GIVE ME SPACE

Out of this world styles take off

Fashion Quarterly - - Contents -

In early Jan­uary, Vir­gin Ga­lac­tic air­craft VSS Unity com­pleted its sev­enth suc­cess­ful test flight above Cal­i­for­nia’s Mo­jave Desert, safely glid­ing to Earth from an alti­tude of 40,000 feet in con­di­tions de­signed to sim­u­late sub­or­bital travel.

It was a mile­stone that brought the Richard Bran­son-owned com­pany one step closer to its goal of of­fer­ing civil­ian space flights by April 2018 — a move the bil­lion­aire en­tre­pre­neur be­lieves will “democra­tise space travel”. With seats aboard the pro­posed maiden launch go­ing for around $380,000, and a pas­sen­ger list in­clud­ing famed physi­cist Stephen Hawk­ing and ac­tors Brad Pitt and Ash­ton Kutcher, such a claim is a bit of a stretch. Nev­er­the­less, with 700 tick­ets presold to date, it seems that the con­cept is very much tak­ing off.

This isn’t a one-horse space race, either. A small hand­ful of US tech-ty­coons-turnedspace-en­thu­si­asts, in­clud­ing Elon Musk (PayPal), Jeff Be­zos (Ama­zon) and Paul Allen (Mi­crosoft), are all cur­rently com­pet­ing with Bran­son to be the first to of­fer com­mer­cial space voy­ages. Un­like the Space Race of the mid-20th cen­tury — which saw Cold War ri­vals the US and the Soviet Union both at­tempt to as­sert their tech­no­log­i­cal and ide­o­log­i­cal dom­i­nance via their space­flight ca­pa­bil­i­ties — there’s some­thing de­cid­edly less sin­is­ter about this new era of ‘space tourism’ and the in­fi­nite pos­si­bil­i­ties it en­tails. The one com­mon thread is that now — as was the case in the 1960s — the push­ing of phys­i­cal fron­tiers is paving the way for new fron­tiers of fash­ion.

The fo­cus the first time around was on for­ward-think­ing fits and fab­ri­ca­tions that mir­rored

(even pre­ceded) the small steps and gi­ant leaps be­ing made in the science and technology sphere.

Who could for­get Pierre Cardin’s space hel­mets, An­dré Cour­règes’ dar­ing, geo­met­ric cuts and

Paco Ra­banne’s rev­o­lu­tion­ary use of ma­te­ri­als in­clud­ing metal, plas­tic, Plex­i­glas and fi­bre op­tics?

Cer­tainly not the slew of de­sign­ers who last year went back to the fu­ture with col­lec­tions fea­tur­ing metal­lic fin­ishes (Pra­bal Gu­rung, Thierry Mu­gler), spacey sil­hou­ettes (Proenza Schouler, Comme des Garçons), alien ac­cents (Iris van Her­pen), and gal­axy mo­tifs (Dolce & Gab­bana, Christo­pher

Kane, Moschino, Mary Ka­trant­zou, Mara Hoff­man).

The as­tro­nom­i­cal ref­er­ences weren’t just con­fined to the gar­ments them­selves. UFO prints from

Gucci’s re­cent run­ways were brought to life in its ex­tra-ter­res­trial-themed fall 2017 cam­paign en­ti­tled

‘Gucci and Be­yond’, which it teased with a se­ries of short films cen­tred around an alien in­va­sion. Mean­while, at Nick Gra­ham’s New York Fash­ion

Week show, 87-year-old Apollo 11 astro­naut Buzz

Aldrin made a cat­walk cameo, and in Paris, Karl Lager­feld went all out for Chanel, trans­form­ing the Grand Palais into a space sta­tion com­plete with a mock rocket launch fi­nale (El­ton John’s ‘Rocket Man’ was the sound­track).

In­ter­est­ingly, fash­ion’s new­found fo­cus on astron­omy comes hot on the heels of its ear­lier ob­ses­sion with as­trol­ogy, which through­out 2016 saw count­less de­sign­ers take their cues from the cos­mos. It spoke to a the­ory long-pur­ported by fash­ion his­to­ri­ans con­cern­ing the ne­ces­sity of es­capist fan­tasies in so­cially tur­bu­lent times. Of course, much like in the Cold War era, if the po­lit­i­cal apoc­a­lypse we’ve watched play out over the past year has shown us any­thing it’s that in the midst of such tur­bu­lence, there’s only so much so­lace to be found in the stars — un­less we are talk­ing a prac­ti­cal ap­pli­ca­tion of the trend. Rather than leav­ing our fu­tures up to fate, in other words, we are be­ing told to ditch the div­ina­tion im­agery, pull up our Cour­règes-in­spired Ba­len­ci­aga go-go boots, and pre­pare to mis­sion to a gal­axy far, far away.

That the fash­ion in­dus­try wants to trans­form us from pas­sive stargaz­ers into ac­tive Stormtroop­ers is pos­si­bly no co­in­ci­dence. Star Wars: The Last Jedi was the big­gest box of­fice re­lease of 2017, and fash­ion power play­ers from Rag & Bone to Chris­tian Louboutin rode the hype with util­i­tar­ian-cum-oth­er­worldly col­lec­tions that cel­e­brated the strength and fem­i­nin­ity of the film’s fe­male pro­tag­o­nists. Speak­ing about his five-piece cap­sule col­lec­tion to Van­ity Fair in De­cem­ber, Louboutin ex­plained, “A heel, for a woman, is also a type of weapon.” He went on to de­tail each en­gi­neer­ing-driven de­sign and the col­lec­tion’s ref­er­ences to ad­ven­tur­ing, armor and ‘the Force’ — in­ter­preted most lit­er­ally in the lightsaber-es­que blue spiked heel of the shoe in­spired by Daisy Ri­d­ley’s char­ac­ter, Rey. “I put the power in the heel,” says Louboutin. “Rey is the one with the Force — she is the Jedi and a very phys­i­cal and re­ac­tive per­son.”

It’s fit­tingly rem­i­nis­cent of an in­ter­view Paco Ra­banne gave in 2002, in which he spoke of the in­flu­ence that the women’s lib­er­a­tion move­ments of the 1960s had on his de­signs — in­clud­ing those worn by Jane Fonda in cult ’60s sci-fi film, Bar­barella. “Women emerged to be war­riors be­cause they needed to af­firm their de­sire of eman­ci­pa­tion, free­dom and lib­erty,” he said. “The ar­mour

was al­most nec­es­sary.”

In a 12-month pe­riod that’s seen some ex­tremely dis­heart­en­ing ac­tiv­ity (or in­ac­tiv­ity) around women’s rights, no won­der we are gear­ing up for an­other bat­tle. At the 2018 Golden Globes, this took the form of an un­of­fi­cial yet al­most unan­i­mous ad­her­ence to a black dress-code. A way for at­ten­dees to show their sup­port for the high-pro­file #timesup cam­paign, the solemn sar­to­rial protest was de­signed to drive con­ver­sa­tion around sex­ual ha­rass­ment, as­sault and abuse in the work­place, largely in re­sponse to the Har­vey We­in­stein scan­dal that shook the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try in late 2017.

Cit­ing the lit­eral and fig­u­ra­tive preva­lence of ‘manspread­ing’, some crit­ics ar­gued that this black­out sim­ply played into a his­tory of fe­male op­pres­sion, sub­mis­sion and marginal­i­sa­tion. True, to ‘take up space’ is the new fem­i­nist mantra. In the case of the Globes, would an ex­panse of glitzy, galaxyem­bla­zoned gowns have bet­ter served the cause than a sea of sub­tle black en­sem­bles? If you think yes, per­haps con­sider a pair of Saint Lau­rent’s glit­ter-en­crusted moon boots for your next women’s rally. The $14,000 price-tag might seem pro­hib­i­tive, but com­pared to a Vir­gin Ga­lac­tic flight — soon to be the ul­ti­mate sta­tus sig­ni­fier — it’s hardly out of this world.

Mock it, man: Karl Lager­feld’s sim­u­lated rocket launch for Chanel. The 1960s women’s lib move­ment lent weight to Jane Fonda’s Bar­barella ar­mour.

Above: Ra­banne changed fash­ion with his use of strong yet fem­i­nine tex­tiles in the ’60s. Be­low: Louboutin’s lightsaberin­spired heel.

Cour­règes de­buted dar­ing, geo­met­ric cuts in ’67.

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