Tag Archives: Lanvin

Back to the Twenties

Patou24

Patou

Chanel24

 Chanel

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Lanvin

All illustrations from L’Officiel 1924

The 1920’s. Finally, we made it

The 5th season of Downton Abbey which has just begun airing on PBS finds the Crawley family and servants in the year 1924, a time rife with change, a time when modernism ran rampant. It manifested in literature, in art, architecture, in industrial design, graphic design, photography and, of course, in fashion. The waist was dismissed, assigned to hover abstractly over the lower hip like a vestigial limb. The bosom was banished. Although a mere hint remained it was never obligatory. Western culture’s fashionable body, having been engineered to suspend from either the waist or the bust for hundreds of years, relocated to the shoulders. Common to most modes of dress found outside of Europe, this particular fashion innovation hadn’t been seen in Western costume since the Middle Ages, and more distinctly, the fall of Rome. It is why Diana Vreeland once proclaimed the 1920s as her favorite decade citing that it was the first time in history women wore their hair short. The first time their ankles were revealed. It’s the time of the Bauhaus, of Man Ray, of Jazz and Chanel. For women’s dress it was an utter schism.

The beauty of Downton Abbey is that it’s allowed us to follow fashion from the sinking of the Titanic through a World War and into the world of tomorrow — all chronicled through a fantastically written, superbly acted, lavishly produced and exquisitely costumed soap opera. And now with the 5th season beginning the timing couldn’t be better for fabulous 1920s styles to go on display every week for the next two months or so.

The ‘20s is one of the most misunderstood decades. It is consistently butchered and shortchanged, scantily summed up with something vaguely flapper-ish. But the ’20s saw one of the most radical shifts in dress of the last 300 years. While dress reform was already underway by the time Paul Poiret was ruling fashion in 1909 it wasn’t until his success that fashion was challenged directly. Poiret offered revolution in the guise of the exotic. His interest in global dress provided vivid contradiction to the status quo (his innovative though eccentric Harem pantnts were highlighted in Downton Abbey season 2). But World War I brought on many changes and Poiret could not follow up on the modernism he instigated. Credit is given to Chanel for inventing the modern woman’s wardrobe though it is likely her then rival and now virtual unknown Jean Patou who was a more impactful designer. Regardless, both of them made extremely modern, cleverly engineered and flawlessly styled sportswear — obliging the demand for a more active and confident means of dress for even the most fashionable woman.

The effect is not unlike what designers Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen and Phoebe Philo have been getting at in the last couple years or what Armani has been proposing for the last 40. As a sportswear revival goes underway, led by likes of The Olsen twins and Christophe Lemaire, Downtown Abbey offers itself as a compelling series of fashion plates granting a detailed and insightful peek into one of the most exciting and eternally relevant eras of fashion.

calvayrac

Chez Calvayrac

Lanvin, 1990

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An Athletic Look, 2013

Armani1987At Armani, an alluring combination of casual athletic wear and classic tailoring, a seductive mix of two ’80s archetypes: the jock and the business man. Photographed by Aldo Fallai, 1987.

DKNY1994In a 1994 DKNY Active campaign Rosemary McGrotha and Marc Vanderloo define their ideal duo of the mid 1990s: urban, active, and in-shape. The graphic language of the runner uniform becomes the idea look for a hyper modern metropolis.

SteveJobsThe late Steve Jobs is pragmatically dressed in an Issey Miyake mock neck pullover and New Balance sneakers, sporting a look as integral in synergizing technology and lifestyle in the midst of the Information Age as any of his Apple innovations.

Sports1Looks from the Fall-Winter 2013 season by Tim Coppens, Damir Doma, Patrik Ervell, Issey Miyake, Kris Van Aasche, and Lanvin.

It’s no secret that active wear has steadily made its way into fashion semantics over the last 20 years, just as sportswear became a part of everyday dress decades before. From Nike to Northface to the genre defining Y-3, clothes designed for comfort and performance have been readily adapted into symbols of status, community, and progressive lifestyle. For fall 2013 some of the keenest menswear designers in the U.S. and Europe took inspiration from the world of athletics and its contemporary uniform: zippers, nylon, heathered grey jersey, running sneakers — no longer for the gym or the track field, they aspire to a modernism based in practicality and necessity and an acceptance and admiration of technology as a means to better one’s life. The last time this spirit got such a potent and fleshed out treatment was maybe in the mid ‘90s when DKNY pursued the active look to define their urban centric ambitions. That this language enjoys such a fashionable revival just as we come to terms with our totally engrossing technological dependence, just as dial-up modems and affordable personal computers offered the startling appeal of a bright bold future almost 20 years ago, is no surprise. It’s the look of Google, Apple, and Microsoft, of computer tablets and smart phones, a look that puts stock in intellectual stamina and a body that works in tandem with the mind, not against it. It is the idea of the Jock flipped on its head as athletic wear becomes a part of everyday dress, worn by a generation who seek solutions in all aspects of their life, or, at least for now, the look of it.

Alternatives, 2012

The Men’s Dress Reform Party, London, 1937

One of the many factions advocating radical change in conventional Western dress in the early 20th century, the Men’s Dress Reform Party pursued a softer, easier look based on comfort and aesthetic principle. Soft collars, shorts,  breeches, and even sandals were prized for their sartorial freedom and their parallel political reflections.

Raincoat designed by Issey Miyake, modeled by Kabuki actor Kichiemon Nakamura

Miyake found no discrepancy between East and West, believing that the two could combine into an amalgam of a modern world. In his design of a raincoat the binary of traditional Japanese clothes making and modern technology only compliment each other.

Yohji Yamamoto, circa 1984

Yamamoto utilized his native dress  with no less fervor bringing essentially Japanese shapes and forms to fashionable attention, facing head-on world dominating Western dress. While it would not reshape the modern wardrobe it would help put it into perspective and offer at least one divergent direction forward.

Giorgio Armani, 1990

Armani’s relaxed attitude, burgeoning into ubiquity in the late ’80s and early ’90s, took its inspiration from dress of the Middle East and Asia. A softer silhouette, still in cahoots with the oversized masculinity of its time, was sensual and seductive.

Raf Simons, 2005

Simons’s fall 2005 collection was an anathema to men’s fashion of its time. Sending out street casted boys in oversized silhouettes, owing as much to 1980’s Yamamoto as it does  the decades’ science fiction narratives ala Blade Runner and Brazil, the show struck a note that would vibrate much longer than a single season.

The spring 2012 men’s wear collections from Yohji Yamamoto, Jil Sander, Dries Van Noten, Christophe Lemaire, Issey Miyake, Damir Doma, Thom Browne, and Lanvin.

The Spring 2012 men’s wear collections in Milan and Paris are not so easily defined through rock‘n’roll, iconic heritage, or some kind of vague sartorialism – the usual language that gets bandied around from season to season to describe men’s fashion. The collections this time had a lot more to them. Trying to clearly express what it is, what these clothes really are, is much trickier, muddled in their ambiguity and contradictions; at once soft and strict, synthetic and natural, ancient and modern. There are no easy references to rely on but there is a means forward.