In addition to Barbara’s message in the introduction below, a very special thanks goes to those designers whose images were so fundamental in carrying out our analysis and are featured, with credits, in the report.
For fourteen years ITS has been detecting creativity with a fundamental objective in mind: of course we want to spot the new ITS Generation of talents, but most importantly we are a Seismograph, picking up and analysing any wave of creativity out there to obtain a snapshot of the current situation, free from the structures of conventional thinking. It can be a time-consuming effort and often it’s like looking for a needle in the hay, but it is well worth it, since it builds up into a history of fashion evolution. An ongoing research that gives us information on how young creativity has evolved and allows us to guess where it is headed. So each ITS 2015 contestant deserves our gratitude. They underwent the application process and allowed me the privilege of quietly stepping into their projects. Without their portfolios there would have been no documentation nor images on which to base the analysis carried out in this report.
Here are just a few numbers to have an idea of the material on which our 2015 analysis is based: 950 portfolios were shipped to our offices, representing 79 countries. Students from 296 schools in 65 countries applied. Of these 10 finalists will be selected for each of the contests: fashion, accessories, jewelry and artwork.
What fascinates me the most when analysing what we receive is how different cultural realities can respond to the same stimula by giving their own interpretation without necessarily losing their identity: the same interrogatives can puzzle young talents all over the world but each one of them provides a personal point of view on the subject. At the same time, people both physically and culturally far apart can sometimes react in shockingly similar ways. And we do not only analyse, we collect & protect too. The ITS Creative Archive - a project I am most fond of - stands as proof of all the trend reports we have written up to now, with its impressive collection of portfolios and finalists’ pieces. It gathers each of the 14,000 portfolios we have been receiving since 2002 including collection pieces of every single finalist we have ever selected. 200 outfits, 100 accessories, 60 jewelry pieces and over 700 digital photo projects. A unique resource which stands as proof of what we have written in our yearly reports and can inspire new creative processes, connecting what has been created to what will be created.
Finally, I would like to deeply thank independent fashion writer Angelo Flaccavento for his invaluable contribution to this report. He has been following ITS since the very beginning and has never missed an edition, participating in the finalists selections in April as well. I cannot think of a better historical memory inside the ITS Family, capable of giving a more objective point of view and maintaining a profound clarity of thought in his analysis.
The analysis of the trends has been carried out by Angelo Flaccavento, an independent fashion writer based in Italy contributing to a roster of Italian and international publications. He works out of Sicily, where he still lives, traveling most of the time.
Trend report is the technical name given to this fragmented essay. To me, the term is nothing more than a commonly-accepted formula, a shared definition, or a guideline. Because, honestly, I do not believe in trends and streams, and I am certainly not alone in this feeling. Fragmentation is one of the defining traits of the historical moment we are living in. The achingly personal rules, made universally relevant by the unprecedented possibility of streaming, or sharing, one’s own little world and egotistical preferences - esthetic, sexual and otherwise - all around using the pervasive fluidity of digital media - Tumblr, Instagram, Vimeo, whatever. Everything, or almost everything, happens at once, and even chronology, finally, follows non linear paths, allowing past and present to happen simultaneously in the zing of a Google search. Yet, of course, nothing happens in a void, not even chaos or multiplicity. There is a zeitgeist wandering and reigning, and nobody can eschew its super power. It’s the zeitgeist that allows bits and pieces to coalesce into coincidences: something a lot more liquid and malleable than trends dictated from up above.
This is the operational frame. Please, take what follows as a grid of suggestions, and keep in mind that a lot more, and radically different, is possible, truth being firmly in the eye of the beholder. Last year, in writing the same report, I defined a similar situation. A year, however, goes at the speed of light nowadays. So, if nothing has changed along the metaphorical perimeter, a lot has changed inside of it, speaking of the state of young fashion creativity passing through the ITS lenses. The 2015 generation, in fact, at first glance comes across as viscerally creative, operating in a productive void removed from, if not deliberately opposed to, fashion’s mainstream. The only comparison worth making is with creators such as Rei Kawakubo or Jun Takahashi, fashion’s prime purveyors of the monstrous and the extreme.
One can easily picture most of these inventors, whose creativity we are evaluating on the deceptive but deeply effective basis of a bunch of photos, closed in their own little rooms inventing esthetic universes all of their own. While the fashion world keeps pushing invention at the sides, having entered a phase in which ideas turn around so fast there is actually no time to create, these reckless stalwarts take a healthy time to invent, oblivious of commerce and other real-world demands. While normality, or normcore - as made-up and marketed as a trend as the word sounds - is a byword among fashionistas, and the “wardrobe” a concept most designers are exploring in order to keep money flowing at the cash register, the creatives of 2015 do not give a damn about practicality and usefulness. At least, not in an evident way. Of course bits and pieces of what’s happening in fashion-land do filter, especially in menswear, where glorified streetwear shapes and spiritualized simplicity are the norm, but otherwise we’re witnessing an extremely theatrical phase: one in which silhouettes are being fictionalized.
Individuality is what keeps haunting and pushing creators right now. Isn’t it today’s holy Grail in every other way, too? Finding one’s niche and tuning one’s tone of voice: this is the primal force of creation, one nobody can escape. While digital socializing continues to produce widespread isolation, the relationship between the single person and the environment, both physical and cultural, comes to the fore. Never as in this moment, has fashion explored the possibility of the dress to turn into an habitat: a place to live which dialogues with the environment we live in - enclosing it, invading it, occupying it. The body, thereafter, is just a starting point for new adventures and new spatial explorations. It is concealed, distorted, altered as it was purely sculptural material - erased by big volumes that create architectural alter egos, hardened by odd materials, elongated, widened and morphed. Clothing gains a new physical relevance: maybe it is a cave for hiding oneself, maybe an instrument to protect, sometime a weapon to attack.
The strongest of all attacks is colorful, theatrical, if not deliberately farcical. Not violent, maybe just a tad decadent. What strikes is the liberating urge of creating a visual play around a dress and a persona: one that can be immediately perceived as such. Fashion today is essentially about image-making, and young creatives are well aware of that. However, they do not treat clothing as just a simulacrum: they create fables with pieces that both look great in pictures and have a presence. It’s volume that prevails, creating narrative and spatial depth.
Dichotomy, anyway, is the true driving force of the present, making the pendulum swift in opposite directions at once. This, after all, is the era of the aut/aut and tertium non datur. So while the exploration of clothing as habitat suggests, partially, a stasis, the great outdoors keep on calling, demanding adventurous creations as self-sufficient living units. The strongest contrast, however, is the one that pits the organic against the synthetic; nature, imperfection, craft against the sleek, efficient, incorruptible perfection of the machine-made. Curiously, or rather not so curiously, it is nature that wins in this moment of everything cold and digital: a swarm of flowers or a flourish of feathers are enough to turn surfaces into living organisms, infusing life into bold architectural forms. It is exactly in these explorations that, finally, fashion regains its position in the current moment. There is in fact nothing that directly references the past or suggests anything too deliberately vintage. Retro is ditched in the name of progress, doing away with sampling and post-production.
Beauty, finally, remains a shared goal, even more so when traditional notions of it keep being consciously obliterated or eschewed. The fascination with the morbid and the decadent gives nuance to a deliberate quest for non-harmonic harmony. Even age is being consistently re-thought, in a serene acceptance of every season of life. All this makes for a brave and bound-less generation of political auteurs who skip open confrontation to delve into the honest pleasure of pure expression, operating each one in their own hyper-connected void. The esthetic, after all, is always deeply political.
The dress as a living unit, or a piece of mobile, wearable furniture for the body: extreme in volumes, extremely theatrical in its developments and choice of materials, with wood and hard stuff gaining an incongruous prominence. Forms conceal the body as it is in order to create a body that is a space, all the while questioning commonly accepted notions of beauty, gender, representation. Forms are stiff and plain. Decoration leaves room to surprising juxtapositions of textures and densities, of transparency and stiffness.
Fashion as a storytelling medium, using all means necessary to create a fiction, albeit an abstract or flimsy one, around a dress. Clothing gets narrative, losing all connotations linked to seduction, sex and even the expression of power and wealth. What comes to the fore are its transformative powers: the possibility of turning the everyday into something incredible, spectacular, elevating the individual to a character, thus protecting fragility behind a masked shield - literally, with an abundance of covered faces, of dresses as costumes, of absurd forms and visually assertive elements.
Explosions of flourishes, proliferations of ruffles, clashes of materials, shapes, color; exaggerations and accumulations: there is orderly chaos in creations that mercilessly court farce and that ride the thin line of excess, doing away with any easy notion of taste. Chaos is not a curse, but the primal force of everything that might happen. It is expressed through clothing, jewels and accessories that incorporate the precarious, the transformative, the barely finished, to suggest evolutions into something we have not yet seen. Emotion sculpts ideas out of matter, infusing an organic appeal by incorporating natural elements or highlighting the tactile power of craft.
The digital world is in garish technicolor: bold and brash, in glowing fluorescent shades or dreamy pastel hues. Color adds a layer of intricacy to the current visual play, infusing spontaneity, energy, joy, optimism. It comes mixed, as a part of graphic motifs and prints, but most of the time it is flat and bright, explored in constructivist fashions as one of the building blocks of the silhouette, of which it signals the sum of different parts, highlighting each one. This is color as expression of the pervading architectural urge.
White - pure, total, unremitting, zen-like and lyrical - reigns supreme. It oozes spirituality, religious calm but most of all power: it is the white sheet that can turn into a million ideas, or the white brushstroke that can erase any complication and bring the brilliant complexity and sculptural splendor of form to the fore. It is total white, however, that is constantly being balanced by total black: again, deprivation in the name of rigor, severity, control. A refusal of excess that reconciles the esthetic with the ethic.
Fashion is about clothes that are object of design but increasingly more about the way they are presented. Image-making is the final frontier, with photography somehow turning into a design tool, too. Wide angle lenses and surreal crops create a sense of distortion and displacement, drawing bodies and clothes of absurd proportions and angles. The architectural effect is gained through extreme poses that transform the body into a living sculpture arranged in ways that defy the human to embrace the purely cerebral.
Backpacks, big protective shapes and an eschew take on functionalism - shielding accessories, multiple pockets, additional layers - suggest life en plein air. Around and outside, far from the digital safety of the tech environment, in close encounter with the harshness and the raw beauty of the elements. Is it escapism? Maybe. This is fashion going all the way down the escape route from civilization, with the keen awareness that civilization might end very, very soon, and we’d better be equipped.