Picking up on the eclectic historic references that have been a feature of fashion collections for the last couple of seasons, VMAN seizes the timely opportunity to devote its winter issue – and spring preview- to the trend for a bit of retro culture in current fashion parlance. Taking the form of ‘The Decades’ issue, this manifests itself as, among other things, a fashion feature that catalogues current looks according to the decade that they reference. It’s the 1930’s at Ralph Lauren, the 1960’s at Prada, the 1970’s at Gucci, and so on…
But, VMAN takes it a lot further. Drawing on ideas about ‘the archive’ that have been knocking about in contemporary art for a while, it offers a sumptuous series of shoots tracing the language of very contemporary menswear as far back as the 1890’s. Using everything from faux vintage illustration to recreations of history that border on costume drama, it’s a delightful and fulfilling exercise in a creative concept consummately realised.
The final of these chronologically arranged fashion stories ‘2020s’ propels this season’s menswear into the future. Taking the idea of splicing, whether atoms or genes, as a central motif in much science – and its imaginative cousin Sci-Fi- it is fundamentally a digital age version of old school collage technique. The fact that Damien Blottiere uses a computer rather than a scalpel to slice up his photographs doesn’t make them any less arresting than the original technique. His crisp collages of looks from the men’s current collections, styled by Tom Van Dorpe, fuse multiple photos into a new cohesive whole, producing strange and beautiful composite images that often feel akin to the original aspirations of Cubism to capture a single moment in time from all possible angles.
In practical fashion terms, it’s also fairly nifty. Not only does it enable us to get the idea of a full silhouette or the cut of a jacket, but is invariably creates a potential for showing more garments than usual on a single page and, rather unusually, can introduce close-up details from outfits simultaneously without ever seeming at odds with the overall aesthetic. Thus, signature garments by Calvin Klein, Versace, Paul Smith, Burberry Prorsum and others are showcased in a way that not only offers us a picture of the overall sway of a jacket or shirt, but also homes in on the special detail that underscores its particular identity.
The styling has paid particular attention to the strong offer of bold textiles in the current collections. Not only does this optimise the impact of the optical phenomena generated by the technique, but it also tangentially connects with the premise of the shoot: the presence of their vaguely retro forms that were once considered highly futuristic contextualise the conceit of projecting contemporary fashion into the near future. In the end, they remind us, everything ends up in the archive.