After many seasons of varied trends in recent years, utilitarian style remains ubiquitous from runways to department stores and has cemented the aesthetics of brands such as Alyx, A-Cold-Wall, and Off-White among others. Garments such as belts, jackets, sweaters, and side bags highlight the inherent functionality of clothing while innovating traditional silhouettes with refined structures and design motifs. The interest in utilitarian garments can be characterized by the sum of the functions that they can serve. The general inspiration of this style of clothing derives from military pieces that are both functional and wearable, consisting of lightweight synthetic textiles, straps, buckles and metal accents. However, amidst the increasing dialogue around sustainability, the future of utilitarianism does not lie solely in aesthetics but also in the production techniques that are environmentally conscious in nature.
Fashion brands Studio ALCH premiered their latest collections during London Fashion Week this month, basing their runway offerings on utilitarian fashion that looks to reduce its environmental impact. The lengthy process that these designers have undergone in order to find suppliers that will rework existing materials follows the philosophical application of utilitarianism defined by John Stuart Mill, who suggests that utilitarianism is the pursuit of an action that results in the most favorable outcome for everyone, not just one individual.
Fashion is the second-largest producer of global waste and the utilitarian approach to design resolves long term environmental issues whilst providing tactical garments that stand the test of time. Ermenegildo Zegna showcased his Autumn Winter 2020 runway in Milan and set new precedents for designers to create in eco-friendly ways. In addition to featuring utilitarian styled coats and cross-body bags, Zegna sourced 50 percent of salvaged material compared to the wastage rate of 50 percent for his past collections.
The ambition to shape the fashion industry in an environmentally conscious way is what coalesces utilitarian styling with utilitarian ethics. Designers show interest in utility due to sustainable textiles having the ability to exist beyond their initial ownership, thus reducing the environmental friction that is caused by fast fashion and consumerism. It is without a shadow of a doubt that utilitarianism is a style of the times and closely follows today’s environmentally conscious evolution. As brands and designers begin to emphasize sustainability, fashion aficionados can expect to see more purposefully crafted garments that are made to last. By way of upcycling and repurposing materials for several life cycles, the fashion industry is becoming utilitarian in aesthetic and principle.