Science Fiction Rules the Runway
By: Terra Clarke Olsen
[This article originally appeared in the September issue of Pastoral Magazine.]
It’s a good year to be a geek: there are more geeky movies than ever before, with new titles constantly being announced, and comic conventions and their influence continue to grow. Pop culture has fully embraced it’s geek side, and I love it. But the most surprising element in the rise of the nerd has to be it’s influence in the fashion world. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to see such homage to geekdom on the catwalk, yet this year’s fall/winter collections have done just that—both blatantly and subtlety.
Earlier this year, Star Wars made it’s debut in a bold way in two designers collections. Starting with Rodarte’s collection by Kate and Laura Mulleavy (both self-proclaimed science fiction nerds), images from Star Wars were the subject matter of multiple dresses. The stars of the show were the collection’s Death Star dress and Tatooine’s Moons dress; each beautifully crafted, the dresses showcased scenic Star Wars images without going overboard. And although many pieces from the collection evoked the spirit of 1970’s (Star Wars was released in ‘77) and elements of fantasy and science fiction without using images directly from the film (in particular, their solid color dresses, evoking shades of a earthy desert and delicate sunset, embodied the desert planet Tatooine), Rodarte’s collection faltered with the use of Star Wars characters. Rather than keeping to the whimsy elements, the use of characters created a disconnect—too much emphasis on the characters and not enough on the fashion. Regardless, it was exciting to see such overt nerdom appear on the runway.
Following Rodarte, Star Wars made another appearance on the runway in the Preen by Thornton Bregazzi’s ready-to-wear fall/winter 2014-15 collection. Bregazzi’s collection embodied the feel of the time, with bold prints and cuts reminiscent of the 70s. Flowy and feminine pieces were offset with brazen images of Darth Vader’s iconic helmet. The entire collection brings a feel of nostalgia in an exciting and desirable way. The overt use of the iconic image from the best known science fiction film of all time was the hot topic among nerds everywhere, especially after the pieces were worn by celebrities Kirsten Dunst and Julia Roberts. However, the Mulleavy sisters and Bregazzi were not the only designers to find inspiration in science fiction.
Though not as flashy as the Rodarte and Preen collections, other designers invoked their inner science fiction geek on the runway as well. Versace’s couture fall/winter 2014-15 collection featured a cosmos color palette, with striking lines and bold cuts that alluded to deep space. Versace’s use of buckles and metallic trim completed the vivid and elegant collection, which any science fiction nerd could easily imagine adorning characters traveling through deep space. In addition, Jean Paul Gaultier’s fall/winter 2014-15 collection also provoked the mystery of the cosmos and the greater unknown. The collection is dark, but when color is used, it’s meant to make a statement. One dress glittering with gold at the shoulders, cascaded into a trail of colors until it burst down into a pitfall of black, simulating an exploding star in deep space. Another dress, complete with headgear, uses sparse metallic lines and honeycomb patterns with statements of red to create a ball gown fit for a royal space ambassador or a Bene Gesserit straight from the pages of Dune. In fact, Jean Paul Gaultier’s entire collection could easily be implanted in a number of science fiction hits, like The Fifth Element, and seem perfectly at home.
But it’s not just top designers taking cues from science fiction. Big name brands are taking note that geekdom is hot right now, incorporating items into their collections to satisfy the geeks — Neiman Marcus offers Star Wars cufflinks, Vans launched a Star Wars line, and you can even find Star Wars iPhone cases at J.Crew. Of course, geeks have always known where to find sci-fi inspired fashion, such as nerd-centric stores like Her Universe and Black Milk Clothing, but it’s nice to see the fashion world at large embracing a genre that has often been belittled and denied. With Neil deGrasse Tyson’s hit show Cosmos and the announcement of new Star Wars films in the works, geeks and non-geeks alike are looking toward the sky to ignite their imaginations and inspire their wardrobes. It’s hard to know where this fashion trend is headed, but one thing’s for sure, the future of geek fashion is bright and, like the speed of light, it shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon.