The major international fashion capitals have maintained their reputation since inception- Paris, Milan, London and NY still govern the scene, influencing the major trends and steering the direction for many upcoming designers. But this trend is weakening as technology, travel trends and authentic lifestyle goals weigh-in as major game changers. This cultural shift is spawning a new type of designer, one who is attuned to the future and instinctively gravitates towards unexpected creative hubs. These new hubs value creative freedom and genuine inspiration, and they distance themselves from the competitive tension, lack of ethics and common emulation of existing powerful brands.
Los Angeles is an example, rising in the last decade to sit beside NY, owning a unique laid-back style that is the direct product of its ambient influence. In this new fashion panorama, traditional seasons matter less, and lifestyle matters more. It’s no surprise then that the Bali fashion scene has risen 24 places in global fashion books in only the last year. According to Global Language Monitor, a US based company that tracks trends worldwide, Bali now sits at #16 in the list of leading fashion capitals, only two spots behind Los Angeles.
So what can be attributed to this rapid change, and who needs to take note? For most of us, we will experience the end result of more client-oriented fashion labels, with shorter lead times and a notable investment in garment quality. But for clothing designers, this marks a completely new approach to how to create and manage a fashion collection. Using Bali as a prime example, we can examine the key elements of this emerging fashion industry and what is propelling the Bali fashion scene. If you’re an existing designer already experiencing this shift or interested in knowing how to design a fashion collection, here we demystify the trends shaping this new future.
Trend #1: Integrity throughout Fashion Collection Development
Clothing is a living, breathing thing. Handmade products radiate a subtle magnetism that is hard to define but highly attractive. Creatives searching for integrity of production and skilled artisans have been coming to Bali for decades, far before the trend towards “slow fashion”, an approach which considers material and social impacts of design. Bali has a rich artisan history due to the intricate, time-intensive details of Balinese traditional clothing and craftwork. Balinese clothing manufacturers tend to be small, family-owned cooperatives that set their own labour and cost standards, ensuring fair-trade practices while maintaining quality craftsmanship.
Trend #2: Bali’s Natural Environment Inspires Clothing Design
The same way NYC inspired urban designers like Calvin Klein and Donna Karan, Bali’s diverse natural landscape has inspired another set of fashion leaders. These Bali-based designers share a love for the elements of nature, and they utilize all five senses to interpret and translate its beauty. Environmental factors like the opulence of the jungle, fresh air, the ocean and outdoor living means these designers live closer to the earth. Terms like “eco” and “green” are not buzzwords for local fashion designers, its a real-life daily experience. To add to this, the traditional culture of Bali cultivates this eco-beauty beyond the natural gifts of the land.
Living here becomes a feast for the eyes, enhanced through an endless colorful stream of textures and smells, experienced though offerings to the gods in the form of incense and flowers. These ceremonial gifts adorn every public and private space imaginable. This romantic way of living is reflected in Bali’s clothing collections. Designers utilize earthy colors with tropical highlights, featuring minimalist bohemian dresses that allow freedom of movement and featherweight kaftans that romantically appear to float in the heat.
Trend #3: Fashion Collections Based around Seasonless Clothing
The traditional 4-season cycle of fashion is long gone. To maximize sales, fashion marketing departments boosted us up to 8 seasons or more, with a series of vague capsule names like resort, cruise, first summer, high summer and pre-fall collections. Designers have struggled to keep up, overworked and pushed to prioritize quantity over design quality. How does this align with parallel market trends that move fashion towards a sustainable future?
Fashion futurists have noted this discrepancy and responded by moving towards seasonless collections, a concept that relies on two premises. The first is that clothing quality is high, and styles have a timeless element, decreasing the need to discard once the season is “over”. The second factor is that the world is getting smaller, we travel more and want every seasonal option available year round. Bali thrives in a summery mono-climate, and local designers have synchronized with this resort-style weather, offering year-round clothing collections for the tropics.
Trend #4: A Melting pot of Bali-based International Designers
Bali has attracted creatives from all over the world, and in particular the kind of creative that values quality of life, and who isn’t afraid to forge their own path. It’s easy to imitate, and less common to innovate. Entrepreneurial spirit reigns in Bali, and European, Australian, Russian and US designers co-mingle, inspiring each other and bringing trend influence from their home countries. This unusual mix of broad cultures on a small island produces a diverse range of complimentary aesthetics, and as a result Bali fashion styles are hard to pigeonhole but easy to spot.
Bali has attracted not only designers, it’s sourced from the entire industry, bringing photographers, stylists, models and creating new fashion icons that utilize social media to broadcast the values of this new breed. These brand ambassadors are replacing traditional print glossy magazines as authorities, resolving style issues for island newcomers and giving practical advice regarding what to wear in Bali’s particular ecosystem.
Trend #5: Fashion Collections are Quick to Respond to Micro-Trends
We know tech has accelerated every industry, and the traditional fashion industry is now having trouble keeping up with itself. Major fashion houses are reluctant to let go of runway launches and printed collections, even though digital fashion is paving new standards. The new garde is fostering a more efficient fashion business, where superfluous costs are cut out and digital media is the key tool to streamline public access, manage orders and respond to feedback. Tech has let fashion designers become more agile, with less overhead and freedom to respond to trends in realtime.
This contrasts strongly with cumbersome, bureaucratic networks found in the controlling fashion empires. Entire fashion campaigns have now been launched on social media, using Instagram to preview collections and Twitter to keep news fresh. Tech norms move fast, and the websites of big players- even the all-powerful LVMH- can feel cluttered and dated when examining the level of user-friendliness. Compared with websites of Bali based designers that showcase collections online, the navigation of young-designers websites feels clean and comprehensive. The shopping experience becomes seamless, reflecting the ease of the collections themselves.
The international fashion scene continues to shift. It’s a promising time for entrepreneurs, independent designers and creatives who have a clear vision. Fashion and lifestyle continue to merge, not only in clever marketing but in the authentic experience. It will be exciting to watch Bali continue to foster and grow this spirit, as Bali clothing brands continue to nurture each other, building a fashion network that adds to the richness of this evolving storyline.
By Kerry Clarkson
Kerry is British-Peruvian writer who spent the last decade as a fashion industry creative, living between Europe, the US and South America. She investigates how imagination can be used to innovate new paradigms in art, design, social advances and leading creative thought. To better understand the creative forces molding our future, she experiments with a semi-nomadic lifestyle along with her 7 year-old daughter, exploring the indigenous design culture of rural areas and the art of living.
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