Scanning Fashion: How Looking Back Helps us Look Forward


Ann Demeulemeester Fall/Winter 2000 

Ann Demeulemeester Spring/Summer 1998

Marithe + Francois Girbaud Spring/Summer 1998

Objetstandard Fall/Winter 2001

Yohji Yamamoto Fall/Winter 1999 // Kosuke Tsumura Fall/Winter 1999

Styles of New York Fall 1998, Sarah T. photographed by Rowland Kirishima for High Fashion Magazine 8 August 1998

Hermes Spring/Summer 1999

Balenciaga Fall/Winter 1999

Kostas Murkudis Fall/Winter 1999

Link: 20471120 Fall & Winter 1998-1999, Telma Thormarsdottir and Joanna photographed by Masashi Ohashi for High Fashion Magazine 8 August 1998

Sharon Wauchob Fall/Winter 1999

Martin Margiela Fall/Winter 2000

Shimura Fall/Winter 1999

Link: 20471120 Fall & Winter 1998-1999, Telma Thormarsdottir and Joanna photographed by Masashi Ohashi for High Fashion Magazine 8 August 1998

Irregular by Alfredo Bannister Fall/Winter 1999

Junya Watanabe Comme Des Fall / Winter 2000 Boys

Junya Watanabe Fall/Winter 1996

Upon Anne Demeulemeester's announcement that she would be departing from her namesake house, my reaction came as a duality: I knew I enjoyed her work, but I realized I didn't know just how far she had come as a designer and how much of an impact her work had on per peers in the industry. Sure, I knew she was important and that her collections were consistently beautiful in their dark, secretly structured whimsy, but my understanding wasn't rooted very deep.

I started digging for her past collections. For some reason I haven't felt compelled to do this with any other house who has experienced a departure from its head designer yet. This, for some reason, felt different. I started looking for archival images- and that's when I found Archivings.

This brilliantly beautiful site is an unbelievable resource of late-90's/early aughts fashion scans; mostly of runway images with a sprinkling of editorials, all done by a Fashion Communications student in Toronto named Shahan Assadourian. These are the images I watched my mom scour in our apartment while I was growing up, ripping out pages for her mood boards and binders. These are images of presentations and shows that are the ancestors to the spectacles and media circuses that fashion shows have become today. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy NYFW, but I barely ever watch actual shows anymore, I prefer to stick around backstage so I can actually see the clothes.

Thanks to sites like Tumblr and Buzzfeed, a lot of kids my age and younger are able to re-live their childhoods and really look at the media they experienced all over again. I can't go on Tumblr anymore without a bunch of nostalgic cartoon throwbacks or appreciation posts for Jelly sandals popping up on my feed. It's being able to look at this stuff anew that makes it great, and while everyone has been enjoying revival-style appreciation for grunge and minimalism, we sometimes forget why silhouettes changed and how the economic upturn in the States and the rise of the internet affected people's understanding of the world in the nineties. 

Man, we take the internet for granted these days, and folks of my generation probably don't remember when all one had access to was a physical, spine-and-page runway report or periodical if they wanted to see the latest season of collections rendered in detailed images. Now we have live streams of the shows themselves that anyone can view; we barely consider the clothes or the collections as a whole, but it's nice to have things archived neatly and on such a massive scale. What really stands out to me is this: these here scans are images that were going out to a much different audience- one that was in the industry, not entirely around it. Consumers were less connected to Fashion week and the educated press were the absolute authorities in commenting on collections and bringing their comments and postscripts back to the consumer.

The historical imperative is something I wish consumers looked into a bit more deeply when getting into vintage or fetishizing it. It gives the clothes more meaning. The collections and editorial snippets shown here were produced when the internet was rising, not a full-fledged resource for absolutely everything. The world had just become connected, and the future was on a glittering horizon. What was the future going to look like? How was technology going to change our lives? How could simplicity not only improve utility but also allow us to step back in the face of mechanical change and appreciate such a human craft? These were questions that designers were answering with their garments, and putting their answers into perspective makes their designs more profound.

Anyway, these particular scans stood out to me- just look at how designers were experimenting with the clothes themselves and using a minimal line and/or palette to trace the body. Designers were also trying to break down notions of how things were supposed to be worn by reconstituting pieces, making their consumer and audience aware that the world was changing, and that we needed to look in to look out onto that glittering horizon.

Check out the Archivings archive (I really just wanted to say that) to see the extent of the hard work put into scanning such a massive amount of lovely, lovely images. Anything strike you?

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