If craftsmanship is reduced and human environments are emptied, from what should new styles come from and what should designers’ creativity work on?
A few days ago Michele Ciaravella, editor-in-chief of Style Magazine, posted a short video on Instagram asking “Are clothes taking over fashion?”. The reflection started from the observation that the latest fashion shows in Milan and Paris (which presented the spring-summer 2024 season) gave the overall impression of being very conservative, oriented towards the ‘quiet luxury‘, to the proposal of uncreative garments, possibly willing to emphasise the sartorial aspect of the garments, but unable to express a modern and creative aesthetic.
Ciaravella rightly points out that in this way the garments presented are merely ‘clothes’, a luxury version of what we will certainly soon find in fast fashion chains, and that the creative factor is lacking, in the most artistic and innovative sense of the term, that which creates imagery and makes clothes almost works of art, what he sums up as ‘fashion’.
However, it seems to me that Ciaravella liquidates clothes too hastily.
The wave of quiet luxury and the prevalence of dresses, in fact, go hand in hand with a general lowering of the quality of garments, so that now it seems that to get a properly made t-shirt one has to face the prices of Loro Piana and The Row, because fast fashion has lowered all standards, even of historical and prestigious brands. That is, if I were a customer of the luxury fashion houses, I would honestly ask myself whether what I buy is not an expensive version of the poorly sewn, low-quality clothes found in fast fashion, and not whether in fast fashion there are poor versions of what I wear.
Doubt often arises when seeing the proposals of some designers, which often look unflattering even on the most statuesque models and also in the choice of fibres do not always differ from the cheapest garments.
Moreover, I am not so sure that the creativity of the individual designer is enough to come up with new imagery: it usually springs from human environments, subcultures, niches of some kind.
Streetwear came from the world of hip hop and rap, before that there were the flower children, punk, Japanese manga, Californian skateboarders… now human environments are created very differently, they are more virtual, soon plundered by mainstream designers and trivialised into microtrends, before they have even had a chance to fully develop.
So, if craftsmanship is reduced and human environments are emptied, what should new styles be born from and what should designers’ creativity work on?
There is little left, except a constant search for attention, which in fact only increases the use of nudity and continues to ‘scandalise’ by putting men’s clothes on women and vice versa. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but if it becomes the one old trick that everyone uses, it can only bore you to death. A bit like those comedians who run out of ideas and end up dressing up as women. For one capable of creating a successful character, a thousand seem simply desperate.
So, today, outside of social media, and even more beyond social media professionals, who obviously produce content for a living and have products to promote and an audience to entertain, where are the environments that produce new styles? In which cities, musical circles, artistic movements, social aggregations? Where to look?
Traditionally, the fashion designer is someone with sensitive antennae, capable of transforming the impulses of his time into an aesthetic: this is what Yves Saint Laurent did with the great upheavals of the 1970s, or Vivienne Westwood with the punk movement, or Marc Jacobs with grunge aesthetic. The creativity of the designer, like that of any artist, cannot unfold in thin air, but must live and interpret an era, a history, a way of seeing the world. Today very few are able to do that, in my opinion.
And if attention to ecology and also the economic situation suggested consuming less, focusing on good quality clothing, capable of lasting, capable of representing the need for slower, infinitesimal changes, without a revolution every season, would that really be a bad thing?
Finally, it seems to me that there is no shortage of clothes: we have tons of them in our wardrobes, we find them online, in physical shops, in second-hand, in vintage, in luxury and in fast-fashion. We have never bought/possessed so many clothes as we do today. Perhaps what is missing is not inventive designers, but our personal contribution, the ability of each of us to find our own voice, our own point of view, our own personal style. The desire to express, also through clothes, our imagination and the values we refer to.