Mar 192013
 

Street fashion–that is, fashion of the everyday stylized young adult–has seemed to carve its own place in the fashion world very recently. There are plenty of factors that play into its expansion over the decades: the rapid fire emergence of the Internet as media and a means of expression, the accessibility of more expensive, quality end fashion lines and houses, and even the recognition and adoption of “underground” fashion styles by designers (see: the Harajuku trend.)

The real bread and butter of street fashion, however, are the actual people–those who are brave enough to capture their own personal style and label it “fashion,” although such ideals widely differentiate. However, that is street fashion’s inherent appeal: the trade of the extraordinary for the ordinary, for no rules, for as little or as much glamour as you want. Fashion is general, but with an underlying current of stability; street fashion is as rigid as your blazer or as flowing as your skirt.

More importantly, street fashion is accessible, even despite fashion’s embrace of the Internet and technology. Street fashion allows for the promotion of all body types and style sensibilities. Countless blogs are dedicated to parts or all of it, social media is obsessed with it and this means good things for those participating or otherwise engaged with it.

The Internet in particular is be praised for this important factor: it is limitless, (almost) just as accessible and is valued for being able to connect millions of people to the trends and fashions that they love. The Internet is more than revered for its power to be able to create communities and challenge the ideals and rules of other long-time established ones, so it makes sense that street fashion would utilize it in the way that it has.

I am intrigued most by the shift of power that comes with recognizing and heralding street fashion. What does street fashion mean for the “legends” and faces of fashion proper, which comes complete with money, time and abstract idealization? Obviously the economics of the fashion industry has lacked in the aftermath of the entrepreneurial expansion of street fashion. However, the societal power of fashion–its ability to dictate the trends of lower-end fashion and in general–has been affected tremendously.

Make no mistake, trends are still present in street fashion, as nothing escapes societal influence and the media. It is very often that you find others copping the same hat or the same-styled skirt; this is inescapable.

Still, street fashion wildly differs: among race groups, among countries, among and more. Its versatility is what keeps it going; if people can feed off each other (and they do), then street style will continue to expand.

I, for one, am wildly interested in what will happen in the future to street fashion. What will continue to saturate and inspire it? What will change it? What will expand it? How will it become more accessible to newer generations who are more familiar with the Internet that the Haus?\

Mar 192013
 

With the evolution of 3-d printing, functional fashion is due a radical awakening.  I’m not talking about structural creations with which some of the well established fashion houses have begun to experiment.  Within the next decade we should see the capability to print human tissue using a patient’s own stem cells, and eventually biomedical engineers will be able to grow replacement organs and limbs.  For now, 3-d printing is finding a niche in artistic prosthetics.

 

When Bespoke Innovations started to gain momentum in 2010, industrial designer and co-founder Scott Summit drew on fashion trends, and design elements from luxury and sports cars, as well as motorcycles when assisting clients in designing their fairings for prosthetic limbs.  A fairing goes over or attaches to an existing prosthesis in order to help regain limb symmetry.  Once the desired dimensions are established using 3-d scanning and software, Bespoke Innovations uses 3-d printers to create each custom-made fairing.

bespoke_sarah_4108web

chad skateboard 2

Bespoke Chrome

 

 

 

While Bespoke Innovations can turn an existing prosthesis into a functional sculpture, veteran and architectural designer Collin MacDuff is just one of a number of people who were so dissatisfied with the lack of function in available prosthetics that he began tinkering on his own.  MacDuff drew on 15 years of fabrication and welding experience to create his Biomechanical Prosthetic Finger (BFP), which mimics the natural flexion of the finger so that the prosthesis moves exactly the same way an existing digit does.  One glance and industrial chic comes to mind, which is particularly fitting since MacDuff crafted the prototype from a bicycle handlebar.

For now the BPF is manually assembled but it represents a shift in self-agency when it comes thinking about prosthetics.  Amputees need not rely on others when it comes to their own body aesthetic.  All they need is access to 3-d scanning and modeling software, and a 3-d printer.  Want to wear a brushed silver calve to your aunt’s Titanic themed wedding?  No problem.  How about a lighted pedicure to help you find your way to the front door without sloshing your new strappy sandals through any puddles?  A little more tricky, but entirely manageable for about $50 with micro LEDs and an Arduino LilyPad from SparkFun.

In addition to pioneering biomechanics and fashion, the two aforementioned designers have also tapped into the empowering aspects of amputee subculture.  Amputations are the result of frostbite from enduring the elements, competition in extreme sports, valorous combat far from loved ones, and long battles with significant illness.  Even if an amputation is planned and brings some element of relief, it still requires the individual to graduate physical therapy and adjust to a new absence of the symmetry they’ve relied on their entire lives.  Now, finally, we’re beginning to see individuality and innovation combined with form and function that opens an entirely new world—not just for amputees—but for everyone else who’ll soon have a window allowing us to visually connect prosthetics with the active and artistic trends of their users.

model

 

Mar 192013
 

One of the many things that makes Tumblr a very notable space is the way the microblogging site fosters communities. Through the use of tags and reblogs, communities are built usually upon a similar mindset, manifesting themselves into very secluded and secure spaces for users. Through this, subversion of cultural paradigms can be nurtured on such an open format as the Internet.

Some of these communities verge on social unacceptability, like pro-eating disorder Tumblrs (often referred to as pro-anna or pro-mia), that post photos of thinspiration – motivating pictures of very thin people that they would like to emulate. As toxic and unhealthy as the thinspo sites are, there are other Tumblrs that flirt with unacceptability in a very different way, notably the fat fashion blogs.

Continue reading »

May 122012
 

Several of the women associated with the Fashioning Circuits blog recently took their skills to the Design Your World Conference to teach young girls aged 10-12 how science can be fun. Specifically, with the coordination and leadership of Amy Pickup, we conducted a workshop about the LilyPad Arduino.

Photo courtesy laurenvoneperphoto Flickr Stream

The computers were set up and ready to go when the 15 girls came in and we were ready to teach!  Amy lead a great discussion on the history of the LilyPad Arduino, then showed a video with some example projects, and went over all of the elements and add-ons for the LilyPad. Then it was on to the brainstorming session.

Each of the volunteers took a group of 2-3 girls and helped them come up with ideas and ways to use the LilyPad to create new clothing designs or functionality. It was really interesting to see what their young minds came up with.  Two themes that I picked up were dealing with fear of the dark, like a glowing teddy bear that turns off after a set amount of time,  and creating fun gimmicks to wear at school, like a backpack that blinks your name. Other ideas included glasses that would make a sound or light up if you lost them, and socks that would tell you when they are stinky.

Finally, it was time to get down to business and start coding! Each group had a computer, a LilyPad, an LED, some alligator clips to make connections, and directions on how to make it work. We started with attaching the LilyPad to the computer and then moved on to basic circuit completion. It was great to see how fast these girls learned! Continue reading »

May 082012
 

Jessica Alba - Left Original, Right Retouched. Photo Courtesy Campari.

In the midst of the extreme Photoshopping, CGI, and robot models, there has been a quiet rebellion that has recently gotten louder.  The inevitable backlash against the fake perfection afforded by available technology has also found its home on the web, and one of the biggest up and coming advocates is 14-year-old, Julia Bluhm.

Julia is at the age when most girls are really starting to get into makeup, fashion, and boys; the age when a girl really starts caring about her looks and her body image. Unfortunately, most girls look to the models in their favorite magazines as a guide for what they should look like, instead of real women that they already know. And even more unfortunately, those women that they see in magazines, on top of being in the top tier of typical beauty standards, are also heavily makeup-ed, airbrushed, and Photoshopped.

So, she decided to do something about it, and started a petition on Change.org asking Seventeen Magazine to include one real, unaltered spread in their magazine each month. The petition has gotten over 55,000 signatures in 18 days, and has received attention on websites such as Yahoo.com. The editor-in-chief has asked to see the petition, and there is a scheduled protest, but no real response from Seventeen yet.

Even 15 years ago, when I was in Julia’s shoes, Seventeen Magazine was full of impossibly pretty girls that definitely made my awkward stage that much worse.  My parents saw that, and bought me magazines with real girls in them, but they were not the mainstream magazines that my friends were reading, so unfortunately, they didn’t have the same impact that the same real spreads would have had in Seventeen, Teen Magazine, or any of the other mainstream magazines.  What would it have been like to see a normal girl who had blemishes and a real figure.  Would I have respected her as much as I did the spreads with models, or would I have discounted her the way I did the girls in the off-brand magazines my parents bought me? Continue reading »

Apr 192012
 

Want to know what the hottest color in street style fashion is in Paris? Milan? Antwerp? Then Color Forecast is the site for you! Created by European clothing retailer Pimkie, the new fashion orientated website features live streams of trendy streets in Paris, Milan, and Antwerp aimed at the idea that a person will want to know what color is trending that day.

Each of the three square screens in the middle of the webpage simultaneously move and interact with each other. The screen on the left is the live stream of a street in Paris, Milan, or Antwerp. The middle screen traces the color of the moving object’s (pedestrian’s) trajectory in the first screen against a black background. The third screen is a graph that calculates that information and displays a corresponding color scheme.

Image Courtesy of Color Forecast

The trending color report leads to a page that allows viewers to shop for clothing of the most viewed color on Pimkie’s site. Each day the featured color in each city is archived on the site. The website will soon be available as an iPhone app.

While watching the live stream in Antwerp, a couple dressed in neutral colors stopped and greeted a woman in a red puffy jacket. The red color sketched across the center screen mimicked the woman’s path in the first screen as she walked over to the couple. A color graph in the third screen featured red as the trending color. Continue reading »

Mar 302012
 

Renowned British designer Stella McCartney recently revealed her Adidas designs for the Great Britain team’s uniforms. The prominent graphic on the bodice is McCartney’s unique take on the iconic Union Jack: “I thought it would be great if the design could make everyone feel like one team. I started with the Union flag, which I love—but it’s been so overused…So I isolated parts of the design and used it as a graphic.” McCartney also opted to use the color red, which is featured so dominantly on the flag, only sparingly.

Image Courtesy of Vogue and Stella McCartney

As an eco-conscious designer, McCartney was also pleased to announce that much of the sportswear was made from recycled materials: “Half a million plastic bottles have gone into all this!”

However, the uniforms were met with quite a number of dissenters. Critics of McCartney’s uniforms were enraged that the national flag had been manipulated and transformed into something almost unrecognizable. The red, white, and blue colored flag has been translated into a uniform that is mostly shades of blue with white and red as accents. Since the graphic wraps around the body, only half of the graphic is seen from the front. Continue reading »

Mar 212012
 

Perfume 「Spring of Life」 (Teaser) – YouTube.

H/T to the Craftzine blog

This is a teaser trailer for a new song from the Japanese pop group, Perfume.

I agree with Brooklynn at Craft. This color changing dress is indeed cool. As is the song. What I find most interesting, however, is that the dress is placed on bodies that are robotic and puppet-like. So far the characters are shown in fairly passive positions, not doing much more than the Geminoid-F mannequin android about which Janet M. blogged last month.

It is unclear whether there will be a longer video released with the song. From this brief teaser it would seem that the portrayal of cyborg-femininity is one that is passive and devoid of power. The beats are played out in luminescence across a body that cannot even meet the gaze of the camera.

Can’t we do better than fantasies of pretty, puppet-like women in flashing dresses? To what end should a dress blink? And how can we leverage the electrified garment to challenge mainstream representations of passive femininity?

Cross-posted at The Spiral Dance.

Mar 182012
 

Image courtesy of Gap.com

This week,  GapKids and BabyGap released a collaborative Diane von Furstenburg collection.  Adult, designer DVF dresses are in the $200 – $300 range,  but the Gap collection is much more affordable at the $55 – $70 range.  This collection, of course sold out almost immediately, just like the many designer/box-store collaborations in the last decade.

In 2003, well known high-end designer Isaac Mizrahi partnered with Target to create an affordable line that would be sold in their stores which would end up being a huge hit for the next six years. Since then, Target has had an influx of short-term guest-designer lines from such names as Alexander McQueen, Jason Wu, and of course Missoni.  H&M has been doing it for years, with popular lines designed by such names as Madonna, Karl Lagerfeld, Roberto Cavalli, Jimmy Choo, and more recently Versace. These designer lines are a huge hit, oftentimes selling out the first day, even if later to appear on eBay.

The underlying question to all of these lines is why?  Certainly consumers love the idea of owning a piece of clothing designed by a big, respected name, and stores love to sell things that consumers want to buy.  But what is behind the desire to wear or own the more affordable and yes, cheaper version of a designer’s product? Continue reading »

Dec 162011
 

Kanye West has been in the news for his taste in women, his political accusations, and his always ill timed tantrums. But the self proclaimed “Louis Vuitton Don” has also built a reputation for himself in the fashion industry as someone with that rare talent that can make what only appears to be an effortless transition from exclusive high fashion to (what some would consider) its antithesis, street wear.  Recently, I saw Kanye West, along with Jay Z, in concert and Kanye made what may have been his boldest fashion decision yet. He wore a skirt.

Hip Hop has had a difficult time collaborating with the fashion world when it comes to what is considered main stream and mostly conservative. In a genre that is assumed to be mostly gritty and hardcore, there is actually a high volume of lyrics focusing on fashion—mostly high fashion and designer houses.

While I was of course enjoying the music, I found myself asking a series of questions that needed further explanation. I ended up having a bit of an interview with myself.

Is Kanye cool?

Yes

Why?

He just is. There is something easy about it. He is not trying. Or at least, he appears to not try.

What would happen if you could sense that he was trying?

It would not be genuine. I would assume that he was wearing his clothes for reactions, and not from any internal feelings of pleasure he gets from wearing what he chooses.

How do you think the audience interpreted his skirt?

He was at a hip hop concert in a skirt. I don’t think they understood what was happening—as if maybe, it was just a very long shirt.

What sort of politics are at play here?

In a genre that gets repeatedly lambasted for misogyny and homophobia, a man wearing a skirt is a direct violation of the perceived “rules.”

So, by breaking the rules is he going to be excluded from the group?

That is a possibility. He may get derided as not being a real man. But if we look back at “being cool” then clearly this sort of deviance falls into that category. He is wearing something and doesn’t care what the consequences are. And pulls it off.

As a celebrity, does he have any privilege that others wouldn’t be afforded?

Absolutely. I think the ability to not care or appear not to care is a result of already being in a position to do that. The unknown teenage Kanye fast that walks into his high school cafeteria with a skirt, will most likely be teased before admired.

What if everyone that goes to his concert starts wearing skirts to imitate Kanye?

Well, then it becomes trendy. But I don’t think that is synonymous with being cool. Being cool is almost an attitude, or even a happenstance. Being trendy seems more calculated.

Can you be trendy and cool?  Continue reading »