that our computers hold, we can find solutions to complexities that unleash untold variety for us to indulge in.
Fashion is not afraid of the new when it comes to materials and techniques; there are a steady stream of vanguards that bring in new techniques and textiles to move us forward. Our focus is on what will shape our coming century.
For decades we have toyed with the concept of seamless garments, such as when seamless pantyhose was made in the mid-60s or when the first seamless technology for knitwear was patented in the early 80s. We have long dreamed of relinquishing the seams to liberate us from the subtle bulk seams give.
In 1999, Issey Miyake, already known for innovation in design and textiles, decided to depart for his label to focus on textile creation, leaving with a subtle yet powerful creation called A-POC i.e. a piece of cloth. This was a tube where the wearer could cut out their garment and customize it. What made it genius was that the resulting garment was seamless. His concept was an incredible foreshadowing of what was to come, but only years later after technology had time to catch up. The further revelation was that this was in creation and experimentation back in the mid-90s, demonstrating the visionary capacity this master had to merge seamless technology with the personal applications that a DIY culture such as what we've had for a while now would desire.
Cue to our decade as seamless garment technology has grown up. While commercial manufacturers are playing with the concept (particularly in Italy), it has been more limited to manufacturers. However, one company called OpenKnit created a knitting machine last fall that could produce seamless garments in an hour...without any knowledge of pattern-making, cutting or even sewing. The democratization of seamless garment creation got personal.
This May, another company called Electroloom started a Crowdfunding campaign for a 3D printer that can spin seamless garments, again for personal use at home.
Chanel has jumped on the bandwagon by adding seamless garments to their most recent couture show, the Fall Winter 2015 collection to bring the Chanel aesthetic into the 21st century. When a fashion powerhouse embraces an idea, you know the concept will reverberate from aspirations into mainstream.
And so, between the exclusivity that brings attention and the viability unleashed in existing as well as newly released technology, we can see the newest piece of the puzzle regarding how fashion is shaping to be for the coming century. And this shaping looks to be dependent on the way we mold, craft and print rather than cut our proverbial cloth.