Representing the creative future

Duran Lantink’s new show uses drones and influencers, but it’s more than a marketing gimmick

The team behind the Duran Lantink Springsummerautumnwinter show wants you to engage with technology beyond aesthetics

If there is one thing fashion is good at, it’s picking up on new trends. Our sector trades in zeitgeists and airs du temps. We have commodified newness, which makes us excellent at scouting, forecasting and reïnventing, but absolute dummies when it comes to deeper explorations. With the structural need to start from scratch every six months and the combined attention span of five geminis, our approach to research risks being just a tiny bit superficial.

This “thank you, next” culture is most visible in the sector’s relationship with technology. We all love using the buzzwords ‒ artificial intelligence, virtual reality, NFT ‒ but struggle to implement the innovations into our creative structures or business models.

Duran Lantink launched Springsummerautumnwinter and, just as the name of his collection suggests, the Amsterdam-based designer wasn’t pressed by the seasonal calendar, taking the time to reflect on the meaning of showing in times of social distancing and how technology could help transmit his ideas (and critiques).

Helping him do that was Formats And Mechanisms, a creative agency specialised in technology and media experimentation, who were very grateful with the opportunity to share their ideas. “Fashion can be very superficial,” explained Mark Prendergast, co-founder of Formats And Mechanisms. “Designers are led by emotion, which is not a bad thing, but decisions are often made on a whim. We prefer to think through an entire concept and want to implement it into the narrative of the brand. That just isn’t possible when technology is only brought in at the end, as an afterthought.”

“The problem is also structural,” his colleague Philip Schuette remarks. “An organisation is only as strong as its weakest link. Once those brands get too big, there is always one link in the chain scared to take risks. They hold back the creativity.”

Philip and Mark have a couple of fashion projects under their belt having done shows for Chloé, Raf Simons and the Antwerp Academy, but specialising in the field was never their intention. Yet, they analyse the industry like seasoned veterans and point at a stubborn behavioral pattern.

Our industry appears to be stuck in a system where a collection is illustrated through elaborate set design and eye catching models.

Indeed, fashion media are quick to label a series of jewel-encrusted handbags flown in by drones “a vision from the future”, but after a year of shows through screens, technology has proven more often a hindrance than an enhancement of creativity. Our industry appears to be stuck in a system where a collection is illustrated through elaborate set design and eye catching models. The technology only serves to document the story.

“That is why we were attracted to fashion in the first place, we can do so much more,” exclaimed Philip. Right, so how do you go about that? “It is important to understand the context of the project you’re working with. That allows you to start asking questions about the medium itself, letting the audience see the mechanism without becoming too dialectic.” Before you digitally communicate a fashion show, you need to question the purpose of that ritual, what it means to no longer have a physical audience present.

“We didn’t come up with a new approach. Instead, we implemented the basic vocabulary of the fashion show: the live show, the social media, the backstage, the influencer. It’s not reïnventing, it’s revealing.” – Philip Schuette

In the case of Duran Lantink, the customary hordes of editors, influencers and front-row stars are replaced with drones. Not only because they allow a wide variety of viewpoints as the models move through the space (the Soestdijk Palace in the Netherlands, an abandoned 17th-century palace) but more importantly, because it reveals a crucial tension at the heart of our show system: who is allowed access to the presentation and whose perspectives matter most?

The team didn’t merely use the technology as a means to show a collection, but rather as a medium to analyse, critique and reflect on what it means to do so. In the same way, Duran questions the fashion system through the repurposing of designer clothes, slicing up and combining various luxury items, thus confronting the wearer with the restrictive power of brands and logos.

“The world is burning, but if anyone in fashion tried to do anything about it, they’ve only paid lip service to it.” – Mark Prendergast

“We didn’t come up with a new approach,” says Philip. “Instead, we implemented the basic vocabulary of the fashion show: the live show, the social media, the backstage, the influencer. It’s not reïnventing, it’s revealing.” One part of the show, for example, will be viewed entirely through the designer’s Instagram, once again hinting at a key player in the system without necessarily engaging them: the social media influencer. “We’re placing subversive ideas into normal looking packages. If you don’t look at it closely, it can look like a normal thing,” explains Mark.

“The world is burning, but if anyone in fashion tried to do anything about it, they’ve only paid lip service to it,” he says in relation to the environmental and social crisis the fashion industry faces. “The system isn’t changing. It’s about newness, but its functioning is very slow and archaic.”

The entire Duran approach seeks to move beyond aesthetics and induce behavioral shifts. An approach that values in-depth reflection and collaboration, allowing every participant to bring in their view on the concept. Or as Philip put it: “say goodbye to the old and hello to the new.”

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