Vetements: Changing the Fashion World, One Look at a Time

It is no news that Vetements, the French brand that was founded two years ago, has since become one of France’s most talked about labels. The brand’s story starts with an aim of shifting focus from PR and brand building, that nowadays are a huge part of every fashion brand, back to the key element of fashion – the clothes. With an extended group of eight members behind the brand, the creative team was for a long time anonymous, probably because of the same reason for which they chose to name the brand Vetements. They simply want to focus on pieces they create and nothing else, and have, therefore, been portrayed as modern fashion rebels. When the names of the design team finally became public, and it became known that all of them had backgrounds at Parisian fashion houses, the Georgian chief designer Demna Gvasalia reveled their goal of questioning the fashion industry and the way the system works.

However, since Gvasalia has since been appinted as the new artistic director of Balenciaga, this poses questions both about the integrity of the brand’s designers as well as about the future of Vetemants. Even though Gvasalia has reinsured us that his involvement in the brand is a lifetime commitment, his novel job hopefully also means that Gvasalia and his team will bring something new to the fashion table – and not only in terms of design aesthetics. Vetements’ work has been distinguished for oversize, conceptual and cool lines, similarities they share with Gvasalia’s former employer Martin Margiela. Vetements, however, breaths street wear, in the finest materials and with exquisite executions, of course.

Hanna Cronsjö 
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Couture-to-wear: Koché

Couture for everyday life? Before the industrialisation and the beginning of mass production, hand made pieces, seamstresses and couture dresses were as common as buying a shirt at H&M is today. It all changed when the new techniques made it possible to produce pieces that were both in the latest styles and cheeper than the ones made by hand. Nowadays, couture is often portrayed as the exclusive part of the fashion industry, close related to fine gowns and celebrities. That is a perception the brand Koché wants to change. Couture doesn’t just have to be about glitz and glam, quite the contrary – Christelle Kocher, the designer and founder of Koché, believes it to be perfectly suited for the everyday life as well. She wants to create couture-to-wear. Modern, easy and casual pieces to wear however and whenever you like. Her design aesthetic embodies easy elegance and it simply just feels cool, an underrated look among couture creators. No matter if it is pink suits or embroideries, here pieces achieve the balance between refined craftsmanship and contemporary wearability.

With a background at brands such as Dries Van Noten, Sonia Rykiel, Bottega Veneta and Chloé, Christelle Kocher started her own label only last year and it has, not so surprisingly already turned out to be a success. She was for nominated for the LVMH design award for her unique and contemporary take on fashion in general and traditional couture in particular. It is an innovation right in time. The fashion industry is, as we have noted before, facing a future crossroad. Kosher is pointing out a direction and leading the way towards a future fashion scenario that already is starting to become reality. Old school is just one name we could call it, but it will soon become a reality, as traditional hand craft and a greater appreciation for the quality is a tendency we are going to see a lot more of in the near future. And why not see fashion as both an investment and a fun expression of your personality that lights up your everyday life? The limits are there only to be broken.

Hanna Cronsjö 
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The Hunt for the Next Big Talent: Hannah Jinkins

Fashion is always looking forward – the discipline is about dreams and renewal, but nowadays it seems to happen faster and more often than ever before. New collections, new trends, new it-pieces, and last but not least the constant hunt for new talents. Everyone from fashion houses to low price chains wants to join the party by finding the next talents through competitions, mentoring, internships and guest collections. They are often spotted when they still are in fashion school and some are even offered jobs by the time they are graduating. We are of course talking about upcoming designers. Don’t take us wrong, it is great that the fashion industry supports new talents, helping them to establish their work. However, we believe it to be equally important for the young and upcoming designers to be able to grow and find their own aesthetic, without worrying about opinions, money and selling numbers. Just focusing on designing and creating. But that is in many cases just a dream too good to be true, and the second best thing could therefore be for them to grow within a company interested in their visions.

H&M has for a long period of time been supporting new talents and they are for example celebrating them through their H&M Design Awards. The winner of this year’s edition is the Royal College of Art graduate Hannah Jinkins. Her graduate collection is inspired by work wear, masculine and ordinary working uniforms transformed through advanced tailoring. The whole collection was born from a reinvented denim jacket and the result is sculptural, form fitted, raw denim pieces. Jinkins is awarded with 50 000 euro and the possibility to, together with H&M, produce and sell parts of her collection in the brand’s stores next Fall. It sounds like a great start of what we believe will be a long career.

Hanna Cronsjö 
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Fashion is Not Dead – Just Changing

The industry of trend forecasting has developed rapidly and companies within the fields of fashion, design, lifestyle, food and beauty are working with it. Why? The answer may lie in the fact that our world has become more complex and hard to understand with so many different influences and trends co-existing at the same time. One person who has become one of the best at reading and analysing all of these tendencies and determining whether they will turn out to be a trend worth noticing or not, is Lidewij Edelkoort. Her trend forecasting company Trend Union has agents based all over the globe and she helps some of the biggest companies to adapt to future needs and demands. Last week, she held a seminar in Copenhagen which we had the possibility to attend. After listening to several other forecasters, we didn’t know what to expect. But sitting in the nice cinema in central Copenhagen watching beautiful pictures, music and text creating an interesting multimedia experience, we had to admit – there is a reason why Li Edelkoort and her team are portrayed as the best of the best in their industry.

She guided the seminar by explaining and developing ideas first presented on the big screen. A while ago she declared that: ”fashion is dead” a statement that became the talk of the town (which also proves her great impact on the industry). Edelkoort followed up on that idea during her presentation by saying that it is the fashion system with all its stresses, pressures and money that will change. Raf Simons and Alber Elbaz were used as two recent examples of the unhealthy environment that is the fashion industry today. Instead she believes craft and couture will be the next two big things where the status of production will be redefined. Only time will tell if this is where we are headed.

Hanna Cronsjö 
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Fashion as digital materiality? Digital Disturbances at Fashion Space Gallery

The hunger fashion always feels for the new can only be fostered through a close relationship with the development of new ways to design, produce and even think about fashion. That’s why the link between fashion and technology has always been so tight. From ‘analogic’ to ‘digital’ technology, it seems to be the scientific basis on which fashion can build its fantasies, and develop its discourse. The digital is something so present in our lives that it is actually very difficult to understand its urgency and perceive its materiality. Its pervasiveness goes hand in hand with its invisibility, making it a theme difficult to catch; digital and material are, though, two languages that are incredibly interwoven in the fabric of contemporary life, and they are coming together in fashion, merging in the process and dialoguing in the outputs.

Digital Disturbances, an exhibition at Space Fashion Gallery in London, is a visual critical commentary on the digital takeover that happened in the fashion industry at least in the last two decades. The exhibition deals precisely with the interconnection of fashion and digital design. But digital technology does not only serve the production of fashion artefacts; it also contributes to the construction of its narrative. It presents recent works as well as new commissions, documenting the ways in which designers deal and engage with the digital both in the design process and in the conceptualisation of their work and aesthetic. The exhibition showcases video installations as well as actual garments. Even in the staging, the exhibition becomes a way to convey the discourse and the bond between fashion and digital practices, in the creation of actual objects, and in the construction of tales.

Digital Disturbances is a good way to start to understand how the digital is experienced – and consumed – within the multifaceted practice of fashion. It is curated by Leanne Wierzba, and serves as a sort of ‘stop and think’ spot, slowing the pace of innovation and, at the same time, requesting innovation to complicate its terms. The exhibition raises a lot of questions – about ethics, economics, authorship, value, perception. The most urgent, though, emerges by the very means of the ‘display’, used by the curator to try and answer these questions: what is the critical assessment of digital design, its definition and meaning in contemporary culture? The exhibition is a rapid response, the beginning of a critical analysis of contemporary culture in acto, which inevitably becomes history in the making.

Marta Franceschini 
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The Story of J.Kim – From Korea and Moscow to Paris

J.Kim is a fairly new, yet incredibly savvy, Moscow-based brand founded by the Korean-born designer Jenia Kim. In just five seasons the label has become a fashion favourite, holding its last presentation in Paris this year – a clear mark o fits growing success. Even though this success has happened quit fast, the young designer has experimented a lot before launching the line in order to find her signature style. For Spring/Summer ’16 Jenia Kim has developed some of those strengths and created a collection with innovative silhouettes, a great balance between clean and more eye-catching pieces and focus on the details. Shoulder pads. Marked waists. Ruffles. Embellishments. 3D dimensional flower prints. In J.Kim’s work, crazy creative meets the cool office girl, and who wouldn’t like to be that person?

Even though Jenia Kim has found her design aesthetic, she still believes that the brand is in the making. Learning by doing is a philosophy that every designer should follow, especially in this industry where everything is a constant development and a work in progress. Though, one thing is certain, hard work and a lot of passion are needed to build a brand, and it is obvious that Jenia Kim lives and breaths fashion. She believes in her own ideas and in developing a unique, signature style. J.Kim has probably not reached its final design expression, but it is clear that it has a DNA that makes it stand out among so many other young, ambitious brands. Her design idea is her own and that is probably one of the keys to her success. We are looking forward to seeing her future collections and we are sure they will be as smashing as those embellished, ruffled pants!

Hanna Cronsjö 
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Utopian Bodies – Fashion Looks Forward

The latest in a row of great Swedish fashion exhibitions is Utopian Bodies – Fashion Looks Forward. It celebrates creativity at the same time as it shows possible visions for the future and explains how fashion can be part of the solutions rather than focusing on the many problems surrounding the industry. The visitor is then, through eleven different themes such as suitability, change, technology, hand craft and form, solidarity, opposition and society, gender identity and love, supposed to create his or her own opinion and vision for the future. Different rooms are all inspired by utopian ideas- some are finished, others are supposed to let the visitor be a part of that process and come up with their own ideas. Together they are creating a fusion between many different fashion fields, such as tech, social commitments and creativity all with the purpose of showcasing the possibilities that these mixes can bring.

Great designers and collections such as Victor & Rolf’s Spring/Summer collection as well as items from their “Hana Bedtime Story” from 2005, Dior couture from Spring/Summer 2013, Hussein Chalayan’s iconic wooden skirt and Issey Miyake’s innovative King & Queen installation from Spring/Summer 1999 A-POC collection, which was made with ”zero-waste”, are all exhibited. Other highlights from the exhibition are several pieces from one of the world’s biggest collections of Alexander McQueen creations, Prada’s sparkling rainbow look from Spring/Summer 2014 and creations from several other international fashion houses such as KENZO, Gucci, Acne, Dries Van Noten, Sonia Rykiel, Elsa Schiaparelli and Massaro to just name a few. In addition to the pieces from international designers, 16 specially created pieces from some of Sweden’s most well known designers are also being exhibited.

Another interesting theme is the memory room, in which items specially related to certain people or happenings are being showed. Pieces from celebrities such as Lykke Li and Twiggy are exhibited with the purpose of remembering the story behind the clothes. New technology is, as previously mentioned, also one of the exhibition themes, and some of the coolest wearable techniques as well as examples of how fashion is handling the global climate crises are shown. Some of our favourite innovations are Ying Gao’s pieces that react to the viewer’s voice and glance and byBorre’s BBsuit 0.2 that cleans polluted air around you with wearable filter technology.

When seeing all these innovations and creations two things become very obvious: fashion is so much more than just clothes, and we believe it can be apart of the solution to climate crises and actually contribute to making the world to a better place.

Hanna Cronsjö 
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N°21 Menswear takes a Leap into Female Wardrobes

N°21 used to be known solely for their cool and contemporary womenswear, but that was before they launched their menswear line. With their expansion, N°21 is dressing urban people around the world and their menswear pieces are as cool as the womenswear we learned to appreciate. They have captured the modern aesthetic that made them famous and developed it in the menswear collection. SS16 has clear references to womenswear, including skirts, layering, short shorts and lace. Pieces from the classic male wardrobe are also included, and redesigned with versions of traditional menswear items such as the coat, shirt and pants coming down the runway.

This is one example of a bigger tendency seen in the current fashion picture. Menswear is, as we have written about before, going through an explorative and exciting new phase were it suddenly becomes the site of exploration after a long time of being quite traditional and ’safe’. Gender is less important today than it historically has been, and the focus is instead put on the individual. Many womenswear designers are taking inspiration from the classic male wardrobe, the suit trend is a current example and menswear is doing the same by exploring traditional female garments. However, with N°21 menswear SS/16 collection, we have seen many transition from womenswear pieces that have shifted the attention towards their expertise with female clothing. On the other hand, their womenswear was fair and almost romantic, not often seen on N°21. When comparing the menswear and womenswear collections it is therefore obvious that even though gender might be playing a less central part of today’s fashion industry, it is obviously still very present.

Hanna Cronsjö 
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Doll-Power: Barbie at MUDEC

There is something striking in the word ‘icon’. In its bold shortness, it bears all the power embedded in the objects and people it defines. The MUDEC Museo delle Culture in Milan has recently opened an exhibition called ‘The Icon’. The exhibition is dedicated to the tall, blonde, America’s sweetheart par excellence – Barbie.

Curated by Massimiliano Capella, the exhibition celebrates Barbie’s 56th birthday, crossing the boundaries between space and time; it showcases about 400 different dolls, and is divided in five sections: the first dedicated to the relationship between Barbie and the fashion world; the second centred on the family, the people who compose Barbie’s ‘clique’; the third showcases the professions which Barbie has taken over during her long life; the fourth looks at the traditional costumes from different countries and cultures that Barbie has worn; the fifth and last section is called ‘Regina, Diva and Celebrity’ and addresses to the popularity and the very features of Barbie as an icon. It is interesting to think about why a museum mainly concerned with ethnography and anthropology would organise an exhibition about Barbie. It is not only a celebration of an icon of pop culture, but a reflection on one of the most recognised and immediate ‘material testimonies’ of almost 60 years of global history.

Thinking about material culture, the first questions that come to mind have to do with its impact both as an object with precise characteristics and as a symbol. What is its agency? What is its power? What are the positive and negative consequences in relating to it, as individuals and as politically and culturally defined groups? At a first glance, the exhibition does not seem to offer a completely exhaustive answer to these questions; it doesn’t seem to problematize the matter, serving as a display more than a reflection on controversial hot-topics related to Barbie – for example the discourse around the body or the fixed idea of beauty that the toy proposes. In a way, this feature, generally recognised as negative, is even praised, precisely by presenting the way in which the doll has become an actual muse for fashion designers. Nevertheless, the display is useful to point out some main themes, some main actions of which Barbie is responsible, in her role of icon. First of all education: the section about careers shows the many possible professions that can be taken up by a woman, responding to the cliché that depicts Barbie as an anti-feminist doll; the section about traditional costumes opens up the possibility of teaching diversity, and to open children to different cultures – even though these traditions are applied to a standardised body.

Highly controversial both as an object and as a symbol, Barbie is one of the images of pop culture, and its force resides in its timelessness and in its ability to adapt to changes and to respond rapidly not only to swifts in taste and fashions, but also in culture in the wider sense of the term. Its evolving nature, well addressed by the exhibition, opens up to further analysis of its ‘dark side’ and, in general, its complexity as a cultural product.

Marta Franceschini 
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Why has Alber Elbaz left Lanvin?

After more than 14 years at Lanvin, Alber Elbaz is now leaving his position as Creative Director for the French luxury brand. Despite apparently leaving without much fanfare, his departure has not passed unnoticed, either by Lanvin’s 330 employees or the rest of the fashion world.

It all started a week before the departure went official. Elbaz received the Superstar award at Fashion Group International’s Night of the Stars and spoke about the pressure creative directors and designers are put through today. He did also speak about how the design profession has changed during the last couple of years as he remembered the days when a designer created dreams and thought about the women he or she designed for, instead of focusing on what will look best in pictures. The nostalgia was hard to miss and the rumours didn’t slow down by the fact that the position of Creative Director at Dior now was free after Raf Simons had announced his departure for similar reasons.

There was however truth behind the rumours because Elbaz confirm his departure shortly after in an emotional Instagram post – the ultimate means of communication today. He explained his exit in a statement published in BoF where he said that the decision hadn’t been his and instead was made by Lanvin’s owner, Shaw-Lan Wang. He also took the opportunity to celebrate his co-workers at Lanvin and thank them for the great time they have had together restoring Lanvin’s position as one of France’s most luxury fashion brands.

Elbaz’s impact on contemporary fashion is huge, even though he seems to be quitting unhappy with the progression of design profession. Elbaz will not just be missed at Lanvin by the fashion world, the employees have taken the news with sadness and complained to its owner. Jack Lang, the former French minister of culture is the latest to complain against Shaw-Lan Wang’s decision, WWD reports. It does unfortunately not seem to have made them change their minds even though we suspect and hope that we haven’t heard the last of the story. The protests from employees do however matter and prove that Elbaz isn’t just a creative designer but also a great leader. The only question that now remains is – what will be his next step?

Hanna Cronsjö 
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