By Bethany Rex
History tells us that fashion trends often act as harbingers of economic change and fashion’s recent sombre mood is no exception. The economy has gone from boom to bust, the political landscape has changed from red to blue, but designers have gone back to black. At Yves Saint Laurent, designer Stefano Pilati dressed his models in black bowl-cut wigs and matt black lipstick, giving the collection a graphic and austere edge and at Céline, creative director Phoebe Philo’s simple, crisp, structured silhouettes have become the look of the moment. In its own way, the major fashion houses have responded to what the designers Ruben and Isabel Toledo call “the fashion plunge” by moving away from the frivolity that had come to define them. Shifting the focus away from impractical, gregarious pieces to a concentration on investment pieces, they have begun to open their doors to a much more authentic aesthetic.
It is not only high-end fashion that has responded so vehemently to the debate surrounding the consumer’s newfound desire for authenticity and it is not a new idea that in times of recession we tend to go “back to basics”. During the 1930s depression in America women relined their winter coats with old blankets, all over Europe in the 1940s women would unpick their upholstery to make dresses and blouses, and in the 21st century Selina Francis-Bryden has come up with her own take on “Make Do and Mend”. In recent years, craft has become about more than crochet and Francis-Bryden’s latest book, DIY Fashion (Laurence King), captures the spirit of the moment in its departure from the inward looking ‘producer vs. consumer’ model and instead of turning her back on the distasteful reality of mass production-subverts it for her own purpose. Selina has come a long way from learning the trade first-hand working the stalls of Portobello Market with her Dad and as well as having her work featured in Sex in the City has produced complete clothing ranges for Topshop and Miss Selfridge. From customised hand-me-downs to elegant evening wear, the book contains more than 40 thrifty, sustainable and stylish projects for us all to try.
The current state of affairs has meant that, as consumers, we have become disillusioned with homogenous branded products and instead are searching for something more sustainable, something with a story. So what does this change in expectations indicate; a saturated population’s attempt to redefine their consumption for the ‘post-consumerist’ era or just a shift in the parameters?
In our October/November issue we look at the impact the economic mood is having on all aspects of the creative process. Ruby Beesley’s piece, Challenging the Bastion of Haute Couture, discusses the current exhibition at Design Museum Holon, Mechanical Couture, which explores the phenomenon of mechanical luxury- where designers are reinterpreting couture as a hybrid of both mechanized process and customized craftsmanship.
In the UK, a new exhibition at The Women’s Library, London Metropolitan University, Hand Made Tales: Women and Domestic Crafts (28 October-20 April 2011) looks the other end of the spectrum; focusing on the schism between considerations of domestic craft as the specific trade of the housewife alongside the contemporary view that has glamourised how we view craft and the concept of “making”. A centrepiece of the exhibition is ‘The Art of Domestic Craft’ section, comprising a large showcase, brimming with exquisitely hand sewn work. A beautiful, technicolour skirt constructed from remnants of silk ties can be found next to an elegant evening dress. Each piece attests to the quality of some objects made in the home, and to the imagination of their creators, challenging the idea that domestic crafts are of little aesthetic value.
At Aesthetica, we applaud this new sense of resolve and something tells us that it is here to stay. The origin of the products that we consume has become a central ethical concern and there has been a definite resurgence in the DIY ethic at the moment. In our October/November issue we look at the impact the economic mood is having on the film industry; where independent filmmakers are finally competing with the majors. Elliot Grove, founder of the UK’s largest independent film festival, Raindance, (29 September-10 October), explores the possibilities of Zero Budget Filmmaking by letting us in on a secret or two; how to make your own film for nothing. For those of you in need of some more inspiration this year’s line, announced today, included 77 features including 69 UK Premieres and over 133 shorts with another exception year of internationally acclaimed and alternative films, special live events, exclusive Q&As and masterclasses. See www.raindance.co.uk for full programme.
Girl Embroider Pamphlet from the Needlework Development Scheme. Photo Credits: Needlework Development Scheme. Copyright: Glasgow School of Art