I remember growing up, thinking that the 70’s was possibly the most shameful era of fashion. The haughty (and clothing obsessed) ten year old I was, would cringe at the sight of my uncle’s throw-back pictures. I would only dare to glimpse for a second at his bell-bottom corduroy trousers and loud shirts, recovered from a dusty family photo-album. I resolved that the 70’s was a time that wouldn’t ever come back to haunt my precious world of fashion.
Fast forward to today and highstreets are swamped with peasant shirts and shaggy jerkins. I imagine my old self would consider it her worst nightmare, but admittedly, feelings of repulsion don’t spring up at all. I, unashamedly, now own flared jeans and a large collared dress (corny textile and all), both of which I find myself reaching for on a regular basis.
So, what has changed? I believe that it is the fashion industry’s discovery of irony. To dress ironically, is inherently a deep expression of self-confidence. What the market has come to appreciate is that a gorgeous vixen dressed like Eddie the Eagle possesses more credit for her beauty than if she was dressed in a simple LBD. Irony amplifies her beauty.
“Fortune favours the brave”; good things come to those who take risks. Take Gucci, for example, 3 years ago it was a fashion house who’s future hung in the balance, facing an uncertain future after both CEO and creative director stepped down. Then in swoops Alessandro Michelle, floral cape and prominent beard to the rescue, a controversial choice, but nonetheless one Gucci would not regret. Immediately, a change in the vibe of the brand became visible. Gold, glitz and glamour returned to the brand. Opulence and subversion of classic Gucci branding became the key concentrated points of the new look. And naturally, sales soared through the roof. Gucci is now the poster boy for it’s parent, Kering.
Not only this, but Gucci has managed to maintain its heritage and distinctive style despite such drastic changes. The monogram is maintained, the coloured straps too, and a distinctive Italian feel remains. Perhaps this is the perfect way a creative director should approach their work at a massive and historic fashion house. Many who find themselves at the helm of a successful brand, overwhelmed by the resources at their fingertips, can’t resist the temptation of making the brand their own, abandoning any previous identity the house held beforehand. Alessandro, however, prevailed, and in doing so, found the perfect balance of putting his mark on the brand without sacrificing any of the core ideas behind Gucci.
By this point, many consumers had tired of being delivered mass market and bland looks. Irony and Gucci became the guava sitting next to the gruel being offered to luxury buyers at a continental breakfast. There was no longer a desire to ‘fit in’, the only trend worth following was to be as different and new as possible; the fashion industry had finally woken up and smelt the coffee.
Irony, therefore, has not just been limited to the 70’s revival. Von Dutch hats, slogan crop tops and metallic everything is back, signalling a reignited love of the 90’s. Gone are the days when we can look back at 80’s sitcoms and disdain at Jennifer Anniston’ outfit choices. Other ironic rebirths, new ways of taking risks in the industry are becoming available. Triggered by the appointment of Demna Gvasalia, creative director of Vetements, to Balenciaga, the IKEA Bag was born and became an instant hit. More and more luxury consumers are rushing to buy what the press are labelling as outrageously expensive trash. I personally believe the media are missing the point. If you can rock a skirt that looks like a car carpet protector or a high-fashion version of retails lowest moment, crocs, then, surely, you could wear anything.