Light Years Ahead: Why We’re Riding Fashion’s Futurism Wave

In the 1960s, prolific French designer Pierre Cardin famously said "The dresses I prefer are those I invent for a life that does not yet exist.” But our visions of ‘future’ dressing haven’t budged too much in the decades since. Even now, in the age of self-driving cars and space tourism, the rise in 'futuristic dressing' still captures a return rather than a glimpse into what actually lies ahead for us.
With the aesthetic featuring prominently at a host of recent runway collections, it’s impossible to ignore its increasing presence.
Most notably, MSGM’s ready-to-wear collection was a dizzying display of other-worldly glamour. Featuring Milky Way prints, mesh, sequinned embroideries, bright patent leathers, intricate silhouettes and cut-outs, it's no surprise that designer Massimo Giorgetti’s inspiration stemmed from a scientific breakthrough. When the designer heard that researchers had discovered a new celestial body whose existence had only been predicted by mathematical modelling but never actually observed, the vision for his latest collection sparked. And we're tipping this theme of futurism and the space age to be dominant themes amongst 2022 trends.
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But rather than looking to the new and the now, we’re looking to the past instead, opting for vintage takes on futurism that speak to an aesthetic still being realised today. Where this aesthetic theme was once typically made up of shiny synthetics, futility and one-and-done wardrobe items, the move towards the futurism of decades' past has given new life to the archives of a bygone era.
A user report from Depop shows a huge spike in searches for digital motifs and prints, chain detailing, silver and cool tones, while it's almost impossible to track down vintage pieces from the likes of Courrèges and Paco Rabanne without engaging in a bloody bidding war. Sure this appreciation for the second-hand market, particularly amongst younger generations, can be a reflection of rampant individualism, and the trend cycle ensures everything gets its day in the sun again, but we can't help but feel that it echoes a larger shift in fashion as we reckon with the impacts of the pandemic. With day-to-day life being upended, we're looking elsewhere for inspiration, whether it's space, the metaverse or even nature.
“During the pandemic in the last two years, I’ve often looked at the sky and at the stars,” Giorgetii told Vogue about his collection. “It was often a soothing moment, as if I were looking for a wider space of hope somewhere far from the familiar, escaping from a reality of difficulties and stress.” But it's not about reflecting dire times, he affirmed, but rather, embracing hope. “It isn’t only about escapism. Rather, it’s about a desire to get away from everything terrible that’s happening, creating a mental space where a better world is possible,” he said.
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And he's certainly not alone in this desire. Where a lot of fashion's current trends are anchored in dystopian themes, like the Avant Apocalypse movement, rightly reflective of a world in disarray, the emerging futurescape embraces uncertainty through the dispelling of the convention. Revisiting what we perhaps thought would be the standard of dressing in 2022 some decades ago — instead of the reality that is, largely, crocs and loungewear — in modular pieces, non-traditional layering, reflective wear and silver everything.
But what we really love about this trend is that, at its core, futurism is deeply optimistic. Where we’ve often looked to the past in dire times as an act of yearning, the new wave of futurist dressing, despite taking note from the past, urges us to look forward, reevaluate where we are, and where we will be when the cycle inevitably begins anew.
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