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Climate Focused Revision Turns Post Apocalypse into Avant Apocalypse Fashion!

According to Vogue Business "From sub-zero temperatures to forest fires and droughts, performance wear brands are designing for the climate of tomorrow."

A climate apocalypse could theoretically arrive through a set of interrelated concurrent factors such as famine (crop loss, drought), extreme weather (hurricanes, floods), war (caused by the scarce resources) and conflict, systemic risk (relating to migration, famine, or conflict), and disease. So...How should one dress for a climate crisis?

Floods, droughts, storms and heatwaves are increasing thanks to climate change. Brands operating in unpredictable climates can offer some lessons in how to design for extreme weather, with sustainability front of mind. Extreme weather events are becoming commonplace, more intense, and happening in places they usually wouldn’t affect — from 103° Ocean temperatures in then Gulf of Mexico, unprecedented flooding in Dubai and coastal Australia, Snowstorms in Texas. to the deadly heatwaves in Europe, The Middle East, Southeast Asia each year.

According to the most recent State of the Global Climate report from the UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO), 2015 to 2023 were the warmest years on record. This presents two — often opposing — challenges for performance wear brands. They need to design for the unpredictable, more extreme climate events of tomorrow, without increasing their own environmental impact by relying on synthetic materials and harsh chemicals. There is also an existential question: what is the purpose of this clothing? Designing for extreme weather means prioritizing function over form, but consumer behavior suggests that both are necessary.

Trends like the “gorpcore” trend are driving sales of performance clothing (named after the hiker trail mix “good ol' raisins and peanuts”, referring to outdoor clothing worn purely for the aesthetic). This is even the case in more stable or mild climates, with brands focusing on finding sustainable fabrics and finishes, unlocking durability and circularity, and creating multi-functional garments that can be worn every day, but also adapt to extreme weather should it arise.

As heavy rain and flooding becomes more common, finding high-performing sustainable alternatives to traditional waterproofing is a priority. Many brands are phasing out the per -fluorinated chemicals (PFAS) used for stain-proof and water-resistant finishes. Also known as “forever chemicals”, PFAS are prominent in performance garments, but have raised criticism for their damage to the environment and suspected harm to human health. Scientists increasingly condemn their use across food packaging, furniture, fashion and beauty.

“PFAS have made waterproof and windproof outdoor gear possible for decades but when these substances escape into the environment, they don’t break down. We are committed to finding a solution that is both sustainable and will perform to our standards,” says Canada Goose’s chief product officer, Woody Blackford. That solution doesn’t exist at scale yet, but the brand is phasing out PFAS in its signature Arctic Tech fabric. Canada Goose is one of over 700 companies now using the Bluesign sustainability certification system to find less harmful materials, treatments and suppliers — it aims to use 90 per cent Bluesign approved fabrics by 2025. “Our success can be attributed to our commitment to making real products that work. Consumers are now demanding that brands do this sustainably,” says Blackford.

One potential solution for waterproofing is durable water repellency, a chemical treatment that minimizes condensation and maximizes breathability, says 66°North apparel designer Gudbjorg Jakobsdottir, but this requires the customer to re-apply it regularly, a significant ask for customers used to low-maintenance clothing care. The B Corp-certified outerwear brand is based in Reykjavík and was originally created to help Icelandic fishermen survive freezing temperatures and heavy rainfall. It works closely with producers such as Gore-Tex and Polartec to test new materials, and also uses Bluesign certification, but CEO Helgi Oskarsson says its choices are limited without developing its own materials, which it does not have the time, resources or tech expertise to do.

Best Climate Apocalypse Couture! (Or WHO would STORM wear to the Grammy's?)

  1. Artist Catherine Young's Thermoreflector, is a silver dress meant to be worn by urban residents as they walk hot streets, reflecting heat from the atmosphere–but also from the many air conditioning units dotting apartment buildings. “It was drawn from a research project in the lab, about trying to make cities more livable by trying to cool them more efficiently.

  2. Layering is also a key technique in post-apocalyptic fashion. Multiple layers of clothing not only provide warmth and protection but also add depth and visual interest to an outfit. Oversized sweaters, long coats, and scarves can all be layered together to create a visually dynamic and textured look. Check out these Brands for that feel Urban Nomad Apparel, Jaden Smith's MSFTS Is A Collective Of Individuals Dedicated To Evolving The Consciousness Of Humanity Through Fashion, Science And Art.

Layered Avant Apocalypse Style

  1. Afro Futuristic cultural fashion which extends the scholarly conversation on Afro-futurist ethno- information through an examination of futuristic imaginaries in representative twenty-first century works of post apocalyptic fashion and expressive culture by Black women for the African diasporic enthusiast. Is greatly represented in these Designers! Senegalese designer, Selly Raby Kane is known for her science-fiction inspired streetwear designed for the women of today and tomorrow.

  2. Ruth E. Carter’s designs brought Afrofuturism to the big screen showcasing the style of those that are forward-thinking and technologically advanced without conforming to the sterile, monochromatic cliché most imagine for the future. In the spirit of Afrofuturism, Carter’s fashion honors Black history in a way that depicts an affirmative future. Alongside Black Panther, events like Afropunk, a Brooklyn-based festival that features live music, film, fashion, and art produced by black influencers, and artists such as Janelle Monae have played a major role in bringing Afrofuturism into the mainstream.

  3. Avant Apocalypse coined by Mandy Lee, a trend forecaster, in 2021 on the TikTok social media platform where the aesthetic was popularized. Designers such as Nensi Dojaka, DIDU, and Mugler, can also be credited with shining a spotlight on the aesthetic, although they operate on varied social media.

Ed Note: Bluesign announced in 2023 a sustainable chemistry index with Sustainable Chemistry for the Textile Industry to aid brands/manufacturers navigate challenges, available since 2023.

Ruth E Carter Faces The Storm!


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