I find most articles, reports, videos and documentaries about where fashion is headed interesting but generally somewhat unhelpful, probably because they tend to conflate a number of underlying future-uses of fashion into one kitchen-sink with a slapped-on, wing-and-a-prayer label that reads: The Future of Fashion!
To rise above hopeful-labeling and actually predict what will be happening to fashion, I think narrowing the focus provides the most helpful map - primarily in two areas:
(1) the who that will be doing most of the wearing;
(2) the context in which these whos will be doing their clothing wearing.
(1) WHO: AGE IS A NUMBER...LITERALLY In a global village where all demographic ships eventually sail in the same direction, the US is definitely one of the predictive canaries in the mine o' megatrends. By 2060, one in five people in the US will be over 65 (up from today's 1 in 7), outnumbering - for the first time - the young: those under the age of 18. At the same time, the proportion of those over 85, the "oldest old" will triple to well over 4% of the total population. “The next half century marks key points in continuing trends," adds the US Census Bureau's Thomas L. Mesenbourg.
- Exceptional heat waves in Western Europe (2003) and Russia (2010);
- the most costly ever Atlantic hurricane (Katrina in 2005);
- major floods in many parts of the world, including in Pakistan in 2010, which affected more than twenty million people;
- 2013 was marked by extreme heat in Australia, drought in Brazil and the United States, and record summer heat in parts of China;
- and don't forget Arctic ice melt!
(image: Walking Shelter - a one-person tent & "mobile habitat" designed by Australian design collective Sibling)
Suffice it to say that the first decade of the 21st century has been kind of a climate change #epicfail. "Since the mid-20th century,” noted the WMO/UNEP Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in September 2013 in The Physical Science Basis volume of the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), "it is extremely likely [defined as 95-100% certainty] that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming. Human influence on the climate system is clear. This is evident from the increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, positive radiative forcing, observed warming, and understanding of the climate system."
To me, the big picture for the future of fashion is this: lots of old people and beyond-scary climate conditions.
The elderly will probably be the sector with the most use for quantified clothing that monitors one's health. After all, when you're an octogenarian or older, your life could depend on it.
The distintingrating climate conditions clearly point to the need for clothing-as-protection first, superseding the style-as-language component that we generally associate with fashion and its expression of specific social codes. Of course the social-code aspect of fashion will never entire disappear, not as long as we live in groups or tribes (after all, fashion is no fun if there's no one to see you all dressed up) and live above just a hard-scrabble existence.
The Next Black, top, was created by AEG to look at how fashion will need to change to meet the needs of tomorrow. They interview Nancy Tilbury, who put Lady Gaga in a bubble-blowing dress (above) and the Black Eyed Peas in those awesome, light-up tour costumes (below). Tilbury's focus is digital couture experiences which incorporate computer technology for more than just self-quantification. To address fashionistas' craving for constant change, she wants to create garments with surfaces that can easily be redraped and reskinned, like a tumblr for the body. Her idea is to use the technology to change the exterior of a garment, meaning the garment itself wouldn't be relegated as quickly to the not-fashionable pile, tossed and new clothing purchased - which is beyond wasteful. "As remixed culture emerges," adds Tilbury, "this is a really interesting time. What will that mean to fashion?" (image)
The documentary also features Suzanne Lee, a fashion designer "growing" garments biologically - brewing it the same way you do the fermented tea kombucha - and figuring ways to direct the bacteria to create the properties you want without the waste and earth-averse dyes and processing practices we don't.
In short, to crystal-ball the fashionable progression of things, keep in mind that the demographics will increasingly be dominated by the old-to-very-old. And all of us will be dealing with the fallout from a distintigrating climate situation and attempting to stay protected - and if possible, stylish.
- Lesley Scott