Fashion Observed

Trend observations with a sociological eye from afar...

by Darryl S. Warren  

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Modular Magic

N ow that fashion is more on board with measures to reduce consumption as well as the carbon footprint, the challenge then becomes one of how to attract the public to invest in a garment that does more than merely become a versatile staple. After all, fashion is inundated with those already, and producing a parallel of a classic, especially in an environment where rumors of an impending recession grow louder, one doesn't want to corner themselves into a place where they become redundant.

The remedy for economy is maximum utility and usage to justify a purchase as an investment. A well-made classic does this, but one doesn't want to necessarily become a cookie-cutter one note, especially in the age of Instagram where variety in self-imagery counts, and not everyone has the skills to DIY their own wardrobe. But one can be taught to modify their garment if the options are built in, and the times are right for this.

In the 1930s, and especially in the Great Depression, designers who didn't close their doors faced shrinkage of business and profit, but one designer was growing despite this: Elsa Schiaparelli. Not only was this designer responsible for concepts such as the artist collaboration, the power suit, the wrap dress and the introduction of trompe d'oeil, but she also was the forerunner or using high tech and innovative textiles. And...she also was a fan of modular design.

The ability for a garment to transform usage and become dual or multi-purpose allows a person on a budget to maximize her wardrobe through the addition of versatile pieces that can bring variety without burdening the pocketbook. By having pieces such as these, Schiaparelli wasn't losing money in the Depression. On the contrary, these innovations helped her make money and, for being in the Depression, that was a miracle of a feat. When there is talk of an incoming recession and encouragement to invest in quality pieces that decrease consumption in the name of environmentalism, it's surprising that more designers haven't explored modular design. And yet...we have a few designers who are doing that, such as Beaufille (here and here), Dzhus (here), Fendi (here), Flavia la Rocca (here), Ropa de Genero (here) and Undercover (here and here).

Not only does modular design address conservation and economy, it also encourages innovation in design influences. A new shape or unlikely combination could be at hand from a deft use or clever incarnation thanks to a skirt that becomes a jacket...or something else equally innovative. It bridges the wearer with the designer in an unexpectedly collaborative relationship and, if done right, can save the designer from extinction while doing good for the planet and the consumer in tandem. How's that for multi-pupose design?

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