Next in Nature

By Wilmarie Van Der Merwe

The first thing that comes to mind when this name of this trend is mentioned is the obvious image, and notion, of nature. However, the observable question aligned parallel to the name of this trend it asks, “What exactly is it about nature that is a trend in fashion?”

Next Nature is a macro trend forecasted for S/S 2013/2014 and is explained by WGSN (2013) as “Neo, Next, New. We are rethinking our craving for the new. A newness that can be built upon ‘solid layers’ of past experience or that can fast-forward to a world of design that does not yet exist. We are seeing an adventurous set of systems and aesthetics that will make the geological, the botanical and the digital look alluringly fresh and thought-provoking” (wgsn.com, 2013)

“Next Nature takes a provocative look at nature as it sprouts and creeps further into our sensual, spiritual, synthetic and digital worlds, uprooting conventional ideas on ecology and sustainability” (wgsn.com, 2013).

In essence Next Nature is, arguably, both a form of resistance and collaboration of both the current global economic crisis and its stages of recovery, as well as climate change and the phenomenon of global warming and the effects thereof. Fashion can be seen as a reflection of the influences on society and so it deems only fitting for such a large global impact (both economically and ecologically) to have an impact in the fashion environment.

WGSN (2013) explains that “real nature is not green” and that “with our attempts to cultivate nature, human kind causes the rising of a next nature, which is wild and unpredictable as ever. Wild systems, genetic surprises, autonomous machinery and splendidly beautiful black flowers.”

According to the WGSN (2013) S/S 2014 graphic and print forecast, titled ‘Botanical Jungle’, this trend is “a lush jungle theme of illustrated plants and structured organics, with soft water based pigments for vintage appeal and heavy embroidery worked into solid areas of colour to add texture”.

The first glimpse of this trend was spotted on the runway; back in 2010 Alexander McQueen’s Spring/Summer 2010 Collection titled Plato’s Atlantis (Mowar, 2013). The always definitive, fashion forward designer stated in a detailed press release that his collection was “casting an apocalyptic forecast of the future ecological meltdown of the world: Humankind is made up of creatures that evolved from the sea, and we may be heading back to an underwater future as the ice cap dissolves” (Mowar, 2013).

The emerging trend soon picked up and adopted by numerous designers, most notably that of Corrie Nielson in her S/S 2013 collection, where “instead of patterns and prints, Nielsen excelled herself by creating each outfit into the structure of a flower, as if each model wore a living organism” (Joseph, 2013).

The Next Nature trend has grown profoundly in various other international designer collections and finally made its arrival and emergence on the South African runways at SAFW (Rosebank Hotel) S/S 2013. The trend was prevalent in full force in some collections and more subtly so in others, either way, Next Nature has arrived in South Africa and welcomed with open arms by various designers.

In an informal interview with designer Samantha Constable whose SAFW S/S 2013 collection was part of the Lufthansa Best Collections, said to expect a lot of white from her collection, and that the colour reflected her inspiration which was based on global warming. The heating of the earth’s temperature and the melting of the ice caps as a result is definitely mirrored in the fit and flow of the garments, starting with edgy, structured more textured pieces and progressing into longer, sheer, chiffon pieces with a feminine flow.

Gert-Johan Coetzee’s S/S 2013 SAFW collection pays homage to the stand against violence and abuse against women and children. His inspiration comes from the ‘Sea Urchin, a delicate sea creature who would be defenceless against predators if it weren’t for its sharp spines to protect It’ (Kougianos, 2013). The Next Nature trend is not seen in the actual designs of the garments, but the exception of the sequinned pieces, the garments present the theme of sea creatures in a fashion environment, and adding to that ‘under water’ feel created and emphasised by the 3-D sharp spine like creations on the dresses.

Mej. Lues’ S/S 2013 collection titled ‘Floral Anatomy’ encapsulates the mesmeric Next Nature trend in everything from design to colour to fabric. Fitting, seeing as she explained that she was “very inspired by the Next Nature Trend” (SAFW, Crowne Plaza) but that her specific idea for the collection came from “her mothers’ watercolour illustrations of plants and flowers” (Rosebank, Crown Plaza). From there the idea evolved into a combination of botanical sketches, x-ray photographs of flowers and Xena Holloway’s underwater photography. “That I why I chose such a bright colour palette, because the colours seemed to be amplified underwater” (SAFW, Crown Plaza).

The fabrics were all well chosen for their texture and consistency, either very smooth or see through; chiffons, silk organza, cotton voile, scuba and georgette were all showcased throughout the collection. The dye technique she used for her fabric is a technique known as Sun-dye, and she did it herself to ensure that fabric would be one hundred percent unique and fit effortlessly in with the theme of ‘Floral Anatomy’ (SAW, Crowne Plaza)

The asymmetrical designs with the one shoulder folding and drapery add to the ‘under the sea’ feel with the image of a sea horse created in mind whilst observing. The neck jewellery displayed on the models is also very definitive of the next nature trend ; made from deconstructed cording and made to resemble vines and stems of flowers (SAFW, Crown Plaza)

The Next Nature Trend is seen in elements of certain other collections presented at SAFW this year. Cutterier by Laz Yani also featured in the Lufthansa Best Collections featured models walking down the runway wearing bird’s nests as hats, adding to the already bird like posture of the models walking down the runway with their hands on their hips, resembling a bird’s wings.

Vesselina Pentcheva’s S/S 2013 Collection also featured strong elements of the Next Nature trend. She was inspired by “the magical, moonlit forest of a Midsummer Night’s dream, where human and magical worlds collide…this collection is pure vibrancy and mystical fantasy” (safw.com, 2013). The butterfly motifs on a silk chiffon dress are reminiscent of the next nature trend in the way that nature elements can be used for other structures in a fashion context. The last gown to make its way down the runway was reminiscent of a forest fairy with a netted veil with moss green leaves sewn into it, as well as on the shoulders and on the dress from the waist down, mirroring an almost chlorophyll inspiration design.

Designer Suzaan Heyns also showcased elements of the Next Nature trend in her S/S 2013 collection if the form of organic structured shoulder pads and arm jewellery, mirroring the Next Nature trend’s themes in seeming ethereal in deriving from depth, architecture and structures inspired by natural sources.

I think it’s very important that this trend hit the South African shores because this isn’t a trend influenced by a particular era or a particular group that enables waves of nostalgia for some or that has been re-interpreted for those that aren’t. It’s not a trend exclusive to a certain country or culture either, it is a reflection of the current global situation that every person in the world feels the effect of in every country regardless of race, religion, culture or time period, and in adopting it creating awareness on either a conscious or a subconscious level. And by the South African fashion industry starting to embrace this trend shows that we acknowledge what is happening and even if we can’t change it, we can definitely do our bit in creating awareness through unusual, interesting and innovative designs that captures people attention and in essence gets people talking.

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