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.
"People don't know what they want until you show them," Steve Jobs once famously observed, unknowingly (I think) repeating the same sentiment from an unlikely source: Fashionland. "I think I always had a perfectly clear view of what was possible for the public. Give 'em what they never knew they wanted." That was Diana Vreeland, a one-time fashion editor at Harper’s Bazaar, curator at the Met Museum's Costume Institute and uber-famous editor in chief at Vogue during the 60s. During which time she penned an impressive collection of memos which have been collected and edited by her grandson Alexander in “Diana Vreeland Memos: The Vogue Years” (Rizzoli New York).
Documenting Grandma Diana actually seems to have turned into a family business. Alexander's wife, Lisa Immordino Vreeland, made the well-received “Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel" (2012).
Interestingly, Vreeland wasn't brought up to be career-minded and never thought she would work. Rather, her "work" originally consisted of turning herself into a sought-after debutante who married one of the handsomest batchelors of the day, banker T. Reed Vreeland. "I never felt comfortable about my looks until I married Reed Vreeland," she once said. "I believe in love at first sight because that's what it was. I knew the moment our eyes met that we would marry."
And become an impeccably-dressed couple who lived for a time in Albany, New York and then in Europe. After returning to the US, she met the editor-in-chief of Harper's Bazaar. After no doubt charming Carmel Snow with observations such as "Vulgarity is a very important ingredient in life. I'm a great believer in vulgarity - if it's got vitality. A little bad taste is like a nice splash of paprika. We all need a splash of bad taste- it's hearty, it's healthy, it's physical. I think we could use more of it. No taste is what I'm against." - Vreeland began penning a column: "Why don't you..."Style and fashion suggestions included “Why Don’t You start a topiary garden of box or yew and clip the bushes into peacocks and poodles?” or “Why Don’t You give a new note to your sitting room by introducing a Victorian chair upholstered by Jensen in bright emerald green cotton, buttoned in white with little white chenille earrings on either side?” Of course this column for fellow rich people was silly, satirized in The New Yorker, even, but it revealed Vreeland's talent for knowing that people wanted personality. "I think part of my success as an editor came from never worrying about a fact, a cause, an atmosphere," she said later. "It was me - projecting to the public. That was my job."
Because she worked not for economic reasons but obviously for sheer enjoyment, it provides an interesting perspective on one of the early Supremium tribe members - which at first can seem superficial & uninteresting, like this memo, for example, dated February
1967: “Brigitte Bardot travelled halfway across the world to get married
barefoot.…Mrs. George Harrison, wife of the Beatle, arrived on her
honeymoon from Nassau to London Airport in a miniskirt — published by us
last winter.…The tote bag is the thing.…The great trip into unknown
rough country is the thing..."
However, beneath the easy/breezy society-girl armor beat the heart of a passionate woman who once noted that the only good life was the one you imagined & then fashioned for yourself. Fashioned, literally, in Vreeland's case. "I was always fascinated by the absurdities and the luxuries and the snobbism of the world that fashion magazines showed. Of course, it’s not for everyone. Very few people had ever breathed the pantry air of a woman who wore the kind of dress Vogue used to show when I was young. But I lived for that world, not only during my years in the magazine business but for years before, because I was always of that world — at least in my imagination."
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:
"The world has ended, civilization has collapsed, the undead hordes have overrun everything. We've seen the apocalypse so many times, even Roland Emmerich is bored with it. So what comes next?"
Cool Halloween makeup, for one thing. This fun "Hard as Hell" makeup by Mayela Vazquez (above) is anything but if you just follow the instructions below the podcast.
But is there more to his maquillage than meets the ghoulish eye? I would argue: yes. It's another sign, along with the apocalyptical ennui observed by io9.com that we've moved beyond just throwing up our collective hands in the *face* - so to speak - of impending doom and instead decided to paint it...doomsayers in the know prefer the longlasting, Endtime-proof formulations of Makeup Forever & Illamasqua. (Rick Owens's fiery apocalyptic runway show for Fall 2012)
In movieland, we've moved beyond just wringing our hands and bemoaning the fact the end is nigh. "Think about movies in 2012 that featured New York being trashed — the main one that comes to mind is probably The Avengers," continues io9. "Unlike previous years' crops of New York-gets-trashed films, this one featured a gang of superbeings fighting back. And the next year's crop of big tentpole movies include mass destruction, being battled by giant mecha (Pacific Rim), Superman (Man of Steel), and the Starship Enterprise (Star Trek). We're not dwarfed by the scale of the destruction in those movies, we're big enough to weigh in. Idris Elba even declaims in the Pacific Rim trailer that the apocalypse is cancelled."
What I also found interesting about the archetype of the apocalypse is that Carl Jung identified it in the early 1950s. Calling out the approaching "End Time" was more than just an intellectual attempt to put all of society on the analyst's couch; rather, he felt every individual had some degree of power to change the future and that if enough people were aware on a conscious level of this archetype, the fate of future could in fact be altered in a positive way. (image)
Which is, I think, one of the key characteristics of the Apocalytical fashion tribe. Yes, they're worried about The End but they're also of the mind that it's in our power to change things. And rocking makeup is a fun and fab way to shed some humor on the situation 'cuz everyone knows that laughter is the best medicine. (To say nothing of having something cool to wear when all hell breaks loose, like this clever leather "Victory" vest by Anahata
Designs which comes with detachable long sleeves that easily transform it into a jacket.)
How-To: Create the ‘Hard as Hell’ Halloween makeup by Mayela Vazquez
SKIN: The more pale, the better - go several shades lighter than your natural skin color. Try: Make-Up Forever Face and Body Liquid Make-Up for a waterproof natural, satin finish and The Famous HD Powder.
EYEBROWS: The no-brow look is part of what makes this makeup H-A-R-D. Which eyebrows aren't. An easy way to hide 'em (assuming you haven't yet plucked them into oblivion) is to smooth foundation over them and complete the disappearing act by dusting on a layer of powder.
EDGES: Shadows under the cheekbones are key - use a small brush (more control) and apply brown or even purple eyeshadow. Then switch to a light shimmer to bring out highlights along the top of the bone.
EYES: You'll need black mascara, a dark eyeshadow such as purple or burgundy, a pair of fake eyelashes and two colors of eyeliner: black & white.
Apply the white eyeliner along the inside your lower eyelids. Follow with a smoky eye using the dark shadow and then add depth by applying black eyeliner in the corner of the eyes. Lastly, glue on those falsies & pile on the mascara. Try: eyelashes by Shu Uemura, Make-Up Forever or Ardell; Illamasqua lipstick (the darker, the better) - good ones are Illamasqua's Pristine (matte opaque black), their Two-toned Lip Bundle and/or the Pout-Perfection set which includes an awesome stayput lip pencil.
Make two giant braids - use synthetic hair if you don't have enought of your own. Then treat each braid the way you would a headband, making them encircle your head & setting them with bobby pins and enough hairspray to choke a beauty pageant contestant.
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.
As a student at Yale getting an M.F.A. in photography, Endia Beal interned in the IT department...along with her striking red afro. Black and taller than most of her colleagues, short(er) white guys, her tresses had the men curious and wanting to touch it. Instead of ignoring the elephant in the room, Beal
responded like the artist she is by mining it for material. She asked the men not only to touch her hair but to really pull it and then, a week later, she recorded them on video talking about what was for many of them a new experience. "I wanted to allow someone to feel something different, to experience something they never had before, and through that experience, they felt uncomfortable,” she explains, "and then to talk about it kind of amplifies that feeling." (image)
That feeling inspired another really interesting experiment: enabling other women to experience some of what Beal had as a result of her hair and the workspace. The women chosen were white and in their 40s and older, mostly Baby Boomers, a demographic with pretty specific ideas of how you're "supposed" to look in the corporate world. She took them to a salon and gave each one a new "black" hairdo and had them agree that whether or not they were happy with the result, they would sit for a traditional corporate portrait. "I said, ‘I am going to give you a black hairstyle,’ and they were like, ‘You’re going to give me cornrows?’ And I said, ‘No, we’re
going to do finger waves.’ ‘Finger waves? What’s that? You mean from the ’20s?’ And I said, ‘These are a little bit different type of finger waves!’"
Having the women actually go to work wearing their new hairstyles is obviously the next step, but Beal acknowledges that climbing the corporate ladder with a non-conformist coiffure comes with burdens to hurdle. In the mean time, she figured that an art project was a great way to start traversing that gap. Which members of the FOLKSPUN fashion tribe excel at: either keeping alive the arts and crafts that keep us alive inside or, as with Beal's "Can I touch it?" project, placing them in an unexpected context to create fresh and exciting new insights.
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:
After gliding onto the the highly-anticipated, parazzi-lined red carpet and ascending the steps of the venerable Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York en route to the Costume Institute Ball to celebrate the opening of the latest fashion exhibition, for 2014 it will be Charles James: Beyond Fashion - you pause. Before air-kissing everyone-who's-anyone in Fashionland, why not take a moment to survey the masses of Little People behind the cameras who have to work this event in order to bring glamorous pix of you to the even Littler People. Yes, the masses in line like cattle at the grocery store...during which time they grab a celeb rag and escape - thanks to you, Ms. Supremium! - into a world where everyone is gorgeously-attired, fabulous, rarified. (image)
"Do you want me to be honest? It sucked," Gwyneth Paltrow confessed on Australian radio after last year's after last year's "Punk: Chaos to Couture" shindig which paid homage to a very non 1% faction in society. "It seems like the best thing in the world," she continued. "You think, ‘Oh my God, it’s going to be so glamorous and amazing, and you’re going to see all these famous people.’ And then you get there, and it’s so hot, and so crowded, and everyone’s pushing you. This year it was really intense. It wasn’t fun! And . . . I feel that we’re all a bit old to be dressed punk."
Age-appropriate attire issues aside, the event's organizers which include Vogue editrix Anna Wintour are certainly undertaking heroic measures to rectify the riff-raff problem by eliminating the two price tiers. Last year, there were tickets available for both $15,000 and $25,000, while for 2014, all tickets will go for a single price: $25K. “Increasing the ticket price will make the Met Gala even more high-fashion," opines one source, and "even more exclusive and even more aspirational.”
By "aspirational" I'm assuming this source means exclusive. Making the event more exclusive should eliminate some of the crowding and pushing that Gwyneth found so annoying, paving the way for a much more genteel experience. Experience, after all, is what the people who can afford $25,000 a ticket are after these days. The Supremium fashion tribe, aka the super-rich, - now I'm not talking merely "rich" here, I'm talkin' *wealthy* (Chris Rock, "Never Scared") - are spending far more on memory-making vacations, for instance, than on possessions such as cars, jewelry or fashion. Pricewise, for whatever reason, they seem to gravitate toward the magic $25K pricetag as that's the minimum amount the majority are spending on vacationing and leisure pursuits.
Home renovations are the other big category the rich love to throw money at - what IS it about people with money & constant home makeovers?? I guess without shady contactors, spendy delays and other home-reno horror-stories, what would you have to commiserate about with the other members of Richistan?
(gorgeous fashion illustration of the rarified & monied atmosphere of Haute Couture by David Downton)
Be sure to check out the Podcast I recorded about this Supremium-priced event which includes clips from that Gwyneth interview & one from Chris Rock!
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: