Chevron vs. Zigzag

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From left: Jill Stuart dress, Blumarine blazer, Sass & Bide trouser, House of Malakai (HOM) hat, Rue du Mail dress

Graphic tessellated patterns zigzagged the Fall 2013 runways and activated the fashion masses, who are ever more hungry for the shot in the arm of high-impact mix & match patterning.

Designers worked the houndstooth variations to an obsessive degree: they were colorblocked, deconstructed, multicolored, and blown up at Rag & Bone, Dior, Maxime Simoëns, and Comme des Garcons, among others.  Herringbone suiting swaggered out at Dolce & Gabbana, Haider Ackermann, and Louis Vuitton. And the chevron rose above its oil company implications and reclaimed its true chops as a design motif of the ages – as well as trend of the moment – at Jill Stuart, Rue du Mail, Sass & Bide, Blumarine, and others.

The chevron has long been a popular motif in art, with lasting representations in Cretan stone and pottery from over four thousand years ago. The Spartans are said to have sported the chevron-esque Lambda symbol on their armor. It has enjoyed a long heraldry history as one of ten “ordinaries” frequently used in coats of arms. And of course, it’s often used in military insignia to indicate high rank. At its simplest, the chevron is merely an upside-down V shape, a pyramid of sorts, which lends well to a military sense of the masses following the few who rise to the top. The structural integrity of two supporting beams leaned against one another to reach a higher point. The pattern of birds migrating, following one leader in two trailing lines. Leadership, rank, authority, pinnacles. Lofty goals and strong motifs for women’s clothing, no doubt.

But what about when this image of structural power is linked end to end and/or stacked to create a tessellated zigzag pattern (also known as dancetté, or teeth)? This motif is likely even older than the standalone inverted “V” chevron, with the recent unearthing of zigzag carvings on an elk antler (dating from the Stone Age) indicating that perhaps the zigzag was one of humankind’s earliest artistic expressions.

The zigzag achieves that op-art one-two punch that make it so trendworthy among those hungering for loud visual impact. Missoni built a whole brand on it, after all. But it’s also important to note that the entire symbology of the chevron shifts with the introduction of more chevrons to accompany it. The rise to the top then becomes not a finality but a continuum, a wave form, with an inevitable fall that follows each rise. The pinnacles are only temporary…and then again, so are the troughs.

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