Textile View #109

Textile View carries in each issue over 300 pages of quality information well presented to help companies identify markets and build their fashion collections. We have a world-wide reputation for accurate and commercial fashion prediction. Our readership goes from top-end r-t-w designer names to volume distribution at High Street level. Our target is the yarn or fabric selector/buyer and the garment/knitwear stylist and manufacturer plus major retail distributors involved in their own private-label production. Textile View is widely regarded as the ‘bible’ of the industry.
Following minimalism (‘less is more’), and maximalism (‘more is more’), the fashion buzzword of the moment is ‘normcore’ – a combination of ‘normal’ and ‘hardcore’. What normcore actually means is very much open to personal interpretation (according to the Wiki definition, it’s “a unisex fashion trend characterised by unpretentious, average-looking clothing”). But, whatever your own take on this current fashion feeling about ‘clothes for real life’, the new, non-showy Zeitgeist raises several serious questions for the fashion and textile industry.
The epitome of the normcore message, in catwalk terms, was Karl Lagerfeld’s ‘supermarket’ show for Chanel last spring, featuring supermodels wearing joggers and trainers. However, it was the new collections from Nicolas Ghesquière at Louis Vuitton, Hedi Slimane at Saint Laurent and Raf Simons at Christian Dior that really brought home the message of straightforward dressing. Fashion editors quickly picked up the mood, ditching their maximalist print outfits for the normcore look of sweatshirts, jeans and New Balance trainers. The whole message was amplified by the massive growth in ath-leisurewear concepts (see Textile View 108, Winter 15/16 season intro, ‘From the Gym to the Dinner Table’), which responded to consumers’ search for stylish activewear that was both functional and day-to-night wearable.
So, if we are to follow this ‘anonymous’ look, how is the fabric business to respond – especially after so many years of massive design development? The first thing to understand is that we are not talking about a return to basics. The aim of the look might be to look as normal as possible, but anonymity need not be synonymous with low quality and poor performance. Just as athleisurewear started out as an expensive designer story, so normcore too can be an extremely luxurious look in the way we have come to expect from the minimalistic but extremely expensive approaches of Céline, Jil Sander and Raf Simons.
Nor does normcore entail a return to the past. The textile industry has spent the last four years embracing and commercialising the technical from digital printing to neoprene bonding. Performance and function –not design and art – are now at the cutting edge, which only goes to add more emphasis to the feeling of fashion subversion that normcore has brought with it.
Of course, normcore the counterpoint of fashion, it is also the antithesis of all that the luxury world stands for. We have long said that the luxury market will inevitably evolve from its status-oriented beginnings into one based on heritage, storytelling, EQ, connoisseurship and, above all, experience. This ‘from outward to inward’ mood, long evident in mature luxury markets such as Western Europe and America’s East Coast, is now spreading to newer markets like China, where really knowledgeable and fashionable consumers are moving away from outright bling to subtler, more sophisticated labels.
On top of this, there’s the conscience factor. Articles about the growing divide between ‘the haves and have nots’ and the apparent indifference of modern capitalism to humanitarian issues (Rana Plaza, to cite just one example) appear every day, and everywhere. Inequality is a growing concern and has found a very powerful spokesman in the form of a visibly humble Pope Francis. Local, niche, community, subculture, non-mainstream, vintage, thrift, neighbourhood, organic and artisanal might sound like hipster labels, but they are all words apposite to many other consumer types as well.
So for how long will consumers want to ‘dress normal’? The very meaning of fashion is to reject the old and replace it with the new. Everything goes in cycles. What’s up today is down tomorrow and back up the day after – albeit in a slightly different form.
The trend for pedestrian, unbranded clothing, therefore, will not go one forever. Yet normcore is certainly a symptom of something much bigger – a real desire by consumers for change. Just like normcore, with its sweatshirts and jeans, people want things they understand and know the value of, products with a tried-and-tested authenticity.
That’s not everyone yet. The vast majority of us are still in love with luxury, bling, or budget retail, but the number of ‘new value’ thinkers is growing all the time. It’s the trickle-down effect. Soon it will become a stream, then possibly a river, and then – who knows?
Menswear has grown-up: it has acquired a mood of seriousness expressed through a unified feeling for re-assuring products that sell. It now carries a sense of dignified, commercial gravitas without loosing its inspiring edge.
A quietness pervades this season, settling down from the more extreme attitude that we saw in the winter. This summer embraces a gentler approach, one that is more confident and tranquil. Consideration, contemplation and origination are the current watchwords.
This season’s colour palette is bursting with a new freshness and optimism. We play with collages, which alert us to the possibilities of coalitions; how one colour influences and changes the visual impact of another; calming blends or vibrating contrasts, random medleys or transparent layering.
Summer shapes arise out of the cloth, where we take a close look at how a fabric behaves and make critical design decisions, which respect the natural movement and performance of diverse materiality.
When it comes to both fabrics and colours, this is a season committed to surprise and joy. There is a highly poetic and tactile side to the season just as there is an experimental one, combining materials in unexpected ways. As ever, the European textile industry continues its commitment to creativity.
This season, fashion looks to the world that surrounds us, simple pleasures, natural forms and colours and earthy textures. Far from abandoning science, new technological advances are inspired by nature, to enhance our lives and protect our resources.
Summer 2016 sees a play between the mono-tonal experiment and the variable shoots that stem from natural inspirational sources. A key aspect of the season at large includes the tonal variation that is embedded in intricate prints, as well as the contrast between sleek, sporty silhouettes and a retrospective return to the rustic in suiting.
We are no longer living in a flat word. 3D embellishment is at the core of all design thinking. Of course, its 3D printing that is hogging the limelight, but the concept of multi-dimension has also captured the heart of weavers.
The interest in art and design is rapidly expanding. Where art galleries and museums make a splash on the Internet – department stores, hotels and restaurants house exhibitions to democratise access to art and design. For A/W16/17, we propose a symbiosis of fashion, technology to arrive at materials and products with artistic aspirations and an inspiring narrative.
The idea that an individual’s brain does not just absorb what it receives, but actively filters, builds and co-ordinates information with existing patterns, in order to make sense of it, is a fascinating concept for designers. The recognisable patterns we see and interpret effect the way trends develop or are developed. The Gestalt theory on human perception remains an important influence today.