In these most uncertain of times, designers prefer to daydream and romanticize their recollections of days long past, instead of engaging with the times to come.
Nostalgia is the theme on everyone's lips. This is nothing new, of course, since fashion is but an eternal re-interpretation of past trends. It is like a cherished memory, perpetually on repeat and occasionally punctuated by some form of revitalization.
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In this respect, Simon Porte Jacquemus has demonstrated a real knack for using nostalgia as the common thread that weaves its way through his collections. His memories of a childhood spent in the South of France and the French Lolita style à la Isabelle Adjani have long been the key influences that served as a common thread through his collections. Recently, however, he has gone even further, as with his Spring/Summer 2018 collection which celebrates the sensuality of the 1960s, although revisited in all the flavors of the present.
Once again, Jacquemus has been able to deconstruct the nostalgia phenomenon with a series of runway numbers that were midway between decidedly chic tailoring and a feminine and graceful sensuality, while infusing new life into their cuts and textures. His many ensembles stand out with a certain contemporary and fresh je-ne-sais-quoi, with fluid yet tight silhouettes featuring large polka dots and oversized hats that were to die for.
Also playing around with poetic nostalgia, the Each x Other collective had quotes from poems by the artist Robert Montgomery printed on the outfits of their Spring/Summer 2018 collection. Typically feminine cuts, such as wrap dresses, were intermingled with more masculine pieces, including low shoulder shirts and jersey pajamas. The brand also worked with Turkish designer Dilara Findikoglu to create unisex pieces inspired by Charles Baudelaire's Les Fleurs Du Mal (The Flowers of Evil). And just what resulted from this collaboration? Gender-neutral and neo-romantic silhouettes with hand-crafted, beaded flower detailing, as well as lace cuffs and black velvet outfits embellished with silk and satin.
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As for the Belgian designer, Dries Van Noten, he is an eternal optimist – and so this became the theme that would serve as the title for his Spring/Summer 2018 collection, "The Optimist." In keeping with his love of fashion archives and art history, Van Noten focused on a feminine wardrobe with masculine touches, replete with contrasting textures and colors, and featuring exteriors that were richly adorned with deliberately surreal collages and assemblages. His fetishistic prints are straight out of the 1920s and 1980s – two decades that were full of fire and festivities.
The fashion archives were also a source of inspiration for the duo that heads up the artistic direction of the brand, Kenzo. Indeed, Carol Lim and Humberto Leon put a brand new spin on the showpieces and key influences of the Kenzo wardrobe to unveil the Momento N°2 collection, with men and women’s ready-to-wear clothing that explores Kenzo Takada's inspirations and Asian-American identity.
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While some designers, like Dries Van Noten and Kenzo, managed to successfully juggle the legacy of their fashion archives, others seem to have somewhat lost their way. Take the Lanvin fashion house, for example, which appears to be completely lost after three years of existential crises. In case you have forgotten, Bouchra Jarrar succeeded the much loved Alber Elbaz as artistic director, but was then swiftly thanked for her services before being replaced by Olivier Lapidus, whose first collection for the fashion house failed to quell the criticism.
On the nostalgic side, Lapidus brought back the elevated catwalk, one made famous by 1980s fashion shows. However, the collection itself was devoid of elegance, and was far removed from the soberly chic and subtly sensual style that made Jeanne Lanvin such a success, and Alber Elbaz much lamented. The Spring/Summer 2018 collection by Lanvin has unfortunately set the tongues of fervent fans of Elbaz’s style wagging, with a distinct “It was so much better before!” theme.
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Off-White’s Virgil Abloh, for his part, impressed with a defiant and sexy collection that was channelling our inner business woman. The power-suit of the 1980s made a comeback on Off-White’s Spring/Summer 2018 runway, more deconstructed and sensual than ever before. The many off-the-shoulder-gowns, double-breasted tuxedos, and coats worn with cycling shorts were equally pleasing. The show’s closing silhouette was sported by none other than top model Naomi Campbell. Needless to say, the wind of 80's and 90's fashion is here to stay!
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Over at Dior, Maria Grazia Chiuri has managed to master the fashion house’s past, redefining it all the better for the present. Always a passionate women’s advocate, the designer quotes the feminist author and historian, Linda Nochlin, as well as the foremost avant-garde artist of her time, Niki de Saint Phalle. In this context, she has showcased a collection that plays with clichés of La Parisienne – the odd beret, the Breton striped tops, the A-shaped skirts and dress and the polka-dot adornments – while offering decidedly contemporary silhouettes.
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La Parisienne is also an influence that inspired Anthony Vaccarello at Saint Laurent. While dazzled by the Eiffel Tower, which stood as a majestic yet defiant backdrop to the catwalk, the guests of the show were able to admire evening outfits as lavish as they were rock'n'roll. Our favorite ones included the precious Victorian blouses that seemed to flirt with the leather shorts – a happy middle ground somewhere between poetry and sexiness. The ensemble was worn with small flat boots as a finishing touch (very rock’n’roll!), which contrasted with the sheer glamour of the Eiffel Tower, shining brightly with its thousands of lights. Nostalgia most definitely makes for dreams.