T o be seen as we are, not as we appear...this seems to be a subtle undercurrent of a lament of modern times. We have grown exhausted from the games that the past political scenarios have unleashed, and as we unwind the deception from various channels of our lives, we find the underlying self is what matters. And over this, a delicate whisper of what we dream still remains. Unlike a past Fashion Observed article ("Shaped Perceptions", November 18, 2018) that had the illusion with the reality underneath expressed as sheer forms in one shape over more solid forms underneath, we now have a return of transparency, albeit strategically placed (covered in the prior article just posted below).
We are ready for truth...the naked truth. We can architect a vision that will soon be our desire, but underneath we bring ourselves, real and in the flesh. Nothing is left to hide, and there no desire for anything less. We appreciate what is natural and whole, what is underneath it all. We ask for and seek the truth: authenticity; not the marketing version, but the actual tangible thing.
Fitting that we see this unabashed nakedness peek up in various collections. Actually, quite a few that were covered in the article regarding placement contained more revealing of the flesh, much the way we did in the latter 90s when we leaned to a more natural self as appreciated amidst the rise of the technical. Our humanity is what mattered, as it does now.
We approach our personal habitation in this world, recognizing that it is becoming increasingly plugged in and connected to the greater fabric of humanity. Our innovation jumps at solutions as fast as new problems are found resulting from past ones. We marvel at what is coming forth, barely aware that there is so much that goes beyond our immediate scope that we fail to have the necessary free time to absorb it all.
As such, we take time to appreciate what we have and are that we can absorb. We connect to share recognition that we have commonality amidst individuality, knowing how we are alone in our collective yet ultimately not as we share our experience and find kindred souls who validate our experience. We are aware. We are awake. We are present and naked before ourselves, the ugliness and the beauty all before us. And threaded by our hopes and dreams, our dreams like a schematic overlay, allowing our imaginations to populate while knowing those hopes are but a delicate framework of maybe. Fashion takes that mood and the aura it generates, and plays with the ethereal to do its best to convey this understanding in delicate beauty.
In 2020 Resort we see it from Madison Hislop (here); in 2020 Spring Summer we see it from Craig Green (here), Hypnographic (here) and Stefan Cooke (here); in Fall Winter 2019 Haute Couture from Iris van Herpen (here); and from offerings by design artists such as costumer Paul Borges (here) and Iris van Herpen alum Stephanie Santos (here). Delicate and gentle is the play with fine threads to create imagined form while leaving reality underneath to simply be. No deception or pretension is underneath. Everything is, as already said, honest and free to be.
It's not a huge current in fashion so far, although the rest of SS2020 has yet to be fully unveiled and the distressing that brings in more threads as accents is being noted. Enough...or the lack of...um....coverage in particular we do see is enough to warrant paying attention to. It shows in what has been seen so far that the fine lines of desire bring form to dreams, and isn't that what makes fashion magical?
I t takes a very astute artist to work with the nuances of something such as material placement. Those unfamiliar with Japanese calligraphy might see a beautiful arrangement of strokes and sweeps to fill the page, but those who are more intimately knowledgeable with the art actually understand what one is appreciating: it is not the strokes created but the spaces left behind that makes the calligraphy into what is classified as art. In fashion, for the designer...especially the influential designer that borders on being a true artist...the art of placement is no small feat. What seems like simple asymmetry and layering, with a cut here and a slash there, is all very carefully conceived. Each component and its carefully chosen position rises to fulfill what the designer imagines should be when looking for artistic perfection. And each space, each part left naked or exposed, each portion left uncovered, is also carefully chosen. To the untrained eye it seems pleasing yet we don't know quite why,. However, the artist knows that balance and proportion are crucial to making it as natural as nature itself. Its execution is one that is well measured without being forced or contrived.
In our current world, fake news is combated with clarification and information. Our privacy has become a precious commodity that has been challenged and is now being fought over. To reveal or to not is the current debate. Should you know what i like and what I don't? How much of my opinions or personal life should anyone have access to? And on social media...do I want to know how many followers I have? Do you? And what if I don't want to follow everyone...or be followed? Issues of privacy and control of information and image have become a growing presence in our interaction when looking at our activities and persona, especially as we now are conducting more and more of our daily lives online. We now take more time to consider the impact of our exposure as well as thew implications when holding too much back. As we debate over what we can and should reveal, this becomes a new personal "art"; it is one of personal space. The quest to control, if you will. We've seen the discussion of sharing, oversharing, sharing false, curated profiles, playing with showing the "real" selves in response, and even calling out the falsities in our quest for authenticity and getting to the truth. We've seen celebrities oscillate between abandoning social media only to come back and regroup with a better plan of what to share to retain integrity. We fight for privacy and surrender ourselves as a commodity as part of contractual obligations for web-based trade without even realizing how prevalent it is. But this "art" is so natural, it's become a normal part of modern living. We have all become editors of our existence. And (you guessed it) fashion seems to tap into this, finding symbolism that responds materially and appropriately. But it is on purpose or subliminal? Is it that automatic, that we create art so harmoniously and universally without even realizing it?
Well, when it comes to shapes, colours and forms, we as a social animal tend to be rather typical in that regard. So, whether it is conscious or not, fashion is showing the art of curated revealing in collections that have been out for the past several months. It can be expressed in the use of degrees of sheer, in the way something is purposefully revealed or not in cut, and how much is revealed when playing with cuts and opaqueness in layers. So many variations but the key theme is careful, measured placement (and what is not covered), and we see this in a lot of what has been shown in fashion so far. We see it in 2020 Resort collections from 3.1 Phillip Lim (here, middle image), Balmain (here), Christopher Esber (here), David Koma (here), Dior (here), Juanjo Oliva (here and here), Karla Spetic (here and here), Lorod (here), Monse (here), Nadya Dzyak (here), Sid Neigum (here), Stella McCartney (here) and Threeasfour (here). In 2020 Spring Summer collections, this was seen at A Cold Wall (here), ACNE (here and here), Alexander Wang (here), Automatism (here), again Balmain (here), Barbara Bui (here; first image), Craig Green (here), Daniel Rozsahegyi (here and here), Feng Chen Wang (here), Ji Oh (here; first image), Kenzo (here), Loewe (here), Louis Vuitton (here), Ludovic de Saint Sernin (here, here and here), Mowalola (here), NIHL by Neil Grotzinger (here and here), Ozai N Ku (here), Peter Do (here and here), Phillipp Plein (here), Sacai (here), Stefan Cooke (here) and Y Project (here). It was seen at Fall Winter 2019 Haute Couture from Antonio Grimaldi (here), Fendi (here), Iris Van Herpen (here), JP Gaultier (here), Maison Margiela (here and here), Maria Aristidou (here) and Ronald van der Kemp (here); from recent custom work by Elena Velez (here) and Ottolinger (here) ; from ready-to-wear offerings by Gelareh Designs (here) and Pirosmani (here); from 2019 graduate collections by Cansel Alil (here), Celine Zara (here), Jacob Arkell (here), Jessica Semple (here), Ji Hoo Kim (here and here) and Meemi Akthar (here); and on Project Runway from up-and-comer Sandhya Garg (here and here).
Across the internet from all levels of fashion the unified play finds collective understanding of a world we are struggling to find a place in. It's a carefully choreographed, well-thought-out, measured and yet inviting place at that, and with this a delicate balance that speaks volumes of the two worlds we inhabit: one being the virtual world where our personas are crafted with earnest, and the other the actual physical world where the consequences play out with trepidation.
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.
F ashion Observed has long enjoyed sharing how events inspire creatives, translating our emotional response into forms and colours we somehow connect with. Designers who resonate spark the kind of connection that stirs us, and those that line up elements most closely to our emotional being become the leaders we celebrate. The interpretations themselves are translations, and some can be anticipated or previously-felt based on historical repetitious context. When we lean to retro influences or previously explored shapes, silhouettes, or even repetitions of entire concepts, it's often due to triggers regarding reliving similar sentiments. An astute artist or designer (who is really an artist working under the confines of commerce and limited time constraints as creative challenges) will notice both current events and public reactions replaying what we have been through before, and will take their knowledge of history, match current recurring patterns to it and draw from this as inspiration into their next design.
In previous decades, and especially before the advent of the internet, this access of knowledge was more limited to the more connected and well-traveled, and as the world wasn't as privy to the volume of detail regarding world events and public sentiment in kind and that influences tended to be a bit more straight-forward. We'd see a key theme and a few nuances at best, and the focus was on the most established houses who could afford the PR to be recognized and heard as they reinforced emphasis on those themes. As pointed out in this blog many times before, the internet has opened a massive door of information that is accessible to a wider global audience, which means that we all have way more information...and in real time...that informs us about what is happening as well as showing how we are reacting in greater detail. Not only that, we have created platforms for sharing our points of view and sentiments in real time in easily accessible forms such as blogs and, of course, social media. With exponentially-increasing technological advancements affording us the ability to better track and quantify these responses on a global yet localized scale, we now have far more detail to draw on that helps us to better connect and personalize whatever it is we want to connect with. In the case of fashion, this means we have way more influences that translate into many nuances; a typical collection no longer has a simple theme, but is a sophisticated collage of reactions.
Sometimes there is a lot happening on the world stage and we find it easy to reflect these in relatable context, while at other times the conversation is drawn out. One of the thorns in our side is the conditioned expectation of fashion always bringing something new to keep the public interest. It is a product of our capitalism, to nurture steady consumption habits, and is how our world has taught itself to survive, It is a huge issue we are reconciling with as we come to terms with the grim results being played out in a global catastrophe of our own making. True enough, we have been increasingly aware of our role in all of this, and now more than ever are we paying attention to our impact on the environment. So, getting back to the conversation being played out...at times, our attention drifts after becoming saturated on a theme or topic. Sometimes it is pop culture, sometimes it's historical references, sometimes it's a favoured culture, sometimes it's our entertainment...you get the picture. And when we exhaust these as topics, we still have to find something to keep ourselves engaged. Sometimes, it's just by taking in what's around us. Sometimes, it's in nature and at other times it's merely what's in our neighborhoods.
One of the topics in the media has been the commoditization of urban real estate and its impact on the standard of living in the face of stagnating wages versus increasing living costs. In major cities this has been especially the case, with real estate becoming a source of speculation in the name of profit and the negative impact on the public very strongly felt. And when thinking about real estate, it's hard not to notice the inspiring new buildings that are cropping up all over that have been built, in part, because of the drive to capitalize on the growth of the real estate markets. Our social media reflects this fascination of awe-inspiring architecture, so it's easy to see how this newness becomes a design influence. There have been two particular aspects noted in recent collections that seem to find connection to architecture and our economy. One involves fixed designs demonstrating modern technological craft. Much like what contemporary architects do, designers take on newest materials and techniques to create new shapes and forms, often mirroring existing architectural fixations that are just as subject to the same reflective design influences as any other creative, such as the increase of parametric architecture and how more curves are incorporated into cut and form of design. Inspirations that involve the exploration of form and surface that amazing new buildings have are chosen in part as they resonate with a connection to our surroundings. This is especially so when our emotions are tied to something as concrete (no pun intended) as what is around us. Architectural designs from A Cold Wall (here), Anrealage (here), Antonio Grimaldi (here), Biotico (here), Chanel (here), Craig Green (here), Dzhus (here and here), EZ by Elena Zemtova (here) Feng Chen Wang (here), Offical Bareskin (here) Oriane Tonnerre (here, here and here), Roland Mouret (here) and Three as Four (here and here) certainly inspire in a similar manner. The other aspect is in response to our ecological and fiscal concerns. When discussions of fiscal prudence are brought forward, such as when there's talk of coming austerity, there seems to be a rise in modular design, and this finds itself architecturally expressed in collections from again Dzhus (here and here), Each x Other (here), Issey Miyake (here) and Pigalle (here).
Now, it's important to remind you that our world is complex and that these themes are not the only one today. Fashion will be showing variety. In the past, we might have kept an eye out for key words to sum up themes. Now we are looking for virtual paragraphs, with each word an indicator of the contribution each region makes towards the climate that fashion has has at each traditional seasonal milestone. And as the Resort 2020 collections start to appear, we will see the next incarnation reveal what is the evolved topics on our mind. Certainly the themes of sustainability, globalism, cultural understanding and personalization amidst the sped and power of technology are going to find itself further on our minds, along with the push and pull as we love and fear our progress amidst a world that offers huge changes thanks in part to technical innovation. And then we have the shift away from throwaway fashion as we look further to investment pieces meant to last, the way a monument is conceived; this is in part to provide longer life to garments as we seek to decrease consumption and provide more financially viable items as we produce more fashion for the growing rental market. We will only be able to say more the next time after the Resort 2020 collections have finished and have been looked over (and this blog will then return in kind with responses and observations to answer these questions). The thing is...will all of it continue to be a cacophony of stimulation? Or will the future become supersaturated with detail and rebel as a reaction to fearing letting go of the luxury of the old ways regarding virgin cloth? Or will the reactive turn towards more minimalism be as a result of the anticipated downturn that will be like no other and thus be more brutal...ist?
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!
I t is good to be back and wonderful to see you reading this blog again. The Fall Winter 2019 season has been fascinating to say the least, with one of the reasons for making such a claim lying in the observing of regional differences as far as how fashion expresses itself. Really, one has to take notes on two fronts; one being the unfolding of current events and the other being the full immersion of the collection seasons during the cluster of fashion weeks that effectively become more of a fashion month. Within each region of the world there is a perspective of what is around ourselves and how we feel interacting with what we perceive, both the interpretation of our environment and our role within it. Fashion becomes the translator, converting these feelings into shapes, textures and colours that we identify with. Those who have been following from the onset know that this has been broken down here before. A few times, actually. This is the process that links observation with creativity, and those who are more attuned to the symbols we choose become successful translators, and thus more popular designers.
In the last article, we noticed a few things happening, such as the increase in clothes becoming more flowing and sloping on the body versus being stiff and reinforced, strong shoulders and all. Both looks are still here. After all, the world doesn't always share the same base notes of sentiment. In some areas the strength of defensiveness remains and in those regions the roomy structured shoulder-padded garment thrives; previous articles have explained the reason for this recurrence (a good reason for being both a subscriber and a consistent reader!). In others, the resignation of how things are lies in the increase of this languid expression of lack of shoulder reinforcement and unstructured design, much as in the early 90s when the world came to accept the inevitable state as the economy faced a downturn while seeing nuclear threats dissolve due to the Cold War ending. While the US charged fearlessly into the Middle East amidst this, it wasn't seen as immediately apocalyptic versus when the Cold War tensions reached a crescendo. That is, it did trigger some religious-connected concerns but without major players holding nuclear arsenals participating, the impact on the collective psyche did not translate the way that matters did in the mid to late 80s. Defensiveness wasn't necessary, and the shoulder pads became passe.
Another aspect is transparency. In the last article before Fall Winter 2019 came forth, it was noted that the transparency had pretty much vanished. This was reflected in the media as more and more opinions shared a collective resignation that the truth was no longer present in politics, world affairs, and even the reporting of such. Why, our whole social media culture seemed to celebrate a fascination for everything fake. The USA in particular has both captured the lion's share of attention with morbid fascination while unfortunately influencing imitation, emboldening less desirable political change to progress via shameless mimicry, giving rise to more right-leaning leadership while fueling xenophobia and intolerance. With recent revelations coming from releases of investigative processes (for the USA, this would be the Mueller investigation) as well as more thorough pattern revelations in journalistic reporting, hope has returned to a degree, and more transparency came back, as was seen in some collections.
It should be noted that different parts of the world hold different sentiments depending on the proximity to threatening action in relation to triggering past memories of fear. This is why certain collections bring back certain expressions; our allowance for a larger vocabulary supported by the trends of originality over the last few years allow for various voices. However, there are new, more sophisticated commonalities that connect with the larger perspective. One of these is a growing understanding in how nothing in our world is simple. To understand ourselves is to understand that we are more than what we appear. Our depth has layers, and they are not always uniform.
There are two interesting approaches that the world has been immersing itself in. One is the attempt to understand our collective behaviour and its role in the world. The drama of the USA and how it emboldens other political initiatives across the globe has given to collective soul-searching. Articles abound where our self-consciousness seeks understanding on our motivations and the directions these lead to. This ranges from behavioural interaction (views on race, class and sexuality in comparison and contrast to individual and collective beliefs) to world activity introspection (how personal attitudes become political shifts). It's no longer important to note that things are happening as much as to try to understand how and why, and to achieve this requires addressing the deeper questions.
The other is to see how this relates to our past. By examining past patterns, we seek to avoid repetition of our failures, but it requires uncovering darker truths as well as cold observation of our surrounding environment. In various platforms such as Quora and Reddit (as well as in more local media platforms supporting local interaction), these conversations have been on the increase, and more and more media stories are taking on an almost anthropological approach in examining various aspects of culture and events. Foreign intervention into election processes, particularly in USA and now Canada, have driven a reaction of further local discussion to get to the truth. Part of that truth is in determining what we ourselves actually feel versus the perspectives that trolls attempt to shift opinions towards. Again, this solicits a deeper introspection form the individual that media and events did not before require the public to do.
Through all this we have increased discussion on trying to disarm the damage that trolling has done, especially as the results involve supporting regressive populist views that encourage hate and isolation. The work is ongoing and far from complete, but the dialogue is happening, and that sentiment informs the perceptive creative voice. This find itself translated into more complex design aspects such as intricate cuts in intriguing layering and in artfully proportional cuts. The former can be seen in collections by Antonio Grimaldi (here), Bed j.w. Ford (here), Chanel (here), Dior (here), Facetasm (here), Maria Aristidou (here) and Y Project (here), and from younger labels such as Oriane Tonnerre (here) and Supramorphous (here). The latter, meanwhile, can be seen in collections from A Cold Wall (here and here), Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood (here), Dion Lee (here), Mowalola for Fashion East (here), Ralph & Russo (here), and from younger labels such as Jean Claude Court (here), Karl Friedrich Hieronymus (here), Marta Jakubowski (here), again Oriane Tonnerre (here) and Peter Do (here).
As you can see, these skillfully wrought assemblies are not your average design executions. Much like our introspection and the many factors involved that such undertaking uncovers, the design process reflects the complexity that we face as we, armed to the gills with more information than one can humanly digest, becomes the norm every time we decide to swipe our devices we habitually turn to. Technology, more than a tool, has become an extension of our consciousness. Fashion heartily reminds us of that with every jacket, pant and blouse.
T hank you for your patience and loyalty. Although this blog is cutting back on the amount of publications for the time being, we can see that the readership has remained true. In fact, we were surprised by the number of readers checking in...and we have the statistics that inform us.
We also notice the glitch that we failed to address for the longest time. For that, please accept a heartfelt apology to you. Currently, time is being spent on the diligence of reviewing collections as they come forward, uploading images onto Instagram. Have you not seen what has been posted? It's worth a look. There is also another surprise in the works.
Fashion Observed will become a bonifide website. That's all that will be said on the subject for now and you will be informed as the changes are made. It's exciting on this end, and we cannot wait to share this with you.
If you are wondering about articles, you will not have to wait much longer. Now that Fall Winter 2019 has come and gone and the images have been uploaded onto the Instagram feed, blog articles will come soon. So keep checking in. You can also subscribe to this blog so you can be informed in real time. Subscribers, by the way, will be rewarded with their loyalty once the website is complete and live. And like everything related to Fashion Observed, good things come to the patient and loyal.
Does anyone who reads Fashion Observed recall the 90s?
We're not talking about the journey from the end of shoulder pads to minimalism, then grunge, then normcore, then sportswear, then 70s retro redone, then lab and tech-inspired (Helmut Lang's lab cut coats are completely back again), then romantic and Edwardian, then future-forward and neo 80s before 9/11 set us back? We're speaking about the way that the recession following the global credit collapse brought the go-go 80s to a screeching halt. You know (if you were actually there), the way the excess that fashion reflected, inspired by tremendous innovation supported by the celebration of individuality, became too much. When all that innovation and individuality became a marketing scheme that couldn't sustain itself.
The constant chase to be ahead of the fashion curve burnt out its fans and followers who could not compete with their role models and influences, and as the bills mounted and economies looked to dry up, people stopped buying. Design houses that had not cultivated a sustainable following collapsed, unable to compete with other, more established labels when the message became less about ideas and more about wearability and value in investment. Yes, that part of the 90s. Well, guess what? It's coming back, at least if what has been presented during Pre-fall 2019 (and, so far, some of fall Winter 2019) is any indication.
When looking at the collections from Pre-fall 2019 onwards, there is a clear division happening in what is being presented. There is one camp , seen more prominently in shows outside of the USA where the threat of economic collapse doesn't seem to be as prominent in conversations or in media (yet). The political landscape and its repercussions in the face of history is felt more acutely there, especially as current politics have made this "fear central". What we speak of is where fashion continues its see-saw between mining the late 80s experimentalism (with a dash of protective oversize that still lingers) versus execution innovation, aided in part by more sophisticated technology that carries vision forward, both in materials and in assembly. In the latter, some are still playing with excess while others are streamlining the executions while still keeping the edge of modernity intact. These clothes, as interesting as they are, are for the utterly urban audience. These are the ones who live in major cities and more sophisticated centers where fashion will have special places that welcome it. That is, where large populations that support anonymity more easily allow individuality to mix more freely. This is the fashion that we, who love design, like...but... cannot wear outside of these centers; the concepts are too conspicuous, too high in ideals for the average road trip into less populated and more conservative areas (read: most of the average world). Face it, they're city clothes. Then, there's the other, increasingly larger camp, the camp that embraces demure practicality (the exclamation by Vogue Runway's Luke Leitch covering the recent Fall Winter 2019 menswear collection of Takahiromiyashita The Soloist: "At last! Some art!"; that said it all.). These are the clothes you can wear when living an average life, a life of grocery shopping, running errands, or going into the suburbs and rural areas. It's the world of classics and confirmed retro items that become perennial. It's the kind of clothes that allow one to seamlessly blend into the population. These allow for the individual to find a code within the comforts of conformity to declare one's identity in a more identifiable manner. These are the essentials, the ones that stand the test of time...and preserve relative anonymity by being more non-descript.
Designers know that the runway may need editorial items to keep media interest but the boutiques have the staples because, as often stated in this blog ad infinitum, fashion is ultimately a business and those staples are really what people buy. The problem is when more and more labels in fashion, out of preservation in the face of economic adversity, recalls what happened last time such an extreme shift happened during an explosion of creativity and decide to revert to the tried-and-true tactic that became the go-to in fashion previously. This blog referred to it originally years ago as "the culling" because that is what happened then, it's what happens during every recession, and it unfortunately is what will happen again. There is a huge factor currently anticipated that, like the last time, spurs such a design direction that is appearing in pre-fall collections this year.
Fashion relies on a sustainable customer base to carry it forward. Unfortunately, the business communities at large have allowed avarice to reign (and the public has been largely apathetic as the conditions gradually deteriorated to where they are today), and, let's face it, it is the worst business move ever. Sure, for a few years those nearer the top get richer, but by starving out their customer base that allowed such profits to occur, they have made their future unsustainable while possibly setting up conditions that can result in a less-than-gentile backlash. Think eighteenth century France and please recall the undercurrent of fear among the target of protest when the one percent movement came about...until that movement proved it couldn't focus enough to carry through. Do you think the next time those that protest won't have learned from that? You can't have a consumption-based economy continue when you take out the bulk of the customer base, and the growing divide as a result of wage stagnation and exponential expense growth has left this customer base...the one that our consumption economy is largely based around... tapped out. Now, throw in fears of another huge downturn along with a huge negative balance due to extended credit use for survival and what do you have? A very big and very bad problem...and that problem includes every industry tied to fashion.
Fashion reflects our population well. In fact, protest movements (Yellow Vest) and fringe collectives (clothing collections online for the alt-right) are taking to utilizing fashion as a unifier as much as clothing styles define a "tribe". Some within it see opportunity and remain, honing their voice and keeping their business in check with confidence on the customer base it knows and has established. Some will forge forward with hope and will not remain, not able to sustain in a downturn due to poor timing or a vision that cannot sustain itself in changing times. That is, fashion that is too unique when the bulk of the population goes normcore out of necessity spells doom for individuality regardless of where it might work. It failed for creative in the early 90s as nobody wanted to stand out when homelessness exploded. That's why logos, flamboyance and individualistic creative expression ended. It was vulgar to stand out in obviously pricey finery, passing people who were suffering with no money for food or a home to go to. It was like rubbing their faces in your good fortune, which nobody wanted to do. The change in dress also was out of survival as fashion fans realized the kind of attention being flashy got in less prosperous circumstances invited trouble. All that the 80s was about was, abruptly, out of fashion.
Fashion Observed doesn't enjoy bringing gloomy observations. Who doesn't feel bad for anyone affected negatively by misfortune? Given the understanding of investing one's life in one's passions, there is a particularly soft spot reserved for those who will not be able to sustain their revolutionary visions when the proverbial poo hits the fan. Their vision will feed future generations who will look for innovation when time passes and situations (hopefully) rebound. But one also feels bad for the many designers who have decided to forgo individuality and innovation out of survival. In failing to lead the public forward by standing ground creatively in unison, this shift dooms the industry to seeing redundancy punished; many labels who produce what a Walmart or Gap make who have not fully established themselves in that zone will have a hard time surviving because those who can buy will not see much of a difference between what is a bargain and what is not, and will naturally gravitate to the bargain. Those who understood business who survived the last time this happened know it's what propelled many labels to shut down back then. And with tariff wars, political instability, and environmental concerns added to consumers' concerns (Elliot Wave, anyone?) and exacerbating the entire scenario, there will be less impetus for the next while for people to shop the way they do when times are good. That doesn't take into consideration the new growing trend of purchasing direct from manufacturers, forsaking supporting and being loyal to labels in lieu of seeking bargains on quality workmanship. This, plus the growing resale economy, will not help sales, but those who read the article written by this blog's author for Scandinavia's largest trend organization and WGSN partner Pej Gruppen a couple of years back on how to maximize the expected fashion rental market will know better on how to thrive.
If only one can remake the world; it's easy to say "what ifs" like how fashion should have collectively stuck to individuality as a new direction for the century, albeit by scaling down the collection sizes and volume. Sure, it would have meant downsizing. Some people would lose positions, and some profit would have been lost. But the chances of overall survival while fashion reconciles sustainability and adapts to changing consumer values would have been better. If fashion had collectively done this, it could have reprogrammed the direction of fashion and thus preserved more labels while the economy corrects itself. But it didn't then, and all indicators look as though it's not about to now. Not the way things stand as far as trying to retain the status quo. Perhaps that's the problem who's solution doesn't fit this century.
But fret not and take it in stride; not everything can be accurately predicted. And also, please take heart that nothing ever stays the same. Even bad times eventually give way to good ones. Let's not forget how tech reinvigorated interest in fashion in the 90s; our tech blows out of the water anything from the last century. We have some of that to address issues, just as it did back then. And sustainability is, as mentioned in prior articles, forging new design approaches that could impact how fashion proceeds to circumnavigate a repeat of this experience. We'll always have fashion; we gotta wear something. We just need a stronger cause to accompany our road ahead. We need the initiatives to save the customer to avoid social catastrophe as we figure on how to save the planet from ourselves. Cheerful stuff!
H ello and welcome back.
So far, what has been coming out for Pre-fall 2019 and from initial offerings of Fall Winter 2019 has been intriguing. The proportion of rather safe fare that was noticed will be discussed in greater detail in the next article. The more adventurous designs, however, have see a subtle morphing of existing concepts and executions. Much is familiar that have been covered here previously, and, of course, something else noticed will add to this observation.
We see a continuation of previous themes this blog has covered before, with some long-standing approaches such as the Franken-assembly of materials patchworked together (thank you Michael van der Ham, wherever you are). Ecology and sustainability will ensure the 70s/90s blocking effect remains as designers continue to explore and exploit the benefits of utilizing what would once have been waste to find new innovation in design. The oversize influence is still around in places but seems to be static, with a little less prominence this time around, especially as the 90s and early 2000s establish their anticipated return (with a heavy dose of 90s Helmut Lang). And while some designers still hang onto busy patterning mixtures, mish-mashing overload and applique, that approach seems to be competing with an uptick in monochoromatics, increased use of solids, blocking and more geometric print array and texture...along with an increase in plaids.
The Spring Summer 2019 segmenting and detachment plus use of string and straps as modern expressions continues. The subconscious associations this blog covered also remain; that is, we are still enduring and working through all that still, so it's not surprising to see the evolution work itself out in many incarnations over and over. It's kind of like replaying an incident over and over in order to make sense of it and process. Another detail is emerging within the overall imbalance we feel that is translated as asymmetry: subtle folding, be they acting as a layer or worked into slouching drape. It seems like a logical step as fashion will slowly make its way from harsh and severe engineered cuts and panels to softer, more artful draping that we first started seeing back in spring collections, and folds are a design bridge in between for those who had more hard edges in prior collections. It's the softer version of a sharp line that still retains the finality of a hard line, but the curve it brings is the incarnation towards releasing what has been, like a softening of one's convictions.
From a behavioral view, there is only so much a person can do when maintaining a tough stance. After a while, the energy peters out and we give way to what we fight or defend ourselves from. We swing from man-made protective hardness to the embrace of the flow. But folds...well...as a symbol it's not what they are but what they have that cannot be seen. Folds hide things. They keep secrets. They keep their internals private. We have to investigate to find what's in a fold. It could be nothing, it could be a surprise. Whatever it is, it's hidden. In modern design, it appears, when looking at prior design executions, that folds tend to show up when we happen to be in a period of awareness that there's more to whatever is happening than what meets the eye. Current political intrigue holds promise of this, for example. Goals and ambitions of groups making more public stances have this as well. The public versus private as we seek truth, to uncover that which is hidden, to know the unknowable, or to recognize that there is unknowable...all this can trigger a manifestation rendered symbolic, even if only subconsciously.
These, integrated within solid forms and stoic panels were seen so far in collections from 3.1 Phillip Lim (here), Cedric Charlier (here), Hussein Chalayan (here and here), Jil Sander (here), Louis Vuitton (here), Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini (here), Phoebe English (here), Preen by Thornton Bregazzi (here), Rasario (here), Valentino (here) and Y/Project (here). This is not limited to big players and this blog likes to look at all sources because these days influence can come form anywhere thanks to the power of social media. Thus, along with these examples we include recent London College of Fashion graduate Jiali Lu (here) and emerging design talent Sladjana Grujic (here). They blend in yet add dimension to the forms, and act to conceal while provoking interest, even if subtly so. And how true it is in life as well, as we seek answers, information and resolution, all not from what we know but from what we have yet to find or learn about. The transparency of previous seasons betrays us these days; we know nothing is transparent any more. All we want to know is truth, and it's there, somewhere. It's in our social folds.
As more collections are released, especially collections for the Fall Winter 2019 season, we'll see what else we have that may be new. Given that fashion is anticipating some "chilliness" in the world, we might see a slow-down of sorts regarding newness. Ah, but that's too much said that will have to wait for the next article.
A nother year has passed and it has been an eventful one for all. Fashion certainly reflected this with a level of creativity not seen since the 80s (and, arguably, the latter 90s and 2000s before 9/11). And while there are telling signs showing in Prefall and Fall Winter 2019, this blog will leave you wondering...until next year. In the meantime, do check out the Instagram feed (link in this blog's main heading) which is gaining followers as it goes: over four thousand posts and over a thousand followers and only one year old as of December 9th, not to mention more designers and publications taking note with some following off and on, some becoming a regular presence, and some becoming good friends.
I left a Christmas gift for you, my loyal readers and followers, and you'll find it on the Twitter feed (link also in the main heading...in bold). Enjoy as we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a joyous New Year. And don't worry: more will come. Stay tuned....