By organising three events and producing two publications each year, Kontext offers a platform that presents seasonal trends, socio-cultural developments, state-of-the-art technologies and findings from applied research. Kontext is managed by an interdisciplinary team of specialists in the fields of design, industry, media and research, who bring together impulses and expertise from a broad variety of disciplines. This results in snapshots from a wide range of perspectives that generate well-founded thematic suggestions and mark the way for the evolution of future aesthetics.
Our aim is to draw attention to trend knowledge, promote promising future developments in the areas of design and industry, and encourage exchanges between designers and industry representatives. Kontext also wants to identify relevant topics that provide impulses for innovation.
Swiss Textiles wants to lead a new way of trend forecasting and offering a plattform to share trend knowledge and making it available to designers. "It is essential for our members to have their finger on the pulse of the times in order to be able to change again and again," says Mirjam Matti Gähwiler, who initiated the Trend Think Tank Kontext with Evelyne Roth.
Our uniqueness lies in the practical knowledge and the expertise. We bring relevant personalities from various fields together, who share their knowledge with a broad audience. Kontext is open to all interested professinals. This creates a unique network.
Kontext is managed by an interdisciplinary team of specialists in the fields of design, industry, media and research, who bring together impulses and expertise from a broad variety of disciplines. This results in snapshots from a wide range of perspectives that generate well-founded thematic suggestions and mark the way for the evolution of future aesthetics.
The team is internationally networked and its work approach is highly focused and multidimensional. All its members have many years of experience in trend forecasting, but their orientation differs widely in line with their individual perspectives, approaches and methods. This diversity is what makes them so effective as a think tank. In the “maker” workshops, own trend analyses, research results and the highly subjective observations of the experts are combined and integrated into interdisciplinary themes. The resulting eclectic, multi-layered topics form the basis for the content of all Kontext activities.
Thilo Alex Brunner and Jörg Mettler share the same approach to industrial design: they focus on precision, attention to detail, relevance and straightforwardness. They describe their designs as “sporty minimalism”, and this is probably most apparent in their running shoe model, “ON”. The Cloudtec® technology built into the sole has a cushioning effect, while at the same time providing a strong uplift. In other words, it offers both comfort and speed.
Brunner Mettler Co. has reduced the quantity of material and left out the over-decoration that is commonly used in more bulky running shoes. The main question they had to ask themselves was: What has to be retained? But they also had to answer the question of how you design an icon. Furthermore, for these two designers, functionality begins with fun. This approach is apparent in their designs for paragliders, backpacks and storage bags created for Advance, and in their visually striking, playful store concepts for Swatch, such as the highly creative Sistem51 series that features the products in constructed settings. In the meantime, a clothing collection has been added to “ON”.
Both Thilo Alex Brunner and Jörg Mettler studied industrial design. They co-founded their design agency in 2010. Since 2014, Brunner has also led the Master’s course in Product Design at ECAL (University of Art and Design, Lausanne, where he obtained his own Master’s degree).
The name “DEVELOPMENT NEVER STOPS” says it all, because when creating prototypes that focus on achieving maximum functionality, development is an aspect that never ceases. For the company “DEVELOPMENT NEVER STOPS” (DNS), functionality is not something that can be defined once and for all – it changes depending on the circumstances. For example, for one of their clients Marcel Geser and Thomas Deutschenbaur develop equipment for three extreme mountaineers with different requirements. Speed is most important for one, and being able to climb alone is key for another – even when journeying to the same mountain peak, equipment requirements can vary greatly for different climbers. Geser and Deutschenbaur always work at this level of detail, up close to the body and the particular situation.
“Once we have understood the requirements in functional terms, we begin examining the body’s patterns of movement.” Both of the company’s founders are trained in classical tailoring, and their knowledge of cutting and patterning techniques is reflected in their plant in Adliswil, which includes specialised machinery for laser cutting and adhesive technologies such as hot pressing, taping and ultrasonic welding.
The company has a broad range of clients. DNS develops sportswear, fashion apparel, ski wear and outdoor clothing, as well as protective clothing for the medical field, police and the Swiss armed forces. Clients frequently provide their own design. Here, too, DNS observes the principle of “form follows function” – if the design hampers the function, then the design is altered as necessary.
Anita Michaluszko describes colour as a form of non-verbal communication that plays a central role in our everyday life. The way a product is perceived is determined to a great extent by colour, and that is something we can consciously influence.
Colour is like the music soundtrack in a film. It affects our feelings even before we realise it’s there.
The various milestones in Anita Michaluszko’s career development, including working for O’Neill in Holland as a colour and graphic manager, have allowed her to acquire special expertise, which she now applies to a variety of areas in a freelance capacity and which she is continuously developing further.
As a member of Intercolor, Anita Michaluszko benefits from contact with designers from many different countries. The input gleaned from this diversity of cultural sources and dialogue flows into her work. “This kind of exchange is the oxygen that fuels new developments.” For Anita Michaluszko, trend forecasting shouldn’t be regarded like predictions handed down by an oracle. She compares it to the work of a journalist: being the first to recognise particular issues and gather information about them.
Evelyne Roth’s perspective is that of a pioneering fashion designer. For her, applied forecasting means concretely relating trend forecasts to the design process. For instance, in realising her own collection, “Portenier Roth”, she established production facilities in Thun. Her central question was: how can creativity and the aesthetic quality of a design be sustained through to the end of the production process?
As a designer, she is inevitably ambivalent about the idea of a “trend” as it is traditionally understood. “As a designer you move in the opposite direction to that which has already been seen and talked about. There has to be a certain element of adventure. Your own work provides a sign of what’s to come.” Furthermore, the creative process cannot be fully planned, and socio-cultural factors also have to be given space. “For me, closed-end trend projections are passé. They are too firmly rooted in the present.”
For Evelyne Roth, being a trend researcher means being very well informed about design, art, film, music, performance. “Research carried out by major trend magazines is a cornerstone. But what I can find out for myself is what drives my inquisitiveness.” She is interested in the entirety of a work’s creation, including the environment, the idea behind it and its positioning in the here and now. This is also the approach she applies when filtering trend forecasts. Evelyne Roth is a lecturer at the Institute of Fashion Design and the Institute for Aesthetic Practice and Theory at the Academy of Art and Design in Basel, which is part of the Northwestern Switzerland University of Applied Sciences and Arts (FHNW).
Cécile Feilchenfeldt uses three terms to describe her work: experimental, conceptual, visionary. She enters into a dialogue with the materials she uses. “I let my materials do what they can.” She discovers properties in materials that no one would have expected. For example, in her hands a nylon thread can become a fine, web-like creation that appears to be both fur and feathers.
It all evolves from one central conceptual decision: “Everything I create comes from a knitting machine.” That her designs are produced on a knitting machine is anything but obvious – they could just as well have been made with a 3D printer or laser cutter. The tension between traditional craftsmanship and aesthetics that “have an almost medical or molecular feel” fascinates her. She works like a researcher, treating the knitting machine as a grid within which she designs her creations. She regards her specialisation as an advantage: “Research is specialisation. And that’s exactly what’s up and coming.”
A vision is a snapshot into the future. “I’m interested in cycles relating to what we need, what we want, what we think we can do.” She carries out her own trend research intuitively, in “hacker” mode, so to speak: lots online, very visual, rarely via trend forums. Instagram is an important source. Being in contact with the next generation is essential: “I want to work with people who don’t think they’re anybody today, but who will overtake me tomorrow on the road into the future.”
Katrin Kruse is interested in “the social construction of reality”. For her, this means conceptualising plus intuition. In her view, texts can enable us to see something because a precise description directs our attention. “We often only see what we can name. And if we give things other names, we see them differently.” Her premise: language is performative, it creates and changes what it describes.
Katrin Kruse attended university in Berlin where she obtained an MA in cultural studies. She worked as a fashion columnist at the taz in Berlin, then joined the NZZ (Neue Zürcher Zeitung) as a staff writer. She writes about fashion because she is interested in the zeitgeist it embodies. She regards fashion as a story a time period tells about itself. Phenomena can be interpreted as symptoms of social change, and they are essential to discourse: “In which terms do we speak about things? What do we regard as a good life?” What fascinates her about trend research is the to-ing and fro-ing between superstructure and concretion. Patterns that reveal themselves. The internal dynamics of developments. In her research she nonetheless still likes to refer to Perlentaucher (a German online culture magazine) and the New York Times daily briefing.
Katrin Kruse is a freelance writer, lecturer in fashion concept and process at the Academy of Art and Design in Basel (FHNW), and guest lecturer in trend research at the Zurich University of the Arts.
29-year-old Christian Hersche and 26-year-old Melvin Zöller belong to the generation that is said to only be able to relate to today’s world through the Internet. But that’s not the case for either of them. “I like to look for images that pre-date the age of the Internet,” says Christian Hersche. In archives, publications, collections. He searches in places that not everyone has access to. Melvin Zöller is reluctant to distinguish between digital and analogue. “A lot of what we discover digitally has already been filtered through algorithms. Out in the real world, that’s not so.”
Christian Hersche joined Uniqlo in 2015 and is responsible for the entire supply of images for Uniqlo U, a joint project with Christophe Lemaire. He trained in graphic design before studying fashion design at the Academy of Art and Design in Basel (FHNW). He joined Uniqlo after stints at Proenza Schouler, Paco Rabanne, Christian Dior and Raf Simons.
Melvin Zöller has also been working in Paris since 2017, in a studio that designs knitwear collections for Fiorucci, Ann Demeulemeester, Poiret, Courrèges and Koché. He also works as a designer at Germanier. While studying for his Bachelor’s at the Academy of Art and Design in Basel (FHNW), he completed a traineeship at KENZO in Paris.
Self-questioning is an integral part of designing. It’s not driven by scepticism, but rather by curiosity. Designers want to understand the essence of things, their origins, what makes them aesthetically appealing and how they may be relevant for future trends.
We are in close contact with our core team as well as with designers in Switzerland and abroad who participate individually at our workshops and special events.
Bildquellen: Christian Hersche, Melvin Zöller