At first sight, it would seem that the fashion system is permanently renewing itself in order to comply with its sacrosanct “planned obsolescence” mantra which is at the very heart of its’ economic system, permanently driving consumption faster and harder to reach never ending new heights. This we have observed and known for over 150 years since Charles Frederick Worth opened the first Couture House in Paris in order to turn luxurious fashion into a lucrative business by allowing an enlarged public to have access to such designs.
But what truly and significantly changes within fashion? And is it keeping the pace in this day and age?
For sure, stylistic changes that lead to new trends either bubbling up from street culture or tricking down from prominent fashion houses are taking place; less frequently but very visibly today, deep aesthetical evolutions arise that change our way of dressing down to our body language & posture stemming from new lifestyles as we have recently witnessed with the rise of street athleisure wear… and once in a while significantly ground breaking technical innovations occur be it in manufacturing processes, digital, tech or new fiber inventions. The implementation of these breakthroughs inevitably force fashion to transform itself and substantially evolve.
These dimensions of fashion are supposedly continually evolving in order to stay in tune with “l’Air du Temps” that we could translate by « Sign or Mood of the times ».
But even though the very definition of fashion is supposed to be about permanently re-inventing itself, one can question to what degree it has embraced the fundamental changes the world has been experiencing since the turn of the new millennium and those that are currently arising be they social, political or cultural… in fact their complexity often comes from their intertwined nature in a global world were everything can influence anything.
How is fashion currently managing to integrate or even adapt to its’ highly evolving environment? Changes are so deep we could go as far as to say that we are experiencing a change of Paradigm.
Fashion has always been a precursor of changing times… translating and expressing them at the very least concomitantly but also proving time and time again how mysteriously it can work in advance, in a sort of intuitive manner. Fashion is capable of vividly materializing and expressing these phenomenons through its’ clothing vocabulary and designs as seen over and over again aesthetically & sociologically during particularly crucial fashion democratization periods such as during the European industrial revolution era or with the 1920’s flapper, 50’s post-war New Look Glamour or the 60’s rebellious mini-dress revolution.
Is fashion today less valiant and forward thinking? A little too blind to the fundamental changes the world is experiencing? We need to ask ourselves this question so as not to fall into the trap of oblivion, however comfortable it may seem at first sight… it is of course quite delusional!
Maybe too much inspiration has been taken from the past? As if looking to the future stopped with man’s moon conquest era and fashion futurism of the 60’s? Has fashion been left behind? Is it struggling to catch up with today’s fundamental social & political questionings? Has fashion partly cut itself off from contemporary strategic issues? Is it capable of taking into account a new generation of consumers’ aspirations, expectations, mode of conduct & values which translate into new lifestyles and thus buying behaviors? Furthermore, how is fashion coping with the necessity for its’ industry to become more sustainable & equitable across the world and its global market? Most importantly to keep fashion human, sensitive, poetic and in tune with its’ epoch how can designers express their individuality through their artistic singular views of their time in a world governed by « more is more » and where businesses strive to control every aspect of the design process even looking to artificial intelligence to replace human expression?
Food for thought in this period of potential renewing…let us try to make 2019 the year of true positive change.