It is by no means simple to define the field of fashion, and it might not even be possible. Numerous, frequently risky experiments have been carried out over the years with an infinite variety of textiles, cutting-edge methods, different manipulations, and the ever-more-risky fusion of all the elements mentioned so far. Glass is perhaps one of the most challenging materials designers have encountered, both in terms of its fundamental nature as silicon and all of its implementations and reinterpretations through optical effects, texture games, and conceptual affinities. Therefore, one may refer to this fashion trend, which has evolved through various stages in recent history, as the “glass fashion.”
Starting with Turkish-Cypriot designer Hussein Chalayan is practically required when discussing the ability to include things that are wholly outside of the conventional notion of fashion and what can potentially have an impact on this industry. He is one of those artists who has been able to push innovation to an especially extreme degree, which is frequently underlined by stunning turns during his “show” fashion shows. The “Ventriloquy” collection for SS01 finishes with a sequence of looks made up of wide skirts in a glass-effect resin, which some models equipped with little hammers crush before the eyes of the shocked onlookers. This is one of Chalayan’s primary leitmotifs. The designer, who adores special effects, gives a whole new interpretation of glass in the SS07 collection with a dress made entirely of transparent spheres, which was also made popular by a Lady Gaga performance in 2009.
This second strategy, which is more distant in terms of material but more realistic in the end result, is reminiscent of Pierre Cardin’s Space Age fashion, though with very different results. Cardin experimented a lot with re-creating the portholes and volumes of spaceships using PVC elements, which he then contextualized in his exquisitely crafted creations as well as in his iconic eyewear. The manipulations Prada displayed in the final looks of the SS10 collection, however, were very different. They gleamed almost as if they were enclosing the models in the folds of antique chandeliers, thanks to crystal drops that totally encircled them in a new and extremely affluent interpretation of 1920s outfits.
And precisely in the Moschino FW16 collection, presented by Jeremy Scott in a wild post-party scenario, among smoking – again literally – and tattered dresses, with that ironic glamour capable of laughing at itself, typical of the American designer, a chandelier becomes a dress, without conceptual transmissions, but literally with all its imposing structure. Martin Margiela is one of the designers that has made sarcasm and ready-made their trademarks. In 2009, he released a limited edition of glass pumps that are obviously unwearable but go so well with his Dadaist aesthetic because of this.
The brand’s founder’s homage to pure white was also carried on by his successor John Galliano, who incorporated his love of the past into numerous pieces from the SS16 prêt-à-porter collection while adhering to a more “Margielian” aesthetic. As if to demonstrate a coordinated, modern focus on the theme with fellow designer Galliano, several of the releases in Loewe’s SS16 collection, signed by Jonathan Anderson, also feature fragments of glass, sewn together in a perfectly reflected composition with no trace of the past. The brand’s founder’s homage to pure white was also carried on by his successor John Galliano, who incorporated his love of the past into numerous pieces from the SS16 prêt-à-porter collection while adhering to a more “Margielian” aesthetic. As if to demonstrate a coordinated, modern focus on the theme with fellow designer Galliano, several of the releases in Loewe’s SS16 collection, signed by Jonathan Anderson, also feature fragments of glass, sewn together in a perfectly reflected composition with no trace of the past. But Anderson brought back the idea of “glass fashion” in a very different way, both in SS22, where anatomical-looking bodices were incorporated into tops and dresses with voluminous and airy sleeves, and in the following collection, FW22, where a T-shirt appeared to come from a Murano glass-blowing workshop. This transformed the British designer into a kind of sculptor who is, as always, very refined and able to concretize his innovative ideas superbly.
The proposals of Belgian designer Iris van Herpen, who, with similar outcomes to Anderson but with a much more pronounced tendency towards scientific experimentation, proposes structures that crystallize enormous splashes of water in a temporal suspension, in both the SS11 prêt-à-porter and subsequent couture collections, conclude this account of fashion’s interpretation of glass. A few years later, for the FW16 prêt-à-porter collection, his “glass fashion” is transformed into a geometric and architectural framework resembling contemporary transparent domes, demonstrating how the same idea may be degraded in an unlimited number of ways, even by the same creative mind.