In a recent column I wrote how I believed that the world is in desperate need of a groundbreaking movement that would hopefully shake it out of the recessionary doldrums. From a design perspective, I likened this reluctance to embrace newness to post-WWII England before the Mod era ushered in a kaleidoscope of colors, wild fashions and personal freedoms—the result of a pent-up demand finally unleashed following decades of austerity and bleakness.
At the time, I was hopeful but didn’t actually believe something was on the immediate horizon. Sure, the economy had shown glimmers of improvement—legitimate green shoots—but as far as any cataclysmic event in the coming weeks? Nah. My reserved outlook was backed by many of the recent Fall ’11 collections I had reviewed: Designers, by and large, played it safe again, opting for subdued hues and classic themes rather than going bold. Who could argue when consumers continue to play it equally close to the vest in terms of spending (still not a lot and certainly on fewer pairs), preference for conservative styling (befitting an austere psyche), and demands for versatility (day-to-night styling as well as working with a variety of outfits). I may be a bit jaded, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t afflicted with a case of been there, seen that syndrome.
Then revolutions started happening—first Tunisia and then Egypt. While political upheavals in tiny countries are not necessarily front-page news, when citizens of the world’s most populous Arab nation took to the streets to demand political and personal freedom and actually prevailed, I started to believe that something big might be afoot. If Algeria, Libya, Bahrain and Yemen join the fold, and movements in Iran and Saudi Arabia take root, then the world could be changing on the scales of post-Nazi Germany and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Thanks to tiny Tunisia and an army of plugged-in youth capable of capitalizing on the power of social media, a new generation of millions could be open for business. Not to mention, the movement possibly sparking a much-needed dose of worldwide optimism for a brighter future for Middle Easterners as well as those still repressed elsewhere. At the very least, it felt good to feel good about the world again. And if the movement spreads, it most certainly would be a catalyst for creative rejuvenation among designers—that level of optimism is simply too inspiring to ignore.
So once again, I find myself musing about a cultural revolution. Only this time, I’m not nostalgic for the Mod era. It’s right before us: a massive, young generation hungry to learn, contribute and prosper. Or, think of it this way: the footsteps of a revolution that must be shod. —Greg Dutter