Connections: Fashion, Social Networking, and Fabbing

Author: | Posted in Fashion, Steampunk No comments

Source: AYYA Wear

This morning I awoke to find that one of my bots had alerted me that someone at the Wall Street Journal used the word "Steampunk" in an article in the Fashion section. It was only a brief mention:

A chief executive in the tech business may don Gap chinos and a blazer for work, while investment banking chiefs remain loyal to their Zegna suits. Others dress according to the mores of their own personal tribes: If you don't dress steampunk, you may not even know it's a style (think 19th-century mad scientist in leather waistcoat with goggles and a pocket watch).

However, what really caught my eye was the previous paragraph:

Rather than fuss about skirt lengths or the season's silhouette, people now dress the way they see themselves, choosing looks that flatter their bodies and fit their lifestyles. Most of us dress with our social groups or professions, rather than fashion trends, using clothes to flash messages about who we are.

This resonated strongly with me and echoes an ongoing conversation that Libby and I have been having about fashion being the original form of social networking.  The author used these thoughts to explain the subject of the piece which was the death of trends and the struggle that the big fashion cartels are having with the fact that their carefully managed seasonal campaigns have far less of an impact then they used to and that "everything is now in style."

My take-away is that the fashion industry is starting to fracture like the music industry, and for the same reasons. Just like the music industry, big fashion  set themselves up to be the gate keepers and attempted pick and choose a few big names to promote as well as plan the season style trends to ensure a steady revenue stream.

However, pressure from indie designers utilizing on demand manufacturing, fabrication, and customization means that small companies can respond almost instantaneously. Like those boots the Romulans wore in Start Trek? AYYA Wear will whip you up a pair custom made with your choice of leathers in 4 to 6 weeks.

There is also pressure from the DIY community. Just as some indie bands decided to self-distribute their music, indie designers are going direct to manufacturers overseas or are producing high quality and unique items in the own homes. Of course it's the internet that fuels this. Designers have more direct access to manufacturers than ever.  Sites like Etsy and eBay give these designers a ready marketplace for their goods and the vast array of fashion niche sites like Haute Macabre and Outsapop become the guides for the fashion and styles that the social "tribes" desire.

So, what we have is the intersection of fabbing, custom manufacturing, DIY and online social networking creating disruptive change and shifting the control of trends from corporations to the individual. Yeah! I frakk'n love this stuff! Imagine now a technological ecosystem of open source computer aided clothing design tools–3D CAD that let you create a virtual dressmaker's dummy on which you design your garment. Once designed, you output a cut file and bring it and some cloth to your local hackerspace where you can cut it in a minute or two on their CNC laser cutter and then maybe you hang out and drink coffee with other hackers and sew it together or you take it home to construct. In the end you have something absolutely unique that fits you perfectly and sends exactly the message you want to the world.

Do such tools exist? I don't know. I'd guess there are commercial design packages, are there any open source tools for clothing design? I bet there will be soon, and I can't wait.

So, what does a company do when the competition is untouchable because it is so diverse, pervasive, and disapperate? LOL! Marketing of course! And what if your current target demographic, in this case women, are the some of the key drivers of the change that is hurting your business model?

Cue evil laugh Mwah hah ha ha . . .

But there's one fashion segment where trend is increasingly dominant: menswear, where pleats are "out" and trim, flat-front pants are "in," says Andy Gilchrist, author of "The Encyclopedia of Men's Clothes" and founder of the "Ask Andy" Web site. "It seems," he says, "that the designers and retailers are trying to get men into that 'old' women's fashion trend cycle."

You have been warned.