New fashion collections: Hi-tech, eco or both?

September 5th, 2008 - 9:44 am ICT by IANS  

Berlin, Sep 5 (DPA) The new autumn and winter fashion collections highlight the tension between technology and the environment, luxury and ecology, consumption and conservation.In the designers’ view, these large and at first glance irreconcilable contradictions constitute the spirit of our times. Their fashions this season test the harmonious combination of contrasts.

“The environment may be attracting a lot of attention, but technology is indispensable today,” remarked Elke Giese, who is on the staff of the Berlin-based German Fashion Institute. For many people, the dichotomy between environmental protection and technological progress poses lifestyle questions.

The organic cotton trend is one example of how fashion designers and manufacturers have taken up the issue of sustainability.

New technologies aim at reconciling the apparent contradictions of the day and the fashion industry has developed new hi-tech materials in recent years.

“Maybe it’d be environmentally friendlier if we all dressed in nothing but polyester,” said Giese, who suggested that new fabrics and technological processes may actually be less harmful to the environment than the quasi-industrial cultivation of organic cotton.

“That’s why the focus is now on various kinds of nylon, and also on new coatings,” she said. “It has led to very light, extremely fine, and super dense fabrics with outstanding wearability.”

“Things are getting more futuristic, and that goes for fabrics too,” agreed Stephan Schneider, a professor at the Institute for Experimental Clothing and Textile Design, part of the Berlin University of the Arts. One manifestation of this is the gradual recession of “layering”, the playful, layered look that created a stir in earlier seasons.

“Not: a scarf too. Not: an added layer. It’s not being laid on so thick anymore,” Schneider remarked. “It’s getting cleaner.”

The viewpoint has changed again. The impetus for fashion change in previous seasons was at first new forms, which produced new silhouettes. Then gaudy colours characterised the outfits. Now, new fabrics and surfaces catch the eye and evoke contrasts in the overall picture.

An elegant look of luxury is complemented by sporty notes, for instance or austere, controlled outfits with urban flair are set against a jeans-and-handknits look.

“The former embraces the themes of rock ‘n’ roll and metropolis, from Hugo Boss to Amy Winehouse,” Giese explained. “The latter stands for back-to-nature, responsibility and authenticity - grandma can also knit a sweater once in a while.”

In sum, clothing is carrying the large questions of our era into the public arena. Economic growth when resources are in short supply? Outdoor or big city life? Nature or technology? The designers’ answer in each case is that both must always be possible simultaneously. The result, as the German Fashion Institute put it, is combinations like “the little quilted bomber jacket with stretch drainpipe trousers.”

So the focus is on combinations of contrasting materials. Fur and heavy knits contrast with smooth, shiny surfaces. Or in Giese’s words: “Warm, cuddly materials are combined with cool, smooth ones. Precisely this contrast is what makes this season’s fashions appealing.”

It is all right for trousers to shine. Mainly, though, the “wet look” can be seen on quilt-look down jackets, sometimes in metallic, whether by S. Oliver, C & A or Sisley. According to Giese, key looks this season are shiny pants with a knitted coat or a “wet jacket” with corduroy or flannel trousers.

COS is going with the combination oversized/too tight, as well as with fake buttons and ruffles, creating new views of the silhouette. The predominant colours in most collections are black, grey, stone-coloured, and white - generally dark, monotonous worlds enlivened by the new combinations of materials.

There is usually a contrasting colour that sets the tone in the line: violet and midnight blue for Tom Tailor, petrol blue for Marc O’Polo, and a triad of green, pink, and purple for Marc Cain. An article of clothing, belt or pocket in the contrasting colour lends highlights to the dark overall picture.

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