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I Don't Like that Color: A Talk by Steven Faerm

November 7, 2016
Tolu Sogade

Imagine a pair of olive green loafers–made of velvet, dotted with black stitching, styled with trendy 3-inch heels. Now imagine these lovely green loafers paired with an amber yellow sleeveless jumpsuit. The colors horrendously clash and the outfit appears to be a mess. You now lose your appreciation for the vibrancy of the amber yellow because it has become so discordant with the mellow and earthy tones of the olive green loafers. Within a state of juxtaposition, clothing items can mutually diminish each other in value because their qualities are in conflict. In order to really appreciate the two items, you must place them in the perspective of a certain outfit rather than side by side when they will clash.

On October 24th, Steven Faerm came to Brown for a presentation entitled, “Construction for Deconstruction” in which he analyzed the fashion design process. He explored this idea of placing clothing into perspective and contextualizing fashion. Faerm placed the analysis of the fashion design process in the framework of the design fundamentals and theories.

Faerm argues that when you look at fashion, the first thing you realize is the color, and then the silhouette, and then the details. In this dimension of thinking, he explained how it is important to critically analyze fashion beyond the point of saying “I don’t like this color.” Faerm shared photos of a multitude of colors schemes in which there was an arrangement of a combination of colors. The color scheme portrayed how the placement and environment of colors can very well change the perspective of that of that color. Certain colors that are usually associated with warmth or brightness can be placed within a context that makes those same colors darker and colder–it’s simply a matter of contextualization. In tandem with the vibrancy of the color, Faerm explained color relationships in the sense that color can be a very evocative tool in fashion design. It can play into the senses based on the tone of the color within the environment of a particular color scheme.

In the photo, notice the repetition of shapes even within the context of different outfits.   Also how orange, a color usually associated with brightness, can be used to within a darker color palette.

In the photo, notice the repetition of shapes even within the context of different outfits. Also how orange, a color usually associated with brightness, can be used to within a darker color palette.

In addition to color, Faerm discussed shape. Faerm evaluated how a viewer’s eye might move across clothing in terms of shape. He first differentiates between structure and form through the lens of an architect in comparison to a decorator. Architects create a new form while decorators elaborate on an existing form. In the fashion industry, many designers will play the role of an architect or a decorator such that they will use the same shapes in different contexts within a clothing collection or create completely new shapes. Faerm used images from a runway show to portray how at times designers will adapt the same structure in multiple different forms. In some cases, it can be attributed to a reoccurrence of shapes and or in other cases, it is the motif manipulation.

Faerm explores the idea of motif manipulation through a series of pictures of seaweed. The artist continually changed the imagery of the seaweed from a concrete, recognizable form to an abstract and interpretative form. In this sense, motif manipulation is the process of reducing things to their most basic level or obscuring a definite form. Fashion designers will work with the idea of motif manipulation to add dimension to their work but also to provide a sense of cohesiveness in a collection. Motif manipulation allows for a variety in the form that is concretized in the same structure. A fashion designer may choose the working structure of a triangle; however, the forms and ways in which that triangle manifests itself in different clothing may change as the artist manipulates the structure into a multitude of different forms, ranging from abstract to concrete. Faerm argues that at first glance, a viewer may only notice the colors but not see the diversity of forms within a clothing collection. However, upon closer analysis, a viewer can appreciate the frequency in which the designer uses the same structure in different contexts throughout the collection.

Motif Manipulation will take a similar concept and display it differently in a series of clothing pieces.

Motif Manipulation will take a similar concept and display it differently in a series of clothing pieces.

Another important element of the design process is contrast. Thinking back to the opening image of the olive green loafers with the amber yellow jumpsuit, while the colors may no go together, placed in contrast, a viewer can really appreciate the brightness provided by the jumpsuit or the mellowness provided by the loafers. Faerm analyzed how important contrasting elements of a design provide emphasis. He showed images of interior design plans where asymmetry, for example, would emphasis elements of the design and force a viewer’s to see the space from a specific perspective. Faerm described how changing negative space and scale can result in such different results. He exemplified his point through a story about a Japanese candy that he tried while travelling. Faerm explained how the candy was coated in salt and then sweet on the inside, such that the sweetness of the candy was so intense by the time he got past the salty coating.

Faerm advised his students to experiment with contrasting elements for effect. For example, if the student sketched a design in denim, he would advise them to change the material to chiffon and see the effect that it has. Additionally, Faerm provided examples of fashion pieces on the runway in which shapes, colors, or forms contrast each other. Placing elements of a design into context within a larger theme is important so that you can appreciate the design within a certain environment.

Steven Faerm calls fashion designers and people critically analyzing fashion to look critically at the ways in which one views and constructs fashion. He calls for fashion to be placed within an outfit, structure, collection, environment, or particular context. Placed within a specific context or way of seeing, a designer or a viewer can rethink the fashion pieces. The viewer, whether it be a fashion designer or a general viewer, can appreciate the nuances of the style or redefine what colors are considered dull and bright or what structural designs fit with a certain material. Based on Faerm’s observations, I feel pushed to redefined the way in which I view fashion. While analyzing fashion, I will now be able to take a more nuanced approach such that I can appreciate small minute details within the piece. It allows for fashion designers or other people like myself who critically view fashion, to look at fashion in a way that contextualizes it–analysis can go beyond color into a realm of shapes, sizes, forms, structures, and motifs, within a multitude of different environments and frameworks.