Chalayan RTW Fall 2018

LONDON — How is technology impacting creativity, and what does it really take to disrupt an industry that’s reaching saturation point?

Frieze Academy brought together a series of creatives — ranging from Kim Jones and Hussein Chalayan, to graphics expert Peter Saville and sound designer Michel Gaubert — to argue those questions in a series of talks held at the Royal Academy of Arts on Friday.

Chalayan, one of the first designers to incorporate technology into his work and present moving garments in his famous “Geotropics” collection in 1999, said technology’s impact on the arts hasn’t necessarily been a good thing.

He described wearables as “tacky” and highlighted the growing interest of handcrafted techniques: “It’s such a cliché to be chasing 3-D printing now. I liked it at the beginning, but not anymore, it no longer feels expensive somehow,” Chalayan said.

He also touched on the influence of the Internet and social media, talking about the “sense of entitlement,” that the easy access to data has created in younger generations.

“Are you really learning by Googling something?” he said, adding that social media and the rise of fashion conglomerates have both dampened creativity. Chalayan said  there is less room today to speak up, take risks and look forward to collections landing in magazines or in-store, as show imagery is readily available even before a designer leaves the show venue.

Saville also spoke of the influence of big luxury groups in today’s fashion ecosystem.

“There’s a new audience, and the emergence of a corporate control of fashion. It’s dominated by two or three groups that control the media, and therefore communication, being the largest advertisers,” Saville said. “A fashion magazine no longer reflects what people are doing, but what products are made and this creates a pressure in society of not wanting to be left out. The audience and the market has been controlled by the boardrooms of these corporations — until they resisted. I’m surprised there hasn’t been a more vehement resistance.”

He also pointed to a shift from a need to create products and experiences that improved the world during the Eighties and Nineties, to a need to disrupt the market — and break the system.

Speaking of his work with major fashion labels such as Burberry, Lacoste, Givenchy and Calvin Klein, Saville highlighted the importance of sometimes breaking with tradition.

“As an identity designer, I’m quite disrespectful of identity guidelines.” He said that at Lacoste, “I put these f–ked up crocodiles in front of them, there was a moment of silence, but they laughed. They were tyrannized by their own brand identity and it took an outsider to disrupt that, because once you’re inside these corporations it’s difficult to question things.”

He described his most recent work with Burberry as “quite pleasant” but also made a distinction between his commercial and creative projects: “It’s not always something I want to do, but as things I do to earn a living, they’re not bad.”

Jones unpacked the ways he has maintained his status as a designer of influence, by way of curation, collaboration and a healthy dose of commercial acumen.

“When I was young I didn’t think about being commercial, but then I got sucked into it and started being interested in the business side of the industry. Now Dior collections are different, but still energetic and relevant to what the house is today. We can still surprise people with what we do,” he said.

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