You could blame it on Isaac Asimov. His mother probably does. After dad gave him the author's Robot and Foundation series at age twelve, the following year Dominic Elvin proceeded to deconstruct a stereo-cassette player, turning it into a robot. To the dismay of mom.
However, she's no doubt proud these days at the LED-festooned cool cybernetic couture, jewelry and installations her son has created for British Airways, Absolut Vodka, Robot Wars, High Life & premiere party for Terminator 3 - as well as countless music videos and performance art shows. Inspired by the world of frontier sciences, Elvin takes apart old hardware from PCs, appliances, industrial machinery and other discarded electronics and reconfigures them into sculptures for the future. His vision of which is inspired by how people react to the changes happening around us. Going forward, Elvin plans to work more with sound and sensors in his sculptures, making them more interactive and alive.
Elvin accepts commissions & will make pieces (like the one at right) to order on Cyberdog.com.
The Futurenetics tribe is so interesting in the way they take lo-fi (discarded electronics) and turn it into the cybernetic body-couture. For me, I find it makes "The Future" seem less daunting and a whole lot more fashion-friendly.
The Design Library recently made fashionista hearts beat faster when they announced that their acquisition from the Abraham silk archives was now ready for viewing. Abraham was a Swiss silk company founded in 1878 by Jakob Abraham but later pushed into the fashion history books by the company's one-time apprenctice, Gustav Zumsteg. After spending part of the war in Paris, where his 1930s mingling included Georges Braque, Marc Chagall and Alberto Giacometti and night school meant art history classes at the Louvre, Zumsteg returned to Zurich and was made a partner in Abraham. Between 1943 and 1980, Zumsteg grew the company from $1.7 million to $26 million. How? "There are things in the air," he once explained about his secret, "and we try to capture them...I feel instinctively what is happening in fashion; it's a process that almost never stops."
Meaning: his knack for knowing when the time was right for lush florals, beautiful butterflies, bold graphics and artistic abstract patterns made Abraham part of every Parisian A-list collection. Balenciaga and Chanel were friends, Christian Dior a steady customer, Givenchy a really steady customer and the "great joy" of his career - collaborating and becoming lifelong friends with Dior's one-time assistant Yves Saint Laurent. "Gustav Zumsteg was my ally, my friend and my collaborator for some 45 years, I used his fabric in my most beautiful dresses," noted YSL when Zumsteg passed away. "His talent was a never-ending source of inspiration. I owe him many unforgettable moments."
The celeb factor never hurts, either, given how much Abraham Audrey Hepburn was photographed in when she wore Givenchy (which was, like, all the time) and Catherine Deneuve in YSL (top). As to why Zumsteg and/or Abraham was Soie Pirate, as the exhibition devoted to the brand in 2007 at the Swiss National Museum was titled, who knows. But when someone not only calls you a pirate but devotes an entire museum show to you as a result, you say thankyou and go with it.
The Design Museum is a prime example of the FOLKSPUN Fashion Tribe at work, preserving the best in the history of fashion, textiles and all things artisanal in order for future generations to enjoy. Here's the podcast I recorded about this:
In the 1987 classic directed by Paul Verhoeven, criminals brutally murder a Detroit police officer, who is then revived by the malevolent mega-corporation Omni Consumer Products and transformed into a law enforcer that is now a cyborg. The movie's themes of identity, dystopia and human nature, in particular, are only growing more pressing - which is probably why the movie has been remade again for 2014. As the pace of technological change continues at an ever-increasing pace, we are continuing to merge with our technology.
According to futurist Ray Kurzweil, we are more and more inhabiting "a world that that is still human but that transcends our biological roots." As human and machine meld, right along with physical & virtual reality, and "us and them" as well as "here versus e-there" dissapear into a single entity. Singularity, as Kurzweil has dubbed it, is inevitable. "Ours is the species," he explains, "that inherently seeks to extend its physical and mental reach beyond current limitations."
But, as the myth of Icarus teaches, boundaries aren't just designed to hem us in; they also function to save us from extending beyond our current limitations too quickly or recklessly. Which is an explicit theme that the FUTURENETICS tribe is wrestling with: how to adopt and become one with technology without killing ourselves in the process. Artists like photographer Alvaro Villarrubia continue to wrestle with coaxing out the softer side of cybernetics while upgrading the outdated portions of our biological coding.
For many members of the Supremium tribe - the fashion tribe that is part of the elite ultra-wealthy class and understands that while money can't buy you taste and style...it certainly helps - when you have money for anything you could desire to do, be or experience in life, what's on the holiday agenda? Probably a jaunt to London to stay for a spell in Mayfair at Claridge's, taking traditional afternoon tea in the foyer, quaffing vintage champagnes
and rare spirits at the bar and enjoying after-dinner drinks in the Fumoir (below).
Claridge's is an atmospheric, art deco of a hotel jewel in London and their grand Christmas tree has long added some additional sparkle to the city's holiday shine, attracting locals, visitors and guests alike. And special guests have, for the fourth year now, been invited to create and decorate the tree in a manner that celebrates the generous spirit of the season both glamorously and with signature style. This year, the lucky tree decorators are long-time fans of the hotel, fashion designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana who are drawing on their southern Italian heritage with a bespoke frame made of multi-colored "luminarie" housing hand-painted glass baubles and hand-crafted Sicilian puppets known as "pupi". "Our Christmas tree isn’t only a celebration of Christmas as we celebrate
it in Italy, but it’s at the same time a tribute to the artisanal
Italian tradition, the same that we love to export worldwide with
everything we do," note signors Dolce & Gabbana. “When we think of London we always think of Claridge’s and of its
typically English atmosphere that fascinates us and makes us fall in
love with the city every time as if it were the first." (pupi image)
The new tree will be unveiled in Claridge’s on November 26th 2013.
What if, instead of dispatching ourselves into oblivion, we were able to fix things enough to change the course of events, replacing our wasteful and earth-trashing ways with a world where...
...90% of our power is from renewable sources.
....cities like Detroit are now models of eco-chic living.
....one of the world's largest construction projects has become the site of so much tree-planting as to have been renamed the Great Green Wall of China.
Author Jonathon Porritt decided we probably have enough bleak Apocalyptic scenarios already and penned a fictional breath of fresh air: a novel about how we averted much gloom and certain doom. "Some people have always been more drawn to dystopian visions of the future," explains the author of The World We Made: Alex McKay's Story from 2050. "The reality is that there are good reasons to be quite gloomy about our future prospects—climate change is quite simply the biggest threat that mankind has ever faced. But rubbing people’s noses in the apocalypse isn’t likely to get them more involved—it just leaves them feeling crushed and disempowered."
This vein of optimism is encouraging to find in a topic-area normally associated with a prepare-for-the-worst outlook, be it Doomsday prepping or wearing Mad Max'ish attire complete with at least one gas mask.
Fortunately, there are a group of designers who aren't content to just throw up their hands and become fashion fatalists in graphic tees emblazoned with hazard symbols or Bansky gas masks, but are instead devoting their efforts toward sartorial solutions, such as:
The “Walking Shelter” (top & below) is a one-person shelter & "mobile habitat" designed by Australian design collective Sibling, that uses the human body in place of poles or a frame and when not in use, can be tucked into a pair of sneakers. (via)
To dress for egress, shimmy into this “Portable Home” (below) designed by three students at Middlesex University in London. The skirt can be morphed into a tent that not only has a shelf for stashing books & mementos, but a "window" with a view as well. (via)
And this clever padded parka by Tom Dixon for Adidas can turn into a sleeping bag:
Although these designs may not come off initially as "futuristic" or "apocalyptic", they are. Why? Because they venture to quietly solve a problem and in the process create something novel. (Much like the fog of the Carl Sandburg poem which slips in on "little cat feet".) However, designs that ostentatiously deem themselves "futuristic" are generally rehashed and unoriginal. 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 generic-looking enough to be unrecognizable as anything too paradigm-shifting.
Take the bikini (below) made from nylon beads. So 60s, no? Not really - 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," observes author William Gibson about the difference between "futuristic" and the actual future,"it 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 in which to sail stylishly into the Apocalytical future.
Why not check out the podcast I recorded about this?
He populated an exhibition landscape with a smattering of shimmery reflective pools filled with molten wax. Then he strapped models into robotic harnesses and plunged them into the liquid until the wax crystallized around their curves in layer upon waxy layer. These body-encasing, architectural forms seemed to resemble 3D printer-drawings done directly on the models as they emerged, dripping wet and encased in a
ready-made prosthetic. Suspended from hooks, the wax body molds resembled floating sartorial spirits and formed quite the collection of "strange beasts and frozen avatars...creating an analogy between the corruption of the body and the corruption of software," explains Hess, predicting "a future of cyborg couture, where glitches play across our skin and transform our bodies."
These digital artefacts were a highlight of the recent Lisbon Architecture Triennale 2013 and featured in a fictional metropolis designed and developed by scientists, designers, artists, sci fi authors and technologists. Curated by architect Liam Young, Future Perfect, this imaginary place provided a very real venue for pondering possible scenarios to come, including the large-scale districts that our future mega-cities may very well contain. "It is a speculative urbanism, an exaggerated present, where we can explore the wonders and possibilities of emerging biological and technological research and envision the possible worlds we may want to build for ourselves," explain the organizers of Future Perfect. "Some of us will be swept up in what the city could be, others will be reserved and look on with caution." While we may not yet have walked these specific streets, lined as they are with what may come, speculating intelligently about them is something we can and indeed should do. "The future is not something that washes over us like water, it is a
place we must actively shape and define. Through fictions we share ideas
and we chronicle our hopes and fears, our deepest anxieties and our
Practicality matters as well, obviously, in particularly considerations about:
Landscapes can include both the space surrounding cities as well as what we surround our bodies with: textiles. Textiles, as envisioned by Hess, will honor our unique bumps and lumps in a way that celebrates the human present in the cyborg and provides a platform for the youth culture of Future Perfect to use their bodies to experiment, adapt and augment. (Not unlike today in many ways, just way more extreme.) "By moulding within their costumery all the imperfections of a decaying scan file," adds Hess, "they [will] celebrate the corruption of the body data."
Here's the PODCAST which accompanies this post about Bart Hess, his Future Perfect wax garments & the FUTURENETICS fashion tribe:
The original Golden Age of taxidermy may have occurred during the Victorian era, but of late, interest has been growing in dead things artfully preserved for our delight and delectation. This revival, with its fresh spin on an old craft - is one of the specialities of the FOLKSPUN fashion tribe.
Like this amazing turquoise parakeet-festooned shoe by bespoke shoemaker Caroline Groves, who learned from a John Lobb-trained master craftsman in the Cotswolds. The claw is solid silver and the heel carved by hand, while the wings of the avian accessory are the ultimate in handmade...made by Mother Nature. However, this one-of-a-kind'ness isn't the only reason taxidermy appeals to the Folkspun tribe. There is also the memento-mori'ish element of death as well, as taxidermy artist Polly Morgan has observed. "I first thought of taxidermy when I was looking for art for my flat. The problem was, I didn't find anyone creating what I was looking for," she notes. "Rather than the traditional way of rendering them to look exactly as they had in life...I wanted animals to look dead."
So she quit shopping and began creating.
Morgan (right) recently teamed up with UK fashion brand Mother of Pearl which based the Fall/Winter 2013/14 collection of some of Morgan's pieces, including 2009's Dead Ringer, Still Birth (2010) & Bad Breath (2011). "Polly Morgan’s artwork dismantles taxidermy traditions and places her subjects in less expected surroundings," explain the brand's design team. "Her intention has never been to mimic the natural habitats of animals, as they are traditionally displayed, but to place them in less expected scenery. The scale and settings are often unnatural, but the animals are never anthropomorphised. Seeing them out of place encourages us to look at them as if for the first time: a rat sheds its association with horror and disease and can be rightly viewed as a beautiful animal."
As are we, both outside - and in. "Once you peel back the skin and see the body beneath, there lies a whole new world," continues Morgan. "By knowing animals, I now know myself, how I am put together, and understand the lumps and bumps under my own skin. It's frightening to realize how fragile we are. Now that I know where to aim," she adds, "it'd be so easy to chop off a hand."
Be sure to check out the PODCAST I recorded about taxidermy, the Folkspun tribe & even Innerspace, an awesome cheesy movie from the 80s starring Dennis Quaid:
"At some point in the not-too-distant future, biotechnology is going to give the designers the biggest set of complex new materials and tools they have ever had the opportunity to work with," observes Amy Congdon, a graduate from Central Saint Martins with an MA in Textile Futures who is now pursuing a PhD at Textile Futures Research Centre; the Centre is part of the University Of The Arts London (UAL), a community of practice-based, design-led researchers all tackling the same issue: how can materials and textiles enable a more sustainable future? Congdon's "Biological Atelier" project explored some of the implications of new materials that are "living" and how areas like tissue-engineering will impact textile skills such as embroidery.
In a world where materials and fabrics are not longer manufactured but grown, will we...
...manipulate our bodies to grow jewelry for the season?
...forgo cosmetic surgery in favor of tissue that is engineered and designed to be disposable?
...embellish the temporary graft-tissue with gemstones?
...drape ourselves in cross-species fur and adorn ourselves with ethically-grown ivory?
As the role of the fashion and accessories designer change, blurring with that of artist with craftsman with scientist, what will fashion look like in the biotechnological future of, say, 2080?
These images are from Congdon's "Bio Nouveau" collection for Fall/Winter 2082, an era when couture pieces are tissue-engineered until the next fad or trend emerges, at which time they are disposed of.
The Futurenetics fashion tribe seeks to temper the cutting edge of high-tech with some good ole-fashioned, low tech humanity. Using fashion as a vehicle to explore how research will impact our daily lives does a great service to the rest of us by helping to make it more understandable and therefore less frightening. And pretty fabulous, judging by Amy Congdon's capsule collection.
Here's the PODCAST I recorded about this FUTURENETICS fashion collection for 2082:
It's of the tiny, bony apparatus in the inner ear, the cochlea, which has three arching & semicircular canals to control our balance and a seashell-like part for hearing. The really cool thing about this anatomically-correct and actual-size piece is that it's 3D printed - in either sterling silver or gold-plated stainless steel.
When money is no object, it's fun to see what people buy - which is why I enjoy observing & commentating on the doings of this fashion tribe which I've dubbed the Supremiums. Being really rich means being able to afford to underwrite some pretty pricey performance art - like wantonly destroying a $100,000 red-croc Birkin handbag.
But any performance art worth being called art should provoke - annoyance, anger, outrage...the darker the emotions, the better (IMO). And this lil' stunt by celeb photog Tyler Shields and his GF Francesca Eastwood, the 19 year old daughter of Clint, cleverly spans the lot, not to mention generating an Hermes bag's worth of PR. The duo bought a lipstick red croc Birkin, a $200 chainsaw and $4 worth of gasoline. First, they chainsawed the bag & then set it alight, followed by another once-over with the chainsaw. "Destruction," notes Shields, "is a beautiful version of freedom."
He has a point.
We're a lot like the image at top, watching our Frankenlife go up in flames while we stand by - lips laquered the same ruby red as the bag, perfectly made up, elegantly coiffed. What to make of a society that waitlists a six-figure purse but lets nations starve, genocides occur, kills the oceans with disposable plastic and looks the other way when impoverished countries force legions of small children to work as sweatshop slaves? Why is destroying a frivolous status bag - which, I should mention, is made from crocodiles raised by Hermes specifically to be killed, dyed & turned into accessories - any more egregious than what we've collectively inflicted on ourselves, our society, our planet?
Actually, there is something satisfyingly "occupy Wallstreet" about it. It's also a genius way to up your profile, drive website traffic & create insta-buzz....so much so, I kinda wish I had thought of something similar.
"Do you want this bag?" Shield asks. "Are you sad to see me destroy it?"
No. Yes & no, both.
Check out my PODCAST about this SUPREMIUM TRIBE stunt:
Life in the Big City is getting ever bigger, signficantly faster, more aggressive. Which means personal space is at a premium...and shrinking. When's it gonna stop? Fashion "phreaker" Nancy Tilbury designed this cool "Spike Jacket" as a sartorial solution. "It acts as a personal space indicator, a human porcupine," explains Tilbury about her signature technique of integrating tech into denim to transform it into a digital skin which extends the way the wearer communicates with anyone nearby - dubbed "denim disruption".
"The Spike Jacket has an integrated soft technology system analyzing when a personal invasion takes place responding by intensely flashing using a technology system of textile cabling, ambient lighting and silicone diffusers the jackets outputs fractious morse code and tells the viewer
indirectly to back off out of your personal space," continues Tilbury. "The mega city is becoming ever more crowded and we seem to have an inability to indicate our intimate spatial limits. Spike acts as a personal barometer, a digital shield."
By hybridizing fashion with science, Tilbury and her Phreaking - which she defines as contextualizing smart clothing and intelligent fabric - will certainly mean clothing better adapted to the coming years, which have a distinctly aggressive and unfriendly feel in many ways.
Which Tilbury's work helps to soften a tad.
"Through playful interactions we embed intimate technologies blending social media and fashion design," she adds. "Giving fast fashion an extended lifecycle as integrated soft technologies reform streetwear." Soft technologies like these bode well on the wardrobe front by injecting both eco-friendly longevity into the mix as well as plain old fashioned fun. Which is key for the APOCALYTICAL fashion tribe as they rev up for the Endtimes, but with an eye on style. "Currently, sportswear brands are slightly ahead of the game," notes Tilbury. "I think it will be fascinating to see who picks up wearable technologies in a big way in the coming years, as I believe that we are now on the cusp of these technologies being fully integrated into commercial product as consumers seek out innovation in fashion. Will it be the tech companies or the fashion houses?"
More likely entertainers & singers. Like the Black Eyed Peas & Fergie.
Tilbury helped design a glamorous body-con sheath for the Billboard Music Awards which looked like a classic LBD, but thanks to dimmable electronics, a power supply and wireless controls sewn right into the frock...it was anything but. A lightweight fabric with special bonding helped conceal the hardware - all from Philips Lighting - which created a variety of different lighting patterns during the singer's five-minute set which pulsed and changed to the beat of the music. Tilbury also designed light-up tour costumes for the rest of the Peas. "I believe it can change our intimate relationships with what we wear,"
she observes. "Today, our clothes are indirectly communicative, so
people judge us on just one look, in whatever we are wearing in that
moment. If that clothing could react – by sensing electrodermal
activity, for example, to show our arousal, excitement or stress – those
clothes will go from being static communicators to being digitally
intimate. This would enable us to interact with ourselves and others in
new ways, to communicate far more about who we are and what we feel." (via)