May 25 / What we like

Fashion Backward: Postmodernism

The inspiration behind the creation of Miista is varied, but there is one concept that has pointedly impacted our direction: Postmodernism.

Postmodernism is the idea of changing the norm. It’s about approaching things from a different point of view, away from that which is tried and true, but instead experimental, unexpected and irreverent. In clothing, the Postmodern viewpoint is that of an iconoclast — it rejects the traditional ideas behind clothes: historical, functional and hierarchical. We all know that there was a time when a wardrobe was not a wealth of self-expression, but instead a means of protection and necessity. As mankind evolved so did clothing, but only the rich saw the luxury. Fantastic clothing, couture and the like, was only for the tippy top of the social stratusphere and concepts like gender roles, modesty and tradition dictated what was seemingly ‘allowed.’ The Postmodern movement effectively said: get over it. It was a movement of reckless combinations, tackling of taboo and a switch to superficial aesthetic. The meaning behind symbols and shapes was removed as all of these historical ideas were mixed and matched — obviously nothing can retain meaning when it’s organized in a meaningless way. The playing field was leveled — street style became just as important as society folk garb and absolutely no one could predict what would come down the runway next.

1950s fashion: traditional, historial, bound by gender roles

The Postmodern Age was eclectic, defined by parody and cultural hybridity. Literally defined as ‘after modernism,’ it rejected a time of logic, simplicity, history and functionality. Two important concepts that came into play were bricolage — meaning the construction from a diverse range of sources — and pastiche — the imitation of other styles. Designers were borrowing from all cultures, all institutions, all social constructs and paying no attention to the meaning but instead to the aesthetic qualities. The distinction between high and low was abolished, and social hierarchy was parodied. This was the beginning of an era where the consumer actually had a wide and varied range of choices — there was no one all defining look anymore. So with this choice of many fashions, this multitude of trends, designers took on an anything goes approach. The trickle down style which once defined the realm of clothing was rejected and inspiration came from all points.

All about style & subversion: a V&A 2011 exhibit

Specifically, bricolage came into play as the taste makers adopted and restructured existing styles into one new whole. Incongruous elements were brought together — which is a foundation of the Miista design process. We work to combine the unexpected, and with an expert creative hand we strive to create innovative styles. Designers were also appropriating strong cultural symbols and using them without reference, thereby debasing their meaning entirely. If in the 1950s we had used all of the upside down cross detailing that is in our ELECTRIC WITCHES collection it would have effectively communicated to society that we were satanic. But with the dawning of the Postmodern era we are able to use these symbols decoratively, and with no deeper meaning.

Jeremy Scott Food Fight Collection

Jeremy Scott FW11

Essentially, this time within the world of fashion obliterated the past. It erased the meaning of some of the most important cultural ideas and created satirical copies. With all of the random usage of world history and meaning a new culture was created — one where creativity is seemingly exhausted and everything has been seen before. And really, isn’t it hard to be shocked by fashion these days? Nothing can truly be ‘shocking’ anymore, but that does not mean innovation is not possible. Jeremy Scott is a fantastic example of current Postmodernism. He’s often called the Andy Warhol of our time, as he takes symbols that we all recognize and relate to and twists their meaning. His runway shows, always with one strong theme, take culture, twist it, turn it and produce something unexpected and endlessly interesting.

'70s Vivienne Westwood collection

Vivienne Westwood

Comme des Garcons

Rei Kawakubo

1970-1990 was the hey day of Postmodernism and as mentioned above we absolutely still feel the effects today. The era took clothing and put it in a place of strong importance within the social world. Clothes now challenge norms and by taking inspiration from everywhere — architecture, art, photography, cinema, graphics, magazines, etc — we see a certain rebellious energy. Vivienne Westwood with her eponymous line and Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons were on the forefront of the movement and worked to challenge modern femininity. Their designs in the 1980s rejected the sexed up female image. Westwood went punk, popularizing a subculture that initially had no relation to femininity — until she got her hands on it. Kawakubo went a different route, she ran all the way abstract and never looked back. She shunned any relationship to human form, and instead created looks that existed apart from the body. This time of in your face rebellious fashion has achieved the culture that we know today — we can walk into a store and find anything, literally anything. We’ve reached a time where fashion no longer makes a general, recognizable social statement but instead it is all about us as individuals. Because of the Postmodern rebellion we now have the ability to speak only our own preferences, our own style, with our wardrobes. Such great meaninglessness has never meant so much for the individual.

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