Fashion Observed

Trend observations with a sociological eye from afar...

by Darryl S. Warren  

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Aesthetic Armour

T hose who have read this blog know that our moods inform our fashion collections, with ample evidence upholding the observation. As fashion gets its juice from art and art is the language that finds expression where words fail us, it's a given. Yes, fashion has a fickle quality and it is a product of business. However, it doesn't hold much sway if it doesn't connect in an emotional manner and that is where art finds its place within its inception.

There is a climate of fear these days. Most days if you look at our history. Our connectivity enhances what media finds profitable, which is why there's so much bad news available. Bad news gets our attention more easily. It's just unfortunate that there's so much of it these days. When we get fearful, we look for comfort and protection. When we feel empowered, it's comfort that takes precedence. When insecurity becomes more likely, protection becomes more important. During the cold ware eras of the 50s and later in the 80s, volume found its place, as did structure. Having a protective shell rings hollow when faced with nuclear annihilation, but if a psychological placebo can bring peace of mind then you can be sure it will be embraced. The post 9/11 years saw cocooning with added structure as well, and now that we see global instability getting more "hairy" and seeing this plus our pandemic tied to economics, it's a wonder we haven't all completely lost it.

Now we have a vaccine on the horizon and no sooner does this ray of hope come along that we have amplification of warning of economic crises. The news announcing business closings, the threat of more chapter 7 and chapter 11 filings, talk of fiat currency challenges and fringe groups threatening to undermine our safety in the name of distorted ideology with more aggressive fervor can certainly bring feelings of defensiveness (if not hopelessness). And yet, we seek something more soul satisfying as compensation. If, in the past, this protective cocooning had more utilitarian aspects, this time we have a new influence in our armour: a desire for something thought-provoking, long-lasting and special.

Part of it is a response from our awareness of our role in consumption. We are hearing more about how fashion pollutes and how too much of it is made only to be thrown into landfills or destroyed. We haven't just learned about our excess, either. During the lockdowns we have been forced to reflect...not a bad thing, really. Mankind was overdue for a time out. In that reflection, we've had the time to look over our things, like what's in our closet. We ponder over the amount we do have, the amount we don't wear, the items we could wear that sit unworn. And as more of us who are lucky enough to have a job work from home, we see how many items are no longer as necessary, either. Even Saville Row has shifted in the kinds of items they create, recognizing the demand has moved to a more casual nature; suits being offered in more versatile and comfortable textiles versus more formal cuts and colours. But if you think that has sent our tastes packing, think again. Being cooped up all day or having little to do or to go to has made us reprioritize our desires. We hunger something that is worth our investment. If we have to spend our hard-to-come-by dollars, we want it to be special.

That brings the other aspect: distinction. If we're buying less, we're not only looking for what lasts; we're also wanting what's special. Trends no longer have the same meaning as what was traditionally. Before, when the environment wasn't as much a concern, consumption always fueled turnover. This allowed trends to flourish. But a globally connected world at a standstill? It has pushed us to inhabit our own tastes. As isolation has taken the bite out of having to physically conform to belong, we've been given a free pass towards individual expression as a way to cope with such. Some may choose safer choices such as retro items, and with multiple themes there is no "right " choices as before. The other path lies in individuality. The creative exploration of so many ideals has resulted in a wide selection of cuts, colours, folds, pleats, materials, patchworking, layering, you name it, its out there. Through it all, we have more general aspects versus something as basic as "safari" or some other easy-to-read theme. And one of them of note is the sculptural stiffness. These are clothes that hold their own for uniqueness of personal tastes while upholding a protective structured armour. The need for protection has once again found its place in designs from Antonio Grimaldi (here & here), Bianca Saunders (here), Bibhu Mohapatra (here), Charles Yueh (here), Christian Wijnants (here), CrisisWear (here), Emporio Armani (here), Maxmilian Davis for Fashion East (here), Gareth Pugh (here), Graham Tyler (here), Marwan & Khaled Couture (here), Maison Margiela (here), Moon Choi (here), Ralph & Russo (here), Rick Owens (here), Robert Wun (here and here), Rochas (here), Saedels (here), S.U.K.E.I.N.A. (here and here), ThreeASFOUR (here & here) and We11done (here); from artist Angie Hainzer (here); and from fashion fledglings Benedetta Lanzione (here), Cerys Mullaly (here), Gsign by Ghada (here), Jisoo Jang (here) and Mel Harris (here).

With this trend go by the wayside? It depends. On one hand the vaccine will herald a freedom and optimism we haven't had in awhile, albeit it won't be as sudden as we might have hoped. this could translate into more movement and lightness. On the other hand, should the economic aspect prove more insurmountable than we imagine, we'll find ourselves burying under shells, layers and padding. We want to feel good. Only time will tell how we achieve that and whether clothes reflect our measures, or merely compensate because of them.

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