Fashion Observed

Trend observations with a sociological eye from afar...

by Darryl S. Warren  

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Sporting Tradition

As indicated in prior articles, anticipated events, especially those on a large scale, can impact the design process and provide multitudes of inspirational perspectives. The inspiration can be of the event itself, the location it is in conjunction with and its relation to past references of either the location or the event itself.  And as we have many designers with many voices and perspectives, we see this in how collection references have manifested through the resort collections.

One needs to look beyond the expected resurgence of 90s and its original reference point of the 70s. These are established and mainstream influences that provide the core for most collections that was still evident in the 2012 Resort offerings. But the ongoing hybridization allowed for multiple decades and their hallmarks to be rehashed and recombined and this gives latitude for the various undercurrents that have come up to report on.

Every four years the Olympics arrive. It carries with it the spirit of a democratic platform of competition amongst the countries of the world, or tries pending that world politics doesn’t interfere. Try as it might, there have been issues in the past that have tainted the spirit of the games and in those seasons the influence has been more generic. But some Olympics are hosted in better political climates or better world mindsets that are more receptive to the event and, in that case can become stronger influences that permeate deign inspiration. This is especially the case when there are a lot of other associations to draw on.

Case in point is the UK, which is set to host the 2012 Summer Olympics. In addition to being a major cultural influence as is, it had the focus of the world for the recent Royal Wedding and will have the Diamond Jubilee for HRH Queen Elizabeth II next year. It is fondly looked at for the birthplace of the punk movement, and more so for the centre of the Mod movement, Carnaby Street, Mary Quant, Twiggy and all the clichés of modern pop culture that were successful exports. Let’s not leave out tweed and plaid, the domains of the UK. Of course the country is much more than about those things, but the world holds onto clichés of identity as they do with other countries, and it is these easy routes that design looks to as a foundation. And the UK has a lot to draw upon.

Thus, in the 2012 Resort collections we have some of the 60s and Mod looks in short shapeless shifts (Rochas, Proenza Schouler, Stella McCartney, Louis Vuitton) and high contrast optic prints and psychedelics (Naeem Khan, Gucci, Giambattista Valli, Balenciaga, Narcisso Rodrigez) peeking through the 70s/90s influence. We also  have tons of striping and colour-blocking (a staple of the 60s as well as the 70s) and many minis in a lot of the collections.  Plaids are present (more so in the SS2012 Men’s) blown out and turned at an angle to lock in step with the way it was worked in during the 20s. And some, like Stella McCartney, went towards hound’s-tooth. You can’t get more British than that.

Of chief importance, however, is the sportiness that was present in the 90s making a huge return, supported by the anticipated Olympic fever. This falls in line with the same spirit felt in 1996, and that made similar inroads in various SS1996 collections. This, along with various other sportswear touches and pieces (such as anoraks, drawstrings, sport fabrics or sport striping and tank top detail) were present in collections by the likes of Band of Outsiders, Chloe, Alexander Wang, Kevork Kiledjian, Alberta Ferretti, Hervé Leger and Michael Kors, amongst others.

Even the Men’s SS2012 collections have taken on a sporting edge that was Olympic-worthy. While this blog doesn’t focus on men’s wear, it is important to note that Vivienne Westwood made some direct references in her men’s collection (I think we can agree that Olympic torches on shirts would qualify), and Prada focused on the acceptable kitchiness of golf wear. We lost count on the amount of plaids and checks used throughout.

And let’s not forget that designers are more willing to dress the teams that compete. Stella McCartney will be designing the Olympic uniforms for the UK. It will be interesting to see how many other designers will dress the athletes. I’m sure we can count on the Italians to represent, and hope other countries get on board to showcase their design talent. Given the rise in fashion’s importance in our culture, this may be more the case than before.

As countries participate in the long-held tradition of the Games, the design community joins in well aware that the public, even if seemingly disenfranchised, does pay attention. They may not know specifically who won the high jump, but for that season they are more on board for at least dressing for sport. And we will await the women’s SS2012 collections to see who brings in the gold for style and innovation.

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