Fine art and the art of imitation are behind two of the four trends that were on display at Bluezone in Munich last week.
The two-day trade show presented garments by mills, laundries and manufacturers that show the divide between consumers’ growing appreciation for form, skill and process, and Gen Z’s grassroots approach to trends moving at a rapid-fire pace, said Tilman Wröbel, creative director of Monsieur-T and Bluezone’s trend curator.
In “Modern Art Emporium,” garments reflect art’s presence in fashion and retail and vice versa.
“It goes beyond a designer saying something is a Mondrian dress,” Wröbel said.
From Uniqlo sponsoring events at the Tate Modern to Gucci using street art as billboards to the towering installations at Louis Vuitton stores worldwide to promote its second collaboration with Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, art is the new immersive experience.
“Since fashion trends have become so fast, so superficial, we’re now seeing brands reach out for something extremely elevated,” he said, adding that art is an investment “which moves our society.”
Or that is at least what it should be. Wröbel warned against brands asking factories to splash paint onto jeans. “Do it seriously…not everyone can do art,” he said. “If you go into art, do it with a real artist.”
An artist’s touch may make a garment more special—a quality that is key to Bluezone’s second trend story, “One on One Theory.”
Forget matching, Wröbel said Gen Z shops and gets dressed “item by item.”
The cohort enjoys the experience of selecting new and vintage pieces. They might like one item for a special dye treatment and another for its history. “It’s super cool because that’s the story,” he said. “They put outfits together and there’s absolutely no connection.”
This “fashion chaos” is an example of how Gen Z is moving away from traditional fashion systems. “And now it’s being embraced by all the high fashion brands,” Wröbel said, pointing to the eclecticism seen in collections and stores.
Mixing vintage with new merchandise is one way brands and retailers can imitate the one-by-one experience. The strategy can also be applied to the trade show floor to incite discovery.
“Think about it because even at the [trade show] when you have a rack all in green and another all in red and another all in light blue… give thought to creating super-strong product with a super-strong message,” he said. “Think about a different way of presenting things.”
Visuals have never been more important, especially in Bluezone’s third trend story, “Insta-Tok Life.”
Though Wröbel noted that Instagram’s force in fashion is fading, and Facebook has become a place for distant relatives to share spam, investing in TikTok is a “must” to stay connected with the next generations.
“It’s also a place where fashion speeds on, where imitation is so fast that you can’t even consider making a trend or something which goes along with it,” he said.
Wröbel was referring to the deluge of accounts dedicated to copping celebrity outfits, from Kim Kardashian’s Balenciaga-branded caution-tape catsuit to Kate Middleton’s coat dresses. The difference, however, is that they’re imitating the look by upcycling and DIY-ing items already in people’s closets instead of shopping for the knockoffs.
“[Julia Fox] cuts the waistband on her jeans, and then there’s a video where you see a girl cutting her own jeans,” he said. “It’s an immediate thing.”
Wröbel went on to describe these as 24-hour trends. “A trend on Wednesday morning is already over Thursday morning,” he said.
However, the trends aren’t always new. Wröbel pointed out how Gen Z is feeding off Instagram and TikTok accounts dedicated to Princess Diana’s casual ’90s uniform of straight-fit jeans and a logo sweatshirt or varsity jacket.
Because of this, he said Gen Z is “rediscovering the kind of denims we think are totally [uninteresting] but for them it’s totally new.”
Consumer intrigue with the British royal family—even down to mimicking the high-street brand dress Middleton wears to a special engagement—is especially noteworthy.
“We have this…very old-fashioned thing. We have a lot going on with royal families. We’ve never seen that much [interest] in terms of fashion,” Wröbel said. “People are [having] fun imitating the royal life. That is reality now.”
Bluezone’s last theme, “Low Tech, No Tech,” counters these fast-moving fads.
Describing the concept as a hipster version of hippie style, society’s desire to slow down and unplug is leading to interesting design, Wröbel said.
And it’s more than using a flip-phone ironically. He said new low-tech design considers the future and adds an “artistic expression” to products.
For denim, it means leaning into its history and its culture built on vintage and heritage.
Wröbel pointed out there are opportunities to make the next generation of sustainable and durable jeans through underused processes like “old-fashioned” shuttle weaving. “We all know that shuttle looms go slower so the threads are made nicer,” he said. “It’s a way to make strong jeans.”
Instead of describing a jean as heritage or making it look like a Levi’s jean from the 1800s, he urged designers to do the reverse—to use the slower processes to make a “nicely made” garment in a contemporary style for low-tech hipsters.
Incorporating “no wash” messages and mending are other ways brands can incorporate low-tech ideas into their collections.
“I really see that we’re not developing enough of that low tech trend which speaks to a new younger and future generation and [the denim industry’s] know-how of being low tech,” he said.