William Gibson on Massimo Osti, the Most Influential Fashion Designer You've Probably Never Heard Of
Stepping out of his comfort zone of cyber-fiction to opine on the the future of fashion in WSJ. Magazine's November 2012 issue, author William Gibson observes that "futuristic" fashion - with its extreme silhouettes, offbeat cuts and often-questionable funtionality and/or protrusions - is what catches our collective eye.
Designs that are self-consciously "futuristic" tend to be readily recognizable, if not completely rehashed. After all, how often has the body-con Star Trek uniform been dragged out & retooled (usually superficially) to convey "Future!"; alternatively, the other go-to stock phrase from the Playbook of Futuristic Fashion is to style something to look like it was dredged up from the Black Lagoon and then blinged out. (Like this wonderful Mugler "Chimere" creation from the late 90s that I'm insanely in love with.) However, when we come across the actual future - those events or discoveries that determine the road ahead - they are usually so new as to be unrecognizable.
As a result, what slips by unnoticed is the actual future.
Take the bikini (below) made from nylon beads. So 60s, no? No. Not when you consider the fact it was actually printed out in 3-D using small nylon beads as the "ink" and then fitted using a CAD-scan of the wearer's body. "However spooky in terms of the technology that produced it," continues Gibson, "doesn't strike us, on sight, as particularly futuristic." Essentially, what separates the "futuristic" from the actual future is function. The former tends to focus on the outlandish for its own sake - which does have a certain artistic merit, more along the lines of telling us about how we see ourselves right now - while the latter reflects breakthroughs in fabric technology. One of the last big breakthroughs in fabric was spandex; B.S. (Before Spandex), the only way for flat fabric to accommodate our non-flat curves was with darts, seams, bias cuts and other construction techniques. However, A.S., designers weren't required to always dart and seam for shape, giving rise to new possibilities in silhouette, cut, performance.
NOTE: For you trendspotting types, the place to really apply your future-feelers is in the area of new fabrics and fabric technologies.
Fabric technology and expanding the performance of fabric characterized the massively influential but oddly under-the-radar Italian designer Massimo Osti. The graphic designer turned sportswear innovator, who also amassed a collosal collection of around 35,000 different unusual fabrics, invented techniques for rubberizing satin, flax & wool; creating novel ways to dye fabrics; and even engineered a fabric which changed color as the outside temperature changed. Not surprisingly, he still has a cult following for vintage pieces he designed under his various labels, including Stone Island, C.P. Company and Left Hand. Probably the reason Osti's stuff resists looking dated & vintage-kitschy is that his design aesthetic was driven by functionality, giving it that streamlined timelessness that characterizes truly forward-looking fashion.
- Lesley Scott