Space Age : The Future, Now. – November 2015

 

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“Futuro” vacation houses, Matti Suuronen, c.1968.

By far one of the biggest influences on design in the the 1960s was space travel and the idea of designing for the future which can be traced back to the launch of Sputnik in 1957. After the devastation of WW2, there was a great sense of optimism for the future, particularly in Europe, and designers enthusiastically set about the task of redesigning homes and our lifestyles dispensing with any aesthetic influence from the past. The “Space Age” principle did not only apply to architecture and housewares but extended also to the development and widespread use of new materials and fabrics suitable for modern living. Fabrics made from synthetic polymers which could be easily worked over amorphous shapes allowed furniture to take on fluid forms and in fashion it meant fewer seams were required for garment construction and additionally allowed for easier care.

Interestingly enough it would be a young French civil engineer by the name of André Courrèges who would transport his passion for modern architecture and new materials over to the world of fashion. In doing so he created what is arguably one of the most distinctive fashion silhouettes of the twentieth century and one so easily understandable that its simplistic form still resonates in fashion design today.

J'aime cette photo prise en1965, rien ne vient distraire l'attention des vêtements dont le graphisme, l'impact visuel sont si forts, qu'ils semblent dessinés spécialement pour une photo.

André Courrèges “Space Age” collection, 1964.

It is said that Courrèges “built” dresses rather than designing them which is apparent by the structured appearance of his garments. His rejection of patterned fabrics and extensive use of white as a base colour suggested a clean surface on which to apply fresh ideas. Many of his early designs featured a linear arrangement of pattern pieces which erased the boundary between the waistline and bust. Hence this removed all typical masculine and figure-type ideals which had influenced women’s fashion up until this point. In doing this he either wittingly or unwittingly assisted in progressing gender equality, insofar that women could be fashionable without being fetishised by fashion or dressed to suit a patriarchal society.

Courrèges hugely influenced his contemporaries and in particular fashion designers Paco Rabanne and Pierre Cardin would also experiment with futuristic forms, bold block colours and unconventional materials such as plastics, metals and even glass. The peak of the Space Age design era was during the hyperbole surrounding the moon landing of 1969 (Courrèges launched a Hyperbole range in 1971). Again, this seismic event in human history sparked a reaction from the fashion world but this time with a much stronger juxtaposition between old and new, with Courrèges even hinting at a more heavenly existence on planet earth.

But in spite of the optimism of the 1960s by the close of the decade the realities of a modern world surfaced again with war, political unrest, youth disaffection and a renaissance in reconnecting with nature instigated by the hippie movement. However, the sustained attraction of a belief in a “future now” continued to present itself in certain fields of design, most commonly in industrial design. And today if we were to look at many popular technology products a little more closely there is a distinct essence of a “future past”.

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Braun T3 pocket radio, 1958 (left) and Apple iPod (right).

ANGIE SMITH

Angie (small)


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