Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Trend Report: Is There Life After Wiggles?

Current Obsession

Andria makes fun of me for overusing the term obsessed. I don’t just like something, I’M OBSESSED WITH IT. I like to think I’m not using it in the badly-scripted-HGTV-“reality”-design-show-host way, but more like: I-feel-powerless-against-its-magnetic-grip-and-the-all-consuming-passion-keeps-me–awake-at-night kind of way. Perhaps a superficial distinction, but an important one in my mind. So earlier this week when a friend hipped us to this AMAZING video, I found a kindred spirit… someone who shared my obsession for WIGGLES!

There’s a certain aesthetic I’ve been noticing. This throwback look is characterized by saturated colours (rainbows, pastels), geometrics (primary shapes and grids) all under a post-modern pretense (mixed prints, iridescent or translucent plastics, marble, concrete, brass, powder-coated metals). Think “Saved by the Bell” meets “Pee Wee’s Playhouse” meets “Dallas”, executed with the playful nonchalance of Mac DeMarco. It’s whimsical to the point of comedic, and youthful to the core. 

I think for me, the tiny drop in the ocean was Seapunk – a trend hatched in Tumblr`s underbelly based on 90`s cyberpunk imagery (pyramids, dolphins, crystals, yin yangs) and chill-wave synth-music. Other fashion subsets bubbled to the surface: Pastel Goth (later, Health Goth) and Cutester. And the wave crashed against the consumer shore last spring when the perpetually hip and endearingly flawed American Apparel launched its Nathalie du Pasquier capsule collection. (Full Disclosure: I’m an AA Ex-Pat, and I have NSFW stories…) Du Pasquier was part of the Memphis Group – the designers out of Milan who are responsible for starting this whole thing back in the 80’s. (More on those crazy cats next week in our History of Design series.) 

(Set of Pee Wee's Playhouse...for extra credit: check out this doc on art director Wayne White)  

I’ve been trying to contextualize this trend – why we’re feeling a strong nostalgia for whimsy? Is this a sign of our quarter-life crisis - a refusal to grow up? We’re a generation coming to realize the childhood of our future offspring will look nothing like ours. We’re leasing apartments, not buying a house in the suburb with a yard. We Car2Go, we don’t Minivan. We have passports full of stamps and multiple unfinished degrees. We’re nomadic seekers, curious and uncertain, and goddammit, we’re having fun.

But this opulence and exuberance must have an expiry date, no? What backlash are we bound to encounter after Wiggles and Zig-Zags, Grids and Sprinkes? Of course, everything is cyclical, and we know it never comes back in the exact same way. If fashion is a precursor, we might be driving ourselves straight into a sobering stint in Normcore – an anti-fashion trend marked athletic sweatshirts, turtlenecks, dad-jeans and chunky white trainers a la Seinfeld and Steve Jobs. It’s a conservative, uniform mentality that’s purposefully non-descript. It’s practical. 

(NOMADIC FURNITURE 3.0 New Liberated Living?, Exhibition View)
Where is this hard dose of reality coming from? Oh, I don’t know… maybe it has something to do with the DOOMSDAY CLOCK BEING SET TO 3 MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT. What does this mean for design? When uncertainty abounds, we will see more flat-pack, modular, upcycled, uniform, Bauhausian anti-bourgeoisie solutions. But here’s the new twist: a focus on DIY and open-source license plans. We're on the frontier. We have access to communications and technology like no other generation. We've already seen the democratization of music - indie labels, web-releases, and software with limitless possibilities. This will only continue to thrive in all mediums of self-expression. At Fulhaus, we think it’s important to be aware of our climate. We think a lot about resources, distribution, technology, accessibility and sustainability. We want our customers to be informed as well. You can let us obsess about that, but for today… let’s just wiggle. 

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