According to the latest exhibition at The Museum at FIT, the color pink is in fact all of the above. Read More
Category "Fashion History"
Menswear is in constant evolution. The end-consumer is dictating what they want, which tribe they choose to belong to, and the personality they want to project. This has made the menswear industry very competitive, and in response, men’s fashion houses have been obligated to change their game, to listen to their consumer and are appointing new designers who understand the new generation and, more particularly, who understand their subcultures and tribes. The main focus in today’s menswear industry is to appeal to the final consumer’s lifestyle. This challenge goes beyond offering a good product, it also needs to be a product that ‘speaks’ to men’s tribes and their individual personalities. So, let’s examine who these new players are, what they are offering and who they are speaking to, and how they are seismically changing the present and future of the global menswear industry.
Recent new appointments in the menswear fashion industry, such as Kim Jones at Dior Homme and Virgil Abloh at Louis Vuitton Men’s (both brands under the LVMH umbrella), indicate that the market has changed. Fashion houses are now taking risks because they have identified that they must go forward to remain relevant for the next generation and those to follow. What do these players have in common? Both represent a movement that had been growing the past year. Kim Jones formerly at Louis Vuitton men’s and who created a blockbuster collaboration with the hip brand Supreme is now creative director at heritage brand Dior Homme.
Virgil Abloh, from DJ, music producer, Fendi intern, Kanye West’s creative director, to artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s men’s wear collection since March 2018, Abloh is also chief executive officer of the Milan-based label Off-White, a fashion house that he founded in 2013.
Both of these visionaries believe in ‘bottom-up’ fashion that is, bringing the street to high fashion, as well as the flexibility offered by social-media influenced athleisure, with its emphasis on T-shirts, and its reflection of a D-jin and music culture. The concept of ‘bottom-up’ is not new, Yves Saint Laurent made it his montra in the 70s and Marc Jacobs turned to the streets for his Grunge Collection in the 80s. But those were womenswear collections. Both Kim and Abloh have a history in designing streetwear for men and have each collaborated with Nike.
Although Jones studied design at Central Saint Martin’s and Abloh cut his teeth designing for Kanye West, both admit that they have gotten to know ‘fashion’ along the way. Their current collections speak to a new lifestyle, to a subculture of a younger generation and they are implementing street casual styles into their high fashion collections. To be clear, they are not abolishing suits or formalwear, they are just giving it a streetwear twist.
For example, presenting in their show a monochromatic suit with a t-shirt, technical sneakers and unique details around zippers, or presenting high quality functional bags with chain details. They are unifying two worlds we would not have imagined could speak to each other in the past. Formal and casual, function and decoration, these are no longer distinct categories, but ones that merge with each other. At the same time, these designers manage to speak to a tribe who is looking to be more individual while seeking to be included.
This connects us to other players such as Alessandro Michele at Gucci and Hedi Slimane now at Celine. They address younger generations with a unique vision, one that is more eccentric with a retro vintage feel (Gucci), and another one, more focused on rock culture (the new Celine). Both address a very important trend of the moment: the androgynous phenomenon. The ungendered design is key for these designers. They created transversal collections and androgynous looks that dominate the conversation of their collections, influencing the menswear arena. This trend is not about men wearing skirts, it is about changing mindsets, showing that men have changed, both in, and the way they view fashion, and in how they exercise their masculinity. This is reflected in how they shop, and as a result designer brands are implementing these changes in their product strategy.
There has also been a change in formal menswear. New players such as Thom Browne, Musika Frère, or recognized designers such as Ozwald Boateng have brought new product strategies to this category. Ozwald Boateng has mixed traditional classic British tailoring with color and new cuts targeting elite consumers who have unique personalities and are not part of the status quo.
Thom Browne, with his wild creativity, his fantastic tailoring and commercial core product pieces, with a clear brand identity such as the tricolor web, has won a fan base among millennials who were looking for an alternative from traditional formalwear.
And then we get to Musika Frère, a brand that was born in social media, created by Aleks Musika and Davidson Petit- Frère. This brand has a “neoclassic tailoring” style, as the creators themselves call it, specializing in custom suits that often come in unusual colors, patterns and details. This brand’s style has drawn famous celebrities in the African American community.
So, what do all these brands have in common? Their product strategies have successfully attracted a specific tribe that still wants the elegance of a suit but in a unique and special way, something that truly represents them and their personalities and that makes them stand out.
As menswear evolves, brands in the industry have realized that the fundamental formula to attract new and younger consumers is to truly represent them. The key for fashion houses now is to adopt this bottom-up approach, understand their consumers, their tribe and subcultures, in order to cater to them in a genuine way. All of the above-mentioned brands have used different menswear strategies to be relevant to the market and its future generations. They have taken risks because they know that nowadays, men are freer and use fashion to show who they truly are.
To learn more about menswear design, be sure to check out the new menswear discipline on our University of Fashion website.
In fashion, we tend to overlook the menswear industry. It doesn’t change as much with the seasons and is all about the details, the fit and the fabrics. For some, it is not as interesting as the womenswear… until now. Menswear has been growing faster than womenswear and is expected to reach $33 billion by 2020. That’s why it is extremely important, as a designer or retailer, to learn about this segment of the industry.
The University of Fashion has recently launched its menswear discipline, so before checking out our lessons, how about taking a trip down memory lane to understand how the menswear industry has evolved?
Men’s fashion was initially functional in purpose. Paleolithic nomads used animal skins as protection from environmental conditions. The Ancient Egyptians provided the first signs that men’s clothing could made the leap from function to fashion. In this period, clothing and accessories began to serve as key symbols of rank and fortune.
Later on, the wealthiest men adopted tunics, and this trend continued with the toga in Ancient Greece and Rome, as well in the Middle Ages. During these periods, the essential item was the fabric, made of the finest materials.
A big shift in menswear followed the American (1775-1783) and French (1789-1799) Revolutions, when fashion became understated and “undress” was the popular opposition to the abundant adornments that defined aristocracy. While men continued to wear the waistcoat, coat and breeches of the previous period for both full dress and undress, they were now made of the same fabric, signaling the birth of the three-piece suit. The early 1800s saw the final abandonment of lace, embroidery and other embellishment from serious men’s clothing and it became gauche to dress like an aristocrat.
In Britain, Beau Brummell, a trendsetter of the time, was credited with introducing and making the modern man’s suit and necktie fashionable. Savile Row, or “The Row” as it is commonly-termed, became the center of traditional bespoke tailoring. This trend led to trousers that are popular in menswear today and have been for the past 200 years. What Paris was to women’s fashion, London was to men’s. After the American Civil War (1861-1865), standardized sizing in men’s clothing introduced the concept of mass-production, with less individual tailoring, and the necktie was introduced by 1880.
During the 1900s, the United States took an even less formal approach to fashion when they introduced the ‘sportswear’ trend. With the invention of the automobile, American fashion landed in England and the dinner jacket, a more leisurely attire, became popular among the younger generations.
Another big American fashion influence at the time was jazz music. A new generation of men were rebelling against the traditions of their fathers and clothing inspired by the Jazz Age was born, consisting of tight-fitting suits. America became the center of the men’s fashion world and modern fashion was here to stay. Blazers became popular for summer wear, the tuxedo was the jacket of the night, and the Zoot suit was popular in the nightclubs of Harlem. The “gangster influence” in suits was also an important trend. Fashion for men became a display of their personality and environment.
Casual Menswear Emerges
By the late 1940s and early 1950s, beginning with the introduction of the Hawaiian shirt, California surfer culture emerged and is ever present in men’s fashion even today. Another 50s trend was the “preppy look,” consisting of clothes worn by men at prep and Ivy League schools, such as button-down shirts, golf shirts, chino pants, and loafers. Other trendsetters in the 1950s included Elvis Presley and the British Teddy Boys. The key to these new fashion trends was comfort with personality, each trend helping to define the ‘tribe’ or subcultures to which a man chose to belong.
The 60s & 70s
The 1960s brought Italian fashion to the forefront. Brands emerged that were able to compete with the bespoke tailors of Saville Row. Still relevant among that group initial group are Brioni, Nino Cerutti and Ermenegildo Zegna.
With the ‘British Invasion’ of the 60s came another important influence, Collarless, cylindrical suits created for the Beatles by Pierre Cardin and Douglas Millings were all the rage and helped usher in the ‘mod look’ and later the ‘psychedelic look.’
By the 1970s, ‘disco style,’ popularized by the movie “Saturday Night Fever” and ‘punk style’ from London, brought a new generation of menswear consumers into the marketplace. The concept of individuality and personality was fundamental to this period and continues today.
The 80s Impact
The 1980s became known as the ‘decade of excess,’ as Baby Boomers and Yuppies placed importance on ‘status’ and ‘luxury.’ In the movie American Gigolo, Giorgio Armani designed relaxed, yet elegant, deconstructed suits that epitomized the sexy, wealthy young man (played by Richard Gere), as the “playboy” of the time. This trend was in contrast to the emergence of streetwear looks associated with the ‘breakdance’ movement, which consisted of sneakers, shoes with thick, elaborately patterned laces and colorful nylon tracksuits.
The 90s Clean & Classic
As a backlash to 80s ‘bad taste,’ the 1990s represented the clean, pared down era, a time when menswear returned to beautifully tailored suits in classic colors, especially those from Helmut Lang, Ermenegildo Zegna, Hugo Boss, Nino Cerutti, Giorgio Armani and Ralph Lauren. The term “metrosexual” was coined by British journalist Mark Simpson as the trait of an urban male of any sexual orientation (usually heterosexual) who has a strong aesthetic sense and spends a great amount of time and money on his appearance and lifestyle. Italian suits were the basis for luxury and high-quality dressing. The Armani suit dressed the businessman throughout the decade until “business casual” took over in the mid-to-late 1990s. Other trends went in and out of fashion during this decade including the grunge look and a return to punk style, although this time known as ‘cyber punk’ and ‘hip-hop style,’ inspired by street culture. In an ironic move, the preppy look made a comeback in the late 90s, closely associated with the Tommy Hilfiger clothing line, which emulated the more expensive preppy look pioneered a decade earlier by Ralph Lauren.
New Millennium – A Look Back & Forward
The new millennium began with a retro influence, a mixture of the best elements of all previous fashion eras. Once the first major American corporation Alcoa sanctioned casual office attire in 1991, it wasn’t long before “casual Friday” was replaced with “casual everyday” as most companies loosened their dress code restrictions, with the exception of the legal and financial professions and those requiring uniforms.
In 2000, designer Hedi Slimane introduced the ‘ultra-skinny silhouette’ at Dior and mainstreamed them later at Saint Laurent – ushering in a seismic shift in the menswear industry.
In 2006, American designer Thom Browne burst onto the menswear stage with his ‘short length suits.’ Sports, performance apparel and the new athleisurewear category, continue to play a major role in men’s clothing.
As designers attempt to blur the lines between men and women’s fashion, such as J.W. Anderson and his ‘shared closet’ concept, the androgynous fashion movement continues to be explored.
With a booming economy bespoke tailoring is enjoying a comeback. New bespoke tailors are gaining popularity, with brands such as Ozwald Boateng (British-Ghanian descent) and Musika Frère (American), whose suits are offered in unusual colors and patterns, and whose client list includes, Jay Z, Michael B. Jordan, Stephen Curry, Kevin Hart and even Beyoncé.
In 2018, John Galiano introduced the world to ‘men’s couture’ with his Artisanal bias cut suits for Maison Margiela.
Today, the top designer menswear brands are truly an international set. Among the top 10 are: Tom Ford (American), Gucci (Italian-Alessandro Michele), Neil Barrett (British), Thom Browne (American), DSquared2 (Canadians -Dean and Dan Caten), Dolce & Gabbana (Italian), Moncler (French), Louis Vuitton (French house-American designer Virgil Abloh), Prada (Italian) and Balmain (French-Olivier Rousteing).
Menswear has certainly evolved, from a rigid, controlled look, to one that is more casual, more personal and more connected to today’s lifestyle. Yes, menswear doesn’t change radically, but its evolution definitely shows that men are using fashion to express who they are now. Men who are freer to be themselves, men who are more comfortable in their own skin, and who are using fashion for self-expression, makes the future of menswear an exciting proposition.
Care to share who are your favorite menswear designer/designers of all time?
This summer, the rarest, most coveted sneaker collaborations were on view on Park Avenue at the Tongue + Chic, Sneakers X Artists exhibition. The exhibition ran for only about a month and a half, and we were lucky to make it in before the closing date of August 31. Sneakerheads came from near and far (and formed lines around the block) just to get a glimpse of famous collaborations between Nike, Converse, Puma, Reebok and various artists and influencers. Read More
Celebrating the big 5-0 in business is no easy feat for any company, let alone the fashion industry, where trends and styles come and go faster than the speed of light. So what is Ralph Lauren’s secret? Many young aspiring designers want to know the answer.
One key element to Ralph Lauren’s success is that he consistently stayed true to his vision. He was the first designer to create the concept of lifestyle dressing by tapping into Old English aristocracy and repackaging it ‘American-style.’ No matter what your social class, Lauren discovered a way to use fashion as a means of identify transformation and marketed that vision through carefully orchestrated advertising campaigns. Throughout the years, his brand has always been synonymous with American heritage, craftsmanship and an eye for detail in the very competitive and ever-changing world of fashion and lifestyle.
For the past 50 years, Ralph Lauren has been a key player in shaping American fashion, as we know it – his classic polo logo is known throughout the world – and can be found in a variety of closets from the preppy consumer to the hip hop crowd.
“In an industry of hyperbole, Ralph Lauren is a genuine icon,” says Bridget Foley, executive editor of WWD. “He built his company into a global giant on a core belief in living well from the inside out, his designs are the stylistic manifestations of cultural codes of civility and respect.”
The accolades for Ralph Lauren’s major milestone have already begun. In June, at the CFDA Awards, he was the recipient of the first CFDA Members Salute by fellow American designers, including Thom Browne, Michael Kors, Tommy Hilfiger, Jason Wu and Donna Karan, commemorating his incredible career. Last week, Rizzoli published a book in partnership with WWD, entitled “WWD: Fifty Years of Ralph Lauren,” a 192-page tome of five decades of stories, photos and illustrations from the publication’s archive. “Some people keep diaries of their daily lives,” said Ralph Lauren. “I never had to, because DNR and WWD have been looking over my shoulder since 1964.”
On September 7th, Ralph Lauren will host a fashion show and party to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his company at Bethesda Terrace in Central Park during New York Fashion Week. According to WWD, the event will benefit the Central Park Conservancy, a private nonprofit organization dedicated to restoring and maintaining the beloved park. It will no doubt bring a jolt of much-needed glamour and optimism to New York Fashion Week.
It’s therefore only fitting that the historic park serves as the venue for the Ralph Lauren’s 50th celebration (and was the venue for his 40th year anniversary celebration too). Central Park became the first public park in America when it was designed by the American architect Frederick Law Olmsted in 1857. Lauren’s love of history and preservation is what makes him so special.
For more on Ralph Lauren, here’s an excerpt from the Historical Dictionary of the Fashion Industry Second Edition, by Francesca Sterlacci (UoF Founder) and Joanne Arbuckle:
“Ralph Lauren is a native New Yorker born in 1939. The designer is best known for his ability to create lifestyle dressing. He was born Ralph Rueben Lifshitz, the son of Jewish refugees from Eastern Europe. As a young child, he exhibited a sense of style. Ralph and his brother could often be found thrift-shop hunting; it was here that Ralph discovered fashion as a means of identity transformation. Lauren began his design career with his 1967 tie collection, Polo, a division of Beau Brummel Company. The line was adopted by Bloomingdales. In 1968, Lauren and the name Polo joined forces with Norman Hilton, a men’s suit maker. Never timid to expand, Lauren created full lines of mens and women’s apparel. Possessing a keen sense of fashion marketing, Lauren understood the power of branding early in his career and his “polo player” logo is one of the most recognized logos throughout the world. Inspired by the colors of M&M candies, Lauren offered his famous polo shirts in the same vibrant colors. Today, a visitor to his New York headquarters on Madison Avenue will find bowls of mounded M&M candies, a nostalgic reminder of the company’s past. In the 1970s, when fashion was about flashiness and edge, Lauren was among the first to create a total image of classically-styled casual clothing. His inventive advertising campaigns featured the customer of his “creation,” the American blueblood and, by doing so, was the first to create a total “lifestyle image” as a means of re-creating oneself. In 1986, Lauren made retail history with the opening of his flagship retail store in the Rhinelander Mansion, an historical Madison Avenue mansion that exudes the projected lifestyle of the Ralph Lauren customer. In 2010, Lauren opened an additional location across the street from his flagship to house his womenswear and home collections.
While many consider Lauren more of a stylist than a designer, he has received numerous awards throughout this career beginning with Coty Awards in 1970, 1973, 1974, 1976, 1977, and 1984 and their Hall of Fame Award in 1981. His Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) awards include one in 1981 and their Lifetime Achievement Award in 1992. In 2016, Lauren was Women’s Wear Daily’s first recipient of the The John B. Fairchild Honor. Lauren is also credited with grooming many notable industry successes. Joseph Abboud and John Varvatos are two of the many menswear designers to train with the king of lifestyle design and merchandising. His former students credit him with an exceptional business sense, as well as a clear vision for the total design process through to the marketing strategy.
His company went public in 1997, though he retained a majority of voting rights on the board. By 2013, the Ralph Lauren empire, which included a successful range of accessories, childrenswear, eyewear, fragrances, handbags, home products, jewelry, neckwear and watches, had reached annual sales of $16 billion. In 2014 Lauren launched a ready-to-wear line, Polo Ralph Lauren for Women, in conjunction with the opening of a 38,000 square foot Polo flagship store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and by 2015, the Ralph Lauren Corporation consisted of Polo by Ralph Lauren, Chaps, RRL, Club Monaco, and RLX Ralph Lauren. These collections were available at more than 13,500 retail locations worldwide, including many upscale and mid-tier department stores, in 490 Ralph Lauren and Club Monaco retail stores worldwide, in 580 in-store shops and on 10 e-commerce sites. In 2015, after almost 50 years at the helm, Lauren stepped down as CEO of his company and passed the reins to Stefan Larsson, former head of Old Navy. Lauren stayed on as executive chairman and chief creative officer and continues designing: Polo Ralph Lauren, Purple Label for men and the Ralph Lauren Collection. Forbes magazine reported Lauren’s worth that same year to be nearly $6 billion. In 2016, The Wall Street Journal announced a 50 percent drop in the company’s stock, store closings and lay-offs followed.
After losing close friend Nina Hyde to breast cancer, fashion editor of The Washington Post, Lauren focused on raising money to help fight the disease. In 1989 he co-founded the Nina Hyde Center for Breast Cancer Research at Georgetown University Medical Center. And, in 2003, with a $5 million donation from Lauren, in partnership with New York’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Care and Prevention was opened in Harlem, to help the area’s medically underserved African American and Latino population gain access to high quality cancer screening and treatments.
Ralph Lauren is also among the leaders in the wearable technology market. The company unveiled their Polo Tech Shirt at the U.S. Open in 2014, a shirt that reads biological and physical information via silver fibers acting as sensors, woven into the fabric, and connected to a “black box” chip that can be streamed to an iPhone, iwatch or iPod. The company also created a version of their “Ricky Bag” that comes with an LED light and a built-in phone charger. In 2015, Ralph Lauren utilized new technology to create smart dressing rooms, allowing for an interactive experience for his customers.”
So tell us, do you think Ralph Lauren is a true iconic American designer or just a genius at marketing? Let us know your thoughts.
It’s hard to imagine life before social media became an integrated part of our everyday lives – there is just no escaping it. Our dependence on it has grown tremendously, especially over the last few years. It you are an Insta, Pinterest, Facebook or SnapChat follower, you don’t even realize how much of an ‘influence’ these channels, even subliminally, are having on your fashion choices.
In the not so distant past, however, fashion was presented to the world in an extremely controlled way, by a tight knit group of retailers and publishers whose stores, magazines, editorials and even the advertising that they chose, all projected a certain point of view…theirs. Every image presented was methodically staged and fully orchestrated by them. These carefully curated images usually represented a fantasy of beauty and inclusiveness that many in the ‘real world’ felt very out of touch with. Fast-forward to the digital age. Today, it’s a very different story. Thank goodness.
With platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, consumers have become their own magazine editors, as they share their personal style with millions of users. Fashion savvy customers no longer rely on magazines to tell them what the latest ‘must have’ item of the season is, and Millennials, Gen Zers and iGeners are looking to bloggers, influencers, celebrities and even their own sartorial friends for the latest fashion trends.
But when did the concept of the ‘fashion influencer’ begin? Let’s take a look back in time. The very first fashion influencers were royalty. When Rose Bertin (considered the first fashion designer) started dressing Queen Marie Antoinette during the 1770s, and Charles Frederick Worth (the Father of Haute Couture) became couturier to Empress Eugénie and Queen Victoria in the mid 1800s, these royal ladies became the first fashion influencers. This trend continued until the birth of cinema in the early 1900s, when starlets of the silver screen became the next wave of influencers.
While it appeared that these women wore whatever they wanted, the truth is, that many were dressed by famous designers and signature looks were created just for them (think Givenchy for Audrey Hepburn and designer Gilbert Adrian for Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich and Carol Lombard). Costume designers, such as Edith Head, also played a role in helping create looks that accentuated that particular starlet’s figure type (think Dorothy Lamour, Ginger Rogers, Barbara Stanwyck, Bette Davis, Grace Kelly, Shirley McLaine, and Elizabeth Taylor).
It didn’t take long for socialites to join the royals and starlets and of course, lest we forget… fashionable FLOTUS and British royalty, who, either with the help of some very talented designers, or by using their personal fashion sense, were added to the list of fashion influencers.
Marlene Dietrich was the original style chameleon. In the 1930’s, she was the first woman to be photographed wearing a tuxedo and the first to introduce the androgynous look. At that time, women could be, and were, arrested if they wore pants in public and detained for “masquerading as men.” Dietrich’s penchant for menswear became her signature style and yet the look was both elegant and chic.
While not a starlet, this society icon was the innovator of the high/low approach to fashion in the 1950s. Babe Paley inspired many women with her eclectic mix of designer clothes mixed with cheap costume jewelry. Who can forget that iconic image of her with a scarf tied around her handbag? This sparked a trend that still remains popular today. Babe dressed purely for her own pleasure, and her style was effortlessly elegant.
Audrey Hepburn was a major fashion influencer beginning in the early 60s and throughout her long career. In fact, her style lives on even today! Her classic Holly Golightly look from Breakfast at Tiffany’s is one of the most iconic ‘Old Hollywood’ photos out there. That fabulous little black sheath dress by Givenchy and Edith Head’s straight, black-cropped pants and boatneck top, worn with slip-on loafers, which were designed by none other than Salvatore Ferragamo. Hepburn is arguably the originator of minimalism.
For a lesson in creating the little black dress, check out: https://www.universityoffashion.com/lessons/sheath-dress/
Grace Kelly’s classic, sophisticated style was always impeccable. Her iconic feminine dresses and tailored ensembles made her one of the most influential fashion icons of her time. In fact, Hermès renamed one of their purse designs, the Kelly Bag, after the actress was spotted toting one on numerous occasions. The American actress married Prince Rainier III of Monaco, on April 1956 and her grace and style were inspirational to women all around the world.
Katharine Hepburn was one of the most idolized actresses of her generation. On and off screen, Katharine fashioned her very own personal style that embodied the ‘American look.’ She was not only a Hollywood Star, but an icon that forever changed the landscape of fashion and feminism.
For a lesson in creating the perfect pant, click this link: https://www.universityoffashion.com/lessons/basic-pant-sloper/
Jackie Kennedy Onassis
Jackie O influenced millions of women worldwide with her signature style. In the 1960s, as First Lady of the United States, she became known as the ‘First Lady of Fashion.’ Women everywhere copied her look – simple shifts, pillbox hats, elegant scarves, peacoats and oversized sunglasses. Today, women of all ages still sport the ‘Jackie O’ look. It’s timeless!
Nan Kempner, a New York socialite, was a clotheshorse, fashion rebel and an avid collector of couture. It was rumored that she never missed a Paris couture show over a span of forty years. In the 1960s, when Nan was refused entrance because she was wearing a pantsuit to La Cote Basque, a chic New York City restaurant, she took off her trousers and walked right into the restaurant wearing only her top. #womensliberation
Bianca Jagger in a white wedding suit (Photo Courtesy of Glamour)
Bianca Jagger had a style all her own. Married to Mick Jagger and a regular at Studio 54, Bianca epitomized the glitz and glamour of the 70’s. She often wore sequined sheaths, fur, high-waisted pants, crisp suits, and unbuttoned blouses. She had the eclectic flare to be able to mix and match old pieces with new in a thoroughly modern and entirely rock and roll kind of way.
Jane Birkin, English actress, singer, songwriter and model, rose to fame when she married Parisian pop poet/songwriter Serge Gainsbourg in the 1980s. Birkin defined a new era of gamine chic. Known for wearing bell-bottom jeans, simple knits, delicate jewelry, white tees, and short minis – all with effortlessly cool ease – her style is proof that casual can and always will be stylish when done in the right way. In 1984, Hermès created the now iconic ‘Birkin’ bag in her honor. Every influencers dream!
Known as the People’s Princess, Princess Diana of Wales was known for her savvy fashion sense just as much as she was known for her humanitarian efforts. When she wed in the ’80s wearing a huge, fluffy white wedding dress with leg-of-mutton sleeves, brides around the globe copied her gown. Women also mimicked her signature style of off-the-shoulder gowns worn with classic pearls. Princess Di helped put British fashion on the map, wearing labels such as Catherine Walker, Bellville Sassoon, and Gina Fratini. She was also known to wear plenty of Gianni Versace’s creations and attended his funeral with her dear friend Sir Elton John.
You can learn more about fashion history and style icons in Francesca Sterlacci’s book: Historical Dictionary of the Fashion Industry Second Edition. Available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1442239085/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=univeoffash00-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=1442239085&linkId=aa3cfeb6a3083b551c5658a3fdff7f05
So tell us, who makes your top 10 list of 21st century fashion icon influencers? And Why?
Need an escape from a world filled with political unrest, nuclear threats and terrorism? Enter…haute couture. Yeah, we know covering fashion, especially the world of couture, may seem frivolous to many, but couture is about dreaming, escapism and fantasy. Who wouldn’t want to live right now in a world of beautiful handmade gowns while running through a garden in Paris or engaging in a leisurely walk along the Seine?
But the truth is, couture is so much more than fantasy. Costume and fashion history would not be the same without it and let’s face it… couture is the ultimate marketing machine!
We need only look back in time to a publication written between 1751 and 1772 by Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d’Alembert entitled Encyclopédie, ou dictionaire raisonné des sciences, des art et des métiers, to see how this pivotal tome gave instructions to the métiers (trades) in the art of dressmaking, forever placing this trade on equal footing with the arts and sciences of the time.
And of course we owe the ’Father of Couture,’ Englishman Charles Frederick Worth (Paris circa 1856 ), the fashion genius who together with his wife as muse, transformed the world of dressmaking into ‘high fashion’. Over time, the House of Worth, along with other couturières (female) and couturiers (male) were able to take the craft to a whole other level by creating perfumes, shoes, millinery and diffusion lines. These spin-offs planted the seeds which would later become lifestyle branding with lots of marketing hype!
We know that these one-of-a kind haute creations come with a hefty price tag. On average, one couture gown can take over 800 hours to create and cost several hundred thousand dollars. Even couture daywear starts at around $10,000! It’s estimated that there are only approximately 2,000 couture clients, mostly from Russia, China, the United States and the Middle East, with fewer than 300 that buy regularly.
So, do the numbers. With only a handful of steady customers, you got it…haute couture is not a money maker. Couture houses spend millions of dollars twice a year, by selecting exquisite fabrics, hand-sewing each garment, employing top métiers for beading and embroideries and producing larger-than-life runway shows, using A list models, hair and make-up teams. The profits are negligible, amounting to less than ten per cent of gross profits for some houses, though most operate at a loss. However, their true value is in the selling of the house’s fragrance, make-up line and other less-expensive branded items like shoes and handbags.
So why do these houses still invest in their haute couture collections, other than pushing their ancillary products? They are selling a dream. Fashion shows attract huge media attention and gain enormous publicity for the couture houses. Think about how many actresses wear couture on the red carpet. These designers are selling a dream of chic cachet, beauty, desirability and exclusiveness, that the ordinary person can ‘buy into.’
Here are some highlights of the Haute Couture Fall 2018 Season:
Pierpaolo Piccioli has been on a role and his Valentino Couture show closed out Haute Couture Fashion Week in Paris with rave reviews. This season Piccioli offered a brilliant line-up of rich saturated hues and swaggering proportions. According to Vogue.com, Piccioli stated, “Couture involves a deeper and more intimate perspective, to go further into your own vision of beauty.” His vision was a perfect blend of Greek Mythology, 17th- and 18th-century painting, the films of Pasolini and the photographs of Deborah Turbeville, medieval armor, and Ziggy Stardust. Whew, that’s quite a line-up of inspiration, eh?
This translated into intricate embroidered capes, a multiple brocade evening dress adorned with rhinestones, sequins and pearls, a red sculpted jersey gown and a trio of featherweight taffeta dresses that wrapped around the body.
How does a house known for its use of fur adapt to the changing landscape of the anti-fur movement? After all, major fashion houses such as Gucci, Versace and Michael Kors have all announced they would go fur free and use only faux fur in their collections. Fendi on the other hand, made no such promise, but did abandon their Haute Fur Show in favor of a couture show.
Though Fendi did include some fur pieces, what they also did was produce something much more creative than fur and faux fur (which by the way is also a major earth pollutant). They ingeniously manipulated textiles in such a way as to resemble real fur; case in point, a coat created with fine strips of chiffon that were frayed and stitched together so closely that it could have been easily mistaken for an intarsia’d mink. While there were plenty of real fur looks in the line-up, it was refreshing for a house like Fendi show alternatives. And oh, what a great upcycling concept!
JEAN PAUL GAULTIER
Always known to break with tradition, Jean Paul Gaultier showed his haute couture collection on both male and female models as the versatility of the collection was genderless. With a strong emphasis on tailoring, his suits were oh so chic! Gaultier was able to take the iconic “Le Smoking” and update it for the 21st century.
John Galliano has now taken to podcasting and for Margiela couture he stated that this is collection is “the raw, raw, undiluted essence, the parfum of the house.” Following in the footsteps of his Artisanal collection for men, Galliano presented a highly innovative, high-concept collection exposing the craftsmanship of haute couture – literally – by revealing the exquisite stitching that goes into the construction of a hand-tailored jacket. The true genius of Galliano came through by layering garments between tubes of filmy nylon, thus creating what Vogue called “translucent fabric sandwiches.”
“We’re all nomads today,” added Galliano, “. . . we do move in tribes.” Galliano calls it “nomadic glamour.” Reminds us a bit of Yeohlee and her “Urban Nomads” collection, only this time, on steroids!
Ahhhh, and then there was Armani. Known for his master tailoring and Red Carpet artistry, the fall Armani Privé collection didn’t disappoint. Armani’s press notes noted “A sculptural, almost regal style.” The first half of the show (there were almost 100 looks in all), was a sea of black and champagne-colored pantsuits and evening looks, all that captured the chic essence of Armani beautifully. However, in an attempt to keep up with the times, half-way through the show Armani switched gears and sent out electric hues in everything from an ostrich feather cape to a hot pink and turquoise pantsuit that was a complete disconnect to the first half of the show. Go Armani!
We fashionistas can always count on Karl Lagerfeld to create a wonderful backdrop for his Chanel collection. And for this collection he did not disappoint by sending his models for stroll along the Seine with its wide sidewalks and low stone walls framing the magnificent Institut de France, built by Louis le Vau for Cardinal Mazarin in the 1660s (and where the Academie Française is housed). Perhaps with age, Lagerfeld is feeling a bit reflective about his first days in Paris as an 18-year old. In an interview with Vogue before the show, Lagerfeld remembered a city still suffering from postwar neglect, with dirty streets and dark, unrestored buildings. “People said to my parents, ‘but he can get lost,’” he added. “My mother knew better: I had a strong survivor instinct!”
The collection was filled with the House’s signature tweeds all in shades of grey. There were plenty of long skirts that unzipped to reveal sexy miniskirts adorned with magnificent embroideries. Lagerfeld also showed a silver foil ball gown skirt, a bevy of chic jackets and plenty of transparent chiffon pleated eveningwear.
After years of over the top glamour and in your face sex appeal at Dior, at the hands of Raf Simons and John Galliano, the tide seems to be turning toward a more minimalistic approach to fashion. At the forefront of this evolutionary change is Maria Grazia Chiuri. Her couture 2018 collection involved some feminist research. She read up on Leonor Fini, one of the avant-garde artists Christian Dior chose to exhibit in the gallery he was involved with before becoming a couturier. The results were beautiful, somber, sculpted and pleated pieces that were way more complex than what met the eye. These were serious clothes. Only a seasoned designer like Chiuri knows how to design clothes, utilizing the talents of finest ‘hands’ in the business, that will attract the most discerning couture clients. Chiuri showed cashmere suits, simple strapless gowns that grazed the ankle, effortless pleated dresses and demure eveningwear. This collection is timeless and elegant yet modern and refreshing. A hit!
For the past 50 years, the name Sonia Rykiel has been associated with fun, lighthearted knitwear. This season, designer Julie de Libran presented the first Sonia Rykiel couture collection. And, staying true to the Rykiel code, presented a collection with the same joie de vivre that the house’s founder was known for.
Gone from this collection were the traditional evening gowns that epitomize the world of couture. Instead, de Libran presented a youthful and edgy line-up. Looks ranged from a striped hand-beaded off the shoulder Marinière sweater to a black sweater dress with a trompe l’oeil bikini embroidery and a bridal corset look with front-lacing, a feathered knit veil and blue jeans. Surely de Libran is a couture disruptor but is this collection really worthy of being called couture?
IRIS VAN HERPEN
Always a fashion renegade, Iris van Herpen decided to show her couture collection at the Galerie de Minérologie et de Géologie, a fitting choice, since the name of this collection was “Ludi Naturae,” translated from Latin, “nature play.”
However, Van Herpen’s idea of nature flirts with synthetic biology through her iconic laser-cutting techniques and 3-D printed illusion fabric innovations, which she has taken to new heights and labels it “syntopia.” To quote van Herpen: “I think we as humans don’t even come close to the intelligence within nature. It’s funny how people think that nature is simple and technology is complex—it’s the opposite; technology is simple and nature is complex.”
Known for her artist collaborations, this time it was Amsterdam-based artist duo Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta of Studio Drift who created the backdrop her runway ‘science fantasy. She also partnered with Dutch sculptor Peter Gentenaar who is known for capturing ‘organic memory’ and motion through his delicate, large-scale cellulose sculptures, and together they created a show that was ‘other-worldly.’
Considered fashion’s ‘futurist-in-residence,’ couture season would be incomplete without Iris van Herpen and her vision.
DO YOU THINK THE SONIA RYKIEL COLLECTION MERITS COUTURE STATUS? IF SO, WHY?
Pride month – there’s no more colorful month of the year. And what better opportunity to acknowledge a part of LGBTQ history that has influenced fashion, music, dance and culture for almost four decades?
Attention, legendary children!
We are about to give you the basics of ball culture.
Since the early 1920s (and possibly even earlier), LGBTQ people have been coming together, often in underground secret spaces, to celebrate the art of dressing a part, dance and creating a safe space for creative expression. In the 1980s, these gatherings, or balls, were where those often cast out from society (many black and Latino) could be whoever they wanted for a night.
And while many equate balls with drag shows, there is much more to ball culture than sequins and feathers. Runway competitions included categories like “Executive Realness” allowing LGBTQ people of color the opportunity to dress the part of a Wall Street executive—an option not available to minorities during the day. And for young LGBTQ kids kicked out of their homes, ball culture offered a family, shelter and safety.
Thanks to the summer’s breakout hit show Pose on FX, a new generation is getting schooled on what life was like for a segment of the LGBTQ community in the early 80s in NYC. Severe shoulder pads and all.
Pose is ground-breaking in that it stars/employs more transgender actors and extras than any other scripted show currently on the air, however, Pose is hardly the first show to document ball culture. In fact, any in-the-know designer should immediately move the documentary Paris is Burning to the top of their must watch Netflix list.
In addition to a primer on late 80s/early 90s fashion, Paris is Burning reveals the roots of voguing as a dance and art form, so named from the model poses seen on the actual pages of Vogue magazine. And as an emerging designer, the deeper your understanding of history, the bigger pool of inspiration you have to draw from for your future collections.
So sit back, children, and learn your ball culture. If you are a fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race (anyone else #TeamAquaria this season?), Mama Ru’s catch phrases are about to make much more sense.
Houses and Families
At a ball, participants walked as houses. Houses were often named after fashion houses or beauty icons, for example, House of Saint Laurent. Each house has a mother who sets the tone/rules for the house and takes in new family members. Family members often adopt the last name of their house, not only showing their loyalty, but also creating a sense of belonging not provided by a biological family. And house mothers refer to their children as legendary.
Walking in a Category
Balls are made up of runway competitions and each competition fits into a theme or category. The emcee of the ball will call out, “Category is….” and all those who are participating will prepare to show off their best super model, evening wear, military, school girl, uptown/downtown, etc. garb.
Serving (Category) Realness
In order to win a runway competition, participants are judged on realness, or how likely they are to actually pass in real life as the individual they are representing on the runway. Serving Park Avenue realness means the participant could fit right in strolling down Park Avenue with the ladies who lunch.
Because the ball participants of the 80s had very few resources, some mopped or stole the materials they needed to create their runway looks. We don’t advocate stealing at U of F, however, we know many designers are operating on a shoestring budget and therefore, studying ball culture can be pretty inspiring to see what those who had nothing can create on no budget at all.
Reading and Throwing Shade
To read another participant in ball culture is to ruthlessly insult another’s outfit, look, walk or presentation without breaking a sweat. Reading is in good fun, and thus, the phrase “the library is open,” often clears the floor for a good read. Throwing shade is a more subtle form of reading, saved for the most clever and witty of readers. The library doesn’t necessarily have to be open for shade to be thrown.
From Marc Jacobs to Alexander McQueen to Jeremy Scott to Vivienne Westwood to…the list goes on and on… designers have drawn inspiration from underground club scenes over the course of history. You can, too. Just make sure to learn your history before attempting to throw shade, darling.
Over the past several years, the fashion industry calendar has twisted into something beyond recognition. In today’s era of rampant consumption, social media and the internet, designers and brands can no longer rely on two show-seasons a year (Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter collections) to stay relevant. This has placed a tremendous burden on designers who have become increasingly stressed with the workload. Burn out and, in some cases, death (think Alexander McQueen and L’Wren Scott) can play a role.
Earlier this year, designer Alexander Wang announced that would not be showing his main Spring 2019 collection during Fashion Week (in September) and instead, is choosing to show that collection during pre-collection season. Maybe Mr. Wang is on to something?
Ten plus years ago, Resort and Pre-fall collections were only shown to buyers and were basically a brand’s best-selling items, used as store fillers between seasons. Once brands decided to open the season to the press (WWD and Style.com were the first publications to fully cover pre-collections) the flood gates were opened! Today, Resort shows start in early May and continue through the second week of June. Some designers and retailers think that the resort season has become almost as important as the Spring & Winter collection seasons.
For Resort 2019, designers have made it a lot easier for the press, celebrities and buyers by choosing to show in fashion capitals. Chanel, Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton and Gucci decided to show in France, while Valentino and Prada chose New York.
LET’S LOOK AT THE HISTORY OF RESORT SEASON
While many fashion lovers enjoy the visual stimulation of Resort shows, many are in the dark about what this fashion season truly means and why it exists. So, here’s a brief history:
A Cruise or Resort collection (also referred to as a Holiday or Travel collection) is an inter-season or pre-season line of ready-to-wear clothing produced by a brand, in addition to their recurrent twice-yearly seasonal collections – Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter, shown during major fashion weeks in New York, London, Paris and Milan.
Cruise collections were originally targeted to wealthy customers or seasoned jet-setters, cruising or vacationing in the warm Mediterranean sun during the winter months. Cruise collections usually consist of light spring or summer clothing, when weather at the points of sale actually calls for winter apparel. However, today, Resort/Cruise collections are targeted to consumers who have finished buying their fall wardrobes (ideally) and are looking ahead for something new. Resort collections range from warm weather looks, such as pretty sundresses and swimsuits, to winter looks, like fur coats and cozy sweaters (perfect for that Aspen getaway).
In the past, only high end houses like Chanel, Christian Dior, Gucci, Prada, Ralph Lauren and Marc Jacobs produced resort collections. But thanks to consumers who are always looking for something new, now almost every brand creates a resort delivery (November delivery), from Michelle Smith for her label Milly to Tory Burch.
Resort is also an opportunity to satisfy the generation of consumers who travel all the time. It also answers the climate change dilemma where these days, in many parts of the world, there is little to no winter. Additionally, thanks to online shopping, brands at every price-point have global customers. Some of the biggest spenders are in the ever-important Asian, Arab, and Russian markets. For major brands, the resort delivery is a commercial necessity.
Resort collections are available for consumer purchase in November and perfect timing for Holiday shopping. While Resort is an extra opportunity for brands to make money, it has become an incredibly important season for those brick & mortar retailers who are struggling with how to lure customers back to shopping in stores. Unlike Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter collections, Resort remains on the sales floor the longest (Spring merchandise arrives February) before hitting the sale rack, which makes it the most profitable season for most brands. Not a lot of mark downs.
So, let’s take a look at some Resort collections from the start of this season:
DO YOU BELIEVE DESIGNERS ARE BURNING OUT BY CREATING FOUR COLLECTIONS A YEAR?
I’ve always wanted to teach a class on how to find inspiration as a fashion designer. I’ve often thought, “How dreamy to spend my days finding and exploring what inspires me, never mind the satisfaction that would come from fostering inspiration in others.” For me, finding inspiration is the most thrilling part of what we get to do as designers. Read More