– by Mark MacDonald, Staff Writer –
From shiny metallic jumpsuits to self-tying shoelaces, there have been plenty of stabs at predicting the future of fashion. No one can be entirely sure, but there are plenty of theories of what’s ahead; here are some of the more popular ideas:
Fashion, like history, often repeats itself. What is “in” one day is “out”the next, only to re-emerge a decade or two later and become fashionable once more. The influence of the 1960s and ’70s has, in many ways, continued into the present (who doesn’t wear jeans?) and vintage stores are plentiful in most major cities, offering apparel from the 1920s and 1940s – another popular era. This trend is likely to continue into the future and, similar to music, we could find ourselves with a myriad of styles influenced by any or all of the previous eras. Fashion today is often an example of this: 1970s-style jeans, bright-colored shirts from the 1950s and 1940s-inspired fedoras might be worn together in an ensemble. If renewing does focus on one decade in particular, it usually repeats itself every 20-30 years, as evidenced by the return of styles from the early ’90s emerging today. With this in mind, 30 years into the future we may be wearing much of the same clothes we do today.
Enter the Bland
The success of outlets like H&M and The Gap have showcased the demand for basic, inexpensive fashion like white cotton t-shirts and black or blue jeans. The occasional black hoodie and a pair of Chuck T’s have become a veritable uniform, and as pockets get tighter and the size of conglomerates grow, simplistic fashion could be the norm of the decades ahead. “I think the future of fashion will be more grown-up – longer lengths, more toned down, moving away from the rock ‘n’ roll fashion we’ve seen for a very long time,” said Ann-Sofie Johansson, head of design at H&M in an interview with Vogue. With price driving much of the demand, simple, cheap-to-make clothing could completely take over, leaving the options limited to size and color.
For the most part, the days of giant logos stretching across t-shirts are gone, and most clothing does not explicitly feature the brand name. Symbols like Polo’s horse jockey or Lacoste’s crocodile are usually small, if they appear at all. Should this trend continue, logos will appear less and less often on the clothing of the future. Abercrombie and Fitch, for example, have announced they will significantly reduce the use of logos on their clothing as their earnings fall significantly. Some experts attribute the decline in popularity of logos to the recent debate on income inequality. Flashing around a high-end brand’s logo, like a Louis Vuitton or Prada, is a conspicuous way of showing one’s wealth, and to some may be construed as flaunting. Individuality, rather than conformity, is generally more appealing, especially among the youth. We may soon see the brand name logo become a thing of the past … at least until it becomes the trend again in 20-30 years.
Google’s glasses and Apple’s watch may well be just the beginning of wearable technology. From clothes that can charge your phone to wristbands that purify the air you breathe, companies like Wearable Solar and Voltaic Systems are changing the way we see apparel. There is even clothing that changes color with increases in light or sound. Handy, trackable clothing is being introduced to help you never lose a precious item, while anklets designed by Heapsylon detect a runner’s movements, signaling to the wearer when an injurious movement is being made. With all these advances in wearable technology, it might not be long before our shoelaces tie themselves.
One need only watch the movie Fifth Element with the futuristic visions of Jean-Paul Gaultier (Costume Designer on the film) or scan through some of Lady Gaga’s outfits to conceive how strange the future of fashion could very well be. Runways have always been filled with odd designs that, generally speaking, never reach the mainstream, but whether or not these avant-garde designs will be the norm of the future is uncertain. The 1930s saw plenty of predictions of what fashion would look like now; dresses made of glass and metal cases for candy on belts – perhaps the reality of these visions is just a few decades behind.
With resource scarcity and income inequality certain to factor into whatever future fashion has in store, it is near impossible to predict what we will be wearing 20, 30 or 50 years into the future. Natural fibers themselves may not be available, and with 3D printing on the rise, people may very well simply make their own clothes at home, impossible as that may seem.
Heng Xu, an associate professor of information sciences and technology at Penn State, is attempting to use online data to predict the fashion trends of the future. Using 15 years of data from websites, magazines, and social media, she is looking for signs of reoccurring interests and themes. Her research may not only provide a head start for those trying to stay on the cutting edge, but may also allow designers and brands to stay profitable amidst ever-changing demand. While predicting the future of fashion may be a difficult endeavor, it certainly is entertaining.