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Time travel in leather, checks and pointed loafers with Celine’s FW19 collection.
Year after year, creative directors draw from fashion moments of the past to reinvent itself in a wholly modern context.
Ever heard the saying "everything old is new again"? The fashion industry swears by it. The recycling of trends, garments and looks has been a constant aspect of the sartorial landscape since its very beginnings.
Fashion ‘waves' or ‘cycles' come every 15 to 25 years – influenced by pop culture, generational shifts and social trends. Sometimes, that might mean a 19th-century puffed shoulder. Other times, a flared jeans hemline, straight from the Flower Power movement of the 1970s, or a tiny clutch that wouldn't look out of place in a Parisian bar circa 1932. That square toe heel you recently bought? Chances are your grandmother owned a very similar pair back in the 50s.
The reason for such ‘recurrences' comes back to the nature of fashion itself. Very much like history, the art of dressing is shaped by the political, social, even economic events around it. And just like history, fashion tends to repeat itself – incorporating different influences and approaches each time.
"Looking back is great so long as you also see what is happening now and look forward to the future," says Tiffany Ap, China Bureau Chief of WWD, a fashion industry trade journal that's considered ‘the bible of fashion.' "If you're only looking back, then I would say that veers into the world of costume design."
While today's designers often find inspiration in the past, the latest collections are anything but stale. On the contrary: The FW19 shows were blasts from the past, adapted for modern sensibilities. In what seems to be a response to shifting notions of gender roles and a growing desire for comfort, maisons like Chanel, Gucci, Valentino and Prada declared everything from 70s feathers and 80s power shoulders to 90s satin dresses back in style.
"We definitely saw a mix-match of retro trends, perhaps more than ever before," says Zaneta Cheng, fashion and features editor of Prestige magazine. "Even within the same collection, there were sometimes references to different time periods. The 80s were certainly predominant, as were the 60s to 70s, in the form of the skirt suit – white blouse, little jackets."
In Dior's FW19 collection, Maria Grazia Chiuri bows to the roaring 20s with an array of bucket hats, full skirts, checks and jacquard prints. Tory Burch showcases boots that look as though they could thrifted from a cool vintage store, and Louis Vuitton offers a modern take on the quilted patchwork that was so ubiquitous in the 70s.
In his runway debut for Bottega Veneta, Daniel Lee also courted the 70s – the collection captivates with statement coats, quilted skirts, subtly sexy knit dresses and scoop-neck sweaters. His men's line, meanwhile, is a very Studio 54 mix of slouched and oversized coats, biker boots and narrow sleeves that extend past the wrist.
In his runway debut for Bottega Veneta, Daniel Lee also courted the 70s – the collection captivates with statement coats, quilted skirts, subtly sexy knit dresses and scoop-neck sweaters. His men’s line, meanwhile, is a very Studio 54 mix of slouched and oversized coats, biker boots and narrow sleeves that extend past the wrist.
Designers like Hermes, Burberry, Celine and Tod's, too, peer into the past to offer a resurgence of what fashion editors have dubbed the "bourgeois suiting" – a blend of refined country chic and flamboyant style marked by fur coats and neck scarves, top hats and tweed.
"The classic French girl is back, and concentrated more than ever," Cheng says. "It's a very conservative, ‘lady who lunches' look, inspired no doubt by social media – a lot of Instagram accounts have been hyping that aesthetic from the past and made it viral in recent seasons. Designers have reflected it in their runways. Some goes for the 90s nostalgia.
"Today, those periods are seen as good times... it's only natural that fashion is also looking back at them."
Even the cape, which first made its fashion history ‘debut' in the Victorian era, made a comeback. Marc Jacobs showed off capes in leopard, Chloe in subdued camel, and Celine in long, carefree variations.
Men's FW19 styles show similar homages to the past. Balenciaga, Prada, Raf Simons and Bottega Veneta have dramatic, 80s-inspired crafted sets of shoulders, built into coats and oversized jackets. Gucci and Vetements play with flower prints ‘a la grandma,' while Balmain and Lacoste put preppy, 1950s V-necks at the centre of their runways.
"For these established fashion houses, it's often more about playing with and updating that ‘house code' and image, rather than completely demolishing the value and creative essence that already exists," says Ap. "One way to do that is to dive into the brand's archives and pull from the past."
Which is exactly what ever-imaginative Jeremy Scott, the creative director of Moschino, has been up to. Scott took reinvention to the next level with the FW19 ‘Game On' collection that pays homage to the kitschier looks of the 90s with gold leather two-piece suits, sparkling gowns and sky-high strappy sandals.
"I personally love Moschino's collection," Cheng says. " Fashion [mirrors] the mood of the time. Scott playing with bling and glamour in a climate that's currently quite the opposite of that was actually a very smart way to have fun with clothes, despite the circumstances."
The larger-than-life collection – which are available for purchase via the Exclusive Online Store on the LANDMARK HONG KONG app – includes four pieces exclusive to LANDMARK, such as Nappa leather biker jacket with a contrasting watercolor money print, a dollar studs-patterned crepe dress and joggers boasting a bold slot machine and coin motif.
Whether you gravitate to the elegance of the 50s or the campy 80s, retro fashion provides more than just nostalgia. "Retro ensures there's a built-in story," says Ap. "The best fashion is storytelling, because that's where emotions come from."
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