Be the change you want to see in the world - Gandhi

Monday, March 19, 2012

To Trend or Not to Trend? The Case of Hologram Jeans

Blumarine F/W 12
Blumarine F/W 12
The future is in today and out yesterday, that's how fast fashion feels these days. Right now we see the emergence of the futuristic theme yet again on the runways recently. One of the translations of this theme is taking form in holographic materials, mainly denim. Holographic denim will only be in style for --- oops, there it goes. This begets the question, how heavily do, we as consumers of fashion, invest into a micro-trend/fad like holographic denim?

Micro trends such as these really should just be left to the upper crust of fashion society. First of all, the Hussein Chalayan version of this trend - I like it, it makes me want to wear it. However, make and should are two very different concepts when it comes to the fashion/style game. I'm not going to buy the Hussein Chalayan version because, well I know without a doubt that it is far beyond the reaches of my budget (For the record, hands down I would go for the shoes before the pants). Any diffused version that I can afford by the likes of Zara, H&M, Topshop etc... will just not do it justice. Not to mention that probably by summer's end there is a good chance you will already feel outdated wearing them. Its not exactly the kind of piece you can work into your wardrobe over the next few years. Then what? Back into the sartorial wasteland that has taken over most of the closet space. 

Even if you find  a decent knock-off of this trend for say even $30, the emotional roller coaster that ensues just doesn't seem very appealing. First there's the hunt to find the perfect pair within your budget that are also the most flattering followed by the thrill of the catch. Next is the ego-high to be one of the firsts parading around, the covetable envy, ohs and ahhs of those who weren't so quick. Then you start to notice everybody else wearing them and maybe this is your comfort zone (fitting in with the crowd) or your worst nightmare. At some point, anxiety or some sort of related feeling starts to creep its way in as you struggle its wearability. There's the guilt of only having worn it for a short while but that is outweighed by the terror of being seen in last month's 'it' piece that is now over and every tween in sight is wearing. If the tweens are wearing it, you know its over for you. Not to mention the fact they look amazing in it with their skinny tween legs (think Willow Smith). It probably is better suited to them in the first place. OMG, who needs that emotional kind of turmoil? 

So maybe the emotional roller coaster is slight exaggeration but maybe not. I know I've definitely been down that road with those questionable pieces. Yeah I loved my studded t-shirt for all of 1 month before it just seemed pathetic to me. Perhaps a micro trend like this is best left to the professionals - those who can afford the real deal. Sometimes it is just a lot more calm to admire from afar. Especially since these are pretty environmentally damaging to make - all over finishes that use multi-tonal sprays, thick PU coatings etc.... We definitely don't need millions of them headed to landfills or donation bins once we've decided to finally get rid of them a year later. What exactly is Salvation Army going to do with all this stuff once it hits their door and all those developing nations who receive our cast-offs?

This isn't the first and it won't be the last trendy 'it' item who's viability we should question. In this case, I think it's best to leave it to those who dress for getting photographed on the street. Sure they'll probably only wear it once, maybe twice but at least if we can keep it to the handful of 'it' people and just enjoy them for their Facehunter/Man Repeller moment of fame. We can feel better about knowing we are keeping one less item out of that sartorial wasteland.

For this one, I think I might get some holographic nail polish and call it a day. 

Hussein Chalayan F/W 12
LOVE this look
Hussein Chalayan F/W 12

Hussein Chalayan F/W 12
Blumarine F/W 12
Whoa, words fail me here
Manish Arora S/S 12
Love it, but how many times and places do you think someone can wear a head to
toe holographic look before they acquire an unfortunate nickname?
Manish Arora S/S 12
Katie Eary
Nope, the guys were not forgotten on this one
Ksubi F/W 12
Yup, the allure is gone by the time I see these.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Fast Fashion vs. Food Security

Food security has definitely become a hot topic and with good reason. As I've been reading about the issue for the past year, it dawned on me - the idea of sustainable fashion is starting to enter into the stream of consciousness of mainstream society. Whether people fully understand it or not, most associate natural fibres with environmental friendliness. Even if you don't take into consideration the influx of sustainable fashion, natural fibres have become quite popular in the past 20 years; there has been a steady increase in demand especially for cotton. Natural fibres are generally associated as more luxurious than their petroleum based counterparts such as the ever popular polyester (where the 60's & 70's did not help its reputation). 

So the luxury association coupled with decreased costs in manufacturing due to exploitation of labour in developing nations, has not only allowed the industry to democratize fashion but it has been able to democratize luxury fibres as well. I can't be the only who's noticed that everything now has 5% cashmere added to it for that extra softness and allure. Since most of these fibres are grown in developing nations and there has been an increased consumer demand that has lead many farmers to switch from food crops to fibre crops. 2011 saw the highest cotton prices to date enticing farmers across the globe to cash in on this, well new cash crop. We all know how supply and demand functions - 2012 will see a surplus of cotton causing prices to crash. Good for the fashion capitalist creators, not so good for the farmers, not so good for food security. 

While food security is not an immediate threat to those of us lucky enough to live in the Western world it is an unfortunate reality for many in developing nations. Not only are they the farmers who are losing land to fibre (trying to make some sort of living). If there is not enough food produced, well, somebody's not eating. These nations are also not big importers of food as they are usually the producers. Also, if crops fail (both fibre and food), there is no income, no income - no food. It's a pickle all right.

The other consideration that seems to often get swept under the rug - burgeoning economies and middle class expansion in nations such as India and China. The more the citizens of these countries get a taste for fashion, the more they want to take part in it too, and who can blame them. Fashion is all about the allure and glamour. That's what made it into this lustful trillion dollar industry. The question is, how are we going to fashion all these people?? The planet already has more acres dedicated to fibre crops than food crops. Not to mention food crops like corn and soy are being used to make eco-textiles for fashion. It's taking the whole 'starving for fashion' saying maybe a little too far. 

The US, China and India alone account for more than 50 million acres or 42% of all agricultural arable land ( never mind other major regions like Africa and South America) while global food crops only come in at 40 million acres. And then there's the biofuels, what about land for biofuels?? Currently it stands at about 32 million acres. Then we have to find room for the ever increasing global population. It's amazing, fashion right now is beating out food, fuel and living space for people. 

Maybe this will be the slow death of cheap fast fashion. Fashion retailers will only be able to undercut so far before cost increases for fibres will translate to the consumer. Truth is, we really don't pay the true cost of our clothes in the first place. Once we do have to start paying true costs, maybe we'll think a little bit more about what and how much we buy. Iggy Pop said it well, 'lust for life'

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Designer Profile: Paola Mirai - Transparent Tech Jewels

Artist, designer, alchemist and art director based in Milan, Paola has transformed technical detritus into covetable jewellery. After five years of research, Mirai perfected her 'orotrasparente' a home brewed clear lightweight resin. Her pieces are a combination of these technological cast-offs that come from old Apple computer screens, watch cogs, clock springs and circuit boards with her 'orotrasparente' into a wide range of cuffs, cuff links, rings and bracelets that seem to float above the body. Everything is one-of-kind as Paola crafts every individual piece herself. 

What's really inspiring is her aim to share her craft through workshops. It appears the participants bring their own technological cast-offs to re-transform into a unique hand crafted accessory. 

I just love the use of the circuit boards, maybe it's being a child of the 80s and the exposure to movies like Short Circuit and Encounters of the Third Kind. It's hard to repurpose and make tech look modern in a good way. You would never know it's repurposed and to me that's when design is successful. This makes me want to build fashion robots or at least start taking apart old electronics. 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Brand Profile: 3x1, Transparency & Mass Customization

The biggest problem with clothes these days is that we have lost touch with the art of the process, the craftsmanship. We no longer really know where our clothes come from and how they were made. Yeah the label says 'Made in Bangladesh', you read it and think no further. That label does not tell the whole story. 

The raw material is most definitely an import, then you have thread, trims, embellishments, rivets, zippers etc. It does not tell us the conditions the garment was made it and we don't see any of the after-effects of what happens when the dye bath is poured out into environment sans treatment (waste water treatments). Will it pollute waterways where people and animals alike will drink from? What are the health effects from textile dust and chemicals on the workers? The countries where most of these garments are produced do not have the regulation or the infrastructure to deal with the clean-up. They have problems getting toilets for every household in India, never mind finding the money to build the infrastructure to protect society and environment from the pitfalls of economic development through the clothing industry. 

That brings me to 3x1, created by Scott Morrison. You may know him from such labels as Paper, Denim & Cloth and Earnest Sewn. The concept behind mass customization is the type of model on where this industry needs to head to survive. There are just not enough resources to keep the industry functioning at the present status quo. Mass customization invites the consumer to be a part of the process, it creates value and delivers a unique product. It is also made locally by workers who are paid fair wages per hour as opposed to per piece. You can bring in old jeans that you love the fit of and have them re-made, buy a ready made pair where zipper, length and button are customized (custom made), limited edition (ready to wear) or a completely bespoke pair option. You have the ability to choose the stitch, the thread colour, pocket design, pocket stitching, how you would like belt loops etc. Price can vary and they are not cheap ($295 - $1,200) but I feel like this is the type of piece you invest and wear for a very long time.

 Imagine the time savings, jean shopping is the worst and I know every woman can attest to this. Yeah, it is only jeans, but at the same time it is the go-to option in most wardrobes and probably the item that gets the most mileage. I am however a hard core denim fanatic, it is my favorite material to work with. I love designing and making jeans so it comes to no surprise that I would love 3x1I'm a uniform girl and I find one pair of jeans that I love and wear them to death. I do not wash them often and use a variety of methods to keep my environmental impact low and extend the life of my denim: throw them in the freezer, spot wash, cold water wash, hang dry (not all at the same time obviously).

All the denim used by 3x1is high quality, hailing from supreme denim capitals such as Japan and North Carolina. The supply-chain is transparent, as the consumer you can see exactly who makes your jeans and where they come from. It also supports the resurgence of the New York garment industry, preserving an important part of NY cultural heritage. With the emerging local 'Made In' pride trend, this brand has hit the mark spot on.

Fade after 108 days

designer Tori Praver

3x1: Making a Jean from 3x1 on Vimeo.