Bébhinn Campbell questions what the rise of retro says about the state of the fashion industry.
RACHEL Green was for many, their first introduction to 90s fashion. Her haircut became iconic in its own right, and the influence of her fashion choices were no less powerful. A little later came Carrie Bradshaw, who contributed to the same timeless image of a strong working woman living the big-city life. It’s no wonder why we continue to look to them for guidance in how we should act, and in how we should dress.
Remnants of the 90’s style have been steadily and universally gaining popularity ever since, yet some re-emerging fashion eras have been met with divided opinion – most recently, the 1970s. While I have always romanticized the past in general as a collective explosion of creativity and class, I vividly remember my first encounter with flared jeans, accompanied by the promise that I would never be seen in such a ghastly silhouette. Alas, just one month ago I found myself in an H&M fitting room, donning a pair of dark-washed kick-flares. Luckily, I caught sight of my unrecognisable self in the mirror before I had time to reach for my wallet.
“it seems that every brand under the glare of the runway spotlight has jumped on the 70s bandwagon.”
So why is it that a style which was so widely questioned, has suddenly made a reappearance? From Gucci to Tommy Hilfiger, it seems that every brand under the glare of the runway spotlight has jumped on the 70’s bandwagon. With the first hints appearing back in 2015, the controversial trend is showing no sign of slowing down. Fashion house Miu Miu has just showcased its Spring 2017 collection, which was brimming with loud prints and orange tones, and standing true to its inspiration.
While opinion on the 70’s remains divided, there seemed to be universal agreement that certain eras were screaming to be forgotten. However, the recent return of the low-rise jean along with the admittedly rare, yet suitably shocking sightings of velour tracksuits have sparked interest in the once-laughed at noughties attire, while endless ruffles have made stepping into Topshop feel like stepping into the 80’s. Even more shocking, and debatably ridiculous, recent runway shows have debuted a sort of ‘casual’ corset – a piece which was never recognised for its style and sophistication, but rather for its demeaning role in the distorted 19th century perception of beauty. Is the sweeping popularisation of these love/hate items simply a result of a sheep mentality? Are we all guilty of trying on flares because we are told that we should wear them?
“It seems that at times this inspiration vastly overwhelms the catwalk and leaves little room for originality.”
These styles may have been popular enough the first time to justify their resurrection, or perhaps this repetition hints to a certain lack of creativity in today’s industry. Looking at the most prominent trends of the last few seasons, each seems a copy, or at least a reimagining of iconic styles from times gone by. Take the off-the-shoulder top which was everywhere last Spring/Summer, and now picture Sandy in the final number of Grease. Although even this memorable scene cannot claim all credit, taking its inspiration from the name behind the neckline, Brigette Bardot. Chokers and mom jeans? 90’s. Velvet and turtlenecks? So 70s.
Is our generation producing fashion to be remembered? It is difficult to pinpoint a particular style or silhouette which is distinct to this era. While it is natural for the industry to take inspiration from past successes, it seems that at times this inspiration vastly overwhelms the catwalk and leaves little room for originality. Perhaps the problem is rooted in our increasingly fast-paced society, putting pressure on designers and giving them less time to work their magic. In an increasingly on-demand world, the fashion industry is clearly struggling to create a lasting ‘look’ which will define our own era of style.