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Fashion's futures

Finding social liberation with metallics

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Click to view a multimedia presentation of this article.

"Fashion's futures" produced by Rizvana Arinaz
Photographed and edited by Rex Miller
Make-up by Trisha M. Overacre
Models: Amalle, Andrea, Ashley, Brandy, Jeffrey, Tiana
Music by T. Green for Rebel Music

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Tiana in vintage silver top from Electric Blender, Citizens of Humanity gray skinny jeans and Stuart Weizman flats from Saks, Botkier bag from Zsa Zsa Zu and vintage silver minaudiere from Electric Blender. - PHOTO BY REX MILLER
  • Photo by Rex Miller
  • Tiana in vintage silver top from Electric Blender, Citizens of Humanity gray skinny jeans and Stuart Weizman flats from Saks, Botkier bag from Zsa Zsa Zu and vintage silver minaudiere from Electric Blender.

Fashion is funny. Just when it seems so frivolous, distracting and superfluous, fashion draws us back in with its own intricate mechanisms of movement and even drama. This is what constitutes fashion's sheer effervescence.

Let's break fashion down: It's about clothes in some experimental sense, and style in a stricter sense, but neither in an exclusive sense. Fashion enables us to simultaneously express some aspect of ourselves and also to access some performative surplus of our selves. This is not to say that fashion is about an advanced version of dress-up. Instead, it's about imagining ourselves as a part of something bigger and better.

Fashion has the potential to speak volumes about our contemporary mood. The potential for fashion lies in our ability to understand that what we wear is a reflection of how we imagine ourselves as a social collective, and perhaps more importantly, of where we want to end up in the future. The more we open up to an idea of fashion as expression—and eventually, a personal and social extension of ourselves—the more the idea of "fashion" can become detached from a notion of thoughtless consumerism. Instead, we can move toward an investment in a future we have yet to truly glimpse, but which we hope will come.

We should approach fashion less as the actual material status of the garment, but instead regard it as "one among many functions of advanced capitalism that extends to all areas of production," as fast-rising avant-garde designer Jeremy Laing has put it. That's why we've mixed high and low, designer and thrift, contemporary and vintage.

Because I wanted the clothes for this feature to be shown on real people rather than professional models, earlier this spring I approached complete strangers and asked if they would like to model. I spotted Ashley Reynolds and immediately thought she would fit the severe futuristic look. Jeffrey possessed an energy and vivaciousness that would translate through the photos, while Amalle's extraordinarily muted looks are a foil for Jeffrey. Brandy's expressive eyes convey the mood of anticipation that is the very subject of this article, and Andrea has a timeless grace. Finally, Tiana carried a distinct, old-school Motown vibe. With the help of eye makeup artist Trisha Overacre, we set about to focus on metallics as our motif of future anticipation.

This year we saw a concentrated dose of metallics on clothes as well as accessories. The precious quality of the metallics is further enhanced by mixing textures, like smooth with woven and shine with matte. Not shown here is a vintage PVC vinyl purple dress layered over skinny gray jeans, topped with a Marc by Marc Jacobs metallic gold jacquard jacket. The contrast of fabrics—of shiny purple vinyl against gray matte, in this instance—makes the vinyl fabric materialize as a little bit dangerous and suggestive of the different ways the body might physically comport itself.

Ashley in a vintage gold trench coat from Electric Blender, Ibisco wide elastic belt, Miu Miu peep-toe shoes and Miu Miu gold clutch, all from Saks. - PHOTO BY REX MILLER
  • Photo by Rex Miller
  • Ashley in a vintage gold trench coat from Electric Blender, Ibisco wide elastic belt, Miu Miu peep-toe shoes and Miu Miu gold clutch, all from Saks.

Above, we see Ashley in a vintage vinyl gold trench coat, a nod to Fritz Lang's 1927 classic film Metropolis and its famed female robot. This future femme signifies a relentless and assured femininity, and is here given a more contemporary and severe look with an oversized patent leather black belt. On the flip side (below), the cheekiness of the Rorschach print tee on Jeffrey suggests a more whimsical masculinity.

Amalle in Diesel dress from Wardrobbe, vintage belt from Electric Blender, Lauren Merkin clutch from Zsa Zsa Zu, boots her own; Jeffrey wears a Modern Amusements tee and Puma shoes from Wardrobbe and his own jeans. - PHOTO BY REX MILLER
  • Photo by Rex Miller
  • Amalle in Diesel dress from Wardrobbe, vintage belt from Electric Blender, Lauren Merkin clutch from Zsa Zsa Zu, boots her own; Jeffrey wears a Modern Amusements tee and Puma shoes from Wardrobbe and his own jeans.

The two Abaete dresses (below) are minimalist, and the contemporary dress line pays tribute to the '60s mod shift dress. But this is not the same old mod shout-out. The sequin stripe adds a softer element to an otherwise masculine architectural line, and is perhaps the closest that we come in this spread to a combination of '60s era Andre Courreges' minimalism and preoccupation with the mini-hem and silhouette, and Paco Rabanne's futurism—both fashion visionaries and enfants terribles—the latter produced the metal mini disk dress and also worked in plastic and acrylics.

Brandy wears an Abaete dress from Fleur Boutique and holds a Chloe "Bay" bag from Saks. - PHOTO BY REX MILLER
  • Photo by Rex Miller
  • Brandy wears an Abaete dress from Fleur Boutique and holds a Chloe "Bay" bag from Saks.
Andrea wears an Abaete dress from Fleur Boutique, Jimmy Choo copper flats and Chloe "Bay" bag from Saks. - PHOTO BY REX MILLER
  • Photo by Rex Miller
  • Andrea wears an Abaete dress from Fleur Boutique, Jimmy Choo copper flats and Chloe "Bay" bag from Saks.

Although the idea of donning metallics can seem daunting, these materials are actually quite versatile, and anyone can mix an array of textures to create a fresh and unusual balance. Fashion's futures will continue to be a study in contrasts: In this case, shoes and accessories are incredibly patent and high gloss and emphasize a hardened exterior against the understated metallic palette of the clothes.

There's no telling where the body can go or what it can do, what it is capable of expressing. The future body is one that won't figure as entirely dominant or authoritarian, nor completely submissive or passive. The future body will be one comfortable enough to experiment with silhouettes, color contrasts, radical cuts. With any luck, the future body will embrace an adventurous flexibility in the name of better social and political futures.

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