MAKING GLAMOUR GREAT AGAIN
Somewhere along the line, glamour lost its lustre. In fashion, it was once the goal, a decadent state of mind to aspire to: Elizabeth Taylor, with her endless emeralds, husbands and range of perfumes. Bianca Jagger dressed in off-the-shoulder red on a white horse in Studio 54. Princess Diana in bejewelled, body-hugging Versace. Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie Bradshaw in her Vivienne Westwood wedding dress. Glamour was once the reference point women took to their hairstylists in the salon and into the fitting rooms at department stores.
Then, from about 2008 onwards, the concept jumped off a cliff and into a pit of internet memes (try Googling ‘glamour shots’), and camp TV humour (we love you, RuPaul’s Drag Race). Glamour became more entertainment than wardrobe inspiration — at least in knowing fashion circles.
When an ELLE colleague once told another, ‘You look glamorous today,’ with a raised eyebrow during London Fashion Week, it sent the latter into a minor tailspin. ‘Am I wearing too much make-up? Is my hair too big? I feel like you’re telling me I look uncool,’ she replied. This was at the height of fashion’s Off Duty moment last year, when we were all wearing tracksuit bottoms to the office and DHL T-shirts to gallery openings. The last thing anyone wanted to look was glamorous.
But this was before 2017 happened, the year that Miuccia Prada made it cool to wear ostrich feathers, Anthony Vaccarello made a solid case for glitter, and Demna Gvasalia reminded us of the merits of a good old-fashioned bombshell of an evening gown at the autumn Prada, Saint Laurent and Balenciaga shows respectively.
When I spoke to Alek Wek, who wore said gown backstage, her eyes were glassy with excitement. ‘It was an emotional experience for me, wearing that gown. It was just that beautiful,’ she said of the look, a drawdropping reinterpretation of an archive piece, complete with a voluminous, oversized bow and pockets. The shift in the air was palpable, as backstage dressers helped the models out of their massive gowns and carefully packed them away like giant works of art — and all this from Gvasalia, the man behind those Vetements DHL T-shirts that made extreme underdressing so popular in the first place.
He was hardly the only one to tap into the decadent, velvet-rope moment. Bottega Veneta offered up moody, vaguely Hitchcockian Fortiesinspired dresses and gowns, while Dries Van Noten showed rich velvet dresses with faux-fur stoles. Alessandro Michele dialled up his already maximalist use of crystals, sequins and embroidery on opulent dresses, coats and tops at Gucci. And Dolce & Gabbana piled on their trademark ‘Siciliana’ with jackets, jeans and capes covered in shimmer, feathers, rosettes, beadwork, gold braiding, appliqués – you name it. This is a season in which faux furs are big, decorative flourishes even bigger, and Céline Dion is the fashion icon of our times. A sense of deliberation is encouraged. It’s no longer uncool to look like you’ve made an effort. In short, glamour is back.
But why now? The answer is the same one that has been driving the fashion conversation for a while now: disruption and the collective desire to feel good in spite of it. Clothes that compel you to dress up and go out out certainly fit the bill.
‘The world is quite a scary and intense place. And with times like these, I feel there is always a sense of escapism that comes into play,’ says Michael Halpern. The New Yorker and Central Saint Martins graduate became one of London Fashion Week’s brightest new talents in February, when he debuted an unapologetically glam line-up of discostyle dresses and flared jumpsuits covered in multicoloured sequins that would have made Ziggy Stardust proud. In his line’s short existence, hugely influential retailers, from London’s Matches Fashion and Browns to Bergdorf Goodman in New York, have picked him up. He’s already a rising performer at the former: ‘Michael Halpern’s approach to glamour is different to everything else and feels very contemporary and fun. A pair of his sequin trousers will look incredible with trainers and a T-shirt, or you can go all out with a dress or jumpsuit. We’ve already had an incredible reaction to his collection, which is selling very well,’ says Natalie Kingham, buying director at Matches Fashion.
Opulent glamour as a whole promises to be one of the biggest ideas on the sales floor this autumn, with dramatic robes, kimonos and crystalembellished satin heels emerging as early retail hits, according to Kingham. ‘I think more than ever, people need this sort of escapism today. To go out and feel magnificent, confident and bright is a way to navigate this type of climate,’ Halpern says.
Fashion insiders and customers seem to agree. ‘Beyond the clothes, glamour is an attitude,’ says Lisa Aiken, fashion director of Net-a-Porter. ‘All the collections that left an impression on me for their take on glamour
Satin-mix shoes, £45,
Polyester blazer, £39.99, H&M Faux shearling stole, £58, HELEN MOORE
Denim jeans, £110, LEVI’S