Mar 192013

It’s interesting to see the full video of Hussein Chalayan in contrast to the animated GIFs that first hit my radar by way of Errolson Hugh’s Twitter and then later by an io9 post. Both broadcasts were distillations of the video down to those few key moments in which models tug at their dress only to have them transform into something entirely different while they walk. The idea is compelling, and the GIFs are absolutely hypnotic, but there’s a few things I find interesting here:

    1. Both forms of all the dresses are completely in line with the rest of the collection — none of which would elicit the prefix “techno-“.

The outfits don’t have any of the vinyl paneling or odd details that gave a sense of weird nostalgia for the future. Technology as a novelty (in the less pejorative sense) has always seemed co-aligned with technology as a sort of aesthetic, and here I feel like that’s less the case. I certainly wouldn’t call it minimal, but it’s a bit more reserved when compared to some of Chalayan’s earlier work.

2. There was many pieces that had no traces of this mind-blowing technique and design.

That original video takes its sweet time to get to any sign of these transforming dresses, and once it gets there, it leaves with just as little of a fuss. This nonchalance and seamlessness (no pun) seem noteworthy; a bizarre technical feat is equivocal to the rest of what the show has to offer.  Within that collection there are definitely both more and less extravagant pieces, those particular ones seem to want to embrace and represent both sides of that binary.

3. I had no idea the rest of the line wasn’t like this from any promotion I saw outside of Paris Fashion Week itself.

My own sort of circles within fashion and design (and beyond) definitely contain more technical elements than not (Errolson Hugh’s Acronym line is the only series of clothing I’ve seen multiple demo videos for [and I could probably go on a few diatribes about “gravity pockets” alone]), so it’s unsurprising that the sources for this within my own data stream  were largely about the fact that there were miraculously transforming garments that put any of my reversible gym shorts to shame. What feels significant here is that discrete elements of an event like this can travel along the vectors of different communities — including ones that may not normally intersect with fashion — and extract different and sometimes esoteric elements of importance. These bite-sized distillations and tailored pieces are all that will come to me unless I seek out or branch out.

What I feel like I ultimately take away from this video (and transitively this event) is that some facets of technology are hitting fashion in ways that aren’t attempting to care an expressly futuristic aesthetic; the forward-thinking of it is much more in function than the form (from perceived function) — without the form being forgotten. 7-year-old features on Chalayan show this isn’t new conceptual ground for him, and maybe the only real novelty here is the sort of reach his work now has, or the kind of people who can and will see it has expanded. Maybe as we see technical fabrics and practical design creep into fashion and our sense of aesthetic, these sort of collections are simply beginning to make more sense to people. I still don’t think we’re past the all-caps phase of FREAKING OUT OVER A TRANSFORMING DRESS, and that’s fine. For now it’s still something we can probably call a novelty.

Historically, fashion has been a tool with which to separate classes from one another by way of financial or cultural access. Technology has become an increasingly more prominent and pervasive metric that has the potential to fall along similar lines to clothing. Access to and utilization of portable media act as important social behaviors and symbols of status. As tech becomes more wearable and the wearable becomes more technical, this aesthetic of function might become that much more important as visible functionality becomes something we are accustomed to and associate status with. Perhaps at some point it will be just as important what your clothing can do as where it came from or who made it.

  One Response to “Some thoughts on transforming dresses and the technology aesthetic”

  1. It’s interesting because I’m sort of stuck on what the factors are that help a collection like this “make more sense.” Does it makes sense as an aesthetic of transformation that is no longer so shocking? Is there a utilitarian element that helps it make sense? I enjoyed your mention of your reversible basketball shorts and though that is meant humorously, there is an ecology in which Chalayan’s dress exists alongside those shorts and zip-off sleeves, right? Though I suspect that the world of high fashion would shun such associations.

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