The fashion industry maybe on a continual search for the shock of the new in the quest for something romantic, empowering or simply more breathtakingly beautiful than what has gone before, but it is not immune to the vagaries of the outside world. As a business it has to respond to social, political and economic changes just like any other and in September 2001, the New York fashion shows were cancelled midway after the unprecedented horror of 9/11. Six months later, when show-time rolled around again, the New York crowd was determined to prove that it was business as usual, albeit in gentler, more meaningful style. From that point onwards, the decade has embraced the feminine form in a democratic way that is all-encompassing. Sienna Miller was photographed endlessly in floaty peasant tops and long ruffled skirts, and first appeared as a Vogue cover girl in December 2004. Crowned “Queen of boho chic”, her barefoot, fresh-faced look and tousled blonde locks borrowed much from 1970’s Brigitte Bardot, athough this time around Sienna Miller was effortlessly mixing Marc Jacobs smock tops with vintage pieces.
The trend for prints and prettiness continued and, notwithstanding Coco Chanel’s famous line “Fashion is something that exists in dresses only”, the most coveted item in a woman’s wardrobe became a dress. Diane von Furstenberg’s simple wrap dress with its thread-through fastening underwent a fashion revival and became a wardrobe staple for women of all shapes and sizes, while Roland Mouret’s Galaxy dress created flattering curves on every Hollywood star.
In 2004, after ten glorious years at Gucci, Tom Ford, the charismatic designer who became as famous as the brand he sexually re-energized, suddenly departed. A master at image-making Ford had taken an out-of-step Italian fashion house known mostly for its horse-bit loafers and red-and-green striped webbing and turned it into something hot. His advertising campaigns, featuring sexy girls in slinky white jersey Halstonesque dresses, ensured his legacy in fashion history. In 2007 Ford went on to open a super-high-end menswear emporium on Madison Avenue. And we all know today he made the perfect decision.
While there have been ongoing changes at established houses, like Givenchy who have employed three designers since Galliano left in 1997 (Alexander McQueen, Julien Macdonald and Riccardo Tisci), new labels that encapsulate the era have come to the fore. Tinseltown starlets are falling over themselves to wear Marchesa, who specialize in red-carpet glamour. London is bursting with hot talent again as established designers like Luella Bartley return to show in their own city, and host of newcomers such as Giles Deacon, Christopher Kane and Danielle Scutt gain (much needed) international attention.
With the rise of the Internet, the fashion-savvy have changed their habits dramatically. The way in which we search and shop for desirable clothes has changed, but so too has the way in which women pull pieces together. The truly stylish casually mix a vintage designer piece from eBay with high-end luxury accessories. Intelligent dressing with the emphasis on the individual rather than the label is fashion’s latest compulsion. Let us wait and see where will that take us.
Cover Photo: Danita Angell by Philippe Cometti for Vogue Russia April 2001 in Givenchy by Alexander McQueen Spring Collection