Economics often inform and formulate trends. As we begin to experience recovery following a depression we can begin to reflect on its impact on design. By turning to fantasy and escapism and exploring false realities have been one of the ways designers have approached designing for a market in times of recession. The exploration of the Faux Real provides means of escapism.
Tom Binns' recession-busting jewellery line 'Faux Real' was the designers’ first collection of affordable costume jewellery providing an alternative to diamonds, rubies and emeralds. As precious metals and stones become even more of a commodity the consumer has sought alternatives. Binns' latest collection "Get Real" for Colette, Paris, is made from collaged photographs of jewellery pieces from magazines, which are then laminated in plastic.
"Now you can get your diamonds, emeralds, and ####," (Tom Binns)
Balenciaga’s deliberately inexpensive looking bracelets challenge perceptions of value. The expensive metal pieces are painted in bold colours and are subsequently made to look like their cheap, acrylic counterparts. The luxury pricetag however re-establishes the authenticity of the product.
These principles of counterfeit luxury puts into question the creditability of luxury brands. However a perhaps unexpected outcome is those high-end brands seemed to benefit in times of recession. We saw the consumer turn to quality and reject cheap fast-fashion.
In tough times there is a consumer desire for escapism, and many designers offer ‘the fanatasic’. Steven Meisel's shoot for Vogue Italia can be seen as a reaction to the prospect of cutting back in times of austerity. The model appears doll-like in an awkward position and heavily decorated from top to toe. Even wearing sparkly shoes, lots of jewellery and covered in temporary tattoos that appear drawn on, the model is overwhelmed by the eclectic mix of prints in the image’s background. The whole image screams for attention and offers an alternative reality to that of economic depression.
Temporary tattoos were also seen in the form of tattoo printed stockings on Chanel's Spring/Summer 2010 catwalks. The tattooed jewellery printed on hosiery is another form of decoration rejecting the need for cutbacks. Interestingly playing into the current massive tattoo trend reinforces the longevity of the brand. Chanel has traveled from a tradition of boucle wool suits and Audrey Hepburn to tattooed garters.
More literal uses of false realities include Skoda’s ad campaign for the Skoda Fabia in which the car and all of its components have been modelled completely out of cake. The ad sees the life-sized creation assembled by a team of bakers to the soundtrack of Julie Andrews singing ‘My Favourite Things’. The advertisement creates feelings of nostalgia and appeals to the child in everyone; it offers a lower-priced car brand the opportunity to appeal to a market hit by recession and plays into a hand-made aesthetic that is currently so appealing.
Matthias Hubner and Robert Klanten’s book ‘Tangible: High Touch Visuals’ also plays into this hand-made aesthetic. This giant McDonalds meal made from corrugated cardboard highlights the concept of mass consumption when placed in an exhibition context, the recycled, hand made aesthetic contrasts with the McDonalds branding that saturates the media.
This trend is about taking the opportunity to be innovative and about adaptation to current political and financial climates. Strong brands are always flexible to change and it will be interesting to see how design adapts to post-recession consumer.
Written by Ester Kneen