University of Fashion Blog

Posts by: Shilpa Ahuja

Shilpa Ahuja is a regular contributor to the University of Fashion. She is also a designer, entrepreneur and fashion blogger. Shilpa Ahuja has a Masters in Design Studies degree from Harvard University. She translates runway fashion into understandable style advice for her online fashion and lifestyle magazine, ShilpaAhuja.com. She is also the creator of Audrey O., a comic series that represents the lifestyle of millennial women. She enjoys writing, travel and art.

More than just Ruffles: How Spain Inspires International Fashion

- - Fashion History

Flamenco dancers, bullfighting, matadors, and paella, are only some of the things that come to mind when we think of Spain, but in the fashion world, Spain is really so much more.

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Flamenco dancer (Image Credits: Wikipedia)

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Bullfighter (Image Credits: Pixabay)

From Queen Isabella to Present Day

The history of Spanish fashion dates back more than 500 years, to Queen Isabella’s (1474-1504) commissioning of Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the New World. What became known as Spain’s “Golden Age,” which lasted into the reign of Queen Elizabeth I of England (1558-1603), introduced the world to rich Spanish textiles, intricate laces, sumptuous leathers and delicate embroideries.

Born in Guetaria, Spain, Cristòbal Balenciaga (1895–1972), made major contributions to the fashion world. Not only did he train future famous designers André Courrèges and Emanuel Ungaro, but his namesake house still continues today. Under the creative leadership of Demna Gvasalia, the Balenciaga ‘bubble dress’ was re-invemted in 2017.

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Balenciaga bubble dress from Fall 2017 collection (Image Credits: Balenciaga.com)

Loewe, originally founded in 1846 by a cooperative of leather artisans, is another example of a lasting Spanish heritage brand. Spanish designers Paco Rabanne, Carolina Herrera, Manolo Blahnik, and Miguel Adrover have left also their mark on the international fashion scene, as have Spanish fast fashion retailers, Desigual, Zara and Mango.

Spanish Inspired Fashion

Whether it is ruffles, flounces, peasant blouses, rich Cordovan leathers, Blonde lace, Tenerife Lace, fringe or Goldwork embroideries, designers from around the world continue to tap Spain for inspiration.

Let’s take a look at some Spanish -inspired fashion that has appeared on the runway in recent years, beginning with Ralph Lauren’s use of ruffles, flounces and matador hats n 2013.

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Ralph Lauren Spring Summer 2013

Dolce & Gabbana, was inspired to create this tiered high-waisted skirt, an embroidered bolero shorts suit, and this fringed dress for their Spring Summer 2015 collection.

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Dolce & Gabbana Spring Summer 2015

At Oscar de la Renta, Peter Copping used Spanish art, bullfighters and postcards as inspiration for this collection that featured Spanish lace, ruffles, and flounced skirts. The flamenco heeled shoe completed the look!

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Oscar de la Renta Spring Summer 2016

Michael Kors, Proenza Schouler and Blugirl definitely had Spain on their minds as they all went ‘ruffle-crazy’, adding ruffles to flamenco skirts and sleeves in their Spring Summer 16 collections. Michael Kors even added some Spanish lace for allure.

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Blugirl Spring Summer 2016

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Michael Kors Spring Summer 2016

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Proenza Schouler Spring Summer 2016

Diane von Furstenberg showcased the Spanish peasant blouse and dress in her Spring Summer 2016 collection, and updated them in the hottest pink.

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Diane von Furstenberg Spring Summer 2016

Spanish lace, fringe and ruffles at Balmain for Fall Winter 2016 was a glamorous take on male Flamenco dancers and modern Spanish fashion.

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Balmain Fall Winter 2016 Collection

New Zealand designer Karen Walker, transformed Spanish frill sleeves and flamenco dresses into everyday wear – translating them into denim jackets for her Spring Summer 2017 collection.

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Karen Walker Spring Summer 2017 collection

Alberta Ferretti also got in on the act with her interpretation of tiered skirts paired with bandeaus and ruffle tops.

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Alberta Ferretti Spring Summer 2017

Modern Fashion in Spain

Whether it is by studying the work of Cristòbal Balenciaga, the ‘Master,’ who gave the world the bubble and sack dress or Manolo Blahnik, with his famous Sex and the City shoe, or the creative modern genius of Paco Rabanne, who used unconventional materials such as rhodöid discs, plastic paillettes and laser discs in his designs, Spain will undoubtedly continue to be a unique source of inspiration for future generations of fashion designers.

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Paco Rabanne rhodöid disc dress 1966

Paris Fashion Week: Back to the Future, Female Power & a New Silhouette

- - Fashion Shows

At last, Paris Fashion Week! As we all know, Paris is the ‘birthplace of fashion’ – a la Worth, Poiret, Vionnet, Chanel, Dior, Lanvin, Givenchy- all those great heritage brands that we have come to love and respect. And so, not surprisingly, we saw lots of variety and innovation. Let’s take a look at our favorite looks from Paris Fashion Week Fall Winter 2017-18.

Futuristic Fashion

Some designers have gone from street style to space style. Chanel’s collection was a nod to astronauts and the runway was the launch pad! Lagerfeld created this silver metallic belted coat paired with silver shimmer tights, matching boots and headband – perfect for Astronaut Barbie!

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Chanel (Image Credits: Chanel.com)

In a collection she called “The Future of Silhouette,” Rei Kawakubo stayed true to her design philosophy with this amorphous metallic wearable art piece, a real runway show-stopper! By the way, her work will be on exhibit beginning in June at The Costume Institute at the MET, entitled Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between.

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Comme des Garçons (Image Credits: Vogue.com)

Dries van Noten brought the future back down to earth with this classic, old-school, oversized, metallic boyfriend jacket. You just have to love it!

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Dries van Noten (Image Credits: DriesvanNoten.com)

Playing it Safe But with Flare

Speaking of playing it safe…While some designers experimented with futuristic fashion, others stuck to practicality. For her first ready-to-wear collection for Dior, Maria Grazia Chiuri, (by the way, she is the first female creative director ever at Dior- female power!), served up jeans paired with an asymmetric blouse and accessorized them with a beret, for that quintessential ‘French girl’ style.

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Dior (Image Credits: Dior via ShilpaAhuja.com)

Our favorite look from Valentino makes this artsy-print maxi dress wearable yet chic by pairing it with a double-slit coat and a practical handbag.

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Valentino (Image Credits: Valentino.com)

Homage to International Women’s Day- Think Red

Perhaps in anticipation of wearing red for International Women’s Day (March 8) Givenchy’s collection was all about RED! This look is both a statement and wearable – a dramatic sequin ruffle jacket paired with matching cropped leggings (so I guess leggings are not démodé after all?).

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Givenchy (Image Credits: Givenchy.com)

This red look, by Giambattista Valli, featured ruffles and the very boldest sleeve treatment ever; one that epitomized the #BeBoldForChange hashtag that flooded the Web during the month of March.

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Giambattista Valli (Image Credits: Vogue.com)

Eveningwear Redefined

Red carpet here we come! Paris Fashion Week is nothing if not the place where we get to see some of the most incredible eveningwear. This stunner, by Thierry Mugler, is a hybrid – a cross between a slip dress and Le Smoking (channel YSL). A pagoda shoulder detail and a daring slit…Angelina is gonna love this one!

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Mugler (Image Credits: Vogue.com)

Elie Saab’s best look was this deep amethyst-colored dress with a velvet burn-out sheer skirt, accessorized with a matching belt, fur-trimmed shoes and some very, very, French, point d’esprit hose.

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Elie Saab (Image Credits: Vogue.com)

Isabel Marant was thinking more along the lines of casual eveningwear with this look. These charcoal grey embellished jeans were paired with a ruffle-sleeved shimmery top and glitter socks.

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Isabel Marant (Image Credits: IsabelMarant.com)

Embellishments and Couture Details

We all know that the couture serves as a design lab for designers to experiment, with some design details trickling down into their ready-to-wear collections. This was evident at Balenciaga where creative director Demna Gvasalia, not only played with house codes, but brought a couture sensibility to his fall ready-to-wear collection with this strapless evening look complete with oversized bow.

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Balenciaga (Image Credits: balenciaga.com)

At Alexander McQueen, Sarah Burton designed this evening jumpsuit, reminiscent of those worn by Cher (designed by Bob Mackie). Burton updated the look with a feather sleeve and hem trim.

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Alexander McQueen (Image Credits: Vogue.com)

A Trip to the Zoo

It seems like animal prints never go out of style. This season was no exception. At Balmain, Olivier Rousteing used snake skin to create the most amazing over-the-thigh boots with matching bodice sash. And at Louis Vuitton, Nicolas Ghesquière created a patch-work vest in cheetah printed fur, ooh la-la!

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Balmain (left) (Image Credits: balmain.com) and Louis Vuitton (right) (Image Credits: Vogue.com)

Gotta Have a Gimmick

Gypsy Rose Lee, one of America’s legendary entertainers, had a favorite tagline- “you gotta have a gimmick’ and at Maison Margiela, John Galliano was listening. Check out this outfit and tell us just what you think. Is it a pantsuit? Or is Galliano, along with Rei Kawakubo, redefining what ‘is’ a silhouette?

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Maison Margiela (Image Credits: maisonmargiela.com)

Yohji Yamamoto got into the act with this engineered hand-painted belted coat with matching hose. He completes the look with black lipstick, red eyeshadow on one eye and black on the other.

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Yohji Yamamoto (Image Credits: Vogue.com)

Sheer Love

Whether it’s plastic or georgette, this fashion week cycle certainly showcased transparency. Miu Miu’s piped plastic coat teamed with an all over paillette dress, was then topped off with a fur shawl and a fringed headdress. This is sure to be a fashion magazine editorial favorite!

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Miu Miu (Image Credits: Vogue.com)

How to update a dress you ask? At Stella McCartney, this embroidered tulle overdress was worn over a sheath dress and what a great idea to update your wardrobe?

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Stella McCartney (Image Credits: Vogue.com)

Before Claire Waight Keller left Chloé and headed for Givenchy, she created this sheer, puff sleeved, baby doll overdress paired with a slip dress. So feminine.

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Chloe (Image Credits: Chloe.com)

A Sign of the Times

As Paris marked the end of the fashion week cycle (New York, London, Milan & Paris) a resounding theme remained prevalent throughout the shows…female power! Strong shoulders were showcased next to feminine looks, what a great time to be a woman in fashion.

15 Best Looks from Milan Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2017-18

- - Fashion Shows

Fashion weeks are the best places to uncover upcoming fashion trends and style inspiration. Some fashion weeks are more interesting than others. This was the case with Milan Fashion Week. Here are our 15 favorite looks and trends from the runway.

Fashion as Art

What began in Couture Fashion Week 2017 (see our blogpost from those shows) is continuing in Milan. Prada, featured fashion glamour girl prints splashed across this pared down silhouette and brought in another Couture Week trend – feathers. Here in the form of feathered ankle strap shoes.

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Prada (Image credits: Prada.com)

Fun Fashion

Milan Fashion Week would be incomplete without a buzz-worth Moschino collection. Jeremy Scott’s Rat-a-Porter collection didn’t disappoint and you just know that up there in fashion heaven, Franco Moschino was smiling. Inspired by trash and rats, the collection featured looks that literally made trash seem chic. Whether this look was a statement about recycling, or was created just for fun, it worked. It is always nice to see a less serious side of fashion.

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Moschino (Image Credits: Vogue.it)

Fashion With A Social Justice Message

Beginning in the 2000s, many designers began to use their runway shows as vehicles for social justice and to call attention to a particular cause. In 2015, Donatella Verace’s 2015 show donated to Equality Now, an NGO (non-government organization) dedicated to ending violence and discrimination against women and girls. And this season was no exception. Her feminine, flirtatious silhouettes in sheer georgette featured colourful floral embroidery, sequin embellishments and her message… ‘courage’ and ‘loyalty’.

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Versace (Image credits: Versace via ShilpaAhuja.com)

Peek-a-Boo Trend

Fendi reinvented sweater dressing with this peek-a-boo cut out oversized crochet sweater dress worn over a black bodysuit, paired with the hottest red patent leather over-the-knee boots and a red fur-strap bag.

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Fendi (Image Credits: Fendi.com)

Redefining the Classics

Classic pant suits, sweaters, trousers, wool coats and pencil skirts were all seen during fashion week. Some were given a unique twist by designers both in the U.S and in London. In Milan, there was no exception. This look by MSGM, took an otherwise classic pinstripe suit and gave it a tweak, with a smattering of sequins and the now infamous ‘pussy bow’ blouse. A baseball cap and white ‘go-go’ boots completed the look.

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MSGM (Image Credits: Vogue.com)

Another twist on a classic is this dramatic tweed jacket with an architectural assymetric collar seen on the runway at Salvatore Ferragamo. Designer Fulvio Rigoni, completed the look with a pair of cropped navy trousers.

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Salvatore Ferragamo (Image Credits: Vogue.com)

At Jil Sander, Lucie and Luke Maier served up a clever take on the classic and ubiquitous ‘puffer’ coat for this stylish over-sized copper metallic version, that works perfectly for either day or evening.

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Jil Sander (Image Credits: Vogue.com)

Practical Fashion

While some designers tried to redefine the classics and others filled their collection with fun or social messages, other designers, like Max Mara stuck to practical, wearable fashion. Staying close to their roots of beige and a neutral color palette, creative director Ian Griffiths focused on wardrobe staples in mixed fabrics. Here, a beige sleeveless ribbed turtleneck sweater paired with a pale gold pencil skirt and pumps.

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Max Mara (Image Credits: MaxMara.com)

Female Power

At heritage luxury label, Bottega Veneta, 15-year creative director veteran, Tomas Maier, gave his collection a nod to the shoulder pad! Strong shoulder, strong women, that is what this trend is all about. Here, his wool coat is belted, double-breasted and has a sharply defined shoulder.

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Bottega Veneta (Image Credits: Vogue.com)

Themed Collections – Asian & Venetian Invasion

With China as a major inspiration for designers through the ages, at Gucci this season, Alessandro Michele created a cacophonous collection of rich brocades and laces. This look is juxtaposed with a stylized cowboy hat, a pair of white embroidered go-go boots and a parasol that adds to its overall eclectic exoticism.

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Gucci (Image Credits: Gucci.com)

At Alberta Ferretti, Venice was the inspiration behind the collection. Here, the show’s final look was a red velvet cape worn over a red sheer gown – the makeup and filigree earrings gave a carnival feel.

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Alberta Ferretti (Image Credits: AlbertaFerretti.com)

Embellishments, Embellishments and More Embellishments

Dolce & Gabbana’s collection was, as always, rich with embellishments. This look is completely bongers. A sequined jacket with a patchwork of playing cards, paired with playful white graffitied jeans, topped off with a kitchy tiara and blue embellished pumps. Now is that not anti-minimal at its best and the antithesis of ‘less is more’, or what?

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Dolce & Gabbana (Image Credits: DolceGabbana.com)

At Marni, creative director Francesco Risso served up some embellishment with his iridescent coin-shaped sequins sewn onto this off the shoulder sheath dress.

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Marni (Image Credits: Marni.com)

Armani goes New-Age

Who would have ever dreamed that Giorgio Armani, known for simple style made from the finest textiles money can buy, would ever show plastic clothing on the runway? Well he did just that at his Emporio Armani show. Here he showed a pair of laminated checkered pants and paired them with a fur ‘chubby’ jacket. Did you ever?

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Emporio Armani (Image Credits: Vogue.com)

And Armani didn’t stop there. In his Giorgio Armani collection, he also played with mixed textures and materials. This look features a beaded top (or is it a necklace or a shrug?) with hassled details, paired with sumptuous velvet trousers and and a very pretty velvet bow-tie belt.

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Giorgio Armani (Image Credits: Vogue.com)

It seems that Milan fashion had something for everyone: the art lover, fun seeker, classically-oriented, practical and new age fashionista, theme-lover and the growing cohort of socially responsible types. Stay tuned for more fashion week coverage and be sure to send us your thoughts on what you liked best and least from the collections!

15 Best Looks from Paris Couture Fashion Week SS17

- - Fashion Shows

While we are currently in the throes of international Fashion Week 2017, we thought we would take a look back at 2017 Couture Week, to get a better perspective of what we are seeing on the ready-to-wear runways and to offer a contrast. Couture will never die as long as  as fashion luxury conglomerates like LVMH and Kering need it to hype their handbags and perfumes. Those of us in the fashion community are grateful, because the couture preserves the art and craft of fashion. Where would we be today without the talented petits mains who so skillfully work their magic in designers’ ateliers? However, this past couture season offered up an interesting mix. Sure there was the ‘over the top’ frou frou of ruffles, embroideries and feathers, but a few new-to-couture designers, introduced bold color, cleaner lines and even minimalistic silhouettes. These elements went a long way in creating memorable couture evening wear that we can’t wait to see on starlets at this weekend’s Oscars.

We selected both timeless and avant-garde looks from Paris Couture Fashion Week Spring Summer 2017 . Let’s take a peek:

Sheer, Embellished and Appliqué

Feathers, sequins, beadwork, embroidery and appliqué set the trend as adornments on evening dresses at Paris Fashion Week. Elie Saab showcased embellished sheer gowns in a beige, pale gold and blue color palette. These dresses were accessorized with slim belts, decorated sunglasses and matching hair scarves.

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Elie Saab (Image Credit: ElieSaab.com)

Givenchy’s cream-colored gown with feathered touches

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Givenchy (Image Credit: Givenchy.com)

Leaving pastels behind, Armani Prive’s collection showcased bright orange as its summer color.

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Armani Privé (Image Credit: Vogue.com)

Minimalistic

While some couturiers were committed to showcasing embellishments, in the true couture tradition (let’s face it, who else but fans of the couture can afford these labor intensive clothes?), Valentino’s collection, in contrast, came as a surprise. Valentino designer, Pierpaolo Piccioli’s red column gown with cut-out slit armholes, focused on clean lines and less structure.

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Valentino (Image Credit: Valentino.com)

At Schiaparelli, Bertrand Guyon is also feeling a more modern couture aesthetic. His white gown, devoid of embellishments, adds drama to this clean shape with the addition of cape that hangs from the shoulders giving the appearance of being suspended from nothing!

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Schiaparelli (Image Credit: ShilpaAhuja.com)

Bridal Gowns

Couture bridal gowns are ‘big’ business. At Paris Fashion Week this selection didn’t disappoint. Zuhair Murad’s offered a peplum-shaped embellished white layered gown with a long sheer veil, something that could also adorn a wedding cake. Victoria’s Secret model, Angel Alessandra Ambrosio, walked the runway wearing Ralph & Russo’s embroidered bridal gown, complete with a full length feathered cape.

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Zuhair Murad (Image Credit: ZuhairMurad.com)

Ralph & Russo : Runway - Paris Fashion Week - Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2016-2017

Ralph & Russo (Image Credit: ShilpaAhuja.com)

The Fantasy Theme

Maria Grazia Chiuri chose a fantasy and fairytale theme for Dior’s new collection, with a pastel color palette, colorful intricate floral appliqués, garden-inspired accessories and tall headdresses.

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Dior (Image Credit: ShilpaAhuja.com)

True to their ‘over-the-top’ reputation, Viktor & Rolf’s SS17 Couture show featured avant-garde Cinderella-like dresses, embellished with randomly shaped patch-work pieces on voluminous tulle skirts.

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Viktor & Rolf (Image Credit: Viktor-Rolf.com)

The Royal Inspiration

Guo Pei’s Marie Antoinette-inspired collection walked the line between museum-worthy and wearable.

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Guo Pei (Image Credit: Vogue.com)

Jean Paul Gaultier, one of fashion’s original ‘bad boys’ and the designer of Madonna’s iconic Conical Bra (which sold at auction for $52,000  in 2012), served up his unique brand of couture with this sheer dress complete with stand-up ruffle collar, circa 16th century. A successful mix of queenly vintage and modern style.

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Jean Paul Gaultier (Image Credit: Vogue.com)

Art Takes the Runway

At Maison Margiela, John Galliano collaborated with tulle artist Benjamin Shine for his artisanal couture collection, featuring a white floor length coat with Shine’s black tulle portrait of a woman dramatically placed across the front of the coat. Does it get any better than this?

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Maison Margiela (Image Credit: MaisonMargiela.com)

Futuristic Fabrics

Dutch designer Iris van Herpen’s couture collection was entitled “Between the Lines.” Van Herpen, known for her artistic collaborations, teamed up with Berlin artist Esther Stocker to explore the design elements of negative and positive spaces, gaps and contours, light and shadow. Laser-cut fabrics and Soft 3D hand-casted PU fabrics were hand-painted in another collaboration with architect Philip Beesley.

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Iris van Harpen (Image Credit: irisvanherpen.com)

Ruffles

At Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld channeled ‘ruffles,’ while attempting to targeting millennials, as his final look was presented on French kid star (Johnny Depp’s) Lily-Rose Depp. A baby pink gown with all over ruffles looked like the perfect prom dress for the wealthy girl whose parents have money to burn.

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Chanel (Image Credit: Chanel.com)

Giambattista Valli’s ruffles adorned the shoulders and hemline. A real show-stopper that is red carpet-worthy, for sure.

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Giambattista Valli (Image Credit: Vogue.com)

Chanel once said, “It is the unseen, unforgettable ultimate accessory of fashion that heralds your arrival and prolongs your departure.” Surely today’s designers are creating couture that can’t be forgotten even after the wearers’ departure.

Long Live Couture!
[Top Cover Image Credit: Chanel.com]

5 It-Accessory Trends for Spring Summer 2017 from the Runways

- - Trends

University of Fashion blog gives readers the latest insight into Spring Summer 2017 accessory trends from both ready-to-wear and couture collections. With bold, chunky and colourful accessories, designers are going for the all-eyes-on-me look for the accessories this year. Take a look at the top 5 styles:

1. Novelty Accessories

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Novelty handbags by Chanel (left) and Dolce & Gabbana (right) (Photo Credits: Vogue.com)

From robot-shaped to animal-inspired, cameras, drums, dragonflies and frogs – all were seen as bags and jewelry in Spring Summer 2017 ready-to-wear collections of Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Chloe and Tory Burch.

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Novelty jewelry by Chloe (left) and Tory Burch (right) (Photo Credits: ShilpaAhuja.com)

2. Three-Dimensional Embellishments

Large studs, three-dimensional floral appliqué and doll charms were seen at Fendi. Dolce & Gabbana had statement metallic embellishments on hair accessories and three-dimensional floral embellishments and rose-shaped patterns on shoes. Gucci had large bows studded with pearl and rhinestones on pumps.

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Embellished accessories by Gucci (left) and Fendi (right) Photo Credits: Vogue.com)

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Dolce & Gabbana accessories (Photo Credits: DolceGabbana.com)

3. Printed and patterned Shoes

Art has been making its way from clothing to accessories this year. Religion, nature and underwater life were some of the themes seen on shoes, printed and hand-painted and even patch worked on boots, wedges and platform heels.

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Printed shoes by Maison Margiela (left) and Michael Kors (right) (Photo Credits: Vogue.com)

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Printed shoes by Alexander McQueen (left) and Balenciaga (right) (Photo Credit: Vogue.com)

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Wedge shoes with underwater pattern by Dolce & Gabbana (Photo Credits: Vogue.com)

4. Matching Visors

Visors get more and more stylish as fashion keeps up with the modern-day woman. With embroidery, embellishments and prints adorning this summer accessory, design houses like Dior, Ralph & Russo and Max Mara made visors an essential part of the feminine outfit for 2017.

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Matching visor on Ralph & Russo model (Photo Credit: ShilpaAhuja.com)

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Embroidered visor on Ralph & Russo model (Photo Credit: ShilpaAhuja.com)

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Dior visor (Photo Credit: ShilpaAhuja.com)

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Look from Dior SS17 RTW (Photo Credit: ShilpaAhuja.com)

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Max Mara models backstage wearing visors (Photo Credit: MaxMara.com)

5. Logo and Branding on Accessories

Designers are taking inspiration from street-wear, classic 90s branded tees and fake clothing sporting luxury logos to create their own proudly branded modern-age versions. Dolce & Gabbana had logo slippers inspired by hotel night slippers to match their logo tees. Dior’s accessories in SS17 RTW collection were all about the logo. From logo rings to clutch handles to chokers to shoe straps, all were emblazoned with the word “J’ADIOR”, a logo-tistic take on the French phrase j’adore. Moschino had its logo sprawled unabashedly across a pair of thigh-high boots and handbag straps.

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Dior accessories (Photo Credit: ShilpaAhuja.com)

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Dior ring & choker (Photo Credit: ShilpaAhuja.com)

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Chanel earring (Photo Credit: Vogue)

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Moschino thigh-high boots with logo print (Photo Credit: Vogue.com)

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Dolce & Gabbana logo slipper (Photo Credit: Dolcegabbana.com)

The trend of wearing more than one statement accessory continues, these styles are here to steal the show, bringing a fresh update to the looks. And as for whether or not these styles continue to be in trend next season, we’ll be sure to let you know!

[Top Cover Image: (left to right) Dior handbag (Image Credits: Dior); backstage models from Chanel  SS17 RTW show (Image Credits: Chanel.com); Maison Margiela printed booties(Image Credits: Vogue.com)]

Japan: Its Influence and Contributions to Global Fashion

- - Fashion History

When you think of Japanese fashion, you think of the kimono. But dig deeper and you’ll find that Japan’s contribution to the world of fashion is much, much, more. In fact, Japan has greatly influenced the western world of fashion, even more than its eastern counterparts; China, India and Southeast Asia!

After World War II, Japan geared up for a revolution in terms art, architecture, fashion and technology, while preserving its historical roots and its aesthetic philosophy of wabi sabi (the art of Imperfection). It was out of this very philosophy that Japan established itself as a creative power house, one that would eventually take the fashion world by storm.

Traditional Japanese Fashion

From Paul Poiret to Eileen Fisher (and hundreds of designers in between), the classic kimono silhouette, with wrapped obi sash, has appeared in numerous designer collections over the years, in one form or other.

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Traditional Japanese Kimonos (Image Credits: japan-zone.com)

Kimonos come in many different styles, each worn for a different occasion. Frequently, they are made in cotton or silk and featured in multi-colored block prints, embroidered or in woven floral patterns.

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Traditional Japanese Kimonos (Image Credits: fotoedu.indire.it)

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Japanese Obi (Image Credits: Wikipedia)

Two of the most widely recognized Japanese patterns are cherry blossoms and butterfly prints. Traditionally, Japanese fabrics also use dyeing techniques and wood block printing to create repetitive patterns.

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A fabric featuring a typical pattern of Bingata, a dyeing technique from Okinawa, Japan

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Popular traditional pattern made with wood block printing (Image Credits: Fabrictales.com)

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Fabric with traditional Japanese butterfly print (Image Credits: fabricandart.com)

Western Fashion Draws Inspiration from Japan

Japan’s rich heritage became inspiration for western designers, such as Marni, Armani and Zuhair Murad.

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Zuhair Murad Fall/Winter 2011-12 Couture (Image Credits: Weddinginspirasi.com)

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Marni Spring Summer 2014 Ready-to-Wear (Image Credits: Vogue.com)

Armani Privé Fall/Winter 2011-12 Couture (Image Credits: Vogue.com)

Armani Privé Fall/Winter 2011-12 Couture (Image Credits: Vogue.com)

Proenza Schouler FALL 2012 READY-TO-WEAR (Vogue.com)

Proenza Schouler Fall/Winter 2012 Ready to Wear (Image Credits: Vogue.com)

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Prada Spring Summer 2013 Ready to Wear (Image Credits: Vogue.com)

Japan’s Contributions to 20th Century Fashion

While Western designers were busy drawing inspiration from traditional costume of Eastern countries such as China, Japan and Indonesia (known as Chinoiserie and Orientalism), Japanese designers were inspired beyond their roots, turning their wabi sabi aesthetic into a major fashion movement that began in the 1970s and continues to the present day.

De-Construction Movement

The De-Construction Movement, which started in 1970s and gained momentum in the 80s, refers to the era of collective avant-garde artistic expression in fashion. Traditional feminine silhouettes were challenged, essentially de-constructed, to give way to a new aesthetic. A group of Japanese designers, led by Rei Kawakubo, Issey Miyake and Yohji Yamamoto, played with the idea of androgyny and embraced unevenness and imperfection while simultaneously creating beautiful clothing.

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Suit by Comme des Garçons from the De-Construction Era circa 1985 (Image Credits: metmuseum.org)

Rei Kawakubo, founder and designer of Japanese fashion house Comme des Garçons, is regarded as one of the most important names in the fashion today. Blurring the lines between perfect and imperfect, male and female, made and unmade, these designers appealed to the modern woman who preferred comfort and over the body contoured clothes of that period.

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Comme des Garçons photo-shoot circa 1989 (Image Credits: calvertjournal.com)

Zero Waste

The Zero-Waste movement was led by Japanese designer Issey Miyake. With his A-POC collection (A Piece of Cloth) in 1999, Miyake minimized waste by making clothes out of a single piece of fabric, so that excess fabric waste wouldn’t end up in over-crowded landfills.

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A-POC by Issey Miyake (Image Credits: moma.org)

Cosplay

Combining the words “costume” and play”, this term was coined by Nobuyuki Takahashi in 1984, and refers to the trend of wearing costumes of a particular character or theme, such as Japanese anime. Over the last few years, cosplay has extended itself to outside the realm of anime and manga characters and become commonplace, owing to events like FanimeCon and ComicCon with themes from Hollywood movies and American pop culture.

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Cosplay of the Yu-Gi-Oh character “Dark Magician Girl” (Wikipedia)

Japanese Collaborations & Exhibitions

In 2003, Marc Jacobs began a collaboration Japanese artist Takashi Murakami on a series of Louis Vuitton iconic handbags. In addition to his work with Vuitton, which only ended in 2015, Murakami has had numerous exhibitions of his work and has been featured in major magazines. Japanese artist Yayoi Kasama also designed a series of handbags for Vuitton in 2012 and has had her work featured in exhibitions around the world.

For their upcoming spring 2017 exhibition, The Costume Institute of Metropolitan Museum of Art will honor the work of Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons.

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A bag from Takashi Murakami’s Multicolored Monogram collection for Louis Vuitton. Photo: Louis Vuitton

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Kylie Jenner in a photo-shoot for Complex magazine created in collaboration with Japanese artist Takashi Murakami who incorporated his trademark anime-graphics (Image Credits: Complex.com)

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Yayoi Kasama handbag for Louis Vuitton 2012 (NY Magazine)

And Now?

The world is still in awe of all things Japanese, from sushi to sumo. Japan’s sartorial legacy, which in addition to Miyake, Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto, also includes designers Hanae Mori, Junko Koshino, Kansai Yamamoto, Junko Shimada and Kenzo Takada. Today, a new crop of design talent beginning, with Limi Feu (daughter of Yohji Yamamoto) and Tae Ashida (daughter of legendary designer Jun Ashida) are bursting onto the fashion scene and are being noticed.

Will China, India and other non-western cultures, be able to step up to the plate and make their own unique mark on the global fashion stage, just as Japan has done?

Let us hear your thoughts!

Inspiration China- Moving Beyond Dynasties & Dragons

- - Fashion History

History

China has been a cultural marvel for the past 5,000 years, beginning with their discovery of the silk worm during the Neolithic period (4th millennium BCE). Chinese artisans wove the most amazing textiles and introduced robes with intricate handcrafted embroideries that, to this day, provide a wealth of inspiration. Over time, Western designers began incorporating Chinese cultural symbolism into their designs: the philosophy of Confucius, Chinese calligraphy and porcelain, Imperial Chinese dynastic robes featuring embroidered dragons (a symbol of power), the martial arts of Tai Chi and Kung Fu, Chinese medicine and food, and of course, the Great Wall.

After the Chinese national revolution of 1911, the country began to accept a more “modern” form of dress. By the mid-twentieth century, the tight-fitting dress known as a cheongsam or qípáo, became traditional women’s dress and the “Mao suit,” a modern revolutionary garment, often made in blue cotton, was the expected attire for men.

Subsequently, when we visualize Chinese or Chinese-inspired clothing, we imagine large dragon motifs, dense floral embroidery, including lotus and plum blossoms. Works of calligraphy paired with red geometric borders and China porcelain art comes to mind. With time, Mandarin collars, Mao jackets and frog closures also found their way into Western designers’ collections.

China’s Influence on Western Fashion

Let’s take a look at some of the best and most popular examples of how Western designers used exoticism, borrowed from the Far East, in their collections.

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Paul Poiret circa 1912 (Courtesy Collectorsweekly.com)

French designer Paul Poiret was highly influenced by Chinese fashion with his famous ‘lampshade’ dress and embroidered Chinese-inspired robe from 1912.

Fast Forward to the 21th Century

In his Fall/Winter 2004 ready-to-wear collection, Tom Ford designed his version of the Chinese cheongsam or qípáo, with added sequins and a side draped detail.

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Sequinned Chinese cheongsam by Tom Ford for Saint Laurent Fall/Winter 2004 RTW collection (Photo Credit:  Vogue)

Roberto Cavalli’s Fall 2005 ready-to-wear collection showcased this silk gown with a Chinese blue and white porcelain pattern.

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Chinese porcelain-inspired satin evening dress by Roberto Cavalli Fall 2005 ready-to-wear collection (Photo Credit: Vogue)

Designers continued to channel China in the Fall 2011 collections of both Ralph Lauren and Naeem Khan. Khan was inspired by the book The Silk Road.

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Ralph Lauren Fall 2011 ready-to-wear collection (Photo Credit: Vogue)

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Naeem Khan Fall 2011 ready-to-wear collection (Photo Credit: Vogue)

Far Eastern influences continued as a trend that same year as Oscar de la Renta featured ornate Chinoiserie patterns on coats and silk dresses.

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Oscar de la Renta Fall 2011 ready-to-wear collection (Photo Credit: Vogue)

Christian Louboutin brought Chinese inspiration to accessories, with his dragon motif pumps and flats.

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Black Pumps with dragon motif by Christian Louboutin (2014) (Image Credits: Christian Louboutin)

Metropolitan Museum of Art: China- Through the Looking Glass

The impact that Chinese aesthetics has had on Western fashion and the extent to which China has fueled the fashionable imagination for centuries, was explored in a show entitled: China – Through the Looking Glass, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2015.

The Met Gala Opening (2015) saw celebrities getting into the spirit. Traditional talismans like dragons, yin-yang and butterflies abounded. Jennifer Lopez poses on the red carpet with this strategically placed dragon-motif gown.

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Jennifer Lopez wearing a gown with dragon motif at Met Gala 2015 (Huffington Post)

The gala was also provided a showcase for Chinese fashion designer Guo Pei, who designed Rihanna’s golden yellow gown. Pei, whose couture collection is shown during Paris Fashion Week, channels Chinese Imperialism, by utilizing rich fabrics and intricate embellished embroideries for the stars that seek out her work.

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Rihanna wearing a golden yellow embroidered gown at Met Gala 2015 designed by Guo Pei

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A dress from Guo Pei Fall-Winter 2016/17 haute couture collection (Image Credits: ShilpaAhuja.com)

The year 2016 was a big one for Chinese inspiration as dragon motifs were favoured by designers at Emilio Pucci, Giuseppe Zanotti and at Gucci.

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Emilio Pucci dragon print silk jacket (2016) (Image Credits: Polyvore)

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Dragon Shoe by Giuseppe Zanotti (2016)

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Details from Gucci Pre-Fall 2017 collection showing dragon motifs

Chinese zodiac signs also became a marketing opportunity for Western fashion designers as the Year of the Monkey ushered in a series of monkey-motifs that appeared on handbags, watches and on this studded jacket at Valentino.

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Studded suede jacket by Valentino for the Year of the Monkey (2016) (Image Credits: ShilpaAhuja.com)

Gucci went China crazy with this updated cheongsam that featured a floral and dragon motif in a patchwork combo from their Pre-Fall 2017 collection.

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Dress from Gucci Pre-Fall 2017 collection featuring dense floral patterns in red (Image Credits: Elle)

It appeared that Gucci just couldn’t get over ‘Chinoiserie Fever’ when they created this blue and white Chinese porcelain-inspired dress for its Cruise 2017 collection.

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Silk dress – Gucci Cruise 2017 collection featuring China porcelain print (Image Credits: Gucci)

China’s Future

China has given the Western fashion world a plethora of design inspiration and yet for a country that: comprises 19.24% of the total world population, ranks number 1 the list of countries in world population with a total of over 1.4 billion people, we have yet to see Chinese designers reach the status of a Ralph Lauren, Giorgio Armani or Tom Ford. However, stay tuned. We at UoF have our eyes set on a new group of Chinese designers that we think are about to change the future of fashion. Let’s face it…they have lots of inspiration to tap from.

Inspiration India – How Marco Polo Brought Us a Treasure Trove of Ideas

- - Fashion History

Ever wonder where fashion designers find inspiration? Well, wonder no more. Fashion designers don’t work in a vacuum. They find inspiration in a multitude of ways and places: through fashion forecast services, at museums, in magazines and books, on the street, at flea markets, from the music scene, in food and in nature, as a reaction to current global events and from interior design and architectural styles like art nouveau, art deco and mid-century modern.

Historical fashion is another great way to adapt and infuse something new and fresh into a collection, which brings us to our favorite source of inspiration: TRAVEL. Fashion has been inspired by international destinations throughout history. Dressing, draping and dressmaking techniques have been borrowed and exchanged so many times that sometimes it gets difficult to trace back their roots. Cultural elements also get interwoven into designers’ inspiration. Once Marco Polo opened the Silk Route in 1269, he not only initiated trade between the Mediterranean countries and the Middle, South and Far East, but also inspired the borrowing and cross-pollinating of cultural elements.

UoF’s new blog series will explore various cultures that continue to have a profound effect on fashion, beginning with:

India

Designers in the western world love turning to the exoticism of the Far East when looking for inspiration. India is one of the countries. With its rich history and diverse culture, India has turned muse for many of the biggest names in fashion and continues to do so today.

Let’s Begin

Paisley is one of the earliest examples of an inspiration remix and came to the west by way of the cashmere goods trade, from the Vale of Kashmir, down to India, and then to Europe. The teardrop-shaped motif, known in India as Buti, is an ancient Indian design that is still used today in Indian sarees and in the west in textiles for bridalwear, dresses, blouses, neck-ties, tunics and in home décor textiles and rugs. The name ‘paisley’ was given to the motif when imitation Indian shawls were copied and manufactured in Paisley, Scotland during the early 19th century.

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Indian Kanjeevaram saree with buti motif (Image Credit: Wikipedia)

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Victorian Antique Kashmir Hand Woven Pieced Paisley Shawl 1800s
(Image Credit: www.1860-1960.com)

By the 20th century, international travel increased and fashion designers found inspiration, especially in South Asia. An example in American pop-culture, is a scene from the 1961 film, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, in which Audrey Hepburn, who was taking a bath, had to improvise a saree-inspired gown on the spot using a bedsheet.

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Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s wearing saree-inspired bedsheet gown (Image Credit: mongolcom.mn)

In the contemporary fashion arena, fashion houses like Hermès, Chanel and Jean Paul Gaultier have designed whole collections inspired by Indian fashion. Jean Paul Gaultier’s Fall 2007 couture collection featured satin tunics, bejeweled turbans and even a sherwani (knee-length coat buttoning to the neck) for the bridegroom’s ‘maharaja’ look.

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Jean Paul Gaultier Fall 2007 couture collection

 

Hermès Spring Summer 2008 women’s ready-to-wear collection took inspiration from Indian ethnic menswear with adaptations of Nehru jackets, churidar pants and bundhgalas. The collection featured saree-gowns and tunics, replete with turban-inspired headgear in metallic shades.

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Hermès Spring Summer 2008 RTW collection

Chanel Pre-Fall 2012 collection, popularly known as their Bombay-Paris Collection, was also a tribute to India and inspired by Indian maharajas’ and maharanis’ opulent, excessive outfits, jewelry and adornments. The fashion show featured Nehru-collared dresses with embroidered hems, tunics worn over leggings and saree-drapes.

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Chanel Pre-Fall 2012 collection

Marchesa Spring 2013 collection was inspired by the vibrant Indian color palette consisting of fuchsia, peacock blue and eggplant with fine gold embroidery touches.

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Marchesa Spring 2013 collection

Christian Louboutin has taken inspiration from India more than once. Recently, the shoe-designer collaborated with Indian fashion designer Sabyasachi to create embellished and embroidered shoes for his runway show.

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Christian Louboutin embroidered shoes for Sabyasachi Fall Winter 2016 collection (Image Credit: christianlouboutin.com)

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Christian Louboutin embroidered shoes for Sabyasachi Fall Winter 2015 collection (Image Credit: christianlouboutin.com)

Many other designers have tapped India for inspiration such as, Alexander McQueen, Ellie Saab, Isabel Marant, Naeem Khan, Louis Vuitton and Vera Wang. New young designers have emerged who are also inspired by the fashion of other cultures, in an effort to bring the world together on a global basis. And with the amplitude of diversity and richness that Indian culture has to offer, much inspiration still remains to be unearthed. What’s in store for the future of Indian-inspired fashion has yet to be seen. We can only hope it’ll be even more awe-inspiring and mesmerizing than the past.

Personalization or Narcissism? The New Age of Customization

- - Trends

Everyone loves a little personal touch. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that as dominant animals, we humans like marking our territory. Or, perhaps it’s our need to differentiate ourselves from the pack, as evidenced by a male skeleton discovered in 26,000 B.C.E Northern Russia wearing a highly decorated beaded garment. Is it a subconscious demonstration of power and status or simply a touch of narcissism? Either way, it’s in our DNA.

In Medieval Europe, aristocrats were granted the right to use a coat of arms. Today the family crest is a modern day use of a coat of arms with lots of snob appeal when embroidered and worn on a blazer pocket. Tattoos, from their tribal beginnings, to their use as modern day body art, are also forms of personalization, as were tribal ankle bracelets, bangles and necklaces that have since morphed into namesake jewelry.

Customization in fashion is in the air!

Today we are taking personalization to the max. Keychains with personalized letters, letter namesake bracelets and pendant necklaces bearing the wearer’s name are all the rage. We can even customize our own sneakers!

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Sarah Jessica Parker’s character, Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City wearing her namesake necklace: the “Carrie necklace.”

Printed T-shirts, once prime real estate for company logos, are now shamelessly emboldened with the name of the wearer, like the one below worn by Cindy Crawford. Everyone can enjoy a bit of narcissism, as online print shops print customers’ names and graphics on tees and hoodies.

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Cindy Crawford wearing her namesake sweatshirt by Reformation on the cover of Muse magazine.

Name-mania was in full swing when Burberry debuted a monogrammed poncho for Fall 2014 with model/actress Cara Delevingne wearing her initials. Celebrities Sarah Jessica Parker and Olivia Palermo followed suit.

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Burberry’s personalized poncho worn by-Cara Delevingne, Sarah Jessica Parker & Olivia Palermo; Source: Popsugar

In 2015, model Gigi Hadid made the rounds on social media & in fashion magazines when she wore a cropped jacket to the American Music Awards with her #HADID, sprawled across her back.

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Gigi Hadid at American Music Awards wearing #HADID jacket; Source: Popsugar

Earlier last month Victoria’s Secret model, Angel Alessandra Ambrosio, got into the act by posting a photo on Instagram wearing a personalized training tank top.

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Model & VS Angel Alessandra Ambrosio’s personalized tank

And customization also got political

Some celebs like Rihanna, in a patriotic nod even though she couldn’t vote, opted to share her T-shirt real estate with Hillary Clinton during the November 2016 election with the message “I’m with her. And her.”

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Rihanna’s “Hillary T-shirt”

Hey, do I smell a marketing opportunity?

By Fall/Winter 2016/2017, fashion forward houses like Christian Dior, Fendi and Marc Jacobs recognized the enormous marketing opportunity of customization, by offering products whereby the end-user could add their own personal touch to a slew of designer products.

Dior introduced charms for the straps of their iconic Lady Dior bag.

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Lady Dior bag with customizable pins

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Dior charms for the straps of their iconic Lady Dior bag

Fendi introduced mini-bags with detachable straps, sold separately, which range from fur-trimmed to colourful leather ruffles. The house has also introduced letter charms that can be used to spell out messages or names.

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Fendi’s mini-bags with detachable customizable straps

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Some of Fendi’s bag straps

Marc Jacobs offered pins and badges for his Fall/Winter 2016 collection that can be bought separately along with fashion staples like tees and denim jackets. The user can then stitch or affix the pins & badges to clothes or to write messages and names.

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Marc Jacobs’ customization campaign

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Marc Jacobs’ pins and badges used to personalize clothes

Getting creative or just another marketing ploy?

As these new designer toys surface, are we lead to believe that this is an outlet for our own creativity? Or are these pins and badges another set of status symbols and marketing ploy?

Just as social media has empowered us to become our own stylist, could designers be joining hands to mark a new movement in fashion whereby the wearer is empowered to become his or her own designer? Let us know what you think!

Is Fashion Art? You Bet it is!

For decades, fashion scholars have debated whether fashion should be considered an art form or whether it is solely a craft. Some believe that due to the utilitarian aspect of fashion, it should not be considered art. However, much like famous Impressionist artists of the 19th century, such as Claude Monet, Georges Seurat and Vincent van Gogh, fashion designers also use their creativity as a form of self expression. This becomes even more apparent when fashion designers collaborate with artists. A glance back into fashion history reveals many collaborations between artists and fashion designers, beginning in the early 1900s. Paul Poiret, the first couturier to fuse art and fashion, worked with with prominent artists and illustrators including Georges Lepage, Erté, Georges Barbier and Raoul Duffy. In the 1930s, Elsa Schiaparelli collaborated with surrealist artists Salvador Dalí, Jean Cocteau and Christian Bérard.

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Evening jacket designed by Elsa Schiaparelli in collaboration with Jean Cocteau (Image Credit: metmuseum.org)

During the 1960s, pop artist Andy Warhol joined with Yves Saint Laurent who used Warhol’s Campbell soup can imagery from his paintings to create a series of A-line paper dresses, one called “The Souper Dress.”

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The Souper Dress featuring Andy Warhol’s soup can graphics (Image Credit: metmuseum.org)

Fast forward to the 21st century. Marc Jacobs, while creative director at Louis Vuitton, collaborated with artists to reinvent the iconic LV logo handbag: Stephen Sprouse’s scrawled silver graffiti (2000), Takashi Murakami’s animated motifs (2004), Richard Prince’s “nurse” prints (2008) and Yayoi Kusama’s polka dots (2012).

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Louis Vuitton animated motifs bag in collaboration with Takashi Murakami

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Louis Vuitton animated motifs bag in collaboration with Stephen Sprouse

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Yayoi Kusama’s polka dotted Louis Vuitton bag
(Image source: NY Times)

In 2016, designer Nicolas Ghesquière channeled California and continued the trend of artistic bags with the LV Petite Malle (small truck) for Cruise ’16.

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Louis Vuitton Petite Malle clutch

For the past couple of seasons, the trend of marrying art and fashion has become even stronger. Christopher Kane’s gown with nude figure patterns was amongst the most talked about at Met Gala 2015 when worn by FKA Twigs.

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FKA twigs wearing a Christopher Kane gown at Met gala 2015 (Image source: Daily Mail)

Moschino introduced pop culture and graffiti-inspired art in its Fall Winter 2015 collection. The graffiti gown and matching gloves from this collection was later worn by Katy Perry, also at the MET gala.

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Katy Perry in Moschino gown at Met gala 2015 (Image Source: US Weekly)

For their Spring Summer 2016 collection, Dolce & Gabbana paid tribute to Italy with dresses featuring imagery depicting different cities and their names – Roma, Venezia, Portofino amongst others.

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Featured above: Dolce & Gabbana dress with artwork depicting Roma and Venezia

Pierpaolo Piccioli collaborated with Zandra Rhodes for Valentino’s Spring Summer 2017 collection, creating gowns with prints of the Hieronymus Bosch painting, the Garden of Earthly Delights.

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Valentino Spring Summer 2017

A maxi dress from Alice+Olivia’s Spring/Summer 2017 ready-to-wear collection depicts a caricature of CEO/designer Stacey Bendet, sporting red lips and round sunglasses.

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Alice+Olivia Spring Summer 2017 (Image Credits: Vogue)

Marques’ Almeida added intricate floral art on their dresses, shorts, blouses and trousers.

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Marques’ Almeida Spring Summer 2017

At Dior, designer Maria Grazia Chiuri introduced feminine gowns and embroidered tulle dresses with tarot cards, cosmic and floral-inspired art with names like “Le Monde”, “La Lune” and “Le Soleil.”

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Dior Spring Summer 2017

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Dior Spring Summer 2017

Scholars will continue to debate whether fashion is really art, but we at the University of Fashion believe it is, especially when created in collaboration with artists!

Learn more about fashion history, past and present, with our costume history lessons: 100 Years of Fashion Rebels & Revolutionaries, Parts 1 & 2, Keeping Up With the Jones and Wheels Reels & Automobiles.