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80s fashion redux, part 9: Polka dots hit the spot in the 80s


(This is the ninth in my series of posts on 80s fashion trends and the impact they are having on current fashion. If you'd like to read from the beginning, please start with my blog of July 23.)

The intrigue of bright pattern mixing photographed by the inimitable Toscani in 1986, clothes by Missoni and Fendi


I didn't mention this in my post from 2006, but this is personal. I wore so many polka dots in the 80s that my standard line for people who asked me about this was "why yes, I do shop at Circus Surplus!" I loved mixing patterns and I loved brights.

80s patterns, I salute you!


Originally posted May 6, 2006:

OK, polka dots were not the only PATTERN/COLOR in the 1980s, but they were a riotous favorite, in every color and every size...often all at once! Stripes came in a close second, and many bold patterns found their place in the sun.

Colors, too, were often loud and clear, from the top of the head, to the tip of the toe.

Striped thigh highs, Betsey Johnson. Shoes, Charles David designed by Nathalie M.

Christian Lacroix

KenzoSweater by Bennetton. Skirt, Street Life. Boots, Koss by Diego Della Valle. Blanket, KenzoCardigan by Moschino. Bag, Tony Bryant Designs

Skirts by Moschino. Shoes, left to right, Mario Valentino, Nina Footwear and Fratelli Rossetti for Geoffrey Beene
Update August 10, 2009:


For fall 2009, designers have continued a recent trend toward highlighter brights, with the purest form in the hands of Michael Kors:

Distinctly 80s-looking bright patterns were seen on Marc Jacobs and Marc Jacobs' Louis Vuitton runways:

Dots were suavely mixed by Esteban Cortazar for Ungaro, and look, he's even pulled out the 80s pouf skirt to keep them company!

Dolce & Gabbana again, this time with a bright pink party frock and polka dots that would not have looked out of place in the 80s. Spot on!

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80s fashion redux, part 4: The Japantheon

At first it may seem as if Japanese designers have receded somewhat, with Kenzo and Miyake retiring in 1999 (although their houses remain, under new designers) and Matsudo dying in 2008. The startling modernity of the Japantheon of designers is no longer so surprising, and therein lies its lasting influence: Large volumes, layering, asymmetry, artful folds (how many times have you heard "origami" in a description of modern clothing?), androgyny, and interesting and innovative fabrics now seem to be part of the global fashion vocabulary at least in part due to the impact of these designers.

Originally posted April 16, 2006:

Many think of 80s style as being ultimately romantic, with Princess Diana's wedding gown the icon of the era. In this context, the most surprising, refreshing, and least romantic clothing came from JAPANESE designers, with asymmetry, unusual colors, origami-like folds, and abstract shapes giving the wearer a look bordering on kinetic modern sculpture.

The Japantheon included Issey Miyake, Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garcons, Yohji Yamamoto, Matsuda and Kenzo.

Issey Miyake in the late 80s

Matsuda, mid 80s

Yamamoto, mid 80s

Kawakubo in the late 80s or early 90s

Update July 31, 2009:

Checking in with the Japanese designers, I was pleased to see Issey Miyake's legacy supported by the fabric innovations, layering and volumes employed by Dai Fujiwara at Miyake.



I found Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garcons thought-provoking, and a little disturbing, with diaphanous cocooning and military greens. I do think she made some pretty and interestingly-cut coats.


Yamamoto is still in the business of creating asymmetrical clothing in his dark palate:


If Japanese designers influenced fashion in the 70s and 80s, and if that influence can now be seen in many designers' work, then a slight trade balancing might be seen in the ebullient work of Yamamoto's daughter, Limi Feu. There's her father's (non) color palate, the volume and the androgyny, but there is also a new feeling of fun in playing with historical elements from around the world.

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