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Monday, September 2nd 2019

8:02 PM

Stoically Languid

W hen one is young, fashion holds promise. Before the internet....oh, let's say anything up to the 80s...one had to go through and keep a personal archive of a lot of publications. But fashion was also simpler, and there were fewer trend themes to keep track of, and fewer designers to refer to. And, being young and not having as much exposure to the world's output of fashion, any aspiring designer could feel that there was a lot of fashion ground to conquer, and that there was a lot of virgin territory. To a degree that was true; there wasn't as much innovation due to limitations on both technology and materials being created. The industry could not keep up with the creative ideas that one had as a young designer, so these were filed away. Some seemed too impossible, and others just not ready based on the current trends.

As technology got more sophisticated, run times for producing collections got shorter, so ideas came out faster. More information was becoming increasingly available. Media got more thorough and street fashion was becoming more recognized and documented in journals that went alongside the collection images bound together in seasonal trend quarterlies. Fashion picked up the pace, and my the mid 90s the beginnings of the internet was helping to inform the new crop of designers. Fashion was gaining celebrity status in an increasingly informed age, and that spurred more designers to come forth before and after the early 90s recession. New talent wanted to explore new forms. We had the rise and fall of shoulder pads and structure, distressed apolcalypticism, cowpunk, minimalism, the early incarnations of athleisure and normcore, grunge, and then fashion started to get interested in tech again. The advent of stretch, microfibers, and machinated lace joined new technical finishes and novelty textiles exploring texture, form, weave and colour. Changeant, iridescent, gauzy, devore....all in new incarnations. As more innovation rose with excitement of entering the 21st century, modernism started to infuse fashion. At that time we resigned to a world where we survived a recession, politics got charged along with international involvements, and equality got a bolder approach. Or at least a bolder attempt. And while retro fascination mixed in all this, particularly the fascination of 60s/70s pop culture courtesy of a TV generation seeing the sophistication of cable. It was an American thing, and with NYC being the rage at that time, whatever came out of that city was the dominant influence of fashion. So influential that designers rushed to set up shop there. Alexander McQueen himself transplanted to NYC, it was that hot.

Around the late 90s fashion got more languid. We had weathered worries yet women and gays were getting empowered (the 70s all over again). Male sexual exploitation (nice reverse from the long-held norm) was happening and yet we resigned to our hard edge. We didn't lose that hardness, just relaxed into it. We got desensitized to a degre; we got used to the new norm as we are a resilient, adaptive species that learns to cope as we grow. And facing forward towards the future added a modern edge in this acceptance of the modern, well-informed chaos of change. The clean lines of the World Trade Center would be the best comparison of this stoicism. Clear, minimal, strong and calm...that was the vibe.

Here we are again. We have the 21st century finally sinking in, taking root. We are becoming comfortable in the maelstrom that has become our new chaos. We haven't lost our hardened edge. No, that masculine force inside is anything but gone, but we are no longer quite as much on the defensive. We know what's going on around us, even if it is not to our liking. We're empowered as we comer to grips with our surrounding reality, and somehow adapting to this blessed mess. And just like in the 90s, the asymmetric wide swaths of simplicity that feels modern has come back. We feel the power of our environment, we relax in the armour that we have built, and instead of holding structure to protect and cocoon, we digress.our acceptance and knowledge comforts; it covers, and it swings with the changes. It has energy, or at least freedom in its naturalness that free-flowing asymmetry provides.

Lots of this architectural aspect is seen in recent collections, and unlike the past, fashion has decided to give what it wants when it feels like, so this blog (and probably a lot of fashion publications now) now is taking what it can from the melded seasons that have so far been presented. That means we got Resort 2020, Spring Summer 2020 and Haute Couture Fall Winter 2019 all at once. And on top of it, some designers have sprung custom pieces and now we have 2019 graduate shows to contribute to the fashion conversation (we do on the Fashion Observed Instagram; we watch for the future). Anyway, languid panels were seen in 2020 Resort collections from Adeam (here), Chalayan (here and here), Christopher Esber (here), Collina Strada (here and here),Galvan London (here), Jonathan Simkhai (here), Louis Vuitton (here), Monse (here) and Tadashi Shoji (here). They were also seen in 2020 Spring Summer collections from A Cold Wall (here), Alexander McQueen (here), Ambush (here and here), Automatism (here), Dior (here), Jeffrey Dodd (here and here), Ji Oh (here), Narciso Rodriguez (here) and Vetements (here and here). Also, it was seen in recent custom work from Pyer Moss (here) and 2019 gradate work from Sarah Robinson (here).

The hard edges and solidity of the panels still remind us that we are carrying our defensiveness, and it's off-kilter it's only matching the times. Asymmetry tends to be present when we feel a lack of order, and yet the beauty of asymmetry is that it reminds also of nature. For nature is beautiful in its chaos, and as much as we try to be civilized and in control, we know that our world is anything but. But the strong stoic embrace that surrounds us this season in wide, carefully cut yet freely swaying panels tells us that we are confident in the now, perhaps more than before. We are present and living our future now, and we're not fine with it, yet okay with knowing it is what it is.

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