31 August 2010

Tales Of The Future

The idea of a retrofitted future has always been appealing to me.  There is often a romantic nostalgia to the concept, and perhaps it is meant as a take on the future based safely within the framework of the past.  I suppose change is something which evokes anxiety in all of us, so it stands to reason that the unlimited possibilities and the vast unknown, which the future provides, produces an anxiety on a whole new level.  Throughout history humans have attempted to dream of what the future will look like, and as with many of those charming Victorian drawings, it is often a futurism based within tradition and the present, or indeed as we view it, the past.

Fashion design is by its very nature an art which attempts to look to the future.  The fact that the fashion calendar is a year ahead of the calendar you or I live by is perhaps the most obvious example of that.  However fashion must always look to the future, for it is an ephemeral being - fashion must always be in fashion.  It is a curious paradox, for once fashion is no longer in fashion, what do those clothes and collections constitute as?  As much as we look towards the latest collection, the gamut of a designer's canon can still inspire and be fashionable, years or even decades past.  

Whilst it is tempting to say that fashion is cyclical, that would be a far too simplistic reading.  Nostalgia drives much of fashion, however even where trends reemerge or decades come back into the mainstream, it is always a fresh re-imagining.  Fashion designers often yearn with nostalgia for some past which they cannot possibly remember, however are filled with some sense that it was better.  Older designers may then look instead to seek simply the inspiration of youth.  The drive to be modern and relevant requires a reading of the contemporary mood and anticipating the next turn.

However we are by our natures tied to the past, and so a clean break from that past can be jarring and confusing.  Indeed it is often said in retrospect how a designer was "ahead of their time", overstepping the criticism they received from their contemporaries.  To be popular yet fashionable, one needs to carefully find the line between the two and nudge at the boundaries.  A young designer can break free and create something daring and new, however I always find myself intrigued by how a well seasoned designer manages to produce something fresh and exciting every season.  In that respect I think you have two categories of designers: those who design something new every season, and those who create something new within their own aesthetic.  Both have their merits and limitations, and indeed the majority of designers actually belong to the middle ground between the two. 

I think an example of the first would be that of Christian Dior under Yves Saint Laurent.  Dior was famed for showcasing an entirely new shape and signature look for each and every season, and it was something that the young Saint Laurent struggled with.  Indeed whilst his tenure at Dior is now looked back upon as being the foundation for his own work, already breaking away from the shadow of Christian Dior with the beatnik collections, it can also be looked upon as a young Saint Laurent struggling with the need to create something different every time. 

Contrasting to this would perhaps be a designer such as Yohji Yamamoto, whose work has maintained a steady and unwavering aesthetic throughout the years.  That is not to say that is it not fresh and exciting each time, but rather that he does not seek to shock with something dramatically different every time.  It is the confidence of knowing your style and aesthetic, and being able to speak freely in that language.  Experience and confidence in your own design is something that truly does show on the catwalk, however I think it would be foolish to say that it is therefore easy for the experienced designer to create something new.

Fall 2010

To look towards the Fall 2010 collection from Versace we see a clean break aesthetically from previous collections, however there is still an opulence that has come to define Donatella's collections.  It was an image of the future, decidedly fashionable and current, that was entrancing in its attention to detail and complex construction.  And yet whilst it was very much of its time, that is to say of certain currents within fashion now, there was a certain sense of looking to the past, with everything from 1970s Glam Rock, to 1980s cyberpunk, with films such as Tron and Blade Runner coming to mind.  Whilst the collection, with the metallic finishes and tailored leathers, reminded me of younger designers such as Gareth Pugh, there was a more refined, curiously traditional, element that I think eludes his work.  That is not necessarily a dark reflection on either designer, however I think experience and confidence shows.  Of course having a whole army of pattern cutters and seamstresses also helps.

From a technical viewpoint I was absolutely amazed by the collection, the construction of the pieces was beautiful.  I was particularly taken by the laddered sweater and leather t-shirt, they had a refined elegance missing from those stylized deconstructed and distressed pieces one sees.  I also enjoyed the construction of the trousers, and I do wonder how incredibly skillful the pattern cutters must have been in drafting the pieces up.  I have to admit however that I found the digital print tops, with their colourful swirls and patterns somewhat off-putting, they seemed a little vulgar.  As such I decided not share those images, although they are easily available.  And whilst I did like the slick styling of the catwalk show, I far prefer the casual nonchalance of the campaign photographs shot by Mario Testino.     

Versace Campaign
Fall/Winter 2010

Currently playing: On A Wire ft. Elle J - UNKLE



  1. It seems like even menswear was a bit on the feminine side now that most women have made it their own, but these looks definitely take it back with the testosterone it once had!

    PS- Thanks so much for your sweet comment! xo

  2. Just total coolness prevails.

  3. Gorgeous coats, pants and boots.

  4. Love the technical details... but did Versace seriously just create an entire collection around the fact that Tron Legacy is coming out in a few months?

    I don't know what to say.

  5. I much prefer the ad campaign styling to the runway looks, though being a Hedi Slimane girl I am biased. I actually like a little bit of tackiness, and Versace doing tacky silk printed shirts is part of their history. I would hate to see brands like Cavalli or Versace become "chic."

  6. hm. the future seems very colorless. almost black.