As the Spring/Summer 2017 ready-to-wear season just ended, we're looking back at one major trend spotted on the runways in Paris, the retro-future style which epitomizes fashion's two-bladed evolution in our ever-changing digital age – with one foot set in the past and another firmly planted in the future.
Chanel Fashion Show Ready-to-wear Collection Spring Summer 2017 Paris
Chanel's "into the matrix" atmosphere, where two models opened the show wearing Star Wars' Stormtrooper-resembling helmets set the tone: our obsession with the next high-tech gear available for purchase and our constant willingness to share digital data about ourselves have taken a toll on the fashion industry as well.
Today, designers are undoubtedly influenced by our ever-changing digitalized world and our increasingly robotic behavior – after all, hasn't your mobile phone become an extension of your body by now? In fact, you may be even reading this article on your phone or iPad and you're probably multi-tasking while doing so, like checking your Instagram, catching a Pokemon or two, and having a quick look at your e-mails.
Rest assured, we're not judging you; we do the same: attending the fashion shows this season has shown me once again how many people actually live for the near future instead of fully embracing the here and now – and by "fully embracing" I mean, watching a fashion show with their eyes on the models, not on their device. Plenty of invited guests, us editors included, are almost always using their mobile phones during the shows, compulsively picturing or filming each and every silhouette that passes by for their countless social media accounts. I sometimes even spot guests who watch the entire show through the small screens of their phones. While this is nothing new – it's been going on for a few years now – I must admit that it is increasingly creepy, in a George Orwell "1984" kind of way. Why would one prefer to focus on the near future – aka finding the right filter for the runway video you're about to post on IG – instead of enjoying the actual experience unfolding in front of our eyes?
When a device becomes part of us in such a ubiquitous way, it raises some interesting questions about the division between the body and the ultra-connected high-tech objects that are part of our lives today and that are supposed to assist us, not to become the center of attention. It also raises some interesting questions on how designers approach this subject and how fashion brands jump on the tech trend. Funnily enough, one would have thought that fashion, as a rather secretive and elitist industry, would be reluctant to pursue a culture where its own exclusivity is over-exposed and shared by many, not only by a select few. But by the time Fendi had drones flying over their catwalk in Milan, we already knew that the high-tech-future mania was not about to stop! In fact, as of today, you can even watch shows in virtual reality through our brand-new 360° NOWFASHION app – yes, while we're at it, we might as well do some shameless self-promotion here.
Courrèges Fashion Show Ready-to-wear Collection Spring Summer 2017 Paris
However, our past, present, and future and the many ways to control this timeline – whether through high-tech devices or aesthetically appealing futuristic design suggestions in fashion – are nothing new. Let's take a look at Courrèges and Paco Rabanne. What do they have in common, aside from being two Paris-based fashion houses with young creative directors at their helms? They both have not only futuristic elements, but futurism itself, firmly established in their DNA.
Courrèges has been rebooted by Arnaud Vaillant and Sébastien Meyer in 2015 and while the designer-duo has innovated quite a lot – even creating winter coats with an integrated thermo-active system, which is neither visible nor palpable, and which can be recharged by plugging it into an iPhone – the 1960s futurism look of their collections leads directly back to André Courrèges' space age silhouettes who empowered a young generation of women back then. But after decades of the brand lying dormant, the challenge of keeping Courrèges’ legacy of futurism up to date fell to Vaillant and Meyer – a challenge which they mastered with success this season once again, as they unveiled their "Couture Future" women's wear, an offering named after the line launched by Courrèges in 1967, which included several wardrobe must-haves, such as desirable short dresses with X-shaped seams and some 3D printed out-of-space pieces.
Paco Rabanne Fashion Show Ready-to-wear Collection Spring Summer 2017 Paris
From Courrèges' "Couture Future" to Paco Rabanne's "Future Sex," there is one clear, far-reaching goal: to create contemporary flavored ready-to-wear that pulls on your heart strings with nostalgic references while surprising us with its newness and looking innovatively towards the future. Julien Dossena's retro-future muses paid a beautiful homage to the visionary work of Paco Rabanne himself, reinventing the house's futuristic aesthetics with an athletic, urban twist. The French designer collaborated with the British art director and graphic designer Peter Saville to create the "futuresex" printed t-shirts from which one particularly stood out as it was worn under a leggy plastic mesh dress and paired with a tight, long-sleeved top creation which covered up the neck and chin – a provocative yet sophisticated way of playing hide-and-seek games in fashion when it comes to showing off some skin.
Louis Vuitton Fashion Show Ready-to-wear Collection Spring Summer 2017 Paris
Some designers even manage to create nostalgia related to something that doesn't exist yet: where Julien Dossena was provocative, Nicolas Ghesquière was unexpectedly romantic. Ghesquière's designs for Louis Vuitton are always bold and imposing, but this time around there was a certain melancholia that blew through his Spring/Summer 2017 ready-to-wear collection, one that celebrated the Parisienne of yesteryear, a charming and fierce seductress, that makes an impression with her bold, intelligent statements with a nonchalant attitude and that certain je-ne-sais-quoi. Her style, even if rooted in the past – think disco flavored 80s numbers with power shoulders – was utterly contemporary, and sometimes even futuristic, with asymmetrical cuts and superposition.
Elie Saab Fashion Show Ready-to-wear Collection Spring Summer 2017 Paris
Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy was on another planet, completely. His planet Mars flavored outfits had something outlandish and yet they were overflowing with contemporary elegance and functionality. In fact, Tisci celebrated all things spiritual – the strength of nature and intuition, the wonders of the universe, and how and why spirituality and astronomy hold such a grip on the human imagination – with a runway show staged in a serene setting in the gardens of Paris’ National Museum of Natural History. Highlights included a range of trumpet-sleeved tight dresses with maxi geode prints worn with oversized mineral crystal necklaces, as well as tailored jackets with zipped patched pockets worn over slim and chic bell-bottom pants.
Hermès Fashion Show Ready-to-wear Collection Spring Summer 2017 Paris
Speaking of bell-bottom pants, the 70s feeling was palpable in Paris, and the contemporary apotheosis of this decade was depicted at Hermès, Acne, and Miu Miu. The latter offered retro-flavored bathing suit inspired silhouettes – the flowery headpieces made a nod to swim caps from past decades, starting in the 50s and going all way up to the 70s. But even if Miuccia Prada's Spring/Summer 2017 offering was firmly rooted in the past, it wasn't dated at all. Aside from the cute beach-wear inspired numbers, Prada offered some fierce, avant-garde women's costumes in retro prints, belted high on the waist and worn in a casual way with flip flop sandals. Jonny Johansson also celebrated the nonchalant look of the 70s at Acne and introduced a range of easy-fitted silhouettes decorated with various retro-prints in different combinations, such as the paisley, checks, stripes, and indienne prints. His cuts and shapes, however, had a very "into the future appeal," with loose and fluid shapes that were standing for minimalism and progressiveness.
Finally, Hermès' Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski questioned the looks of the woman of the future. What will be new in her wardrobe, and which elements will she keep from the past? Well, she will definitely keep the maison's distinguished and subtle luxurious sophistication and sport-infused tailoring, and she will add some bolder patterns and more masculine cuts to it. This blend was embodied by one outfit in particular – a tapered work jacket paired with high-waisted ankle-length pants that had a masculine look and were both crafted from shiny yellow calfskin and worn under a retro-looking linen and silk parachute parka printed with eye-popping painterly stripes.
Mugler Fashion Show Ready-to-wear Collection Spring Summer 2017 Paris
Fast forward to not just one, but two decades later: welcome to the 80s and 90s! This season, several brands tapped into the various subcultures of these two decades. We've had a futuristic take on punk, grunge and pop culture icons at Junya Watanabe and Sacai, some out-of-space techno Barbarellas at Mugler and Veronique Leroy, and some disco flavored dance floor outfits of the future at Olympia Le-Tan and Wanda Nylon. The latter impressed with her first show after winning the 2016 ANDAM Fashion Prize and provided an eclectic retro-future take on a wardrobe tailored for our generation of millennials – think fun and strong yet feminine silhouettes and pieces, from fluid silk dresses and see-through numbers to outlandish looking reflective jackets. Wanda Nylon's Johanna Senyk also collaborated with the Chanel owned subsidiary Maison Desrues, in order to create an appealing accessories capsule collection composed of metal waterfall earrings, chain necklaces, and bags. All in all, her first outing after winning the prestigious award made a cheeky statement. Beware! The Parisian club kids and their raving style, full of retro references and boundary-pushing newness, are here to stay.