Since civilisation began humans have plagued themselves with predictions of the end of the world. Erupting volcanoes, nuclear warfare and even the hand of God smiting us for our sins are all images one thinks of when contemplating humanity’s final days, and in recent years, predictions of artificial intelligence taking over has perhaps promoted a more sinister, human induced conclusion. Who could forget 2012, when my thirteen year old self accepted a fate that was prophesied centuries beforehand, only to wake up unharmed and having not been a subject to mass extinction. And how does this affect fashion? It’s not uncommon for designers to look to past fashions as a source of inspiration, but recently some have been looking forward to a hypothetical society and asking the important question of: how to dress for the end of the world? Maybe not always referencing “the end” but for some certainly the distant future, creating anti-fantasies of how fashion could be in however many years time. Granted, in an eventual world of famine, destruction or AI what we wear might not be a top priority, but fashion is a world that can offer escapism from reality, whether it has happened yet or not.
Virtual reality became a Prada reality at the most recent menswear show in Milan. Employing the graphic novel artistry of James Jean and Ollie Schrauwen, Miuccia explored the duality of modern life; how we live in reality with an ever growing reliance on technology. These comic panels were not in the typical superhero style but instead displayed subjects of ruined cityscapes and robot monkeys; and although the story was seemingly undecipherable and random, Miuccia requested that they “push the human point” creating graphics that were more melancholy than Marvel. Knitwear on nylon was a recurring contrast, even coming in the form of somewhat factory-like, workmen jumpsuits; boosting the utilitarian atmosphere of the collection. Shirts were dominant and the classic, ever-popular Prada shape of wide sleeves, short torso and exaggerated collar was modernised with a three quarter zip to accompany the comic strips. Implications about the symbolism of the monkey aside, it was an exemplar answer in the school of fashion of how to execute a successful spring/ summer collection; who could argue against the shortness of those shorts.
It was in New York where the apocalyptic attitude felt most authentic, perhaps due to the US being home of Hollywood or more fitting when one considers the current political climate of America. Raf Simons presented an open air collection under the Manhattan bridge, unashamedly citing the opening scene of sci-fi, cult classic Blade Runner. It wouldn’t take long for anyone who has seen the movie to recognise the LED-handled umbrellas or dampened surroundings as references. Unfortunately Harrison Ford couldn’t make it, but the scene was set nonetheless for Simon’s dystopian ideal of how men would dress in the future. For those who haven’t seen the 1982 neo-noir film, it is a hyper technological perception of what Los Angeles could become in the year 2019, skyscrapers conquer and although the neon is bright, the sky remains dark and the rain is never ending. Maybe this is why the styling was a concoction of oversized layering and trench coats (and of course the collegiate-wear, one of Raf’s staple garments), each model adorned a wide-brimmed rain hat, this coupled with the umbrellas, gave them a sense of anonymity; important when considering Orwellian influence on science-fiction. Prominent off-centre tailoring is reminiscent of some his earliest collections from the 90s, creating garments of voids and solids as sweaters both reveal and conceal parts of the male torso; whilst cropped trousers bring attention the weighted gumboots that the models were stomping down the runway in – unflinching at splashing pools of water at their feet. The collection felt whole and each decision purposeful. Rather than having a series of looks connected by shape or material, Simon’s instead promoted a story that makes the menswear feel as though it is part of a bigger picture and a conversation about the future of fashion.
As the world advances fashion needs to keep up and although it could be considered far-fetched to think about the industry in context with a dystopian future, no one can predict how we will dress 30 years time, let alone when the world is ending. I can’t foresee “Saint Laurent Survival-wear” coming to us anytime soon but with the bridge between technology and fashion already beginning to blur it will be exciting to see how the industry will adapt in years to come.