It is clear the fashion industry and its consumers are evolving.
This transformation was central to the clothing presented in the spring 2017 ready-to-wear collections. Finding the most systematic way to present and consume fashion has polarized the industry – at times drawing more attention to the politics of change than the actual clothing. But when you set all of this against the background of the U.S election, Brexit, the refugee crisis and a string of terror attacks, the spring 2017 fashion month, which took place during September and October 2016, was charged with political undercurrents. This season was all about taking a stance to the changes not only happening inside the fashion industry, but outside of it too.
“Evidently the uncertainty that comes with change is not only limited to politics.”
Of course, one can always trust fashion to inspire us with positive-messaging through slogan T-shirts when bad news headlines begin taking their toll. Evidently the uncertainty that comes with change is not only limited to politics. It has triggered many in the fashion industry to take a stance and comment on world issues.
During London Fashion Week, Ashish Gupta of the London-based label, Ashish created his collection in direct response to prejudices against immigrants in Britain; which were spurred on by the Brexit vote. Gupta came to London from India 21 years ago, so in a defiant show that Indian culture should be accepted as part of British culture, Gupta took his bow in a sweatshirt emblazoned with the word “Immigrant”. Even at brands historically devoid of political subtexts, statements addressing gender and politics were rampant. At Maria Grazia Chiuri’s debut collection for Christian Dior, she sent out models wearing plain white t-shirts reading, “We Should All Be Feminists” and “Dio(r)evolution”. Similarly, at Gucci the words ‘Modern Future’ and ‘Hollywood Forever Cemetery’ were scribbled there on eclectic old-world-meets-Internet-girls ensembles.
Even more unexpected was Haider Ackerman’s slogan T-shirts plainly stating “Be Your Own Hero” and “Silent Soldier”. An unusual display for a designer best known for his elegant drapery and sharp tailoring. But someone who has always used socio-political references in his work is Hood by Air’s, Shane Oliver.
Fashion that provokes ideas about gender and class have been his modus operandi since he began his designing career. For his spring 2017 collection “Do You Know Where Your Children Are?” was unnervingly laid out in glaring white letters across the side of a dark, oversized A-line dress. With the exception of designers like Oliver, it is a welcomed change that other designers have stopped for a minute to intellectualize what is happening in the world, instead of just checking for who the next big Instagram star will be. One can only hope the trendy slogan T-shirt for spring 2017 will continue to infuse more activism into an industry historically known for its cultural commentary. Besides the external chaos of politics, fashion month also had some internal politics of its own.
The see-now-buy-now business model (which caused a huge stir during last year’s autumn 2016 collections), is now being implemented by brands like Burberry, Tom Ford, Ralph Lauren, Rebecca Minkhoff and Tommy Hilfiger. As opposed to waiting six months to convert social media hype into sales, customers can shop the runway immediately after viewing the show.
Thankfully, there were some designers whose work effortlessly cut through the fog of confusion that was fashion month.
It is still not clear if this new system holds more value for the brand or the consumer. The see-now-buy-now concept definitely introduces a more pragmatic way of shopping. I mean, who likes to buy swimwear in winter? Buying in-season is a much more realistic approach to the way we actually shop. But with no clear cut solution for all brands, keeping up with which brands agree with the old system and which brands will go “direct” will just have to remain one big confusing seasonal mess for now.
Thankfully, there were some designers whose work effortlessly cut through the fog of confusion that was fashion month. Delpozo’s spring 2017 offering was a bright, yet powerful illustration in garment construction. Reminiscent of Raf Simon’s first seasons at Dior, Delpozo’s creative director, Josep Font’s former schooling in building design informed the collection’s graphic silhouettes.
A lavender blue dress finished in metallic floral jacquard, jutted out beneath a pleated waist. The shapes and structure were the stuff fashion weeks are made of: fantasy and the spectacle of something new.
But where Font’s creations instigated dreams, Sies Marjan’s collection proposed a reality of wearable designs. Fluid and composed would be the best words to describe his second collection. Glossy satins were worked in a confident colour palette of acid brights, with pastels and moodier browns and blues. Marjan is fast proving to be a new designer to watch and has impressively lived up to the hype of his first collection.
Though, there is one designer who (at least for me) has not managed to live up to the hype. In a season of such outspokenness, why has no one mention that Demna Gvasalia’s second collection for Balenciaga held little creative difference from the first? Not only was it annoyingly similar to his initial collection for the legendary fashion house, there was also a design repetition from the spring 2017 ready-to-wear collection he did for his own label, Vetements.
“Building a recognizable aesthetic in fashion is paramount to commercial and creative success, and I appreciate the difficulty in constructing a cohesive design narrative…”
The sheer midi-length dress in lilac, with the waist-high hot pink boots he designed for Vetements was repeated at Balenciaga by colouring the midi-length chiffon dress in hot pink, with (waist-high) purple spandex tights over pointed high heeled pumps, mimicking the tall boots he collaborated with Manolo Blahnik on. Of course it is okay to repeat ideas, but
the Vetements and Balenciaga are two very different brands.
Building a recognizable aesthetic in fashion is paramount to commercial and creative success, and I appreciate the difficulty in constructing a cohesive design narrative, but in the spirit of this season’s outspokenness I can not help but wonder, is Gvasalia truly a nonconformist, or just another one trick pony?
As more and more creative directors are designing for up to three different brands at a time, how does one keep design ideas from bleeding over into other labels? Today the hunger for newness and originality is insatiable and there are few designers who have managed to perfect this creative balancing act. Karl Lagerfeld is probably the best example of this, since he holds creative directorships at his namesake label, Fendi and Chanel. The latter was an amusing commentary on the technology and the unknown future.
“I can not help but wonder, is Gvasalia truly a nonconformist, or just another one trick pony?”
Lagerfeld transformed the Grand Palais into a huge data centre, where two robot models dressed in traditional black and white Chanel tweed skirt suits opened up the show. The juxtaposition was meant to express the lasting classicism of the Chanel aesthetic against the incalculability of an unknown future – a future only certain of technology’s place within it.
Considering that this was a spring season, it felt pretty dreary. Not for there being a lack of beautiful clothing, but rather for the unsettledness caused by a world and industry in flux.