Let's Try Something New - Part Three

I have to admit I'm enjoying this conversation. There is clearly a certain group (I honestly don't know how big it is, but it exists) of people who have shifted into utility/safe mode so it's only a matter of time before designers and manufacturers commit to producing items to meet that demand. Those discussions are well and truly underway already and it's been discussed in terms of changes in sales behavior we're seeing now. But large or small market size, short or long term in effect, it really doesn't matter all that much. Why? Well for the same reason any fashion trend works .... we're told what to we want to buy ... and under the current global socio-political landscape it's not going to be hard to convince people to buy something that most of them are already looking for. But that's not my job ... and it's a speculative conversation for a good bottle of wine.

Instead what I'm trying to do is work out what utilitarian fashion looks like. I first mentioned this in terms of swimwear because, after all, I'm a swimwear guy .... but it doesn't have to be. There's active and sports wear, lingerie/sleepwear, everyday stretch clothing like body suits and leggings .... it's all stretch ... indeed in our world almost everything has/can have a stretch wear base. A sleeveless cotton spandex camo unitard might go really well under cargo pants and an army jacket in the future apocalypse? Somewhere in here there's a potential new style.

Well it appears I'm behind the 8 ball a little .... well I'm a lot behind. Fashion designers hit utility in stretch wear a few years back with the emergence of the digital nomad .... millennials that travel the world while working online ... but that was a life style choice rather than something of urgency born out of necessity, like seems to be happening now .... I've included some photos below of the more fashionable side of utility. The fashionable yet semi-practical predecessor is soft, comfortable and colorful. The current conversation, while still athleisure is far less about pretty and more about getting back to real practical definitions like solid, secure, safe, adjustable, lockable ...

Here's a few older links on the utility trend that's still with us (or as I believe, never left):





So what are the elements of utility fashion. This quote comes from the last link above ...

"The interest in utilitarian garments can be characterized by the sum of the functions that they can serve. The general inspiration of this style of clothing derives from military pieces that are both functional and wearable, consisting of lightweight synthetic textiles, straps, buckles and metal accents. However, amidst the increasing dialogue around sustainability, the future of utilitarianism does not lie solely in aesthetics but also in the production techniques that are environmentally conscious in nature."

But in my mind they've missed the target by a full yard. Utility is indeed all about function ... but function also includes something else of significance. If you asked my design groups what the single most utilitarian device ever created was, they'd say the English army Land Rover .... and they'd probably be right. It's utilitarian because it can do so many things besides drive from A to B. It's 4WD, can climb in and out of almost any situation, you can easily mount any device to it, it comes in long and short wheel base, it can be set to drive by itself in a straight line, and a host of other things that most SUVs now take for granted .... but they did it 80 years ago. And even given this miraculous vision and foresight, the Land Rover highlights a design critical element that pretty, fashionable SUVs today have never taken up. The Land Rover is a square box ... the flat panels are not a cost or production concept ... they were a documented requirement. The panels are flat so that they can be repaired or patched on the run. The front of a Land Rover unbolts so you can push the car off the engine and onto another in the field. Utility means more than just function, it also includes concepts like manufacturing, maintenance and repairs.

Ok Stuart you're losing the plot now! Am I really? What if you could get to both sides of a zip instead of having to undo linings when you needed to replace a broken zip? What if the part of your garment that wore out the fastest could be removed as a panel section and replaced with something else, whatever was on hand? This generally means straight seam lines without complex construction. What if you could join various different garments together by some kind of universal fastener to create multifunctional garments?

This is the difference between the trendy fashionable utility garments that Millennials love for storing their phones, iPads, other electronic devices and environmentally friendly water bottles with activated carbon filters (note the hint of sarcasm?) ... and the current utility conversation.

I was going to say that the former would probably whither and die if they got lost in the jungle and ran out of battery, but I've also just seen solar powered clothing so I'm biting my tongue ...


and if that isn't enough, how about this ....


This multipart thread is trying to get people to join a conversation on the future of fashion: trends, necessity, market analysis, sociopolitical circumstances, historical perspective, fashion application and construction. I want people to take a step back, see a bigger picture and use it to discuss a hypothetical garment that I'll introduce the base for tomorrow!

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