A Guide to the Future and Next Season’s Products
The SSENSE Spring/Summer 2017 Womenswear Report
Bumping into glitter-smeared comrades in humid bunker spaces is great, but perhaps unnecessary in a time when the menu for digital escapism is infinitely long. Why leave your home when you can roam free virtually, dressed in what you wish. Professional gamers—yesterday’s nerds—are now the true ravers, early adopters in a lifestyle that is still mapping its own potential. As our social antennae brush across the network, let us see what parties await us in the great indoors.
The aesthetic power of crisp dress shirts and pleated pants has only become stronger through its absence in contemporary reality. A generation of young adults has now come of age at a time when the dress codes of office life have been replaced by calculated nonchalance. This has turned what was once the white collar uniform into a site of seduction, a vacant formality ripe for roleplay. Put on a blazer and cancel your meetings.
Maybe we’re misquoting, but as Freud once said, “Sometimes a penis-shaped keychain is just a penis-shaped keychain.” J.W. Anderson’s might just be a cheeky provocation, but its symbology is also significant. So much of our visual experience is shaded by phallic imagery. From buildings, to automobiles, to consumer tech, the dick looms large in our built environment. And you don’t need to be a psychiatrist to unpack that pattern.
Today, the happy yellow of our emojis has become tinged with the red of widespread political panic. The result is traffic cone orange: the international sign of warning that hunters use to stand out in the woods. Camouflage is cute when the world looks like something you want to match. But as we formulate the basis of our radical future, we realize that now is the time to stand out.
Sleeves have more uses than just modesty. They can be pulled down to keep your hands warm. Roll them up to sun your forearms, or use them to hide your phone from your boss during an important meeting. You can conceal contraband in batwing styles, or tuck a tasteful tissue into the obscurity of a handsome cuff. Sleeves can be an extension of your own disposition, and that extension can be infinite.
The panda is not exactly a traditional symbol of luxury, but its emergence as a meme-cum-signifier is actually one of this absurd year’s most logical phenomena. The word itself became practically inescapable thanks to Brooklyn rapper Desiigner’s viral hit “Panda.” The track likens the black-and-white color scheme of a BMW SUV to a panda’s, but maybe the simile is more than superficial. What are pandas known for if not their luxurious demeanors? Languid pace, iconic look, proclivity for chilling all day, munching on bamboo—sounds like a perma-spa. Even “endangered” is just another word for “limited edition.” And thus Loewe and Desiigner find themselves running parallel laps through our collective unconscious.
Picture yourself on a deserted beach in front of crystal-blue water. The data coverage is awful. The partner you’ve travelled with is proving to be more like checked baggage than a lover. Goth feelings stir in the soul even in your brightest poolside outfit. In fact, wistfully staring off into the distance in a platform wedge turns out to be a really strong look. It’s your vacation, cry if you want to.
Pleasure needs to be fast in order to satiate these days. Our feeds are endless channels of observation, where images fly past us constantly. By contrast, these shifts in tempo make previously fleeting pleasures seem everlasting. Like a brand new pair of white socks: a one-time experience that by today’s standards can now seemingly be enjoyed for eons.
Making distinctions between sleep and waking life seems like a bore. Allow yourself to sleep walk your way to your next appointment, or roll out of bed and into a party. Comfort has never looked so classic yet unforeseen. Smocked tulle, ruffles, ruched silks, and sheer, sashed gossamer transform the humdrum of the prosaic into a midsummer night’s dream.
Christopher Kane’s bejewelled Crocs raise many questions: Who is he trolling? And is he taking the piss out of fashion “collaboration,” a word that has become more about industry synergy than honest artistic exchange? Will this kind of not-quite-concealed sarcasm fly with consumers? Or is Kane earnestly fascinated by the peculiar form of this infamous foam clog popularized by chefs and nurses? Does he see it as sneakily macabre, with its trypophobia-triggering build? And does the mere fact that we are asking these questions mean it’s already a design success?
As the cadence of commerce accelerates further beyond our natural rhythms, relaxation is less of a natural occurrence than a tactical operation. It requires to-the-minute planning, a team of specialists, and, crucially, the right gear. Dressing down has taken on accordingly martial overtones. Descendent of the Olsen Twins yoga goth steez—itself an attempt to repel a relentless paparazzi corps—the militant chill look is all about cocooning oneself in flexible utilitarian garb. Critics have not been kind to Kanye’s Yeezy collections, but you cannot deny that they picked up on a new, more adversarial notion of leisure.
On the path toward experimentation, multiplicity is your new best friend. Colors and layers are everywhere: in our outfits, our onions, our hairstyles, and now even in Gucci’s platform sneakers. No need to shuffle along mere millimeters away from a dirty sidewalk. Elevate in style and cushioned safety with platforms inches off the ground. You can have your layer cake and wear it too.
Getting dressed can be difficult, sometimes too difficult in an age that requires energy efficiency. When you already need to worry about where you put your other wireless earbud, eliminating additional stresses is key. This is why the body suit has become an undeniably modern staple. Forget choosing a bra, underwear, and shirt. One garment is all it takes. And the best part is, you don't need to expend any already scarce energy tucking in a shirt.
Luxury sportswear has long outlived many of the critics who have written its eulogy. Upcycling tracksuits, windbreakers, and gym shorts onto the runway is nothing new, but its potency remains inescapable. This “omni-trend” represents one of fashion’s most essential processes: taking ideas from the real world and filtering them through a lens of fantasy. This is how nostalgia becomes product.
Fashion is just a material manifestation of social values and cultural currents. As our attention spans become further fragmented, and our focus divides across time zones, can we expect anything less from our clothing? When we are expected to be everywhere at once, isn’t it natural that our clothes will follow suit? Hybridity is not just a “new normal,” it is a competitive advantage. It’s not a fear of commitment, but a commitment to flexibility.