Designers’ Defense Mechanism: Outrageous Fabrics
In a world where H&M and Uniqlo and Zara and Top Shop (and a million other labels) are able to recreate runway trends at a fraction of the price with two-week turnaround times, what’s left for the high end designer? The Financial Times says it’s all in the fabric. Designers such as Prada and Balenciaga are now focusing heavily on textiles as a way to differentiate themselves from the mass of cheaply made but on-trend labels. Bringing back long forgotten craftsmanship and experimenting with revolutionary techniques, designers are taking a stand and trying desperately to save face.
Prints, texture and rich embellishment were other avenues of exploration. Dries Van Noten revisited a 1920s printing technique created by Swiss inventor Orbis Wirth. With producers Jakob Schlaepfer, the label created incredible marble-ised patterns using an elaborate system of printing layers of coloured wax from a cylinder on to wet fabric. Nicolas Ghesquière at Balenciaga meanwhile (remember the chain-mail leggings from last year?) drew gasps for his collection of dresses covered in elaborate hand-painted landscapes and embellishments and varnished latex.
Balmain explored fine chain-mail – that looked almost like lamé – and Fendi even developed a technique for applying gold to fur, by heating 24-carat gold and spraying it on to surface tips. And that’s not counting Christopher Bailey at Burberry Prorsum, who created whole skirts from miniature suede sequins.
Can the newfound focus on quality, craftsmanship, and uniqueness in textile save the high end fashion industry?