Midway through the Balenciaga show at the New York Stock Exchange in May, the venue’s numerous stock-ticker monitors started to freak out, with screens flashing and pixelating in rhythm with the techno beat as latex-masked models walking by without pausing. Oh, I saw that: The extended-dance-remix age of late capitalism is what we are experiencing right now, in fact. Global epidemic, culture war, actual war, climate disaster, inflation, and what the heck is cryptocurrency in the first place are all collapsing, yet the music keeps playing on an infinite loop, and we keep dancing to its beat.
Fashion does the following at its best: It displays the present. We observe a stylised snapshot of our period through a collection-It shows us the now. Through the lens of a collection, we see a stylized snapshot of our time—its obsessions, its dreams, its anxieties, its strategies for making sense of the world—and, counterintuitively, it is this keen responsiveness to the present that points the way forward, to something new.
All of the designers represented in the portfolio that goes along with this article are attempting to “reestablish fashion in a new way,” as Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele puts it, in reference to his own eccentric method of modernising a heritage brand, a process that is ongoing, he adds. For Michele, this entails accepting the idea that fashion is no longer intended to speak to a select group of insiders, a viewpoint held by Telfar Clemens of Telfar and Glenn Martens of Diesel, two fashion designers who are in every other way quite different from Michele and from one another. Additionally, Michelle shares a commitment to sustainability with both the avant-garde upcycler Marine Serre of Paris and the indie darling Hillary Taymour of CollinaStrada in New York City.
Serre observes that there is a distinction between novelty and newness. “Novelty comes and goes in an instant; novelty alters one’s perspective. When I turn a kitchen towel into a skirt or a dress, I’m attempting to achieve that; I’m repurposing this unassuming fabric as something a stylish girl would wear.
Of all, the foundation of the modern fashion business strategy is the manufacture of novelty—the better to encourage customers to add to basket. Mercilessly so, in the case of fast-fashion companies who exchange their stock on a near-daily basis, but the requirement to produce goods continues up to the opulent tippy-top of fashion: According to the label’s creative director, one reading of the latex masks at the Balenciaga presentation.