When it comes to discovering new trends, as well as the latest crazes rocking the fashion scene nowadays, there are few places where you can just delve in-depth into the world of fashion. One of these places is the White Show, the main Milanese trade show for women’s collections. We found ourselves literally mesmerized by the sheer abundance of propositions by this show when we arrived, from the still alive and well metallic-shimmering trend, with the fur and embroidery decorated shoes. Pleasantly surprising still, of course, were the sometimes unexpected discoveries including the more avant-garde ready-to-wear brands, sunglasses inspired by architecture, and technical sportswear that was designed with an eye out on daily life. With an inquisitive curiosity, we visited Milan to measure the pulse of fashion trends beating in every corner of the world, we met with some of the great minds in fashion from China, Portugal, France, Belgium, Italy, Russia and Kazakhstan to ask them questions about their experiences and their vision of fashion.
Olivia Borlée and Elodie Ouedraogo – 42|54
How do your roots and cultural background influence your work? Elodie: I’m a former athlete and Olivia is still a runner, so we wear sportswear quite often and know how good these clothes need to be, but we wanted to create a sporty and competition ready product that is still wearable during the day for doing normal things with your family. We wanted to create sportswear that was suited for multiple occasions and without the need for a change of clothes.
How has the creative environment in your country changed? In Belgium, our home country, we have great designers and schools, so it’s very difficult to make it as a student, but when you graduate it’s rather easy to make it in the industry, thanks to the excellent education and high standards. Likewise, the quality of the products created is very high. The clothes are beautiful, have the perfect fit, and are made to last for years.
What are the most important trends in contemporary fashion in your country nowadays? I think that one of the biggest trends is now oversized. Everyone is starting to do oversized pieces following the trend Margiela launched. Contrary to this, the sports trend isn’t as popular in Belgium as it is in the rest of the world.
How do you envision your brand inside the international/global market? Our brand is still quite new, and we sell a peculiar type of sportswear. For example, we make kimonos with the technical fabric of sportswear, which to most people is a rather unusual combination due to their different lifestyle.
What do you think about the future of contemporary fashion? I think exciting things are evolving everywhere. There are so many young brands and so much fashion, that the future is just huge. I also think streetwear is one of the biggest trends nowadays and that will be the case for quite a while.
How do your roots and cultural background influence your work? I think that with a flow of information that goes everywhere at the same time that we are becoming more similar. As I am Portuguese, I try to design clothes in a way that my clients in Portugal will buy them but as far as ideas, I think, with globalization, we can take influences from everywhere.
How has the creative environment in your country changed? Historically we are manufacturers and we do clothes for other foreign brands, but I think within the next ten years we will get to the designing part. We have a new generation of designers graduating from school and that are working for two or three years who are very strong in their message and in their clothing design. I think that fashion is getting larger and more important as a business there too.
What are the most important trends in contemporary fashion in your country nowadays? There are so many trends, some of which are the opposite of some of the others. Some designers opt for designing very romantic clothes that are feminine and ladylike and others are creating street wear or edgy clothes.
How do you envision your brand inside the international/global market? I want my designs to feel relatable to people. I want them to feel they can buy it and wear it. I also try to concentrate on some details, however, in order to make my brand a bit different from the others. I hope that my brand grows larger and gains even more, appeal, especially abroad.
What do you think about the future of contemporary fashion? I think there is room for growth, particularly when it comes to fabrics, since that is the starting point. I think it will depend on the development of fields such as biochemistry and engineering, which may bring something new to fabrics and fashion. We all need a little something refreshing and to approach everything from a different perspective since all the basics are already covered. A shirt is still a shirt after all, so I think the future is in fabrics.
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How do your roots and cultural background influence your work? I was born in China but spent eight years in London to study for high school and university. I love to travel and have visited many places. I’ve been to Mt. Everest, into the deserts, to Bangladesh and to all these strong cultured countries. I’ve also been to the United States and I like the strong mix of cultures. Furthermore my wife is an architect and she influences me and my designs a lot, thus I design products with a lot of architectural elements.
How has the creative environment in your country changed? It has changed a lot. I spent many years away from my home country, and when I got back everything was different. People are now more open to new cultures and new things. Of course, the Chinese people have their own traditions, but now they are more open to a bit of mixing so they have to balance their traditions with these new cultural elements.
What are the most important trends in contemporary fashion in your country nowadays? I have difficulty answering this because in China we are still at the beginning of the designing process. So many designers are still learning and they incorporate the trends from around the world. I think that slowly over time they will develop their own style with its own elements and have their own opinions.
How do you envision your brand inside the international/global market? I want to create something culturally mixed that defies boundaries. With my brand I want people to be able to define themselves, to be themselves, to be the owner. I want people to see these glasses and say: “this is for me, it belongs to me”.
What do you think about the future of contemporary fashion? People will be more and more independent, they will not just be following the trends but will have their own style.
How do your roots and cultural background influence your work? You can see the influence of Kazakh culture in our clothing, like in some of the ornaments for example. The clothes depict the wisdom of Kazakh women, their way of life, and their souls. I personally take my inspiration from Kazakh craftsmanship and handworks, from ornaments to embroidery. I use merino wool, but also alpaca, angora and mohair as well as the patchwork technique.
How has the creative environment in your country changed? Our country is still quite young because it only gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. However we have a very huge and rich history that is connected to the nomadic arts and crafts. In Kazakhstan, there are a lot of young designers and young brands with their own costumers in the country and they are now trying to expand and go global.
What are the most important trends in contemporary fashion in your country nowadays? New ethnic is a big trend right now in Kazakhstan.
How do you envision your brand inside the international/global market? It’s the first time for my brand here in Europe and I’ve already received orders from buyers. This is a very positive sign for me that people love my product, as they see that I’m not copying anyone and that I’m doing something new and original.
What do you think about the future of contemporary fashion? I think in my country it’s going to evolve because we have the ability to offer interesting products to the world. In general I think many things will continue to change as they have been doing. For example, if you consider the successions of new creative directors inside the most famous brands, you will see a pattern due to people’s tendency to seek new ideas, new talents and new visions.
How do your roots and cultural background influence your work? My background is pretty multicultural due to my family being from mixed backgrounds consisting of Chinese, Korean, and a little bit of everything else. They grew up in different places while we grew up in different countries with diverse backgrounds including China, India, Malaysia, and countries in Europe. There was quite a clash of religious values, but in a good way, a harmonious one. I guess I was at the center of a melting pot, thus the perception I have towards what I do is very liberal.
How has the creative environment in your country changed? In Malaysia it’s rather slow to change at the moment, but it’s definitely growing and we are trying to build a stronger base.
What are the most important trends in contemporary fashion in your country nowadays? The styles are very much borrowed from everywhere else, in particular, European fashion and Korean fashion influence the contemporary style in my country a lot.
How do you envision your brand inside the international/global market? I envision my brand to have a message for women. It’s not about being beautiful or slim or anything like that. Instead, it’s more about being able to take control of your own life and to be able to wear whatever you want without being judged. It’s a very social cause that we have.
What do you think about the future of contemporary fashion? It’s definitely growing, people are becoming more aware of their personal style, they separate themselves from everyone else so they’ll have this more individualistic style. There will be a grow of trends that are very different from each other.
How do your roots and cultural background influence your work? I would say entirely. I studied architecture and developed a passion for the study of metals. I focused first on jewelry but then expanded my studies deeper to incorporate learning about metals, leather and fabrics. I’ve worked for Italian companies which are leaders in these fields and also started doing consultancy for tanneries and fabrics companies. My collections are well thought out in every detail, from the thread to the pattern to the finishing.
How has the creative environment in your country changed? I think that creativity in Italy needs new incentives because our system flattens creativity. Fashion companies nowadays all have the same products, because, at their source, the people who are in charge of their creation use the same mechanical system of research. At its purest form, however, research doesn’t need anything else, as a new product speaks with its own voice.
How do you envision your brand inside the international/global market? I feel as if it is like a meteor that runs through different galaxies without end. Everybody stares at it because it’s highly material. My collections are completely different from others.
What do you think about the future of contemporary fashion? I see the future in a positive perspective. The new generations are curious; they are looking for things that have their roots in the past. Research likewise, can’t have a future without a strong basis in history. Fashion is like a bridge that connects the past to the future, with the present embodied by what we are wearing nowadays.
Cover photo: Sara Volpi