Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Fashion & Trend

by Kelly Brett

The first thing on the fashion calendar each year is Paris couture, above Dior SS 2010. See all the Paris SS couture shows here.

“Do Clothes Speak? What Makes Them Fashion,” Fred Davis
The main purpose of this article is to shed light on a perceived gap in the sociological analysis of fashion. The key question that the author addresses throughout the article is whether or not clothing has an implied language that makes clothes fashion. Davis argues “clothing styles and the fashions that influence them over time constitute something approximating a code.” In turn, Davis refers to this code as a “clothing-fashion code.” The main inference and conclusion that Davis explains is that there are distinguishing features of the “clothing-fashion code;” that it is ambiguous, heavily context-dependent, and that there is considerable variability in how its symbols are understood and appreciated by different social strata, given “undercoding” to precision and explicitness. Davis’ passage is primarily concerned with what we wear, including cosmetics, jewelry, etc, and how it may be considered a code. He further explores what is defined as fashion and if it should be differentiated from that code.

Martin Margiela, SS 2010 couture

Fashion can be defined as an element of change or a modification in the code that is generally accepted amongst the middle class. If Davis’ line of reason is not taken seriously, then no further investigation or decoding should be done to further understand the many conclusions of fashions. But, if we take this line of reason seriously, the implications are that the sociological analysis should investigate further understanding of fashion as a language and the implications and presence of the clothing-fashion codes. Furthermore, understanding the contributing factors that create language, the construction and where such codes were derived, and the implications amongst different types of people in different “social strata.”

The man makes the clothes, Chanel SS 2010 couture

Lagerfeld at his desk, V blog

Who determines fashion codes? Some people may image that fashion is invented by powerful people behind big desks. But while it is true that fashion has a number of tastemakers, trend also has a life of its own. Wearers, spectators, journalists, celebrities, publicists and many other people influence the course of fashion.

“Prophets: Forecasting, Scouting and Shaping Trend” Stylemakers
This article was a collection of profiles of successful trend forecasters, trend spotters.

Li Edelkoort is one of the worlds most famous trend researchers and owns a company called Trend Union. Edelkoort stresses that “the gist of her job is strategy and brand positioning” and believes that “Fashion is driven now much more by the way we want to live”.

Edelkoort produces seasonal guidebooks like Bloom while other forecasters produce charts and graphs like the one below that explain the contemporary consciousness du jour.

Haysun Hahn is a trend forecaster who has consulted with a diverse list of companies worldwide, including Gap, Escada, Adidas, Samsung, and L’Oreal. Hahn success can be attributed to her diverse international background; she says, “She does not see the world in “segmented orders.” Hahn believes she can predict how tastes will shift as much as five years in advance. She now works for Promostyl below.

Sebastian de Diesbach is classified as an industrial trend prognosticator, and heads the company Promostyl. Diesbach believes that his clients don’t need him to design a specific product but rather give new ideas about new markets. Diesbach believes that fashion forges the way for other consumer products by saying “Garments will always be in the avant-garde of the trends because they are easier to make.

David Wolfe is the head of the trend-forecasting division of the Doneger Group. Wolff has predicted many major trends including, the platform shoe and the rumpled denim revival. Wolfe predicts a “future amalgamation” of apparel and technology. Wolfe predicts that in less than a century fashion will be driven more by innovation provided by technology, for example heat-sensitive fabrics, holographic prints, and computer generated designs, than by traditional artistry. Wolfe predicted the Mad Men style revival and suggests that people need more than stores, they want fashion with a connection to media.

David Wolfe is an advocate of the MIT Media Lab, a source for testing the validity of trends and style shifts.

Lisa Herbert is the executive vice president of Pantone. Pantone is universally known for the Pantone color numbering system that enabled/ enables everyone to speak the same language which was developed by Herbert’s father, Larry Herbert, Sr. This color by number system cuts across all vendor and product lines. They create seasonal color guides for the fashion industry and consumers.

Pantone & Gap collaboration pop up in New York

The "Fashion Almanac" is an online magazine that observes the color palette by designers rather than seasonal.

Kevin Knaus is the creative director of Material World, a textile and trade show, which debuted in Miami in 2000. Material World has been described as “not a conventional trade show”. Most notably, at Material World, audiovisual presentations explain the exhibit so that designers can “experience the fabric."

The best known fabric show is Premiere Vision which takes place in Paris.

Corrina Sellinger is a stylist of unique and antique items that can be found in many different interesting places such as flea markets. With fashion stylists from the top magazines, she “goes out to find lost pieces of treasure. Notably, treasures that inspired Fendi’s “baguette” bag and resulted in ultimate of sales of approximately $200 million.

Ruben Toledo is a fine artist, sculptor, illustrator and jack of all fashionable trades. He has designed mannequins, store windows, award statuettes, scarves, fabrics, dishes and carpets. He has painted murals, portraits, album covers and barns. Toledo is most known for the mannequins he created for the Pucci Company. Toledo has said that ‘the thinking that fashion must change every six months is itself so old-fashioned.”

The museum is the place that can makea fashion trend into history. Harold Koda is a renowned fashion scholar and the head of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute. He interned for former Vogue editor and early Costume Institute director Diana Vreeland. Vreeland taught Koda how to make shows that would be “expressive and compelling to the public." He is most recently known for the "Model as Muse" show.

Bridget Foley is the executive editor and Dennis Freedman is the creative director of trade publication WWD and consumer magazine W. W and WWD are large publications with tremendous reach. Both editors are passionate about fashion, stating, “ There are so many levels on which fashion can be enjoyed and deliberated, debated and dissected.

The profile on PageMaker’s focuses on key people in magazine market. For example, Ellyn Chestnut, Elle Magazine, has made her make on fashion by combining elements from a range of categories to depict a particular look. Where as Allures, Sasha Charnin Morrison will draw readership in with a page on high and low styles. The role of accessories and trend is very important and makes up a considerabke part of the market and fashion journalist trendhunting.

Chanel Iman inside Teen Vogue's accessories closet

Fashion as Language

by Lisa Blom

The author: Dr Malcolm Barnard

Senior lecturer in the History and Theory of Art and Design at the University of Derby. His other publications include Art, Design and visual culture: An introduction (1998) and Approaches to Understanding Visual Culture(2001) and Fashion Theory: A Reader. New York: Routledge, 2008. Lecturer in Visual Culture who studied philosophy and some of the philosophical bits of sociology at the University of York; then studied the work of Derrida and other French philosophers for a Ph.D. at the University of Warwick. Malcolm Barnard is looking at fashion as a way of communicating, to do that he looks into social structures and review previous author’s theories.

"Etymologies and definitions of fashion and clothing"
The main purpose of this article is to bring out these words: adornment, clothing, fashion, dress, costume, style and decoration, similarities and dissimilarities and to show how and why they are near synonyms.

The sweater on the left is a simple form. To the right, the sweaters worn by Bill Cosby on his television show during the 1980's represent a particular style of sweater.

The key question that the author is addressing is that fashion and clothing were seen to have an ambivalent status in the twentieth-century western society, at once positive and negative.

The most important information in this article comes from the very good examples from real situations as the example with a Queen Elisabeth II dress compared to the Dior tulip dress. Looking at distinctions made by earlier authors on the subject like John Flugel(1930) and Georg Simmel (1904).

Above Cecil Beaton's photo of Queen Elizabeth at her coronation 1953 & Twiggy 1967 (they are the same age!). Dress is a comment on time, looking to the value of the old or new in that a Queen wears an old fashioned gown of tradition while a yuppie may wear new fashion to imply youth, forward thinking and new money.

The main inferences in this article are to do with the use of etymology and how fashion and clothes are perceived with the uncertainty and prejudices in women, men and artist and designers. The decoding and understanding of words and their origin is useful for understanding that they have slightly different meaning in different contexts.

The key concepts we need to understand with this article are by knowing the origins it helps us to understand why they work as they do or why their meaning might change. To clarify the different meaning of word and applying that to the complexity of studying fashion.

The language of Jean Charles de Castlebajac

If we take this line of reasoning seriously, the implications are that we understand the language and arguments that are to follow in the rest of the book and be aware of the words use and the fact that many of the words mentioned above can be used both as nouns and verbs. If we fail to take this line of reasoning seriously the implications are that the decoding of words is unnecessary and that hold on to old beliefs and assumptions about fashion and clothing. The text investigates the meaning of fashion and clothes, trying to sort out a system and communicate it by writing. This is an analytical approach that tries to reason from different theory on the matter of understanding fashion clothing and meaning.

"Fashion clothing and meaning"
The main purpose of this article is to consider fashion and clothes in term of meaning.

The key question that the author is addressing is to find the meaning of fashion and clothes, why there is a lack of suitable material concerning the semiology of fashion and clothing.

The most important information lies within trying to find good definitions in previous works by Saussure (1974) , Marx and Engels (1968), Fiske (1990) and Barthes (1983) and adapting them to his own theories.

Saussure & Barthes
Semiology-“Science that studies the life of signs within society” (Saussure 1974)

Both Saussure left & Barthes right were interested in Semiotics = the language of signs. For Barthes, fashion was a non-verbal communication of clothing. That non-verbal communication lacks the clarity we imagine with something like telepathy. Fashion communication is subjective. What the wearer values may not be what the receiver values. There are however some commonly accepted signs. When signs are consistently communicated and build shared understanding they transit from variable fashion codes to stable clothing codes such as the business suit.

The main inferences in this article are to explain the problems when trying to find meaning in clothes and fashion and the use of Semiology to account two types of meaning, signifier/denotation (more factual) and signified/connotation (more ideological) and then how these can be differenced by syntagmatic and paradigmatic differences (difference between things that may come after one another and the difference between things that may replace one another).

Together when you combine a signifier (the uniform) and the signified (power) you have a sign which is clearly communicated in the simple picture of the military below.

The sign is the meaning but meaning changes subtly with style and context. When the military jacket is worn by a civilian, it still communicates power but in a new way.

Paradigmatic difference is when things replace one another, such as buttons or elements that change the impression of a thing, as below with sequins on the military jacket.

The key concepts we need to understand with this article is that the meanings are constructed from signifiers already existing, over which the individual has no control. Using clothes to communicate meaning is difficult from a global point of view where the signs may be understood differently due to individual and or cultural differences.

If we take this line of reasoning seriously, the implications are that people who really try to make a statement by dressing a certain way might be surprised or disappointed that the statement will not be as obvious to the spectators, when communicating with clothes one should consider varied interpretations.

The main points of view presented in this article are that the meaning of clothes can be divided into different levels of meaning, denotation and connotation . He also suggests that clothes are in a play with ideologies which are related to hegemonies, or the existing power structure.

Fashion magazines are continually negotiating the codes of fashion by creating new associations and combinations. The editorial below from UK Vogue 2009, "Cast & Crew" shows the consistent clothing codes of power on men as a backdrop to the changing fashion codes on women.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Fashion Messages

Space Base Stockholm, clothing design proposal for space travel, 2007

Fashion messages are non-verbal. They are recognized by consistent re-appearance. The one time appearance of a singular fashion code may be meaningful but repetitive messages become part of the fashion language of forms.

In order to describe the non-verbal messages, we have to name them in some manner. Naming fashion messages is not a fixed term but rather a basic attempt to understand the values that are expressed.

Fashion Message #1: The Future
There is a contemporary emphasis on ecological, sustainable, global values. The message is a protection of the future.

"The future" is a term that can be associated with these values
desire for improvement
the machine
virtual reality
the apocalypse

"The future" is a message in the fashion landscape, verified by Bradley Quinn in "Hussein Chalyan: Fashion & Technology." The author describes “designers of the future” will be more like technicians incorporating machines into clothing.

Clothing that communicates a message of the future

Synthetics and ecologically sustainable
Durable forms
Digital and chip components

Images that communicate a message of the future

V 45 by photographer David Sims and stylist Karl Templer

V 45 by photographer David Sims and stylist Karl Templer

Harper's Bazaar, December 2006

Dolce & Gabbana, SS 2007 by Steven Klein

Brands that communicate a message of the future
Although now seen as a nostalgic retro-future, Andre Courreges is a brand that remains dedicated to a manufactured future of continued invention. The website and logotype use a clean white machine made aesthetic.

In the examples of communication of “the future” there is a shared emphasis on a 20th century concept of manufacturing control and more recent 21st century values of sustainability. The message is communicated through clean lines, technology and both synthetic and natural fibers. This message of the future is opposed by the message of nostalgic, traditional forms.

Alexander McQueen, F 2008

Fashion Message # 2: The Nightmare
There is a consistent appearance of black and a dark color palette in fashion, accompanied by broken and destroyed forms and bizarre imagery.

"The nightmare" is a term that can be associated with these values
Darkness, night
Memory, the past
Terror, threat, danger
The idea of life gone wrong
Fantasy that is connected to reality

"The nightmare" is an existing message in the fashion and cultural landscape. Contemporary writer Slavoj Zizek who explains “Freud said beautifully that a dream-come-true is a nightmare.”

Clothing that communicates the message of the nightmare

night emphasis
dark color palette, bizarre color combinations
ripped, distorted or broken forms
Gothic and Victorian references
style confusion

Images that communicate the message of the nightmare

Helmut Newton, 1980's

Helmut Newton, Wolford, 1999

Guy Bourdin for Charles Jourdan, 1978

Brands that communicate the message of the nightmare
Rick Owens uses a traditional signature logotype but his website appears in black and white with images that seem dark and fragmented. He also has a small label named Drkshdw.

Rick Owens, Drkshdw

In the examples of communication of “the nightmare,” there is a shared emphasis on a dark color palette, torn and broken forms and some gothic era references. An opposition to this communication is found in daylight, bright colors and joyful forms.

Gap Holiday, 2008

The combination of messages!

Helmut Newton

While it is possible to recognize the re-appearance of messages there is also a bricolage in fashion that brings many values together, as the above image communicates both a message of the future and the nightmare. We can recognize particular messages but there is no limit to combinations.