ITS#TEN draws a line. We consider it as an anniversary, as a cycle that closes. This decade of talent research demands for a sum-up of what we have found in all of these years of search for creativity. It is a challenging task when you look at our archive of almost 10,000 portfolios, but if you detach from this massive number and take a few steps away to look at it from a distance, an impressive picture appears. It is a picture not influenced by mainstream and it shows a sharing of feelings and common intents. A subtle thread - we cannot but think of it as a magenta thread - that ties Indonesia to Alaska, Japan to Iceland, South Africa to Malaysia. Dozens of different cultures giving their own personal interpretation of the same themes, as if the same questions were buzzing in the heads of creative talents worldwide. As if a single, giant brain were expressing the same feelings using different languages and ways. The following are the strongest trends that have come up in these ten years.
Please do not consider this as an all-embracing analysis of trends with no space for discussion. We like to register a lot more than we like to analyse, and this is our own partial - and maybe at times naive - point of view. Certainly based on a ten-year experience in portfolio viewing, yet at the same time innocently willing to listen and learn from any other point of view.
The sky, sea life, animals, landscapes. Sometimes even a focus on certain animals like insects, birds, horses and rabbits. Or on flowers of all species, shapes and sizes, whether printed on material, embroidered or actually taking the form of an outfit, accessory or jewel. As if a natural garden could be a refuge from the rest of the world. Nature is the desire to return to the roots of existence in response to an overload of all that is unnatural. The desire to cancel all that has been done, re-boot the system and start again. An answer to the progressive alienation faced daily and a consciousness that has been dormant for far too long, stunned by collective and euphoric technological anaesthesia.
Bones, skulls, spines, death and its sickle... in ten years the argument has been treated probably in every conceivable way. As the fear of the end, as "memento mori" (remember you must die) but also in more light-hearted, cheeky ways. Exorcised in the funniest Mexican carnival interpretations and at times romantic or even prim and proper, skeletons and images of death have never abandoned the concepts of our young talents. They can be structures giving stability in a time of uncertainty. In Astrology for instance, the skeleton is an invitation to improve our way of life for the better. But they can also symbolise our most profound fears, our guilt. Or yet again they remind us that we all have a common destiny and that if we are deprived of our clothes and our skin and muscles, we are all the same.
Scars & Wounds
As a metaphor of the need to mend pieces/fragments, as a symbol of anger, of pain and anguish. As a desperate call from those who wants to be healed. Scars and bruises represent the negative effects of the outside world and of our own inside world on our bodies. Scars in fashion are also a translation on skin of sewing, therefore provoking in designers an almost natural fascination. Certainly connected in some way also to the theme of skeletons & death, throughout the years we have seen this theme come up over and over.
Covered Faces, Masks & Closed Mouths
"I do not want to see and I am not free of saying what I want to say." This is certainly the most direct meaning when thinking of this ever-returning concept. Faces are covered with masks: The world is a stage and if we have a mask and a character to play we will be allowed to say what we want. Covered faces also represent freedom, of action as well as of speech. Faces are covered to hide, disguise, mask, obscure, conceal and remove identity. The identity dilemma is probably key here: a covered face represents someone who does not fit in the real world, who wants to escape. And a closed mouth represents the inability to say what we think, or actually being forced to silence. We have seen both themes recur more often when the news from the world get increasingly bad: in hard times the need to hide, to remain silent and refuse to see what is happening - although questionable - is stronger.
Alice in Wonderland, "Le Petit Prince", Peter Pan... the nostalgia for childhood has been dealt with in projects since our very first researches in creativity. As already said, it can be at times nostalgic, at times disturbing. It goes in both directions: an analysis of the passage from childhood to adulthood and the trials and tribulations of trying to recapture the state of innocence that existed before we knew what we know. It is strongly connected to the return to nature, to that time in our lives when instinct would tell us all we needed to know, when all we experienced was new and fresh and wonder dominated our lives. Childhood is also the desire to restart, to forget all the complications of adulthood. The desire to take off the mask and not be required to act or be different from what you really are. To free oneself from conventions and standards and from what is required from us. To dream and immerse in an ideal world where everything is like we want it to be.
All of the above mentioned, it is time to have a look at the major trends from this year's portfolios. Needless to say, some of the themes described in the retrospective overview have turned up again, with a slight twist in meaning. We have also seen a little less menswear collections compared to the last couple of years.
About 40 wars at the same time scourge the world. War has been a key presence in the history of humanity. Therefore speaking of trends that come up in times of war might sound ridiculous. But there is a great difference between not knowing there is a conflict and being instead reminded about it every single day from the news and from the press. The latter is certainly true at present: the recently exploded conflicts in Libya and Egypt not to speak about Syria, Yemen and the instability of the whole Middle-East area are being reported on a daily basis.
Covered Faces & Heads
When the actual knowledge of war is so strong, we have seen covered faces and heads turn up in portfolios from around the world. This time it is a transversal theme dealt with by contestants in all competition fields: we have viewed fashion and accessories projects as well as jewellery collections and photography projects dealing with this. As we have said before they can be seen as a screen between us and the world or as a tool to hide from our view what we do not want to see. Connected to this, we have also seen representations of double as well as triple faces. As if times of war were not just times to hide ourselves but to question what we are capable of doing: times to put on different faces, to question ourselves about how many personalities we have and which one we are actually "wearing".
Shapes - Symmetry & Geometry
We are living in times of uncertainty. It is not just about wars, it's a more general feeling caused by economic instability, migrations of people, natural calamities that change the destinies of entire populations... In this last year everything seems to have contributed to a global sense of insecurity for our future that was echoed in the projects we have seen. Among the several responses together with covered faces, a search for perfection through the use of symmetries and geometric patterns appeared to be the strongest. Linear patterns, polygons, triangles, diamond-like shapes... we've seen them everywhere. They appear to give a sense of security, of rules that cannot be broken, of something that is unquestionable. Geometry gives us a safe representation of a perfect reality through the use of rules and theories, while symmetry communicates an even stronger sense of perfection and security.
Colours - White
Above all concepts encountered, this was for sure something we had never seen portrayed on such a scale. Not only was it predominant: like covered faces, it was transversal. As it can be imagined, there is a wide number of symbolic interpretations here. White represents in all cultures (safe for China and India perhaps, where the colour is connected to death, funerals and ghosts) purity and perfection as well as innocence. It contains all colours in the spectrum in opposition to black which is the absence of colour. It is a symbol of surrender or, in other words, of peaceful intentions.
Skeletons - backbones
Bones and skeletons are back as another natural response to present-day instability. But this time there seems to be a strong focus on a particular part of the human skeleton, the backbone. This brings new meanings in. We have found a great number of images portraying a 2nd spine, as a metaphor of the need for an additional structure, as if our own backbone were not strong enough to keep us together and standing, demanding for a supplementary one to survive. This seems to be confirmed also by the presence of outer torso-like structures built over the outfits, a sort of shields that provides extra protection for our chest. And maybe not only to the chest in general, but to the heart.
Particularities - Nudity, nuns and eyeglasses
Among other themes there were a couple that struck our attention as very particular and unusual. Maybe not strong as the themes described above, yet still recurring enough to be portrayed here. For instance, we have found several images of nudity presented in a very sexual, explicit, sometimes perverse way as well as portrayed like in statues. The naked female body in particular was often shown from a male-chauvinist perspective.
We also found a number of projects inspired by nuns and by the shapes of their clothes. From a symbolic point of view a nun can represent the need to reconsider one's own lifestyle, in particular towards sensuality and sexuality. It carries doubts on the people that surround us and influence us with their judgments and life rules. But they are also a symbol of commitment, of generosity and of sacrifice.
Finally, we witnessed several experimentations on spectacles. Many contestants have played with eyeglasses’ aesthetics. In a very direct way, it may certainly reference to a need to see things more clearly, to focus on details more as well as to think more deeply and intelligently about things: a common cliché demands spectacles on the noses of people who study a lot or spend much of their time on books. But spectacles are again also a way to hide our eyes and protect them. They are a filter that allows us to see the world in different ways through different lenses. A mask, another disguise just like Clark Kent...
Some surprises but also some confirmations in the billboard of the young talents' favourite designers. Despite his passing, Alexander McQueen is still strongly on top, followed in second position by Maison Martin Margiela gaining one position from last year. Balenciaga is next, and this is the biggest surprise: an amazing climb up from the 25th spot in 2010. Comme Des Garçons confirms the fourth position followed by Hussein Chalayan and Viktor & Rolf. A short note also for Prada: rarely in these years have we seen Italian brands in the first ten positions and Prada did another impressive climb in the chart, going from n°22 in 2010 to n°8 position this year.
Looking at magazines, Vogue (total of various editions: Vogue Japan has made an impressive climb and it's total alone would come in at 4th position...) leads the group, still followed by Collezioni editions. In third position we have Another Magazine (it was 8th last year) followed by Dazed and Confused editions in 4th (climbing up 1 position from last year) and Elle editions in 5th (was third in 2010). In Style Magazine Australia is a complete new entry (the whole In Style editions was 20th last year!) in the "top ten", as are Die Zeit - 7th, W Magazine in 8th, In Trend - Knitwear in 9th and In Touch Magazine in 10th position.