24 March 2017

Li Edelkoort at Design Indaba

It’s not often that you hear a speaker who is able to encapsulate the global cultural Zeitgeist in a single talk, but there is a reason Li Edelkoort is so respected. At this year’s Design Indaba, which for the first time took place outside of the CTICC at Artscape, the Dutch trend forecaster brought incredible insight and depth to aesthetics.

The focus of this year’s talk was transitions. Edelkoort transformed her Paris-based company Trend Union into Trans Union for the presentation, and used this as a jumping-off point to explore this theme in a wide variety of impactful ways, juxtaposing the roots of her concepts with their visual realisations in both fashion and home ware.

Edelkoort started the talk by reviewing an idea that closed her presentation the previous year: activism and feminism, which she explores with quotes from powerful women in history like Frida Kahlo and Georgia O’Keefe. True to her predictions, these concepts have become strong in the global consciousness, appearing on catwalks and on newsstands since the advent of nationalistic social movements such as Brexit and the election of President Trump. “We are living a bipolar moment where we can go from a jubilant personal experience to dismal public aggression, from an absolute high when encountering the outdoors to a depressing down living in the outskirts of gentrified cities, a transversal construction of time and space,” she says.

The concept of ‘trans’ is explored in a multitude of creative ways, drawing links between ideas and images in lush visual manifestations. Transition highlights clothing shapes that are transient, with voluminous sleeves; transcribing deals with the trend of using paper in fashion, focusing on pulping, layering and Isseye Miyake-inspired pleats; transdermal delves into our own skin, and restructuring the shape of the body using cosmetics and transnational, explores aesthetic links between Scandinavia and Africa, Asia and North America. Many of these ideas delve into socially sensitive areas: transverse speaks to a society that doesn’t want to grow up, and addresses infantilism and the naivety trend; with transgenic, Edelkoort proposes that the future will have no gender distinction at all; and transgression, where she looks at the idea of turning waste into fashion through recycling.

The second part of the talk dealt with home ware, and featured a fascinating compendium of material processes. Short videos explored the work of innovative craftsmen such as Phillip Weber, who uses a tool to blow glass that creates shapes through music, or Polish designer Oskar Zieta who uses FIDU technology to create unique shapes out of metals. These fascinating projects speak to the worlds of art, craftsmanship and environmental concerns.

Edelkoort also presented a piece on bio-athletics, featuring futuristic clothing with an aesthetic inspired by the insect world, and then presented the latest issue of Bloom, which focuses on Brazil and tackles the idea of faith as an antithesis to the frightening political state of our world, using each issue as an opportunity to showcase her unique perspective, driving home the whole idea of Design Indaba: to highlight design as part of a global ecologically and socially conscious force in the world.

Words by Jessica Gliddon

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