Tuesday, September 27, 2011

An opinion on Gertie's 'What is Fashion-Forward' Question

This post was initially intended to be a comment to Gertie's thought-provoking question about the meaning of the phrase 'fashion-forward'. But as I was writing it, I realized I had to say more than would fit in a comment format. Gertie has a talent for digging up hot topics, and this is one of the reasons I enjoy reading her blog, besides the love for couture we both share, I believe.

I loved how she admitted that she had no idea what 'fashion-'forward' meant, when she was asked to create a look for  the American Sewing Expo "Passion for Fashion" contest.

To me, FASHIONABLE refers to a garment, or the entire look, that has an up-to-date feel  and is likely to appeal to certain number of people. I mean, fashion is when a group of people wants to wear certain types of clothes, right? Like, people are into color-blocked garments now...

Fashion is about trends. We get tired of things, we crave for change after a while. Pale hues follow saturated colors this year, for example. See this month's Vogue. Only understandable - our eyes want to rest to indulge in colors again as summer approaches.

But FASHION-FORWARD has to be more, it has to have elements of design, or construction, that make it stand-out from mass-produced clothes you are likely to find at many chain-stores.

Fashion-forward is about creating these trends, responding to what people are more likely to desire now, in broader context. In insecure times, some vintage fashions, or conservative garments could mean stability. I am not trying to trace some Freudian complexes to justify trends. I am just saying that fashion doesn't exist without a broader context and as the context and environment changes, so does fashion.

If you are interested in the subject, I highly recommend an out-of-print book by Tony and Claes Lewenhaupt called CROSSCURRENTS. It follows art, fashion and design from 1890 to 1989. Judge yourself:

"... the bewilderingly beautiful trailings and curves of Art Nouveau could tell much about the times, its longings and ideas. Should the style preserve the past or develop the future? 
The wife and the home stayed in their locked position but daily papers, trains, and above all the bisycle let the outside world move in closer. Feminism was clamorous, but the tyranny of the corset was tighter than ever. And La Belle Epoque desperately held on to old ideals - wine, women and song - while Social Democratic Party united the masses in Europe.
The economy was good and that was what decided how far the freedom would be permitted to go. And, consequently, the hemline"
Like it? I love this book. Here is more, now on 1980s:
"The obsession with physical fitness resulted in broader, fortified shoulders. When work-outs and jogging gave results, the fashion accentuated the muscular curves of the body."
Designers who notice these trends ahead of trend-spotting companies are truly fashion-forward. McQueen, named by many commenters, was an innovative and extremely talented designer, and often fashion-forward, indeed. But so is Carl Lagerfeld, or Elbaz, or Galliano, Nicolas Ghesquiere, or Christopher Kane, or Vivienne Westwood.... (really in random order).

As for vintage, Gertie admitted, jokingly, that she is 'fashion-backward' (for her love of retro and vintage). But vintage  can also look fashion-forward, mixed with unexpected accessories, shoes, bags, hairstyles. If not, it is a very strong personal statement, right? Passion? Maybe. Fashion? less likely.

What do you think, readers?


  1. I've been thinking about the socioeconomic effect on fashion, especially when trying to wrap my head around the look of the early '40s/WWII era. It must be the similarity in the tightening of the family budget now with the rationing of the Second World War that must be getting me interested. Interesting, too, that Chanel would close shop during that time because she felt that there was no room for fashion.

    I agree that fashion-forward has to stand out. It has to be something that some will love and others, maybe more conservative dressers (I'm one of these people), will think absurd at first.

    I also think that there are ways to push vintage, reference it, and still make a garment that is a forward, trend setting piece.

    Thanks for the food for thought.

  2. i think of being fashion-forward as having a point of view and expressing it through fashion. it's not necessarily "forward" so much as timeless and expressive.

  3. Thanks for the thoughtfull post. I'm still forming my own thoughts on this. The distinction between 'fashionable' as being on trend, and 'fashion-forward' as being trend creating is an interesting one. The latter then could also be defined as creating new guidelines, whereas being fashionable would then be simply recognizing those guidelines and dressing/sewing accordingly (which imo also requires creativity, but of a different sort)

  4. I once took a class on trend forecasting where I get a bit of knowledge on how fashion trends are created.

    Personally, fashion forward is when one can take significant happenings in the culture and the world, translate 'em into designs where one express their point of view of these moments.

    Like Dior brought the waist cincher in the 40s and the examples that you gave above!

    Love this kind of post that makes us think forward :) and thanks for the book recommendation

  5. When I was at FIDM we had access to the trend reports which predict trends about 1 to 2 years in advance. They were very secretive and I always imagined a group of subversive spy types writing them. I love going to Paris because I do think they are ahead on trends about a year.For some reason that city just is more fashionable, I think. So is Tokyo.At the moment I am into sewing vintage but I am afraid I might be veering off into "unfashionable" territory,

  6. Thank you for this post - i follow gertie too so it's really nice to have a follow up.

    As for fashion forward - i totally agree with you that it's about taking a lead rather than following the crowd. Even if your basic style is vintage - it's definitely about how you wear it. I do see different types of vintage dressers - some who do just love to wear vintage in a nostalgic way (those who really go for the authentic look - like the way Gertie loves her forties and fifites dresses) and others who take vintage garments and take them out of their original context and mix up different eras to create something new. And although gertie's dresses i think are quite authentic - the fact that she wears them with her tattoos has totally changed the look.

    Also love your point about construction etc. it's so difficult to draw the line!

    maybe it's just about being aware of what's going on and reacting in your own way.

    Thank you for provoking my thoughts!

    Emilia. xxx



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