1999s Fashion History - Global Fashion Attitudes
People watchers, spotters and trend predictors ensure that designers of
today are likely to be influenced by street fashion. But all too frequently
they pick up an idea which kills it flat at the street level source. They
have an eye to global commercial profits from the trickle down effect on
their ready to wear ranges. This makes for a lack of creativity as clothes
develop homogenized uniformity. Watered down versions that are picked up by
chain stores all have the same look that fails to stimulate the ordinary
In a market saturated with retail outlets, clothing sales have been
falling, flagging and failing. The consumer simply has too many shopping
places to choose from, so spending power gets spread very thinly between all
the outlets or directed to specific branded cult goods.
Little wonder film stars have started to wear vintage designer clothes
from past generations.
No doubt individuals will soon start to seek out little dressmaker
clothes as young girls did when they patronised
Mary Quant in the 1960s. Certainly those with real money hardly
want to be seen sporting the same designer top or handbag as their best
friend and at a hugely inflated price.
The purpose of fashion is to reveal individual differences not provide
identikit uniforms. Spotting or setting a trend early is crucial to the
integrity of fashion makers.
Films are still important as influences on fashion and trends for
fashion, make up, hairstyles and jewellery. A recent example of this is the
influence of the Nicole Kidman film Moulin Rouge and the lace Edwardian
clothing that has been copied for the high street.
Some individuals have already started to reject logos and emblematic
brand promotion in favour of understated confidence gained from the more
subtle hidden knowledge that they alone know they are wearing a quality
cashmere garment or expensive Italian silk lace bra. That no one else knows
they are wearing luxury and having a private sensual experience reconfirms
an individual's sense of identity and personal worth.
The individual who knows they have luxury goods on their body creates a
certain self smugness which can be very satisfying. Exclusive fashion goods
produced by small workshops or individuals and often only obtainable over
the Internet are likely to develop a good market share in the next few
years. Already individuals who want cachet have their own perfumes made by
exclusive companies who are not marketing their fragrances in a global way.
Rareness and exclusivity increases desirability.
The fashion cognoscenti will not miss the exclusive factor if it really
does have any significance.
Ordinary people shop all over the world today. They take a bucket shop
air ticket or limited stay ticket and jet to a major city like London,
Paris, Hong Kong, Barcelona, Boston, Los Angeles, New York, Florence or
Milan simply to shop until they drop. Every tourist office in the world will
have day trips that make shopping its main purpose and cruise ships stop at
ports for guests to stock up on even more local goodies than are already
In England you are never more than twenty or thirty minutes from a town
with shops or factory outlet shops a few miles further. In more remote parts
of Britain you might have to travel up to an hour. And if you are immobile,
shopping TV will probably solve your need for a shopping fix.
In the late 20th century no other country marketed fashion
like the Americans. The best known designers in America and known by all,
are Donna Karan, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren.
Calvin Klein uses advertising that highlights sexuality enough to shock a
supposedly unshockable society. Erotic advertising is used to promote his
diffusion lines from perfume and fashion to home furnishings. Ralph Lauren
has been the arbiter of good taste in classic good looking clothes and a
covetable stylish home range.
By contrast Hilfiger's clothes are aimed at the mass youth market with an
easily recognisable predictable casual format of red, navy and white basics
covered in logos for street wear.
In the USA all these designers along with sportswear giants Nike and
Adidas have far more cachet with American consumers than Agnes B, Prada,
Fendi or Gucci have in Europe.
Donna Karan designs for women on the go. She uses quality jersey with
Lycra and great cutting to produce capsule wardrobe garments that hide real
women's body defects. Her name was already a winner when she launched her
DKNY range of affordable ready to wear items. Like Calvin Klein she uses
subtle colour combinations of creamy honeys, champagnes and taupes as well
as a never ending range of wearable black.
If you are in the UK you can buy Donna Karan's clothes at the Bicester
Outlet Village (near Oxford) as well as from Bond Street London and from the
Karan's fashion label brand is huge and so desirable that in January
2001, LVMH bought Gabrielle Studio the license-holding company for Karan. In
April 2001 LVMH also bought the company DKI making a total buy of $643
million. LVMH market the Donna Karan range as luxury lifestyle brands
throughout the world.
Women of the nineties had learnt how to build capsule wardrobes from
other ranges based on Karan's ideas. It's one reason why the nineties were
so black. Lack of colour might be a better heading.
It was only in the last few years of the 90s that colour began to return
and be worn by individuals. After some of the garish hues of the 1980s,
black and more black was dominant for some ten years. Women discovered real
easy dressing - black goes well with black and other neutrals. Some equally
dull, but neutral browns and greys did become the so called new black for a
brief season or so.
Consumers took to the drab colours with reluctance. Subtlety was
everything as 80's gilt buttons were suddenly banished and dirtied dusty
colours dominated the racks. The taupes, pastel pinks, olives, greys,
browns, subdued rusts, greyed navy, sand and camel were a huge change from
the glowing brilliant sea greens, fuchsia pinks, reds and royal blues of the
80s. Certainly in the UK the only full length coat colours to wear in the
1990s were black, camel, navy or grey.
Bright coats were never really seen and royal blue was banished once
Thatcher lost power in UK. Individuals felt noticeably conspicuous in bright
colours amid a sea of black. Blend in understatement became the way to
dress. Only strong individuals had the courage to wear hues that suited
their skin colouring rather then draining it.
Colours based on primary and secondary hues seemed to disappear from
sight until the late 90s. Around 1997, feminine dresses in bright silks and
colourful Pashmina shawls in many pastel tones became usual. Women began to
wear stronger pinks, lilac, purples, reds, lime green and turquoise again.
Fashion began to be pretty again and welcomed by those who wanted to
relinquish track suits and sportswear or by many who had never adopted them.
The Pashmina shawl softened the drab coat colours, and also doubled as a
warm stole wrap on summer evenings and at cold winter venues. Tied in the
Fulham Knot as shown in the heading it became the main way to get rid of the
bulk of the Pashmina when worn as a scarf.
By the year 2000 Pashminas were a mass fashion and many moved onto newer ideas. It did not go away however as many
found it so useful. It returned with expensive embroidery or beadwork in
Camouflage patterns appeared frequently on all ranges of clothes. By 1998
the military look turned up again as combat pants and flak jackets and yet
again in 2001 as a main look for summer.
In the distant past once it was realised that gaudy bright red uniforms
acted as easy targets for the enemy, camouflage materials were used. They
began simply as fabrics that blended such as khaki tints and shades which
toned in neutrally with the landscape.
High street and chain store versions abounded. Gerry Weber printed semi
sheer chiffon camouflage blouses. Dorothy Perkins and Marks & Spencer also
used camouflage prints whilst Versace led with catwalk designs. Now over 350
camouflage patterns exist including the British disruptive pattern and the
tiger stripe used in Vietnam.
A new, more effective but less aesthetic, neater digital Marine
camouflage pattern (Marpat) was unveiled by the American Marines recently to
upgrade the battle effectiveness of former 20 year old patterns.
Animal prints were equally popular ranging from leopard, wild cat, tiger,
cow and zebra prints.
In the late 80s and early 90s the stocking with lace top holding itself
up was suddenly noticed to be more erotic than a pair of tights. Leggings
were a common sight in the early 90s and continued to be worn well past
their sell by date in the privacy of homes.
By the early 1990s the only tights to wear with the short skirt of the
time was black and opaque. By the late 90s the bare nude look leg was in
vogue and natural toned tights were acceptable again. Many younger women
simply abandoned tights altogether preferring the totally natural leg. Never
before frowned upon until the nineties, the biggest faux pas was to wear
tights with open strappy sandals.
At the same time many variations of tights came into the shops. These
could range from soft and sheer to shiny, support or bare effects. Wearing
tights still remains correct for business wear and it's best to avoid bare
legs for any occasion unless the legs are silky smooth and fuzz free.
In the 1990s status shoes such as those by Manolo Blahnik, Jimmy Choo and
Italian brands by Prada, Gucci and Renata and others took on a new
importance as fashion itself became cleaner and more minimal and pared down.
During the early 1990s many UK national chain footwear shops closed
because of poor trading conditions in the market, but the market regained
buoyancy by the end of the decade, and the mass made footwear now on offer
is of superior quality to 30 years ago.
Alongside all the fashion changes styles like Birkenstock
and Clarks England
make huge sales because of the comfort factor in their everyday footwear.
Since 2001 the shoe shops have suddenly seen the influence of designers
like Jimmy Choo appear in everyday footwear ranges. Pretty shoes with an
interesting array of heels of all sorts. Newer cone heels and Louis
hourglass heels are catching the attention of women again. Niche footwear
outlets such as Nine West are gaining a market share and help offer a very
diverse range of footwear for all tastes. Victorian boots head the
Erotic dances such as the Salsa and exotic Bahia based rhythmic Lambada
took off about 1991 and were very popular throughout Europe. Both were
popular enough to encourage enthusiasts to take short courses in the dance.
Pretty silk dresses with cowl necks or bandeau bra dresses with shoe string
straps or Azzedine Alaďa bandage Lycra dresses were ideal to show off a
The dance craze of the 1990s was the craze for line dancing that spawned
a whole new era of dance as a pleasurable form of unisex exercise with rows
of dancers of every age following the instructions of the master of
ceremonies. Western inspired line dancing created a demand for appropriate
western cowboy influenced clothing. Some artistic license was used to create
rather theatrical versions of what a rancher might have worn and the only
general effect in main stream fashion were the interesting boot variations.
Mail order and home shopping is growing. Customers no longer have to wait
up to 28 days to receive an order. Orders from TV shopping channels
frequently arrive within 2 to 4 days or next day if you pay special
QVC a major TV shopping channel in
UK, USA and parts of Europe already has over 5 million customers in UK
alone. Ordering is simple and instant with a touch tone telephone and
clothes for example arrive 5 - 7 working days later, with a 30 day money
back guarantee if you don't like an item or it doesn't fit.
Home shopping is the future for a large percentage of fashion retailing.
Trend experts predict that by 2010 more than 80% of shopping will be
delivered to our homes. The fact is that many of us already browse all day
in the shopping mall, but don't fret if we don't buy that day. We know from
experience that the same or similar item is frequently available at less
cost through direct shopping with home delivery such is the uniformity of
mass produced goods in the third millennium.
However I believe that some of the so called 'TV fashion shopping hours'
will for many people be replacement buying of everyday clothes rather than
high fashion purchases. Perhaps there will be nods to current fashion
colours and trims, but many of the TV sales will be for comfortable easy
wear garments. A few better items such as the washable suede jacket of a
recent TV showing show efforts to combine easy care with the current fashion
Interestingly the viewing market is far more discriminating than the TV
companies realise. Browse around the superb website at shoppingtelly.com and you will
find a discriminating bunch of consumers who analyse not only the products,
but how they are presented and delivered. You will also find advance warning
of special offers and cryptic comments in the shopping telly forum on a vast
range of consumer products.
There is already a temptation for the more mediocre TV shopping channels
to reproduce some items deliberately aimed to be safe, in cheap fabrics to
make a cheap price, but which are unfashionable, shapeless and large enough
to suit those who can find nothing to fit in the shops. Such channels are
responding to a real demand for super sized clothes, but one can hardly
describe them as fashion items. Some channels that have fashion hours should
really rename them 'clothing hours'.
One thing is certain - Shopping TV is here to stay for now as long as the
companies get their marketing right and know their target audience whether
it be up, or downmarket. You may well find yourself tempted to buy and once
you have one successful purchase that more than satisfies your high
standards and needs, you will take the risk again and again.
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Part 1 - The Mood of the Millennium and the 21st Century
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