“Consumers are so much more aware of our symbolic relationship with nature,” Michael Fisher, the vice president and creative director of menswear at Fashion Snoops, told FashionUnited when asked about fashion’s evolution alongside the environment. The intertwining of these two elements is something that has become increasingly prominent on runways, as luxury brands and designers up their efforts to cater to the rising demand for conscious products.
While the climate emergency continues to heighten, it seems that this mindful way of creation will only become more distinguished, and is therefore naturally expected to be a defining trend to spot in the upcoming SS24 season. As a further exploration of this evolving sphere, FashionUnited has taken a deep dive into a new wave of reconnecting with nature that has taken over and what this could mean for menswear ahead of Fashion Month.
One way in which nature was incorporated last season and will continue to be integrated into the next is using it as actual inspiration for collections. Applying technology-infused materials will be behind this, reckoned Walter Rodrigues, the research and design coordinator of Brazil’s Inspiramais fair, who curated the ‘Terra’ material trend at the event. The theme was defined by materials injected with padding to create new inflatable shapes, forming silhouettes that bore resemblance to natural forms. It could also be seen last season through the union of plant and material, either bringing florals and greenery into prints or using them simply as an inspirational base to inform tie-dye and abstract patterns.
The pandemic is another obvious cause of our desire to return to nature, and is therefore not a new part of the conversation when it comes to fashion trends. However, as this aspect continues to develop, trend forecasters are expecting brands to take this one step further, as functionality and adaptability become a staple part of our daily wardrobes. In its own trend report, Deutsches Mode-Institut said that the increasing pressure of needing to tackle environmental challenges is behind this growing tendency to reflect such issues in the clothes we wear. While trend researcher Carl Tillessen from the institute linked this to a sense of unpolished, carefree dressing, others believe it will be in the hybridisation of outerwear and fashion.
“During the pandemic, connecting with nature was literally our only outlet – the only way to escape the day-to-day chaos that kept us away from civilisation. We learned to utilise and tap into the magic that mother nature so easily brings us,” Fashion Snoops’ Fisher said. “‘The Great Migration’ enabled us to move to corners of the earth where we could only dream of living before, but remote work now allowed us to make it work. While the time period since 2020 has probably been the most trying of our lives, it also woke us up to the many treasures right outside our door.”
Being nature ready is something that, while always being linked to sportswear and outerwear brands, has become more intertwined with haute couture and designer labels that have been incorporating functionality into their own design values in light of this shift towards a need for adaptable clothing.
Concern for the environment also naturally translates into a more considerate approach to how we consume and produce fashion, something that will continue to be evident in how designers approach their collections. The colour palette that has been bound to this, as outlined by trend forecaster David Shah during a presentation at MarediModa, is composed of calm organic tones of earth, clay, browns and sand, forming a range of muted neutrals, many of which can be produced in a sustainable or natural manner. Shah added that materials here will largely be pure and plain ones, often found with grainy textures or utilising biotechnology products.
This point was further emphasised by Fashion Snoops’ Fisher, who added that there could be more opportunities to spot plant-based leathers and lab-grown materials. Fisher added that the availability of these elements has been heightened by the importance of sustainability to Millennials and Gen Z consumers, who are also pushing accountability among brands when it comes to integrating eco-friendly procedures. “We are only just starting to see the possibilities,” Fisher continued. “No longer does sustainability mean sacrificing good taste or luxury.”
Nature and spirituality
If there was one thing most fashion forecasters did collectively agree on, it was the refreshed sense of spirituality that reigned over the AW23 catwalks and is set to continue evolving as seasons transpire. Stepping away from the anarchy and rebellion that was once so prominent on the runways, fashion’s renewed connection with nature has seen it talk on a calmer turn, falling in line with consumers taking a slower approach to dressing. At Fashion Snoops, such a shift could be seen in its ‘Soul-Centred’ theme, which Fisher described as “an evolution of our individual and collective wellbeing”.
He added: “We are entering this mass awakening, one rooted in the maturity of humanity and the discovery of the soul. Our lack of stability and trust has led us to question society’s constructs and to transform our inner worlds through a curated path of spirituality. In eliminating distractions and sinking deep into contemplation, we begin to understand the interconnectedness of everything. As we loosen the structures around us, we seek to live a life rooted in truth and purpose and hold new standards to ourselves and others.”
This has been seen both in fashion business – note Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard’s decision to give away the company in a bid to tackle climate change – and fashion design itself – reflected in the use of raw materials, practical workwear and rustic fabric blends, features that forecasting firm Denim Dudes believe will also be evident in SS24 collections. Meanwhile, Hilde Franq also referenced spirituality in her own forecast, albeit viewing it as an evolution, from initially focusing on the moon to now centering around the sun. In her own perspective, Franq believes that SS24 will see warm, optimistic colours come into play, while fine textures of silk or intricate beading will be a pivotal part in the season’s fashion identity.