An Escape to Space: Examining Fashion's Interplanetary Inspirations
An Escape to Space: Examining Fashion's Interplanetary Inspirations
- Words Asaf Rotman
- Date December 4, 2018
After an array of stark white, a rainbow of color and a yellow brick road a tad bit too on the nose, the final look in Virgil Abloh’s debut Spring/Summer 2019 Menswear collection was a shocking—but in hindsight, natural—departure. In a fully reflective metallic poncho, Playboi Carti strode out proud making a bold statement about both Abloh’s new position and exactly what goes down at the end of the metaphorical rainbow. Apart from bringing the show to its logical conclusion, Abloh touched on a trend permeating throughout menswear: space. While for Abloh—whose meteoric success and global recognition has made him a household name—exiting the atmosphere is the only conceivable place to go, for the rest of the industry, the final frontier may be a guiding light as a source of inspiration.
Given the dark overtones nearly omnipresent in modern media, the idea of leaving our earthly realm is promising—something reflected on both street and runway. This season, everyone from Raf Simons to Jun Takahashi explored products, materials and color combinations more often associated with Apollo 13 than ready-to-wear. Some went even as far as working with NASA itself. The running theme through all these instances though, is a form of escapism. When reality is far too grim, we inevitably reach for the stars.
The most clear-cut example is Heron Preston’s collaboration with NASA. Debuted as part of his Fall/Winter 2018 menswear collection, the capsule includes sweats, tees, hoodies, a metallic trucker jacket, a combination backpack-meets-tote-meets-fanny pack resembling a jetpack and even a spacesuit-esque parka in NASA’s iconic white. Utilizing the agency’s “worm” logo used between 1975 and 1992, the clothes harken back to a much brighter time in history when the US was the world’s leading innovator and defender. Although the “Public Figure” collection was an exploration of the “explosion of influencer culture” and Preston has admittedly tried to work with the organization for the last several years, the timing is no coincidence. Considering NASA stopped sending astronauts into space in 2010 and their budget is now siphoned off into the private sector to firms like Elon Musk’s Space X, the company has strangely found new nostalgic relevancy through one of the most forward facing mediums there is: street fashion. While Preston naturally embraces the new age of internet immediacy, it could be said that NASA is trying to connect with the new generation to combat its diminishing public perception.
Preston is not the only one who partnered with the space agency to explore its golden age. With its recently released “Space Voyager” capsule, Vans is clearly tuned in to the sudden fascination with the final frontier. Another sign NASA is attempting to leverage its own rich pop cultural history, the collaboration features a slew of retro space age references, from the removal velcro American flags to Apollo 11 patches and even exposed foam—partially a response to Abloh’s “The Ten,” for sure, but vintage NASA nonetheless. Featuring four footwear silhouettes—a Sk8-Hi and Old Skool for adults and Slip-Ons and Sk8-Hi MTE for kids—long sleeves, and a pull-cord backpack, the capsule utilizes classic colorways (“true white,” “firecracker orange”) to evoke a sense of nostalgia running rampant through the industry.
Beyond the obvious NASA collaborations, several brands have presented more subtle–yet no less relevant—nods to space. Take Raf Simon’s Fall/Winter 2018 Calvin Klein 205W39NYC collection, where both men and women wore space blankets reconfigured in various ways from aprons to dresses and parkas to trousers. Featuring overt references to film and television—including Jaws, The Graduate, Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner—the collection was quite literally inspired by our most direct form of escape: media. The blankets then were a symbol of comfort, a retro space-age technology referencing a vintage idea of a brighter future. The theme continues in Simons’ eponymous line where—during his [Fall/Winter 2018] menswear collection—the designer reintroduced his Bunny boot. A brand signature for years, the silhouette is based on Army-issue rubber waders that, coincidentally, closely resemble astronaut shoes. Never someone to shy away from making a political statement, both of the Simons-designed collections respond to dark times with collections rooted in forms of escape—the eponymous collection was filled with drug references, a more dangerous form of escape—steeped in pseudo-space tech.
Consistently ahead of the curve, Nike too managed to meet the moment, notably with one of the most coveted space age sneakers in its production history: the NikeCraft Mars Yard. Originally released in 2012 to accompany Sachs’ Mars Yard exhibit at the Park Avenue Armory, the sneaker is the result of a close relationship with NASA and materials specifically tested to endure the harsh environments of Mars. After five years, however, Sachs noticed the Vectran upper began to give away. In 2017 Sachs decided to replace the material with an improved polyester warp-knit tricot mesh, as well as a number of other improvements to make the shoe more suitable for “urban environments.” Exploration tech aside, the new Mars Yard 2.0 landed on the cusp of the space boom, an indicator of what was to come. The concept was expanded upon even further with the release of the Mars Yard Overshoe earlier this year. Considering Sachs’ own long-standing love of NASA and DIY-meets-future aesthetic, the shoes are a clear reflection of his ethos on working to advance human potential—apt considering our world’s predicaments.
Leave it Jun Takahashi though, to tackle our current existential crisis and nail the space trend simultaneously. For his Fall/Winter 2018 Undercover menswear collection, Takahashi presented an homage to one of his favorite films, cult classic 2001: A Space Odyssey. Coinciding with the film’s 50th anniversary this year, the collection was presented alongside TakahiroMiyshita’s The Soloist collection as dual guest designers at Pitti Uomo. While Takahashi’s clothes started subtle (graphics and text on sweaters) they quickly became aggressively Kubrickian with HAL 9000 shoulder bags, screen printed Discovery One cutscenes on trench coats and a light-up, functional, puffer-cum-space jacket. While the themes present in Kubrick’s magnum-opus are universal—fear of artificial intelligence, the meaning of life, finding our place in the universe—Takahashi’s clothing manages to flip the premise on its head, presenting a collection that’s inherently positive, where the prospect of space is almost soothing. Given our geopolitical woes, 50 years later the same images seem to offer a glimmer of hope.
When the Commander-in-Chief announced a fourth branch of the military entiteld “Space Force”, there was a collective bafflement. Yet, as Elon Musk continues to argue he will be able to terraform Mars (despite NASA’s best efforts to tell him otherwise) the idea of space as a part of daily life is more culturally prevalent than ever. As we are battered by a failing environment and poor international relations, life outside earth is more and more tantalizing. It’s only natural we start dressing the part.