Fashion in the digital age

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Prada

Prada – one of the top leaders when it comes to fashion films. Experimenting with many different kinds of fashion film, Prada has developed very diverse films of great cinematic quality. Highlights are A Therapy directed by Roman PolanskiCastello Cavalcanti by Wes Anderson, the animated shorts Inside Me and Trembled Blossom by James Lima, and the bricolage-like series “The Real Fantasies” (see all Prada films here). As with every season, for the FW16 Prada came with a new film, this time changing up the more traditional documentation of the fashion show by having the models “pop-up” from spectacular backgrounds of surrealistic beauty. What is so interesting about this fashion film/showreel?

The Dutch Elle‘s September issue, the issue that marks the beginning of a new year in the fashion world, is completely dedicated to fashion as an assemblage, a mix-and-match, a collage and “stylisme,” the art of putting things together. Their point: fashion is no longer a linear stream of trends and styles that are bound to a specific time and place. Rather, it has become more common, and now even fashionable, to mix different (past) trends and styles together in one outfit. To make contrasts between vintage and designer, modern and traditional, skinny and baggy, boyish and feminine, colorful and sober. The motto is anything goes, if only balanced out well together. Yin and yang in an outfit, basically.

“It is like a collage of what is happy or painful, of whether you are feeling beautiful or horrible, when you have love or no love. I thought of it as like someone who has all the clothes she’s ever had on the floor in front of her in the morning, and she must choose how she’s going to assemble herself.” – Miuccia Prada (read more).

So my question is: how come? In an industry that has always been more or less “dictated” by high fashion designers (in turn massively imitated by the fast fashion industry, and thus slowly adopted by the “wider public”), have they suddenly lost inspiration? Instead of introducing a new fashion statement, why are they instead “recycling” a vast quantity of past trends and styles?

That is because the internet has changed the fashion hierarchy. First of all, it allowed clothing to become mass produced, and thus cheaper, so that anyone could dress fashionably. Secondly, it provided a platform for “nobodies” to become “somebodies.” Think about fashion blogs, street style photography forums, and YouTube channels of random fashion lovers who have become Internet famous. Street fashion thus started to influence high fashion bottom-up, making fashion an even more complicated system than it already was.

But most importantly, the Internet accounts for an ever-expanding  and openly accessible database created by many different people. Here different fashion images are archived and called to surface at any time, anywhere, overlapping and influencing each other more than ever. The digital world thus started to influence not only how fashion is produced, but also what we see as “fashionable.” For example, it is important that clothes look good on screen, maybe even more than whether they wear well, argues Gary Needham (see below).

In this sense, I think Prada’s collection is very characteristic of fashion in the digital age. By juxtaposing its FW16 designs and models with imagery of sublime nature it lays bare an interesting dialectic. On the one hand, the models magically appear from these backgrounds, suggesting that fashion is an inevitable phenomenon that is the result of the nature of human beings and our way of living. On the other hand, it sets a contrast between the two, since the background and fashion show are two separate layers, in which fashion is not inscribed into nature but plays on top of it, changing nature in itself. One thing is for sure, through the digital our perception and experience of the world changes, and we increasingly create and manipulate our own (surrealistic) worlds in which fashion plays a fundamental part.

Read more:
Needham, Gary. “The Digital Fashion Film.” Fashion Cultures Revisited. 2. Abingdon: Routledge, 2013. 103-111.

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1 Comment

  1. Pingback: That One Day: An Antidote to Fast Fashion – Undressing Fashion Film

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