A new era of consciousness

by Annie Cooper, Natasha Bonilla & Patricia Rivera

Harnessing the power of technology, fashion has the ability to shape the way we interact with one another and impact our future, whether that be aesthetically, politically, socially or culturally. There have been a number of interesting identifiable patterns related to fashion and textiles in both London and Berlin. Conscious design is evolving from innovation between fashion, technology and sustainability. Paradoxically and perhaps informing this conscious design trend is the current global state of society; in both cities patterns of surveillance and distrust were visible.

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Anti-fast fashion and the quest for sustainability

Fast fashion, which refers to low cost clothing collections that mimic current luxury trends, embodies unsustainability and switches from product-driven to buyer-driven (Bhardwaj and Fairhurst, 2017) market. A number of initiatives and innovative creations showcased in London and Berlin highlighted conscious design trends moving away from fast-fashion consumption.

Customisation and waste reduction

The evolution of smart textiles, which utilises textile-knitting technology to control the output and reduce waste, creates a more resource aware approach to manufacturing. Unmade, an online UK start up knitwear company based in London and the Adidas concept store Knit For You in Bikini Berlin both showcase the same user design option which allows consumers to customise their garment in real time on industrial-sized knitting machines. The concept store uses augmented reality technology to put the consumer in control of the shape, pattern and fit of their garment through a body scan.

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This innovative fashion technology demonstrates how waste can be reduced significantly in the garment industry, with unsold stock that can amount to more than 10% of clothing produced.

“The precision and customisation that this technology offers could significantly transform the future of fashion and textiles.”

(Executive Director Deborah Johnston, The Pratt Institute, 2017)

Commodifying waste

Exhibited in London, a Dutch design studio with a mission of innovation and sustainability is tackling urban pollution, removing pollutants from the air. The by-product of the air cleaning process is smog, a carbon rich black powder that the studio collect and turn into fine jewellery, rings and cufflinks which allow people to play a role in cleaning up the city consciously.

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Alongside this exhibition, Adidas, in partnership with Parley for the Oceans have also created a trainer made of recycled ocean-found plastic, using 3D printing technology to create the sole. Although only 7000 have been created, the vision is to make over a million and ‘demonstrate how the industry could “rethink design and help stop ocean plastic pollution.”(Business Insider, 2017)

Greater brand transparency

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Selfridges, Oxford Street.

British high street department store Selfridges’ 2017 sustainability campaign Material World also echoed the theme of sustainable fashion practices, which aims to increase consumer awareness concerning the materials they wear and the effect they have on the local and global communities. Each window in their world-famous Oxford Street store is dedicated to a specific material and emerging labels who champion ways of solving the impact of fast fashion and textile unsustainability.

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German footwear label Trippen are an amazing example of anti-fast fashion, promoting high quality German/Italian hand-made shoes and a socially responsible practice. Their attention to detail is not only focused on quality production but transparency with the consumer. Shoes can be resoled and in their CEO Michael Oehler’s own words, there is a push towards vegan shoe making. “I love leather but our customer base is evolving, we are now looking at mushroom and pineapple leathers.”

Both Trippen and Selfridges’ brand transparency are examples of conscious design at a retail level.These examples in both London and Berlin strongly highlight the trend to move towards more sustainable practices across different industry sectors from industrial design, fashion and textile design to environmental science.

London and Berlin: cultural hubs

“On the streets of Berlin great and terrible ideas of our time have been born.” (Matt Frei, BBC)

Berlin is quite significant culturally as many of the themes echoed in the current state of our world are reminiscent of Berlin’s dark history of division and repression. In a snapshot, the theory of relativity, fascism, communism, modern theories of sex and sexuality and the conception of the atomic bomb all occurred in Berlin. In relation to the brief of looking to the past to predict the future, Berlin is an interesting place to forecast possible trends.

“We are the opposite of blind.”

(Metahaven, 2015)

In London, the Victoria and Albert’s Museum’s You Say You Want a Revolution? exhibition investigated political, social and environmental issues which fundamentally shaped Western culture and attitudes during 1966-1970. We saw what 50 years of change has done to our society and what it means today. How current events resulted in mass revolt – from the Civil Rights movement to the lead up to the first Earth Day.

* * *

The landscape of society and politics

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Bold statements

In recent years, fashion and textiles has grown to become a more interactive, multi-media platform, fusing with art and technology in response to the changing world around us. With thought-provoking slogans such as “Make America Great Again” by Trump to “We should all be feminists” by Dior. In both London and Berlin, freedom of expression through graffiti and street art is all around. Bold statements are also made through street style, juxtaposed with a sense of effortlessness of having just ‘thrown it on’. At the Berlin trade shows, bright colours and patterns clashed and statement pieces boldly expressed concerns with society.

There is a widespread fear over Trump being elected, despite him having been in office for less than a week. With little concern for issues on sustainability, climate change and the environment, Trump has already confirmed environmentalists and civilians’ worst fears.

Fears of being constantly under surveillance and government control over information and basic rights have resulted in backlash, in America and worldwide. An estimated 100,000 people from London alone joined in the US-based movement protesting for rights for women, minorities and the environment. Madonna (cited in Rojas, 2017) said during her lively speech, “Yes, I am outraged. Yes, I have thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House. This is a man that has no respect for anyone, just his ego.”

natasha-to-trish

At Berlin Fashion Week 2017, young designers Kenny Lim and Andrew Loh of the label Depression made bold statements through their pieces, ranging from the empowering “the power to change one’s life lies entirely within oneself” with Yin Yang embroidery to the more pessimistic “666 made from a dark place“. Despite the uncertainty of the current social and political landscape, people crave to voice their concerns even more.

“We have absolutely nothing left but our vision.” (Metahaven, 2015)

* * *

The future of conscious design

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Hussein Chalayan S/S 2017 Room Tone. Fear and Love exhibition, 2016. Design Museum London. – Chalayan in collaboration with Intel developed “adaptive clothing that shifts shape, changes color or communicates the wearer’s changing emotional or physical state.” (Landau, 2016)

Moving forward

What then can we expect in the future?

Fashion tech combining style and substance has proved to be successful with a mainstream market, at least in the accessories department, with the popularity of the Apple Watch and the FitBit. This could in the future extend to beyond connectivity and personal health, allowing the user to interact and perhaps shape their environment.

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Language communicating the push for eco-conscious living. Spotted at Premium trade show, Berlin Fashion Week 2017.

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Spitalfields Market, London.

With buzzwords such as vegan, organic, raw, and sustainable being constantly thrown around by retailers, the demand from consumers from various sectors (e.g. fashion, lifestyle, food, etc.) is evident. Conscious design, transparency and control will emerge in reaction to fast fashion. As Li Edelkoort (cited in Cordero, 2016) writes in her Anti_Fashion Manifesto, “The consumers of today and tomorrow are going to choose for themselves, creating and designing their own wardrobes.”

The Knit For You concept could be a glimpse into a future wherein consumers are able to design clothes that are by them for them, whilst maintaining quality standards in terms of fabrication and construction. As an alternative, the augmented reality (AR) service could even be scaled down in the form of an app for the user’s convenience. This innovation not only serves as a gimmick to consumers but also an innovative approach to retail that has been overshadowed more recently by fast fashion.

Accessibility to technology could become more widespread – in the same way that computers and printers are present in every household, 3D printers, for instance, could become similarly commodified in the future. This do-it-yourself approach is a response to fast fashion’s influence. As a result, custom apparel and reduced material wastage. Forecasting Futures writes, “The rise of the availability of digital fabrication maker spaces allows open source self-build to become a reality, while home based 3D printing will allow mass customisation of the built environment in many materials…” (Forecasting Futures, 2016) Tying into the current trend of personalised DIY apparel and statements of individuality, consumers could now become creators, seeing their designs translated from an idea to a wearable 3D object or slogan, even as small as a piece of jewellery or brooch.

slogans-berlin

Prevalence of edgy slogans at Seek trade show, Berlin Fashion Week 2017.

Public statements

With the popularity of various hashtags and slogans on clothing, we predict slogans, rather than remain permanent, could be made more interactive and customisable by the user to adapt to the rapidly changing nature of current events – adaptive, interactive, expressive apparel. Apps could provide ease and convenience for users to customise their personal slogans/statements.

Privacy

Increasing virtual global distrust and paranoia in relation to internet surveillance could drive a fashion backlash. In terms of cut and silhouette, oversized forms and hoods combined with various pockets and inner compartments could emerge in response to the constant fear of surveillance. This increased proportion could be an attempt to seek solace during difficult times.

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Emerging Trend: Proportion as Protection, Trend Forecast (WGSN, 2016)

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“Oversized is the trend of the season.” Spotted at Bikini Berlin.

Future colour trends

Both London and Berlin boast a very energetic, eclectic youth-driven sub-culture. Considering the growing attitudes of distrust and the fast rise of the virtual reality (VR) trend amongst the younger generation, we predict a dark, moody colour palette will resurge, remaining consistent with the otherworldly aesthetic the virtual world represents. In addition, these colours also evoke the rebellious spirit emerging from the current darker, grungy trend. High contrast, dramatic, vivid.

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Dark Wonder, A/W 2018-19 Colour Forecast (WGSN, 2017)

 

* * *

Moving forward, we imagine technology becoming either a response to growing concerns and fears as a form of backlash or a more positive model to improve the future of fashion, as well as promote a higher consciousness through design. Consciousness as a growing movement is what ultimately links these various tangents, and the quest for a higher sense of cultural, environmental, and social awareness is what we hope to achieve in the near future.

 


 

REFERENCES

Bhardwaj, V & Fairhurst, A 2017. Fast fashion: response to changes in the fashion industry. Academia. <http://www.academia.edu/576035/Fast_fashion_response_to_changes_in_the_fashion_industry&gt; [Accessed 22 Jan. 2017].

Broakes, V & Marsh, G 2016. You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970. V&A.

Business Insider 2017. Adidas is selling only 7,000 of these gorgeous shoes made from ocean waste. [online] <https://www.businessinsider.nl/adidas-shoe-from-plastic-ocean-waste-2016-11/?international=true&r=US&gt; [Accessed 25 Jan. 2017].

Cordero, R 2016. Li Edelkoort: ‘Fashion is Old Fashioned’. Business of Fashion.<https://www.businessoffashion.com/articles/voices/li-edelkoort-anti-fashion-manifesto-fashion-is-old-fashioned&gt; [Accessed 26 Jan. 2017]

Depression. About the brand. Depression. <http://shopdepression.com/pages/about-us&gt; [Accessed 26 Jan. 2017]

Forecasting Futures, 2016. 2025: Forecasting Futures. Forecasting Futures UK. <http://forecastingfutures.co.uk/#about&gt; [Accessed 26 Jan. 2017]

Landau, D 2016. Hussein Chalayan Brings Biosensing Wearables to Paris Fashion Week. iQ Intel. <https://iq.intel.com/hussein-chalayan-brings-biosensing-wearables-to-paris-fashion-week/&gt; [Accessed 26. Jan 2017]

Matters, B 2017. The rise of the conscious consumer. BM Magazine. <http://www.bmmagazine.co.uk/in-business/advice/rise-conscious-consumer/&gt; [Accessed 22 Jan. 2017]

Metahaven, 2015. Black Transparency: The Right to Know in the Age of Mass Surveillance. Metahaven Publishing.

Newsweek 2017. Robots Will Soon Be Making You A Custom-Fitted Sweater. Newsweek. <http://europe.newsweek.com/robots-will-soon-be-making-you-custom-fitted-sweater-309541?rm=eu&gt; [Accessed 25 Jan. 2017]

Rojas, N 2017. Trump on Women’s March protesters: ‘Why didn’t these people vote?’. IB Times. <http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/trump-womens-march-protesters-why-didnt-these-people-vote-1602448&gt;

Tandfonline.com 2017. Fast Fashion, Sustainability, and the Ethical Appeal of Luxury Brands: Fashion Theory: Vol 16, No 3. T and F. <http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.2752/175174112X13340749707123?needAccess=true&gt; [Accessed 25 Jan. 2017]

Wray, A 2016. Your One-Size-Fits-All Future. SSense. <https://www.ssense.com/en-us/feature/your-one-size-fits-all-future&gt; [Accessed 26 Jan. 2017]

YouTube. (2017). Berlin History 1 of 15 – Dangerous Ideas 1 of 4 – Matt Frei BBC Culture Documentary. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ds12det7jZk&t=1s [Accessed 22 Jan. 2017]

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