N. 54 | The Apollonian and the Dionysian in fashion: where to look for sustainability.

August 14, 2023

image of a spinning top

Two contrasting forces have always played a key role in the evolution of the fashion industry: the Apollonian and the Dionysian.
These philosophical concepts, introduced by Friedrich Nietzsche, represent the two different souls of human creativity. On one hand, order, rationality and clarity, embodied by the Apollonian; on the other hand, the instinct, passion and vitality of the Dionysian spirit. This dance between order and chaos is reflected in fashion, giving life to his creations.

From the Apollonian blossoms ordered beauty, characterized by symmetry. This translates into structured garments, precise lines and a meticulous conception of design. Many designers embrace this aspect of creativity, resulting in elegant and sophisticated clothes designed to enhance the human figure and project an image of grace and sophistication. One of the most obvious examples of the Apollonian in fashion is Coco Chanel's classic little black dress. This iconic garment, made unique by its simplicity, impeccable cut, and attention to detail, is the embodiment of timeless elegance.

The Dionysian, on the other hand, constitutes the opposite pole of the creative impulse, meaning irrationality and spontaneous enthusiasm. In fashion, this is identified in designers capable of embracing chaos and the unexpected, resulting in highly emotional garments. A good example may be Alexander McQueen with his experimental and theatrical approach that challenges the boundaries of fashion, creating wearable works of art, strongly influenced by the darkness and beauty of human nature.

Although the Apollonian and the Dionysian are opposite concepts, in fashion they coexist in the processes of stylistic innovation, allowing creatives to push the boundaries of the conventional, exploring new artistic dimensions and conveying deep emotions through fabric.

Environmental sustainability has become one of the crucial issues: sustainability is the new black.
In this context, Dionysian innovation encourages experimentation, pushing designers to seek materials and production techniques that are less harmful to the environment and humans. In this way, inspiration arising from creative chaos can lead to new eco-friendly solutions, such as the use of recycled materials, organic fabrics, or natural dyes.
On the other hand, an Apollonian approach to innovation can help companies to initiate clear and methodical action plans in order to achieve sustainable goals such as assessing the environmental impact of a garment throughout the supply chain and finding ways to reduce pollution and resource use by adopting the logic of eco-design.

It is now clear that fashion wants to move toward a more sustainable future, offering people the opportunity to express themselves through clothing without compromising the planet and the well-being of those involved in production. To do so, it will have to rely on both of its primitive creative forces, always seeking new balances.