Those who have chosen to work in creative industries are constantly expected to “top” not just one another, but themselves. The music industry has been this way for years, with artists constantly expected to evolve from not only musicians into performers, but to dancers, and even actors and all in order to get ahead and to become the best, biggest and most sellable acts possible. Over the last few years, it seems the fashion industry has been catching up to this ethos; with an ever growing influx of multi talented designers who stand to shift the views on what it means to be a fashion designer today. With so many young designers trying to attain a voice, is it still enough to simply design clothing or is a fluidity of craft, and a brand image that involves numerous avenues of creative outlets of expression, becoming more of a requirement rather than just an advantage?
Perhaps the poster boy for the modern fashion designer with a lengthly list of professions and artistic endeavours is Henrik Vibskov. This Danish fashion designer shows each season in Paris (where he is currently the only Scandinavian designer on the schedule) in the form of his now signature whimsical patterned knitwear and colourful avant grade designs. He has shown a number of his innovative sculptures and installations at major exhibitions in prestigious galleries all over the world, is the drummer for Danish electronica band Trentemøller, and has taught at his former institute of education, Central Saint Martins. For his most recent Spring Summer 2015 show in Paris this June, entitled the “Sticky Brick Fingers”, Vibsov cast members of the Norweigian National Ballet to perform a beautiful tribal-like water-dance choreographed by Alexander Ekman in the centre of the runway outside of the Place Baudoyer.
When crossing over into so many different creative outlets, it seems difficult that one is able to successfully attend to each body of work in a way which complements and contributes to an overall brand aesthetic. This is where beauty of vision and of natural creative coexistence within process reaches the foreground. Fine Art MA student Dennis Vanderbroeck, who interned for Vibskov during the creation of his A/W 2012 collection – “The Shrinkwrap Spectacular” – says that working with the designer was a very unique experience, and one which very much influenced his own work. “Although I define myself as an artist first and foremost, I want to approach my practice as a brand, wherein all my separate works will coexist. I no longer feel the desire to become the typical artist with a gallery in my studio, cigarette in one hand, red wine in the other – but rather I want to create a place where different art forms come together and where my commercial and ‘free’ work are both able to sit side by side as a collective of fashion, fine art, and performance.”
“The rise of those who choose to show work outside of the usual confines of fashion weeks – which has become too hectic for some and too expensive for many – are now all the more prevalent.”
Gosha Rubchinskiy’s photographs and films symbolize a world beyond clothing – one which intrigues and excites – by having the clothing fit into his universe, acting as an extension of his aesthetic. In his film, “Transfiguration” – which Gosha created on a year out from designing – he provides a glimpse into the lives of skateboarders during the development of a new cultural centre in St. Petersburg, Russia called the New Holland. Over the span of 2 months he interviewed different boys and allowed them to speak about their dreams, their choices and their fears. It’s through offering us a look into the worlds of these boys with their endearing youth, rebellious energy, and sometimes nihilist ideals – in the form of his photo zines and films – that we are able to see Gosha Rubchinskiy as not fashion brand, but as a distinct and comelling narrative to an overall concept.
Although the desire to transcend the labels of “designer” or “artist” is a sincere argument that pushes creatives towards this new ideology, another dominating factor is the sheer amount of designers that are out there today. With older fashion houses such as Celine, and Saint Laurent who have had their brand identities created and recreated so many times, its no wonder that emerging designers attempting to break into one of the toughest industries in the world have been left feeling as though letting the clothing speak for itself will simply no longer cut it. There is a the notion that working beyond one craft and being able to tie together a network of skills becomes no longer a case of something that can add to a brand image, it is a brand image. With so many emerging labels jumping at trends and the chance to generate hype through recognizable branding, it has become necessary for designers and design teams to create a universe that surrounds their work, and one which can speak to not only a wider target audience, but the youth of the internet generation; the market that ultimately decides who and what will stay relevant.
As fashion is being twisted into an entirely new industry – one which is constantly thrust into the public eye thanks to social media – the objective of the consumer has undoubtably evolved. If those who consume – mouths constantly agape with an insatiable appetite for the new – are ultimately who products are made for, then the job description of the fashion designer has inherently evolved with them. A recent article published by the Business of Fashion featuring a study by multiple groups suggested that U.S. millenials (those born between 1977 and 2000) no longer have the desire to fit into a category and refuse the act of blindly following in the direction of marketed trends and fast fashion. With this suggestion, a new pressure has been thrust upon designers to both enhance and define, and to find a new angle at which to not only sell clothes, but to sell their image and have it resonate with those who are interested in more than just branding.
“With so many emerging labels jumping at trends and the chance to generate hype through recognizable branding, it has become necessary for designers and design teams to create a universe that surrounds their work.”
Then there is the fashion show; the theatrical personification of the garment and the ultimate portrayal of the way in which a designer chooses to present their collection to a selected audience. For many young designers their first fashion show or presentation is the single greatest starting moment of their early careers. But recently, the rise of those who choose to show work outside of the usual confines of fashion weeks – which has become too hectic for some and too expensive for many – are now all the more prevalent. Gareth Pugh’s recent SS15 collection at NYFW, dubbed “an immersive fashion experience” choreographed by Wayne McGregor saw a warehouse space on the East River transformed into an eerie den of dancers in front of giant screens displaying selected haunting images such as clouds, barely clothed figures and tornadoes. Gareth, who also showed a film directed by Ruth Hogben for his collection presentation in 2009, is no stranger to the unorthodox and to redefining stereotypes and has expressed this distaste with the conformation to the fashion industry’s constructs and rituals time and time again, most recently in an interview by Murray Healey in the A/W 14 issue of LOVE magazine.
If at the end of the day, fashion is a business and garments are made to be sold, then the way in which a designer chooses to represent their clothing through their brand image is part and parcel to the course. Through creating a universe that involves a multitude of avenues in which to define a whole aesthetic, or deciding to present a collection in a way which courageously shatters and redefines the molds of the industry, the face of the fashion designer is quickly and inevitably evolving and it is with this new identity that the fate of fashion’s future ultimately lies.