Lets take a minute and recognize the irrelevancy of current mainstream “fashion” from a progressive standpoint. And by progressive, I mean the elevation of fashion from a concept of seasonal “trending” to a concept of garment innovation. Fashion which leads to the progress, not the recycling, of clothing trends.
Trends are nothing new. In the past, just as in the present, they stemmed from aesthetic preferences. But up until the 1980’s clothing trends were actually linked to more than just visual appeal.
Elizabethan cod pieces offered not only visual interest but also obvious functionality; Victorian hoop-skirts idealized the perfect feminine figure but also kept women in their place – socially -, and spoke for both status and fortune. The sensual and egotistic origins of pointed toed shoes and foot binding are also examples of trends which held deeper grip than aesthetics, alone. Economy birthed shorter skirts, while engineering progress and the plastic craze pushed polyester in the 1970’s.
Over the past 100 years the garment industry has evolved clothing manufacturing and the rapidity with which we do so. The invention of ready-wear collections, beginning popularly with Channel’s home shows, has ushered in a new era of fast fashion. Silhouettes, patterns and colors come and go with the seasons, while lasting style has been pushed into niche. These days, with forecasting sights like Pantone and Stylesite, the trends you love and the colors that are “in” are formulated and predetermined years in advance. Design houses/companies pay membership fees to access this information for future development. Trendy colors and design inspiration are often as inspired as a 20th century history book. Artistic direction is as free thinking as your wallet. Sadly, wastefulness and the cheapening of garments has birthed consumer ignorance. Because styles have become so cheap and easy, a general understanding and appreciation of fit and construction is lacking in the consumer mind. Trendy items fall apart within months, just long enough to live out their seasonal trend. The worth of clothing, excuse the pun, has fallen apart as well.
Of course, there are niche markets which still supply thoughtful, quality items. Here, as well as in upstart designers with more to prove, is where most innovation actually takes place. Exercise apparel is one market that naturally necessitates constant innovation. From knitting technologies to ensure comfort and mobility, to inventive textile properties such as odor resistant pure silver, companies like LuLu Lemon and Nike are constantly searching for new ways to create thoughtful garments with built in fashion. Technologies in merino wool fiber have lead companies in the right direction of sustainable and technological advancement. Companies like Celliant work to incorporate health and performance into their products by working with infra-red light to develop fabric and garments which help energize and heal the user. These companies are on the forefront of making science-fiction a reality! They are helping to move fashion forward, not around in a circle.
On that note, here is another great tool that is in the toddler stage of fashion. Lately, 3D printing has been spoken about by designers far and wide. To own a printer itself is extremely pricey, but 3D printers are being developed on not only a fashion and fabrication level, but on biological levels as well. The ability to use one of these machines to create genetically unique organs and etc. will some day be a reality. And who knows where clothing could be by then. Fabric that reacts to skin type; clothing that tells you when you’ve taken in too much sun or alcohol; dresses that change with your mood. The realities are endless, and so much cooler than next season’s redo of 90’s grunge.
NOTE: Obviously, ideas and innovations in fashion do exist and are being conducted. As well, there are many definitions of “innovation” to which only the technology aspect is being focused upon here. It’s a very complex and delicate structure to balance, and one which requires a huge amount of consideration. For this particular discussion the main question to ponder is: “When will these innovations permeate into mainstream trends?” Perhaps a huge part of the answer is: “When we see a consistent and genuine effort from fashion brands to incorporate these niche technologies into mainstream design trends”. Maybe, then, the cycle of fashion will begin to see straight.