World Outlook: Fashions for the Future

The costume designer for “Mad Max: Fury Road” imagines how we’ll survive — and what we’ll be wearing as we do so — in the years ahead.

It was hard to keep the characters in “Mad Max: Fury Road” and the cosmonauts in the 2017 movie “Life” safe. The first group of characters were in a post-apocalyptic hell, the second colonizing a space station, and all of them needed all-in-one, all-weather, all-sustaining garments.

The costume that I designed for each role anchors a life-support system. Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy’s characters were relentlessly assaulted by the elements as they roared across the Namib Desert in “Mad Max,” facing drought, sand storms and extreme heat. Clothing that can protect against these rapid changes is necessary to their survival — and it may someday be for us as well.

© Jenny Beavan

While fabrics that can change shape and color are wildly fun and inventive, inspiring designers everywhere, modernization and innovation in fashion may become a matter of utility, not ornamentation. As seen in the sketch, accessories like built-in power systems that make the wearer independent of conventional electrical or fossil-fuel power are the future of the fashion industry.

When I accepted my Oscar this past year in a bejeweled motorcycle jacket and pants, I inadvertently caused a bit of a furor over what I did and didn’t wear; imagine the reaction the first time a starlet who is worried about pollution includes a breathing or filtration apparatus with her red-carpet gown.

The year 2016 was the hottest ever recorded, and many millions of people felt the effects. Extreme weather is here to stay, so we’re going to have to dress for it.

Jenny Beavan is a two-time Academy Award-winning costume designer, conferred for her designs for “A Room With a View” and “Mad Max: Fury Road.” She most recently worked on the costumes for “A Cure for Wellness,” “Life” and “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.”
© 2016 Jenny Beavan
Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate