Ever since man has been able to travel, the secrets of the world have been unraveled, expressed commonly through design as foreign influences have satiated our inquisitive nature for centuries. Iconic design movements such as Rococo (of the 18th Century) and Japonisme (which reached the height of popularity in the late 19th Century) highlight the continuous authority of travel on discerning British works of art.
Globally speaking, fashion is an art form that no one is exempt from, whether you believe you follow the trends or not, you are liaising with the fashion industry every time you engage in buying constructed pieces of fabric to cover your modesty (to put it plainly). Unless you choose to run around naked, which would result you in undoubtedly being arrested and therefore forced to wear a ravishing orange jumpsuit (orange is the new black as we all know) or the old fashioned bold black and white stripes (Chanel was slightly late on the uptake with the Breton), heavily accessorised with the old ball and chain. Both equally chic and more fashionable than most.
The fact that it is becoming easier to travel year by year has only fuelled our quest to search for the unknown; the adventurer gene is brought out from within us as designers alike look to other cultures for inspiration. The introduction of mainstream air travel in the 1960s meant that people began to travel with great speed and the juxtaposition of fashions from other cultures, with references from our homeland, was conducted with ease.
Historical tourists echo modern equivalents: designers, students and those looking for something to fill a “gap-yah”, are no longer content with travelling to one country alone and so instead choose to globe-trot. The evolution of travel has out grown itself from necessity to emigration to frivolity and our perpetual need for new stimulation.
The easy-jet generation, a term coined by it’s namesake (who else?), were deemed as ‘the early riser for the morning cab, last minute packing, full of excitement generation’, manipulating us into thinking that travelling economy-class is something to celebrate. And it is, inexpensive equals freedom, especially when it comes to travel, the world is your oyster (or jellied eel, the poundland equivalent). With the cheapest flight out of the country being under a tenner, London is providing more low-cost travel than anywhere else, making it ever more tempting to pull information, first hand, from all corners of the globe – with no better cause than to serve fashion.
The media offers us various mutations in reference to ways of imagining identities and groups, causing material effects on how people experience the world. There is a process of construction in terms of building up an image of national culture. As the diverse nature of the media grows rapidly alongside technological advances, more and more sources are providing us with their own thoughts on a culture or trend, which are being driven to extremities. This increasing “interconnectedness” influences us socially, culturally and economically; three main topics constantly interfacing with fashion. The total antithesis to how trends travelled country to country in the 18th Century where dolls were dressed in French and English royal houses, globally distributed, thus igniting a new style. Evidently more gourmet than our modern day fast food fashion binges, (literally represented by Moschino and their parodied romance with Macdonalds or Kaiser Karl’s throwaway Chanel supermarket).
Travel influences not only what we buy, but also what we are told to buy as voices are given to anyone and everyone with access to a computer and internet connection. Assaulting us with trends from all corners of the globe. Talking to fellow Womenswear students at LCF, it is clear that the juxtaposition of culture and concept assists the ability not only to consume, but to produce fashions that are inventive and progressive in terms of how we view popular culture. First year Ryan Sng commented that, as designers “we are attracted by things that are different because they are new and exciting. I do think it's a problem though, when designers are lazy and don't go beyond the surface of things”.
While we see fashion as an ever-changing presence within the modern world, facile representations of the domains of others are constantly manufactured as costumes from other cultures, barely reinvented, producing superficial pseudo-stylistic designs. Most recently, Karl Lagerfeld lazily added only a few tweaks to his collection in Dallas, symptomatic of the common Cowboys vs. Indians stereotype. Hardly availing his creative license to convey the world as he sees it. Taking qualm with the quantity of cowboy inspired garments would be a crude undertaking, however, the depth and variety of changes within stereotypes cause them to become just that, stale stereotypes. Are designers utilising the world in which we live (and travelling to the capacity their wallets will allow) to the best of their abilities?
Globalisation can have a more positive dynamic on fashion (despite the clichés in circulation), creating a renewed sense of “local”, in particular, local craft. Dame Vivienne Westwood, who has previously voiced many outspoken opinions on globalisation and propaganda, was quoted in saying, ‘the one thing that globalisation has taught us, is we are all on this planet together and we can’t get off it, so we do have to have some shared values’. We are not appropriating enough praise to the countries that fuel our design. References should be made to these cultures, providing recognition worthy of their mastery. Promoting, not only the designer (belonging to a dominant society), but also the craft behind the costume.
Lets not forget our fashion capital, the rest of the world travels to London too of course. With the glitterati gravitating to London Fashion Week twice per annum, the works of 58 designers are showcased to over 5,000 people visiting England’s capital each season, amalgamating in the generation of at least £100m in sales, a vast cum indeed. The crème de la crème of journalists, stylists and celebrities travel to rub shoulders with one another to discuss and gaze upon what fashion has to offer this time around, only to circulate other fashion capitals the very next week.
With LFW being an opportunity (and an honour) to represent ones country and boost the economy, why have designers like Victoria Beckham chosen to frequent other fashion weeks? I debated this topic with LCF student and ready-made designer in his own right, Christian Cowan-Sanluis, as he showed his level of understanding by discussing that although representing the country is necessary to boost economy, ‘designers are constantly aware of their business and can be swayed by more money or greater opportunities’. So perhaps their drive to progress is advantageous in representing Britain overseas, fuelling interest in the products of our small yet playfully creative island. Contrasting vaguely with the self-affirming high brow Paris fashion week, for example.
Aside from the cognitive advantages of modern air-travel towards fashion design, the postmodernist aspects of globalisation cause us to focus on our own thought processes. Being well travelled is one of the main ways in which people subconsciously learn new things. As I previously touched upon the notion of juxtaposition, the postmodern view on this is that by combining images from all over the globe, we create pastiches. Alluding to the fact that we may create fashions to parody and challenge garments of yester-year for comedic or profound effect. For example, garments for summer, inspired by a colder climate may challenge the value we put upon the four seasons.
The catalyst of changing seasons is the amalgamation of postmodernism and globalisation as we start to see the already ephemeral fashion industry speed up and morph into fast food fashion, a literal rendition of heroin chic as consumers the world over pine for their fashion fix. A glimpse of this can be seen with the introduction of “pre” and “resort” collections, to suppress our cravings just a little while longer; fashion pushers of the world teasing stylists, bloggers and purchasers alike. An inflation of this would be seasons to represent a spectrum of the world’s climate. If technology has allowed us to travel with ease, fashion must evolve alongside it by collapsing the confines of seasonal fashion. Travelling to warmer countries, avoiding the inevitable hibernation period brought by the British winter creates a need for clothing that corresponds with the forecast; particularly prevalent with those of us who make it their mission in life to out-trend everyone.
Opinions on postmodern fashion stretch far beyond trend, towards the ease of judgment when creating fashion to shock and mesmerise. Atypically, we are not meant to understand fully the meaning behind a collection, iconic representations of a culture, such as combining a kimono with your Prada pencil skirt, are all very well, but influences are often mistakable; as voiced by fashion critic, Rebecca Lowthorpe, “we are not meant to understand. We are meant to feel. Like great art – ancient or modern – the pieces [presented to us] are charged with feeling, sometimes confrontationally”. Dissecting banal global uniforms in favour of challenging the conventional image. Postmodernism down to a “T”.
Assimilating ourselves with the themes discussed does not make globalisation seem any less perplexing. It is rife with polarising opinions as to whether travel really is beneficial to everyone or lucidly uses global commodity to permit ongoing homogeneity. We are no longer confined to the restrictions of class, country or traditions, yet neither is anyone else.
“Everything has been done before”, a phrase often muttered at the design table, to which I highly disagree. If we continue to marry and challenge diverse cultures we surely can’t have exhausted all sources of stimulus issued to us. The allure of fashion is multi-faceted and thrives on freedom and fantasy.