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Thursday, May 2nd 2019

6:48 PM

Piecing Fashion's Future

O ne of the articles that Fashion Observed wrote and continuously refers to is entitled "Recombinant Deconstruction Is It's Name-o" (September 19, 2015). While you're welcome to read it yourself, the gist of it lies in what's expected as we edge closer to 2020 and beyond. It is here that we expect to enter a new era that will not resemble our 20th century design aesthetic. Two key influences noted lie in the combination of technology and reactions to sustainability. The former has been spearheaded by Iris van Herpen while the latter was a statement made formal in the ranks of couture via Maison Margiela.

The former is awe-inspiring. Outside of incredible and influential textile innovations by Anrealage and Issey Miyake, technical incorporation by Hussein Chalayan and Cute Circuit, and through other 3D vanguards like Danit Peleg, technological innovation is nowhere as flamboyant and aggressively embraced to the level we continuously see in fashion as we do in the thought-provoking technical marvels churned out by Iris van Herpen. Meanwhile, Maison Margiela may not the absolute first to utilize reclaimed materials in its collections or design process, it does have a more prominent history than most other major labels of using reclaimed materials from its inception and is the first to bring it to the level of haute couture, sending a huge signal to the design world regarding the role sustainability can and will have in modern design. That both come at the haute couture level means these influences have reached the peak influencers of the pinnacles of society in a rather public fashion, and will thus trickle down gradually into a new mainstay tone for design for years to come. That's because what happens in haute couture is investment, and that translates into fashion milestones. Investments don't come and go so easily, especially when these can be six-figure investments.

But this is not all. As we get closer and closer to that key turning point, there is room for new or additional influences that shape our aesthetic that sometimes even those closely watching get surprised with. While sustainability was expected to influence design, it was taken at a manufacturing level more than at a construction level (well, within the bubble of Fashion Observed, that is). And while it was expected that fashion would see the reuse of existing materials in our march towards fashion innovation, how it was to be incorporated was not fully spelled out. Things like this are a joyful surprise, for it is like the fog lifting or a window deicing, revealing more and more for all of us to see.

It was expected here that fashion would reach a saturation point regarding excess, both in pattern and color mixing and in random styling. There seemed to already be indications of minimalism to clean the visual palette with the increase in monochrome looks and solids where texture showed growing prominence. In the normal age of cut and toss, that would continue to be true. But external factors have prompted a rebellion of the conscience that has affected design itself, and there is good reason for this shift.

Seeing political empowerment of those who choose to actively bring society into ecological regression while denying our role in an increasingly dire global situation playing out in extreme weather events that, left unchecked, are getting worse faster than originally expected has triggered personal alarms in various aspects of society. It is almost out of altruistic spite that the world growing to act without waiting for leadership to do what we see is necessary for our planet's survival. And with continued shaming of fashion in its volume of waste and pollution that has been growing in direct proportion to increased reporting of ecological impact, it was only a matter of time before fashion would take matters into its own hands. Nothing motivates an industry dependent on trends more than to make being actively socially accountable an essential; being late to this party is nothing compared to not even being on board and once fashion decides to be on board, there is no force greater that can inspire change. Among the many changes that are occurring, one shift is, as earlier noted, regarding construction.

For a house to be truly sustainable, one must not only look at the supply chain, but also at every step of construction. Those who work in fashion know that a significant amount of material gets chucked out. Many houses do try to be economical in cutting material to create the pieces that will be assembled by laying out each component in a way that minimizes waste. This is especially prudent from a business perspective; every dollar counts, and this requires good planning in the name of fiscal responsibility. But try as they might, there is always a degree of scrap left over, not to mention rejected items in the production line due to flaws caught during the review process or the eventual discard of items that could not be sold off (H & M recently announcing a $6 Billion dollar amount of merchandise left to the scrapheap). Sometimes it's just too expensive to take apart an item to replace a flawed panel, and the decision is made to scrap the garment itself. The decision that lies in being frugal with time to spend the least often means trading waste for efficiency in the name of economy. But now, in light of soul-searching as a result of seeing political ignorance emboldened in the name of placating personal interests versus the greater good, the discussion of choosing high quality over volume consumption long preached by Vivienne Westwood and Katherine Hamnett in conjunction with growing viable alternatives is providing the platform to rethink design itself.

It takes a lot of effort (translation: money) to make specialized garments using many, many smaller pieces. The construction effort is painstaking and veers towards the couture level. But when you have a climate of individuality and hyperdetail, it's easier to embrace intricate work, such as patchworking. Forget the quilting references that remind of octogenarian blanket construction or of Amish arts & crafts influence, we're looking at modern approaches bordering on cubist haphazzardry and Dadaist and modern geometric approaches bringing a nod to the avant garde explosion of expression in the spirit of 1920s (an inside joke reference the fashion world has kind of been expecting to be played out that has long lingered). We see modern aesthetics with architectural flare being payed with in a chaotic fashion highly reflective of the world we access via touch every day on the devices we find ourselves increasingly merged with; many listed here are actual initiatives with ecology in mind while a few others more reflect the general climate and utilize similar expression in their manufacturing process. Designs from collections by Balmain (here, here and here), Bethany Williams (here), Christopher Raeburn (here), CMMN SWDN (here), Facetasm (here), Koche (here), Minki London (here), Ottolinger (here), Phoebe English (here and here), Preen by Thornton Bregazzi (here), Rentrayage (here and here), Stand (here), Thom Browne (here, here and here), Vera Wang (here), and Y Project (here). A couple were also see from younger creatives such as Friederick Stanitzek (here) and Marc Point (here) while one collection demonstrating this approach was a collaborative ecological effort between XV Production, Re: textile and Emmaus Bjorka (here).

These show a willingness to embrace the progressive evolution of play that previous pattern mixing and pattern clash of the past few seasons have laid out as the norm...and before that, the allowance of Franken-assembly pioneered by Jean-Pierre Braganza...and further...decades earlier...the pattern collaging that is the DNA of another influential 20th century couturier, Christian Lacroix.

Our fashion path has laid out a future we could not have anticipated, and it is only in the retracing of our footsteps do we see how each revered and influential designer contributed one more brick in the golden path we march on. This path leads us merely forward to our identity of our times, and as fashion continues to evolve technologically while responding to our world sentiments based on events and circumstances we interact with. All are things we can muse about, and yet we surprise ourselves constantly. That is, we realize how we truly have no clear idea of how fashion evolves until events reveal to us the particular expression and form each influential component appear as. Indeed, it's unquestionably fascinating!

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