While the past few seasons have seen an almost relentless homage paid to the 1970s, the decade that followed it proved far more influential for summer 2017. The era that bought us power shoulders, extreme miniskirts, lashings of lamé, rhinestones, leopard print, studs and more was the fuel to a retro fire that was set alight during Paris Fashion Week. The City of Light was a hotbed of glamour in the late 1980s, with nightclubs such as Castel and Les Bains Douches heaving with supermodels, photographers and celebrities, living out a hedonistic lifestyle on the dancefloor. These socialites flitted between the fashion capitals of Paris, New York and London, flew the supersonic Concorde and could be found dressed head to toe in Alaïa.
Supermodel Jerry Hall remembers arriving in Paris from her native Texas – a rookie wearing a fringed suede skirt and cowboy boots. She started shooting with world famous photographer Helmut Newton and was frequently sketched by wonder boy illustrator Antonio Lopez. Her career and style took flight. Hall was among a coterie of models, including Iman and the vivacious Pat Cleveland (her daughter Anna is a new star on the runway), who seized the moment with their wild dancing, night-owl habits and glossy beauty. Film-maker Jean-Paul Goude, singer Grace Jones and designer Paloma Picasso were also part of this super-talented pack.
A new generation
That sense of exuberance and unadulterated sexiness is much needed again in these serious times, and is proving alluring to a new generation of creatives. Demna Gvasalia at Balenciaga served up a thrilling collection featuring power-shouldered suit jackets that are ingeniously cut to look as if they are still on a gigantic hanger; floral-print spandex legging boots; and slippery silk jersey ruched-waist blouses that would not have looked out of place on the set of iconic TV drama Dallas.
For Anthony Vaccarello’s debut at Saint Laurent, the house’s rich archives and the striking figure of Paloma Picasso (known for her love of gold, red and black) served up ample inspiration for his sharp-shouldered Le Smoking suits, pouffe-shouldered leopard-print blouses and sculpted leather bodices with sweetheart necklines. The 80s trend is poised to polarise opinion – you either love it, or you hate it.
This was also the era that gave birth to hip hop and cult streetwear embellished with plenty of bling. Crystal-embossed denim, medallions, hot pants, kitten heels and hoodies were all glimpsed on the catwalks. Chanel embraced the moment with tweed baseball caps worn with bomber jackets and skirts. At Louis Vuitton, Nicolas Ghesquière – who grew up in the north west of France during the decade – delivered unapologetically glamorous slinky jersey dresses with panels of chain mail. He also produced the accessory that was talk of fashion week – a Louis Vuitton iPhone cover.
Blast from the past
A new generation is thrilled by the bold shoulders, exuberant prints, costume jewellery and pulsing colours –bright red, bubblegum pink, tangerine, electric blue. There is also perhaps a hint of nostalgia for the decade that embraced fashion as entertainment through MTV and the time when customers queued for Sony’s Walkman and the very first mobile phones. Analog suddenly appears charming and there’s a new collectible cool in these early versions.
Today, influence is measured in terms of social media followers and the like, and we chart trends and fashion moments at a speed inconceivable to those who sported the original 1980s styles. It’s exciting to see something of the past embraced by the technologically savvy society of today, and to chart the new 1980s revivals as they happen. Will we move towards a dramatic streak of blusher? Huge hair? The catwalks are only the beginning.