Every sci-fi costume designer has the challenge of imagining a world that has yet to become. Designers like Pierre Cardin and Paco Rabanne made careers of a futuristic vision well enough in line with the Mod era to be part of the zeitgeist. But, even now (many years into the future from 1960) those designs are classified more as relics of the past than visionary ideas of fashion yet to come. Over a decade past Space Odyssey: 2001 we are still dressing like the earthlings we are.
In fashion, just like in society, we tend to get ahead of ourselves. We work out the logistics of an intergalactic future while still working out the logistics of bringing roads, electricity, and running water to underdeveloped countries here on Earth.
As far as when things will change, we enter into the future every day. And we’ll get there one day at a time. Just as fashion has evolved through subtle changes year to year, so will evolve the fashions of the future. New technologies appear and aspire to be game changers. The introduction of the zipper was not the death of the button. As designers we appropriate available resources to our taste, and the demands of the time. We are always building on what we know to take a step forward. You cannot predict a creative evolution without the phases in between. Only in looking back can you witness the change. That bodes well for the future of fashion: that we will never actually have to wear what those Sci-Fi movies predict for us. For it to work in fashion, technology can’t look like technology.
Take the example of Google Glass, straight from the futuristic spread of Vogue’s September Issue. It is the epitome of why a futuristic design will never actually represent the designs of the future. Too mechanical, too metallic, too industrial: until technology is at a point where it can be adapted to aesthetic demands, it will never break into the commercial sphere.
When we imagine wearable technology, it’s in the image of a cyborg. Chips and digits and wires. How do you market this to a customer of Ralph Lauren or Lanvin? It will be necessary for engineers to create their technologies in an unpackaged way. Leave it up to the designers to make it wearable. Let the technology be adaptable. Not like an iPhone can be dressed with a case, but where the form of the iPhone could be undefined. This is when fashion can meet the future. When fashion doesn’t have to bend to the constraints of the technology, but when the technology is flexible enough to bend to the aesthetic whim.
For designers, and engineers, that is the next and wonderfully exciting frontier.