The run­ways are awash with sci-fi in­flu­ences this sea­son and next. Keng Yang Shuen, self-pro­claimed geek of the genre, won­ders what this new fron­tier in space age fash­ion means for the times.

Female (Singapore) - - CONTENTS -

Why sci-fi chic is the next fron­tier for space age fash­ion.

By now, you’ve prob­a­bly heard about the 35m-tall, hy­draulic-fu­elled, dou­ble “C”-flanked rocket that Chanel sent throt­tling up the dome of Paris’ Grand Palais for its F/W ’17 show in March. For those who didn’t, well, it stopped short of break­ing through the glass roof . Nonethe­less, it still made for one of the brand’s (and sea­son’s) most spec­tac­u­lar fi­nales, clos­ing a soar­ing dis­play that saw mod­els cir­cle down the run­way in mod-style mi­nis, glit­ter boots, me­tal­lic quilted wraps and Bar­barel­laesque blowouts to the tune of – what else – Rocket Man.

A week and a half be­fore that, Ital­ian mam­moth Gucci staged its own cos­mic pa­rade for Fall/Win­ter: a trippy set that reimag­ined a mad sci­en­tist’s lab­o­ra­tory (mir­rored pyra­mid cen­tre­piece in tow) with mod­els chan­nelling the style of alien princes and princesses (cue bug-cov­ered biker vests and shiny mesh gimp masks). And while you’re wait­ing for next sea­son’s looks to drop in stores, why not stop by Coach, which pays trib­ute to Amer­i­can space mis­sions with the Nasa logo and galaxy prints on tees and out­er­wear as part of its Pre-fall col­lec­tion?

Fash­ion’s fas­ci­na­tion with sci­ence fic­tion and its var­i­ous sub-gen­res and im­agery is far from new, but it’s hard to ig­nore how it now seems to be ex­pand­ing and step­ping up on its ef­forts to join the space race (how­ever sym­bol­i­cally). In­deed, a look at the de­sign­ers who have pre­vi­ously planted their flag in this fu­tur­is­tic realm would mostly com­pute as nov­el­ties, niche or one-of-a-kind iconic.

In the first cat­e­gory, you’ll find Paco Ra­banne’s fu­tur­is­tic (at the time) chain mail cos­tumes for Jane Fonda in Bar­barella (1968). In the sec­ond, ’90s and 2000s van­guards like Hus­sein Cha­layan and Iris Van Her­pen, whose art has al­ways been more about tech­no­log­i­cal in­ven­tive­ness than com­mer­cial vi­a­bil­ity. And in the last, the likes of ’60s Ra­banne (with his disc-linked dresses – the Bar­barella looks were a spin-off), Pierre Cardin and An­dre Cour­reges, and their kitschy Space Age wardrobes (space “hel­mets”, cut-outs, and the use of in­dus­trial ma­te­ri­als such as PVC, metal and plas­tic dom­i­nated) – in­spired by space ex­plo­ration that was at the time just turn­ing into a re­al­ity. (Rus­sian Soviet pilot Yuri Ga­garin be­came the first hu­man to jour­ney into outer space in 1961.)

Fast for­ward to Pre-fall and Fall/Win­ter 2017, how­ever, and sci­ence fic­tion isn’t so much a sin­gu­lar ob­ses­sion for a hand­ful of brands, but a ma­jor theme, with both con­cep­tual and more down-to-earth in­ter­pre­ta­tions. Chanel’s col­lec­tion, for ex­am­ple, also in­cluded a bev y of pretty, bil­low y silk dresses with as­tro­naut prints. And how­ever weird Gucci gets un­der Alessan­dro Michele, those masks and tricked­out jack­ets are guar­an­teed for ob­ject-of-de­sire sta­tus. There are also an ar­ray of looks that ap­pear to be made of liq­uid metal (Rok­sanda Ilin­cic, Christo­pher Kane).

Un­can­nily, it’s a cul­tural re­vival that’s also tak­ing hold in the world of T V and film. Ex­actly four decades af­ter Star Wars de­buted and helped cat­a­pult sci­ence fan­tasy pro­duc­tions into the block­buster zone, we’re see­ing a sil­ver – al­beit more so­phis­ti­cated – age in the genre. This year alone has brought a non-stop run of movie se­quels ( Alien: Covenant, Res­i­dent Evil: The Fi­nal Chap­ter, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2), re­makes (the con­tro­ver­sial Ghost in the

Shell), and re­fresh­ing new pro­duc­tions (box­of­fice marvel Won­der Woman). Com­ing soon: even more highly an­tic­i­pated re­leases like Star Wars: Episode VIII and Blade Run­ner 2049, the fol­low-up to the 1982 Ri­d­ley Scott film that re­mains one of the most stylish and in­flu­en­tial in the field.

Mean­while, Net­flix series such as Stranger Things and The OA have cap­tured le­gions of fans known to binge-watch the equally ar­rest­ing dra­mas. (The for­mer re­volves around a group of kids deal­ing with the ab­duc­tion of their friend by oth­er­worldly crea­tures, while the lat­ter is about a blind woman who mys­te­ri­ously resur­faces – sight in­tact – af­ter be­ing miss­ing for seven years.) Both have also made fash­ion dar­lings out of their stars, Millie Bobby Brown and Brit Mar­ling re­spec­tively.

Honor Harger, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Artscience Mu­seum, which is cur­rently host­ing the Hu­man+: The Fu­ture Of Our Species ex­hi­bi­tion that looks at life in a world of AI, points out that many tend to think that sci­ence fic­tion “gives a win­dow into how the fu­ture might play out”. The truth, she says though, is that it’s a way to help us bet­ter un­der­stand the present.

The sci-fi fever in the ’70s, for ex­am­ple, was a re­sponse to the era’s tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances, ac­cord­ing to Nanyang Tech­no­log­i­cal Univer­sity film lec­turer Eter­nal­ity Tan. That and the fall­out from the Viet­nam War and eco­nomic re­ces­sion would ex­plain why the most ac­claimed shows then tended to be darkly beau­ti­ful, dystopian tales.

So what to make of to­day’s cos­mic craze, be it sar­to­ri­ally or in pop cul­ture? It can’t be pure co­in­ci­dence that we’re scal­ing new heights in aero­nau­tics, with Vir­gin Galac­tic an­nounc­ing at press time that it had suc­cess­fully per­formed a flight test, inch­ing one step nearer to its goal of send­ing tourists into space by 2018. And of course, to para­phrase Karl Lager­feld’s in­ter­view with web­site The Busi­ness of Fash­ion af­ter that rocket-fu­elled Chanel show: Things aren’t ex­actly great on earth at the mo­ment. If there’s one thing we can count on fash­ion to do no mat­ter the times, it’s to help us es­cape the ev­ery day.

There’s a sci-fi re­nais­sance in pop cul­ture now, with cult favourites like Blade Run­ner (above) and TV shows like The OA (top) gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity.

Re­cent Lasalle Col­lege of the Arts grad­u­ate Jamela Law takes a fu­tur­is­tic ap­proach to fash­ion by ex­per­i­ment­ing with 3-D print­ing to cre­ate cou­ture-like de­signs.

Christo­pher Kane

The world’s first cy­borg (yep, that’s an an­tenna im­planted in his head), the artist Neil Har­bis­son, was re­cently in town for the open­ing of the Artscience Mu­seum’s Hu­man+ ex­hi­bi­tion.

Rok­sanda Ilin­cic


Our kind of space jam from Pre-fall: Sal­va­tore Fer­rag­amo’s sculp­tural booties and Coach 1941’s Nasa logo-em­bla­zoned sweater

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