NOW WAVE Suddenly the 80s has swung back around.
There have been subtle signs of its resurgence, but suddenly the 80s has swung back around.
They’re back. The 1980s, the era that came careening out of the drapery and bohemian fuss of the 70s and woke up the zoned-out masses, has defiantly returned. Turn any which way this season – Milan, New York, Paris – and the decade that was about as conspicuous as they come has tipped past critical mass. There were hints of its imminent arrival. The all-seeing J.W. Anderson signposted a fashion flashpoint several seasons ago, swerving away from the pack to put the era front and centre in the form of Lurex, lamé and leather. Hedi Slimane’s glitzy swansong at Saint Laurent did its part to keep things
simmering. Track to now, and the era is defying its bad reputation. “I say, a bit of bad taste,” the house’s new creative head Anthony Vaccarello declared backstage, seamlessly taking up Slimane’s glamourladen baton. With sexed-up leather and ample flesh framed in sequins, Vaccarello didn’t bother with mystery. Neither did Humberto Leon and Carol Lim at Kenzo, with lacquered apple-red pants, or Rodarte’s Mulleavy sisters, who served up scrunchy leg-of-mutton-sleeved prom dresses.
The aspects of the era some might choose to forget were the very same ones designers chose to delve into. Brash colours were feverishly employed by Balenciaga’s Demna Gvasalia in magenta and electric purple Spandex, at Emanuel Ungaro in grass-green party dresses and in Sies Marjan’s assertive left-of-pretty palette in neon and clashing pastels.
Elsewhere, the era’s ethos of empowerment was revived. Bulked-up tailoring at Louis Vuitton, Balenciaga and Haider Ackermann were about getting down to business. These are clothes that allow power women, much like Maripol, the creative polymath who styled Blondie and Madonna and went on to become art director of then It brand Fiorucci, to excel today.
Shape-wise, the theme continued in jutting one-shouldered dresses and angular silhouettes (Gucci, Saint Laurent) that had Claude Montana-like boisterousness. Skirts are short, stilettos ultra-high and fabrics hyper-glossy.
Why now? Social-political tensions are running hot. Powerful looks and the certainty they telegraph can make us feel secure, or at least put some zip in our step; the idea that outer chaos can bring inner self-possession. What it is at its best is a return to fashion for fashion’s sake. “At the beginning, Saint Laurent was girls having fun, breaking the rules,” said Vaccarello. It’s time to invoke that spirit. Alice Birrell