Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The End Is (Not) Near

A year ago the talk was all about seasonless dressing. The looks were primarily centered on the cool minimalism that dominated the mid-1990s. I scoffed at the suggestion floating out of and around the collections that the reemergence of this trend marked the beginning of some seismic shift in how we dress. An industry almost wholly sustained by manufacturing a need for the new isn’t suddenly going to abandon the concept of a shifting, trend-driven landscape. As the Spring/Summer 2015 shows rolled out, it became obvious that this was to be a season dominated by the recent past. The silhouettes of the 1970s as seen during Fall/Winter 2011. The black and white color play of Spring/Summer 2014. The sportiness that seems to be everywhere at the moment. And that cool, minimal feel.

As the number of fully realized seasons expands, and as the big players like Chanel and Dior and Burberry amp up the spectacle of those seasons once only paid attention to by buyers and insiders, the trend cycle has shortened. Themes come and go and return again at a speed never before seen.

So I wasn’t surprised to see that minimal moment make its return so soon after its last appearance. Bored maybe but not surprised. Companies like Everlane and Cos are making their mark outside of the circus of the ready-to-wear shows and, much like activewear companies large and small, their influence was bound to creep in and leave a mark.

But in New York there were some who took things a step too far. The collection from The Row was a prime example.

Although it might feel as if we’ve had more than our fair share of them recently, dystopian films focused on both the near and distant future are nothing new. With each decade comes new versions of what in many ways are the same stories about the same anxieties. What I didn’t expect to see was collections that brought to mind the worlds of those films and the clothing of the downtrodden masses that lived within them. They lacked personality and character. They were shapeless and lifeless. The clothing version of Soylent. They fulfilled basic needs and functions but were sapped of all joy. In the world of the dystopian film, this type of clothing makes sense. Many of the characters have lived through disaster after disaster before settling into some sort of emotionally dead half life. The clothing is a visual representation of that turmoil.

However, that's not exactly the image that one wants to come to mind when buying a jacket or a dress. It has been a long, hot, hard summer in many ways. If these clothes had been about sleek, enduring classicism that would have been one thing. But they weren't. They were darker and baser than that.

At Kate Spade New York

At Tia Cibani

At Creatures of Comfort

At Rosetta Getty

At Rachel Comey

At Marc Jacobs

I'm not sure what came over New York. Once the shows moved on to London and Milan, the mood lifted. Somewhere in those studios people remembered that these clothes were meant for spring and summer. That the end times had not yet come. That clothes could provide some happiness.

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