Why hasn’t futuristic fashion evolved from retro-futurism ideas| What does future fashion actually look like?

It’s always been fun to imagine future fashion. Cinema has been doing it for decades. But interestingly, the imaginative ideas from Hollywood seems to already be vintage. Metallic, cutouts, geometric, robotic… We are stuck in retro-futurism when it comes to imagining the future.  Imaginations from eras of the past for eras of the future detail space suits and metallic tights and tin foil accessories. Space suits and metallic tights and tin foil accessories, all born out of childhoods under the influence of The Jetsons, Xenon Girl of the 21st Century and Star Wars.

So what does future fashion look like to our generation? This retro-futuristic ideal has yet to appear but we continue to perpetuate these concepts even now that we’re here in the Technology Age. When we iterate these futuristic designs, we still take a page out our past imaginations. Why is everything so shiny anyway?

I always enjoy fashion’s take on futurism because designers literally have a hand in making imaginations of yesterday tomorrow’s street style. Balmain presented a collection by way of the 2050 and it was stunning actually. Paco Rabanne used a lot of the metallic elements typical of futurism but superimposed 90s themes in a way that really worked for me. (Is this the key? To introduce something new filtered through something familiar? Seems promising!) Mary Katrantzou didn’t quite aim for futurism but some of the materials and silhouettes she used seemed ahead of their time.

Take a peek below at FW18’s tributes to the future:

Balmain’s FW18 collection by way of the year 2050
So why is future fashion so stuck?
We still wear our parent’s clothes

Since we’re in the future that our grandparent’s and parent’s imagined so much about, it’s worth assessing our surroundings. Anyone mid-century kid would be disappointed in millennial fashion.

My clothes are not so far off from my parents. In fact, my mother always jokes how we copy the trends of her generation. With industrial revolutions, we’ve seen machines enhance and evolve production. But as far as the assembly of fabrics goes, not much has changed for centuries.  So is fashion just doomed to repeat itself?

Right now fashion trends primarily source themselves from our archives, resurrecting bell bottoms and victorian collars, and shoulder pads, all with slightly modernizing updates. 

Essentially, we love nostalgia. We love new trends for the novelty perhaps but if familiarity and wearability aren’t there, the garment is archival. Something completely new takes much longer for the masses to embrace. Until something new is widely taken in as normal by society, you’re just a fool in a costume. 

Past ideas seemed to have little to with form or function (what is the point of all that metallic) but rather just imagination. Still, it holds influence on how designers today imagine their own lines to take on future ideas. But will anyone ever wear these items to the store or even a party? If that’s the case, do ideas about future trends hold little bearing other than art?

This is exactly why Paco Rabanne’s presentation was so innovative to me. It wasn’t space age for space age’s sake. It was casual. Silhouettes evoked the fashion of my childhood while textures were completely otherworldly. I had no sense that prior to ending up on this runway, these models had been lone survivors of some apocalyptic shift that requires strange clothing and metal hats.

We have different initiatives for future fashion

So far, future advancements have more to do with ethics and sustainability than metallic space suits. There is a resurrection of slow crafting and production transparency that demands integrity over efficiency.

That being said, what kind of initiative or lifestyle change would have to resurrect in order for large-scale fashion to match these imaginations of the past’s ideas for the future? Or to propel us into such unfamiliar territory, that entirely unthought-of future fashions arise.

Will clothing remain the same unless it needs to react to some drastic difference? Like will it need the influence of a drastically different life, say, in space?

If Elon Musk is successful in starting life on Mars, one day we may need those protective latex space suits. Perhaps they’ll need metallic gear that doesn’t get dirty as easily because imagine the shipping cost for replacing garments. Life on Mars may not yield the same diversity Earth closets can accommodate. So if we ever truly enter Space Age, maybe retro-futurism had a few things right.

But until that day presents itself, we will likely still have a go-to pair of jeans and traditional coats and blouses. 

Or will these very initiatives alter fashion’s aesthetic norm? Sustainability and ethics will certainly benefit from technology. Many companies are already exploring this intersection.

For instance, something that can be worn without getting soiled? That sounds pretty eco-friendly, fewer washes and less reason to throw away. (Old Navy has water repellant and stain resistant jeans in circulation, which check off both utility and aesthetic.)

Our primary uses for fashion tech will likely revolve around sustainability (reusability), ethics, convenience, handoff (from other devices), and health (one of the most forward thinking and functional ideas is clothing that can detect and diagnose health issues.)

Wearability is crucial

The conversation about future fashion is different today because technology is finally equipped to deliver. And with technological advancements, so too have come design advancements.

Even where technology is introduced, as failed wearables have shown, the consumer still cares about aesthetics. No jaw-dropping novelty can override the wearer’s need for self-confidence, at least from a mass market view. Many tech wearables may have seemed cool in theory but lacked a degree of discretion desired for reality. So we still want to dress how we’ve always dressed.

Designers, who are skilled at form first, function later, are now more than ever before, exploring how they can weave the two worlds together in an aesthetically pleasing way. Wearable design is the key to effective tech wearables.

Wearability has the following anatomy:

Practicality- does it serve a purpose and is it reasonably comfortable?

Functionality- does it work? and

Aesthetic- do I like how I look?

If technology can appeal to the three categories (rather than futuristic for futuristic’s sake), I think we will see fashion evolve. The thing to master in fashion tech is subtly. No one wants to walk around looking like a human computer. We don’t want to suit up in our fire repellant trousers, just in case. So fabric advancement is likely the key to integrated technology.

We may soon be able to wear our skinny jeans while also unobtrusively charging our phones on nano solar fibers. Fashion tech is subtly solving problems within the familiar context of our existing aesthetic and our closets may be on board sooner than we think.


So will we ever get to that geometric, chrome space suit? What do you think your future wardrobe will look like?

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