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21-05-2012
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Is Fashion In a Period of Stasis? Why Isnt Fashion Getting Better? Are we in a Rut?
did anyone read that piece in a recent issue of Vanity Fair, by kurt anderson that we are living in a period of cultural stasis? he discussed how we are "stuck" fashion-wise recycling the same trends over and over again.

If you open up a copy of Vogue from 20 years ago, you may notice the low prices on garments and accessories...even after accounting for inflation. It seems that brands promised us lower prices after moving production overseas but never passed that value on to consumers. They kept the savings for themselves or shareholders, rather than investing in new technology. He says in the piece "If blue jeans became unfashionable tomorrow, Old Navy would be in trouble. And so on. Capitalism may depend on perpetual creative destruction, but the last thing anybody wants is their business to be the one creatively destroyed. Now that multi-billion-dollar enterprises have become style businesses and style businesses have become multi-billion-dollar enterprises, a massive damper has been placed on the general impetus for innovation and change." So, it seems that the fashion powers-that-be have a vested interest in us buying the same items over and over again.

Even rich, wealthy people who have millions to blow on fashion seem bored it. When asked how this time period in society would be characterized, Daphne Guinness responded, "Corporate." She continued, "There hasnít been anything real since grunge. That was the last movement led by music or an art form."

The only "new" thing i think that brands/designers could be investing in is high quality digital prints a la mary katrantzou. but why arent they?

image from vf.com



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21-05-2012
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Quote:
"There hasn’t been anything real since grunge. That was the last movement led by music or an art form."
That's the answer, right there. If there is an underground movement that compels people to adopt a different style/fashion, corporate is going to have to follow that movement if they want to cash in on it. It happened in the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s.

In this case, it's a failure of imagination by the public, not a corporate stranglehold. Nobody is forced to buy the recycled fashions that are paraded out by the corporate fashion entities.

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Last edited by tangerine; 21-05-2012 at 01:33 PM.
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21-05-2012
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^ Well, nobody's forced unless they're pretty much the only thing you can buy.

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21-05-2012
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No major style change ever started with people buying what was being offered as the season's fashions.

Grunge, like much of the 60s counterculture style, came from people rejecting commercial offerings and putting together looks made of thrift store or military surplus clothing.

Punk the same, with some judicious cutting, ripping, and attaching of safety pins, dog collars and S&M gear.

A lot of 70s (western) style came from "cultural tourism", with travelers bringing back styles or items from India or South America, for example.

As long as people feel they can only wear what is offered in the clothing stores, there will be no change.

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21-05-2012
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I think fashion's gone through a major process of 'democratization' that it's been difficult for brands and other outlets of creativity to handle. But the process benefits most generations, it blends a lot of barriers that were easy to distinguish not that long ago. It seems we're still on that stage that goes uphill (?) where the access to something is new and exciting and most importantly, easy, you don't need a lot of brainstorming or rebellion or money to possess what you want, and for the same reason, there is little attention on discerning one's wishes from everybody else's wishes. This is palpable even in the music, the hedonistic tendencies that you see in the lyricism and sounds that the last 3-5 years have generated, references to the sun, light, beaches, stars.. I don't think current times are devoid of a specific place in.. history, or soft-spoken on what's around, they do have a voice but maybe it's the fact that it seems to intentionally not want to rebel against anything and just go with the flow what makes it seem like it means nothing?.

Anyway I think it's gone from transition to permanent state (as in pieces are only being assembled, you can't start any movement when no one's even got a role yet).. most interesting movements grow out of comfortable states like this, out of not wanting any more of that sameness.. but the economic cycle also has to allow that (or NOT allow that- this is confusing ).

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Last edited by MulletProof; 21-05-2012 at 05:15 PM.
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21-05-2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MulletProof View Post
...I don't think current times are devoid of a specific place in.. history, or soft-spoken on what's around, they do have a voice but maybe it's the fact that it seems to intentionally not want to rebel against anything and just go with the flow what makes it seem like it means nothing?...
This is interesting and reminds me of something I read that I think was about "hipster" ethos. The idea was that the current generation does not want to alienate people or isolate itself because with the advent of social media, individual "branding" is a desirable goal; the interest in artisanal coffee, beer, bicycles, clothing, jewelry and everything else links neatly with a personal brand that can be promoted online via fb, twitter, instagram, etc.

According to this article, the current counterculture is one where people are interested in rebelling against the corporate culture by making their own alternative versions of things; however, the idea that they want to then sell it to others means they have to be careful to present a friendly, or at least non-threatening image.

I guess this extends even to musicians and artists, though I don't see why it necessarily should.

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24-05-2012
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I agree Kurt Anderson that current fashion is boring and undistinctive. In the past, you can easily identify time periods based on the fashion style e.g 20s, 40s, 70s, etc, but I can't say the same for now because everything is recycled from past trends, mixing it into a 'confused' hotpot.. To me, 70s fashion is still the best ever.

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Last edited by Raventress; 24-05-2012 at 12:52 AM.
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26-05-2012
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It's easy for critics to get nostalgic or romanticize the past. Older generations will look down at and tell younger generations how much they suck. Art is cyclic and goes through periods of banality. Then something new and exciting happens and forces people to take a note of on a grand scale and dies just as quickly as it began. Trends are short lived and despite this many still have cultural impact for better or worse. The appeal of grunge wasn't just the music, it also revolted against the glitz, glam, excess and materialism of the 1980's. The popularity of grunge symbolized the culture of time rather than the other way around.

Now are we stuck in banality? It could be true or untrue. There will be visionaries and this is what makes them special since they rarely occur while the rest with enough balls stick to their vision and remain true to themselves despite popularity of aesthetics even if it is completely different from their own.

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26-05-2012
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I think that the fashion industry and its followers themselves are culprits in that they have become too good at figuring out quickly who is the next big thing in pop culture and those people end up getting co-opted by the fashion establishment before they themselves can be a source of inspiration to the fashion industry. When reading fashion critiques, there is nothing I hate, HATE more than a recommendation that a new person on the scene get a stylist or looking at shows like the Grammys, or even worst the Kids and Teen Choice Awards and the VMAs, and seeing most of the people at these shows dressed from the latest collections. To me this is a form of fashion cannibalizing itself.

Don't get me wrong I think that there are new people on the scene who enter loving fashion, and if they, in addition to established fashion lovers, want to tap into stylists and the existing fashion mainstream that is fine, but I feel like there are fashion PR people, stylists and studio and individual publicists who the minute "that show," "that movie" or "that music group" produces someone interesting, they are on that person like that (snaps fingers) and before you know it that person is showing up on step-and-repeats clad in something that was presented in New York, Paris or Milan a few weeks ago.

I just wish (foolishly so) that, unless it is the Oscars, Emmys or Golden Globes, that emerging celebrities, at least the ones with thick skin, be left to their on devices when it comes to what they wear for appearances, and if they want to wear jeans and a tee shirt or their mother's confirmation dress, let them do so, because I am willing to bet that interesting fashion will emerge from new people on the scene being left up to their own devices than from people being styled.

So while I have faith that something new will emerge, I think that at this time fashion is contributing to its own stifling.


Last edited by agee; 26-05-2012 at 06:55 AM.
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26-05-2012
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I think part of this is caused by the lack of a figurehead to follow into something new - since the dawn of time there was always a Jackie O or a Madame de Pompadour or a Chanel or Margaret Howell, but now, after we have this so-desired freedom to do what we wish and dress how we like, we have come to a standstill because we are scared to do something different or unacceptable, and we have noone to show us an alternate option and therefore state it is alright.
We have noone to show us because we don't trust celebrities or designers to dictate style anymore; that would mean that we aren't unique, and that we don't have our own minds and opinions (which we have fought so long for!), it would mean that we are stuck in the past revering our Grace Kelly magazine snippet.
As we used to look for celebrities for inspiration, all we see now is either the extreme of Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj or that generic one-shoulder chiffon gown, that could be designed by anyone, on all celebrities scared of internet abuse.
It essentially boils down to non-conforming is really conforming.

I think it really pressurises designers to create something new and to put celebrities in their newness, removing any sort of gimmick which makes it costume - I think the only way new fashion can really come through is for the great designers to enforce it, but as has been previously stated: what's the point? As long as business is going well and the latest handbag on the stands is bringing in profit, why would any designer want to waste money developing new fabrics or construction techniques?
A visionary martyr is needed in fashion, money is too important at the moment, it's killing design and progression.

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26-05-2012
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Interesting discussion.

While there are many factors contributing to the problem, I think that hasn't been highlighted yet is how fast things are cycled through. I know it's a poor example, but I was watching Kendra (cuz it had her going to Fashion Week) and the stylist was like "your bag is more than 2 seasons ago! (Disdainful tone and voice)" But it used to be that bags stayed around for seasons and how long you had your bag was a point of bragging. It was how the birkin, kelly, and chanel bags came to be so iconic. Now, god forbid, you carry around a bag that is several seasons old!

Same goes with trends. They never stick around and develop. While Jackie and Audrey had confidence in their styles, they also had the benefit of being able to convince the designers "this might be a 1 season thing to you, but this is my style so modify your outfit according." Which in turn convinced the designers to stick with the trend longer (and in due time it ceased being a throwaway trend). Whereas many stars nowadays are too afraid of doing just that. Because they don't want to be accused of looking unfashionable or behind the times. (I'm coming to appreciate the Duchess of Cambridge more because she's been fairly consistant in how she modifies her state clothes regardless of the trends these past 2 years.)

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26-05-2012
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Firstly, what a very interesting topic and what smart insights everyone has posted thus far:

Quote:
tangerine: No major style change ever started with people buying what was being offered as the season's fashions. Grunge, like much of the 60s counterculture style, came from people rejecting commercial offerings and putting together looks made of thrift store or military surplus clothing. [...] As long as people feel they can only wear what is offered in the clothing stores, there will be no change.
I totally agree: change doesn't usually come from the top down in fashion - sometimes it does, but more often than not it comes from the "street" or youth culture: flappers, hippies, disco, punk, grunge, etc.

But the hipster generation of now seems to accept their looks and identity from the media more than ever before - perhaps because life IS more mediated than it ever has been in history. We can be a bunch of navel-gazers. Kids go to Urban Outfitters, H&M, Zara, etc and construct a look from there. I don't see any outstanding subcultures at the moment. Like Daphne said, the last real one was grunge. Now, even the goth culture has been co-opted, so wanna be goths just go to Hot Topic to define themselves. It all comes from the outside, externally.

Quote:
Mulletproof:they do have a voice but maybe it's the fact that it seems to intentionally not want to rebel against anything and just go with the flow what makes it seem like it means nothing?
Maybe going with the flow suggests apathy; think of the current statement of the day 'it is what it is" - what does that even say? Nothing. It loops back on itself, it's passive. There is nothing to rebel against in a statement like that. This creates for incredible stasis. It's quite sad imo.

There is SO MUCH to rebel against right now. You'd think with occupy movements, global warming, capitalist market crashes, etc etc, someone would rise from the ashes and scream "change!" Sadly, even the phrase "game changer" has become cliche, so that even change itself is marketed; indeed, wasn't that a political slogan recently?

Quote:
agee:To me this is a form of fashion cannibalizing itself. [...] I just wish (foolishly so) that, unless it is the Oscars, Emmys or Golden Globes, that emerging celebrities, at least the ones with thick skin, be left to their on devices when it comes to what they wear for appearances, and if they want to wear jeans and a tee shirt or their mother's confirmation dress, let them do so
OMG, I totally agree. People are so hyper-critical of celebs, and when a celeb looks nice sometimes we complement not the person him or herself, but ask who his or her stylist is! This desire to have everyone look "right" borders on "fascist" imo. A big question that relates to this is whether or not media globalization naturally leads to homogenization.

Maybe what it comes down to right now is the submersion of INDIVIDUAL VOICE and a strong sense of IDENTITY in a field of sheep. And yet, in a time when identity seems to be constantly destabilized (are we who we are in RL who we are online as well?) there is also a huge desire for authenticity (look at the increase in biopics, memoirs, reality t.v., and nostalgia as evidence).

As a culture maybe we know we long for something real, something authentic, to break through. We sense it in fashion, during the shows. Who will actually SAY SOMETHING? Who doesn't put marketability (i.e., sales) or gimmick (i.e., look at me, the showman) first?

Personally, I hope something comes along soon. I follow culture - music, art, film, literature, fashion - religiously, watching and waiting for the next maverick who will stir the pot from a place of authenticity - not just for the sake of stirring the pot itself (e.g. Gaga, or Marc Jacobs), but due to some inner need. In other words, someone who designs or creates music or writes from a place of anger or pain or love - not to sell (out).

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26-05-2012
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Interesting article....looking at the end paragraph:

Quote:
We seem to have trapped ourselves in a vicious cycle—economic progress and innovation stagnated, except in information technology; which leads us to embrace the past and turn the present into a pleasantly eclectic for-profit museum; which deprives the cultures of innovation of the fuel they need to conjure genuinely new ideas and forms; which deters radical change, reinforcing the economic (and political) stagnation. I’ve been a big believer in historical pendulum swings—American sociopolitical cycles that tend to last, according to historians, about 30 years. So maybe we are coming to the end of this cultural era of the Same Old Same Old. As the baby-boomers who brought about this ice age finally shuffle off, maybe America and the rich world are on the verge of a cascade of the wildly new and insanely great. Or maybe, I worry some days, this is the way that Western civilization declines, not with a bang but with a long, nostalgic whimper.
I think he is right about most of this, but wrong about nostalgia. If it was not for the blatant love of nostalgia, fashion would most likely be as horrible today as it was in the late 90s and early 00s. Tom Ford would still be passed off as a genius for his YSL remakes...(sorry, I'm sure he's good at something but I'm offended by pretention)...now at least people know the references to a greater extent - it's not just present in the fashion house archives...

What has happened in commercial movies and music is that everything that is "BIG" is also really, really bland or formulaic. Everything follows streamlined formulas, very little chaotic, wonderful and improvised is going on. So, again, it's computer science that is destroying art. First, with information technology, but in my opinion more disastrously by software that to the uninformed consumer produces output that is on par with the work of artists.

This transpires all the way to artists, presenters...unless you follow a very strict pattern of appearances, movements and rhetoric, they will be perceived as not following the flock, as not measuring up. It's even at the point that any unique aspects of a personality are unacceptable. It is all so very, very generic.

Ironically, in my view, the world has become a rather fascistic place amidst all the supposed good will. I guess it's the constant messages of that we are not living up to our potential, not being quite as good as we could be...it is that which is going to be the end of us. It doesn't matter how much we profess that everyone has an equal human value, because if we are constantly dissatisfied with ourselves over the most trivial things, we just can't be charitable to others but start looking for flaws in them as well.


Last edited by iluvjeisa; 26-05-2012 at 07:26 PM.
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26-05-2012
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Quote:
iluvjeisa:computer science that is destroying art.
- There are even "screenplay" writing software programs, or formulas for fiction writing, so yeah, art can become generic, as you say, and technology is indeed partly to blame for this flattening out of creativity.

Quote:
the world has become a rather fascistic place amidst all the supposed good will
- I know: it's ironic at a time where the world is supposed to be so free, so democratic, that it's also becoming VERY conformist and homogenized.

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27-05-2012
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I think that actually the craving for a 'new' subculture or a 'new' aesthetic is very much in line with our general demand for newness these days.
While I agree that the world has become very conformist and homogenised I think it is wrong to judge the lack of visionaires by looking at the mainstream. I dont recall an era with loads of interesting creative people in the mainstream.

I mean nowadays (speaking of fashion only) we have Yohji Yamamoto, Azzedine Alaia, Haider Ackerman, Raf Simons and a lot more. If you look closely there are also a lot of really interesting designers that noone writes about (thinking of Michael Kampe). So I dont get why there is a need for interesting designers to enter the mainstream when there are so many already there, we just dont see them because they dont appear in Vogue and V.

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