Valentino 'The Beginning', the latest Valentino Haute Couture collection.
Valentino 'The Beginning', the latest Valentino Haute Couture collection.
Image: Supplied

As the European summer came to a bitter-sweet end, September hailed the start of the fashion season — one that saw the catwalk calendar full after two years of Covid restrictions.

The fashion world is back to business as usual. Fashion is a reflection of the reality in which it operates. With the constant state of flux globally amid rising oil prices, inflation, war, and political turmoil, it is no surprise that the fashion world is asking itself what the future will look like. Past, present, and future have always been important subject matters, and are becoming even more so today as brands deal with an ever-evolving fashion industry, as well as increasingly sophisticated consumers who are not afraid to make demands of their most beloved brands.

Traditional business strategies have had to change, making way for marketing strategies on apps such as TikTok and the launch of endless NFT projects. Advances in technology have transformed manufacturing, ensuring that sustainability is at the forefront. The future post-Covid is filled with many “what ifs” and, more importantly, “hows” — how to move forward and how to remain relevant. Brands are having to merge their DNA and heritage with a future asking for more collaboration, gender fluidity, inclusivity, and the pushing of boundaries of what has been socially acceptable until now.

Take, for example, Chloé creative director Gabriela Hearst, who has put sustainability at the heart of her collections, using upcycled fabrics such as tweed, cashmere, and corduroy, or Balenciaga creative director Demna, who opened his FW22/23 with a poem he had written offering social commentary on the Ukrainian plight. The fashion scene is seeing not one but a gamut of revolutionary changes.

The future has also become more personal for many creative directors of luxury brands post-Covid as they grapple with shifting those brands’ heritage to the present in order to express a new future. Heritage, however, remains a comforting element for luxury brands, as seen with Valentino creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli, who paid homage to the roots of the maison with his haute couture collection for Altaroma in July, “The Beginning”, while also launching Valentino Archive, a collection of re-interpreted iconic Valentino looks, true to their past and yet directed towards the future.

Gucci’s creative director, Alessandro Michele, continues to play with the past while presenting it in a new light, thereby continuing his evolution of the Gucci brand. His fashion show “Cosmogonie”, which took place in Castel del Monte in Puglia, Italy, testified to Michele’s vision of the world, one prompted by a quote from German philosopher Walter Benjamin: “It’s not that what is past casts its light on what is present, or what is present its light on what is past; rather, image is that wherein what has been comes together in a flash with the now to form a constellation.”

The show brought together aesthetics from distant eras and various geographies while keeping Gucci’s heritage alive. Emerging designers, whose studies and work experiences have been uprooted by the pandemic, are also asking themselves what the future looks like. After all, it is these young designers who represent the future creative directors, courtiers, and trailblazers of the fashion industry. Altaroma’s Who Is On Next? contest, in collaboration with Vogue Italia, showcased not only menswear and womenswear but also a series of genderless and sustainable proposals — a staple in today’s fashion platform.

While the future may be scary and jarring at times, fashion has come a long way

The future of fashion is bridging the distance between cultures — one has only to think of the design conversation between local wunderkind Thebe Magugu and Piccioli for Vogue’s second dress-swop initiative (the first featured Japanese designer Tomo Koizumi and John Galliano for Maison Margiela). Both designers had to re-imagine a garment of the other: Piccioli created a beautiful mantle inspired by Renaissance culture and the figure of the Madonna, while Magugu transformed a ballgown worn by Tracee Ellis Ross for the 2018 Emmy Awards into a piece inspired by a purely African context. The result was two magnificent pieces born from each designer’s personal creative vision. More importantly, the initiative showcased the power of fashion as a form of self-expression and cultural dialogue.

While the future may be scary and jarring at times, fashion has come a long way. Not only does it reflect our present but it also offers a welcome glimpse into a world we may not see yet.

  • Errica Iacopini is the founder of Some Other Label, a digital platform featuring creative talent from around the world
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