Christiane Varga, is fashion dead?
Trend researcher and futurologist Christiane Varga on mega trends, work-life blending and her love of print media
Photographs: Tonda Bardehle
I'm only interested in the past as a way into the future," is a legendary quote from designer Gianni Versace. This phrase could also have come from Christiane Varga. The German futurologist, who now lives in Vienna with her husband, works as a freelance trend researcher and has been a member of the Vienna Future Institute's think tank since 2012. As a graduate in German studies and sociology, her work focuses on spatial social analysis with a focus on New Living, New Work and gender roles.
Madame: For laymen, the job title "futurologist" and your fields of work sound very abstract. Let's start with the spatial social analysis. Can you explain this in more detail?
Christiane Varga: This means that I observe how society changes and what needs and desires arise from it. The way we live, work, love and reside is becoming increasingly individual and dependent on phases of life. Life expectancy is increasing, and in combination with the major developments, the mega trends mobility, globalization and digitalization, life courses are becoming less linear and more fragmentary. Project-based employment relationships are becoming the norm, and cohabitants are creating patchwork families. Typical sociodemographic characteristics are no longer sufficient to allow class divisions. It is rather a matter of lifestyles and a mindset. These individual lifestyles also lead to a new use of space.
Madame: The topic of space, your professional focus New Living - is that the reason why we are meeting today at the Concept Store Sois Blessed in Munich?
Christiane Varga: Right. Sois Blessed is a wonderful place and stands for interesting changes on several levels. Clothing, bar, café, home accessories and floristry - a shimmering hybrid place that radiates vitality and yet feels like an oasis, an anchor point. The idea of a concept store fits in with the development known as the "conversation of life's spheres". Borders blur, synchronous places are created where different things can happen at the same time. Our home no longer needs to be a permanent shelter or offer the opportunity to store our clothes to deserve the name. Living is becoming more and more an individual blending of selective home, work place and public space.
Madame: Let us come to a second focus of your work, the area of New Work.
Christiane Varga: This is a huge area, and the biggest driver is digitization. Here I think it is important to stay cool and not to panic, shock or exaggerated euphoria. The future is not something fixed. Digitization enables us to work more flexibly and independently of location. And: it can help us to ask questions again. One of them could be: If work no longer needs us, what do we need work for? If machines can do certain jobs better than humans in the future, we will begin to think about the purpose of work. The age of the creative economy has dawned, we have to bid farewell to the rational performance society. New Work focuses on the development of the potential of each individual. An important sub-issue in this context is work-life blending. In the future, keeping work and leisure time strictly separate will increasingly become an immense feat of strength. Work-Life-Blending stands for a new approach to compatibility, in which employers and employees, but also self-employed persons, find solutions, i.e. holistic everyday concepts. Here it is crucial to see "always-on" as an option and not as a duty.
Madame: This means that time-outs are part of the basic principle of work-life blending. How do you spend your "time off"?
Christiane Varga: I'm going running in the Vienna Woods. A maxim in trend research is: Every trend has a counter-trend. And the more I lose myself in the vastness of the virtual world, the more I feel good about nature. The more digital everything becomes, the greater the longing for the analogue and the haptic, for real encounters in real places, for resonance. So you still have a long way to go with MADAME as an analogue medium. I love and trust in print.
Madame: We are of course very pleased about this assessment of the future! Which fashion do you love and what does your outfit look like on a normal office day?
Christiane Varga: I like it clean, no big patterns, cool cuts, a little edgy, a little elegant. On a normal day at the office I prefer to wear a slightly waisted shirt blouse dress. With red nail polish, lipstick and sneakers. The pleasant thing about my job is that I neither fall into the classic business corner nor into the casual one, where (me and the customer) would not care what I wear.
Madame: Li Edelkoort, the most famous trend researcher in the sector of fashion and lifestyle, has predicted the death of fashion in 2016, at least as we know it so far. Is fashion dead?
Christiane Varga: I can hardly imagine. But it will and does change constantly. There is a growing willingness to think about products and their manufacturing history and not to define fashion through common status symbols such as price. And storytelling is playing an increasingly important role in fashion. Because more and more people are looking for the soul of things. What is luxurious and what is not becomes an individual definition.
Christiane Dorothea Varga was born in 1985 in Ulm. She lives with her husband in Vienna.
New York versus Antwerp
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and multidisciplinary work were the driving forces behind her career.