"Fashion is the armour to survive the reality of everyday life."
你或許對Alber Elbaz的名字有些陌生，但你一定知道巴黎高級時裝品牌Lanvin—典雅而不無聊、浪漫而不繁複、亮眼而不浮誇的設計，這是許多人對近代Lanvin時裝的註解。成立於1889年巴黎的Lanvin在經歷1920、1930年代的輝煌和創辦人Jeanne Lanvin的逝世後沉寂多年，而現在這個美好的法式時尚形象，就是由出生於摩洛哥的以色列籍設計師Alber Elbaz復興而成。
從2001年起擔任Lanvin的創意總監，Alber Elbaz花了14年、近50場的秀在時尚史留下了自己的名字，每年系列作品叫好又叫座，也成為時尚媒體寵兒和眾女星在紅毯上最愛的設計師。有趣的是，在他上任兩個月前，台灣聯合報發行人王效蘭女士入股成為Lanvin的新任總裁，但也可惜的是，正是因為與上級之間的磨擦，Alber 在2015年10月突然宣布離開Lanvin，而品牌控股權也在不到三年後被賣給了中國復星國際集團。
近年來除了為數不多和其他品牌像與Tod’s和LeSportsac的合作聯名外，Alber 在時尚圈中幾乎是無聲無息，回歸遙遙無期。直到這週，58歲的他宣布將與旗下擁有Yoox Net-a-Porter, Chloé, Catier和Piaget 的瑞士母公司集團Richemont共同打造全新品牌AZ Fashion。打著“要將夢境化為現實、新穎而有活力的新創品牌”的名號，他要正式和所有人說：我回來了！
在等待更多關於AZ Fashion的資訊之際，讓我們一起回顧Alber Elbaz 的最美Lanvin服裝和時尚生涯經典時刻吧！
沒想到吧！在進入Lanvin殿堂前，Alber Elbaz在Yves Saint Laurent設計了 三季成裝系列，直到1999年Tom Ford接替了他的職位。
娜塔莉波曼(Natalie Portman)身穿一席Lanvin希臘式禮服出席奧斯卡頒獎典禮。那年娜塔莉藉由《偷情》(Closer) 首次提名最佳女配角，當晚也被各媒體評選為最佳穿著之一。
The 1990s-inspired fashion label launches a collection for Opening Ceremony
On a chilly afternoon last weekend I was buzzing into the gates in a quiet neighbourhood in North West London. I’m not visiting friends or family, but instead attending a mini house-based event hosted by fashion brand Nφdress. No fancy launch parties, no pre-hyped press releases, Nφdress announced the RSVP-only event through its Instagram page, which is also the only platform the brand uses – for now – to operate straight-to-customer services.
Nφdress grew organically from word-of-mouth among fashion students to Instagram reposts to an interview with British Vogue. And the Chinese-born, now London-based designer Luqi Yu intends to keep it that way for now. The AW18 debut sales event is hosted on a makeshift shop floor that is the living room of her flat and is organised and run by herself with the help of her close friends.
But the range has caught the eye of established fashion retailes – Nφdress’s exclusive collection for Opening Ceremony dropped earlier this week. The capsule collection includes three mini velour dresses with mandarin collars and puff sleeves. Trimmed in colour lace and features a diamond brooch, the body-con dress comes in purple, pink and green, all priced at USD $195.
Luqi Yu, a textiles design student at Central Saint Martins, is just back from Tokyo where she teamed up with local stores Aifer and The Four-eyed for a three day pop-up event earlier this month at Bunka Fashion College. The ever-growing fashion city is also where her campaign photoshoot for the AW18 collection is set.
Yu says: “In the design and visual research process of the collection, I got a lot of inspiration from the styles at Japanese 1990s high school disco contests, and I got to visit Tokyo for the anniversary pop-up sale hosted in partnership with the local fashion college and select shops. So I thought it’s the perfect opportunity.”
The photos are set in Tokyo city scenes and traditional Washitsu (Japanese-style rooms), where Yu herself and local Maiko Shibukawa were dressed in printed mesh tops paired with bicycle trousers, brightly-coloured knit two-piece suits, leopard print skirts and fur coats, while accessorised with mini bead pouches and shoulder fur bags.
Yu’s fascination with 1990s Chinese and Japanese street style and the influences from receiving training in London translated through her third collection to date – from the experimental use of different textiles, edgy play with shapes and silhouettes, as well as attention to the artful details, Nφdress is a young designer brand not to be overlooked.
The stand-out look from the collection is a set of golden rose bra and skirt. She says: “The inspiration for this look comes from the Miss USA beauty pageants in the 1950s, where contestants wore dresses that emphasise their silhouettes, reflecting the beauty standards at the time. I’ve fitted the herringbone structure from Medieval corsets for women into the waistline design and purposefully magnified the imbalanced proportion and exaggerated the aesthetics of the look.”
The brand’s nostalgic yet modern aesthetics is already getting attention from fashion influencers such as co-founder of Sukeban Magazine Erika Bowes and KOM_I, lead singer of Japanese music group Wednesday Campanella. A popular piece from her pre-fall 18 collection, which is a silver puffed corset with crystal straps, is seen on Danish singer MØ’s EP cover, styled by Aldene Johnson, who is also the stylist for Florence Welch.
The Nφdress collection for Opening Ceremony available online and in its NY and LA stores.
*This article is originally published on _shiftlondon
The British designer is bringing out a capsule outerwear collection in celebration of the brand's 10th anniversary
British designer Sophie Hulme has had a fulfilling 10 years in business and marking the anniversary she has opened her first permanent bricks and mortar store on Chiltern Street in Marylebone, contributing to the renaissance of the London neighbourhood. And her namesake brand – most famous for its simple, functional handbags at a fairly accessible price range – is is launching a capsule outerwear collection.
Hulme launched her London-based design studio in 2007 upon graduating from Kingston University in Fashion Design. However, the brand is feted for an unexpected turn of direction as the accessory pieces in her runway collection drew attention and the growing demand of her handbags took over the business.
Sophie Antropik, the niche brand’s retail supervisor says: “I think that the outerwear capsule will bring many new and existing customers to the store because it’s a throwback to Sophie’s earlier design work. She started in ready-to-wear and since opening stores, I’ve had several people come to me and tell me ‘I love her stuff, I have one of her coats’.”
Seven years after introducing her first handbag collection, the British Fashion Award winner is going back to her roots. Inspired by her lasting love for the aesthetics and functionality of military wear, the three styles of jackets and coats are crafted in premium materials and cut in sleek silhouettes, much like her signature accessories that are made to last.
The double breasted pea coat features a chain belt replicating the chain handles used on the popular Spring bag. A secret whistle is hidden under the front neck of the classic biker jacket, and a similar artful detail used on the Pinch crossbody bag concealing a pencil in a loop-through hexagonal cylinder, which can also be seen on the Call Me Coat.
Retaining her no-trends, no-logo attitude, new styles like the Knot bag features an exaggerated woven webbing drawstring closure. Classic handbags like The Cocktail Stirrer and The Bolt Bag offer various options in size and colour.
The iconic Albion bag, loved by trendsetters like Chiara Ferragni, Kate Hudson and Gigi Hadid, is also here to stay. The geometric shape bag and tote are worked solely with vegetable tanned leather—a natural process which is the most sustainable and environmentally-friendly way to treat leather, and the 24-carat-gold-plated hardware has become the key Sophie Hulme aesthetic.
A full-size campaign poster featuring a 10-year-old boy and girl standing on top of each other to form a taller figure to model the coats takes up the shop window as a private preview event is hosted this Tuesday at the Chiltern Street boutique.
Antropik says: “Opening Chiltern Street has been great because we feel very at home on the street alongside our very talented neighbours and other artisan designers, also the Chiltern Street shopper tends to be someone who wants something different and appreciates good craftsmanship over labels.”
Part of the new collection is now available on the brand’s website and in store at 38 Chiltern Street.
*This article is originally published on _shiftlondon
The London-based Taiwanese designer draws inspiration from cinematic hit Call Me by Your Name, marking its one year UK premiere anniversary
One year ago, Luca Guadagnino’s film adaptation of the 2007 André Aciman novel Call Me by Your Name premiered in cinemas in the UK. The heart-wrenching tale about an affair between 17-year-old Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalamet) and American college student Oliver (Armie Hammer) left us lamenting over their bittersweet love and yearning for a lazy summer trip to Northern Italy, where the film is set.
One year later, the film has won several awards including the Academy Award for Best Writing Adapted Screenplay; 22-year-old Timothée Chalamet has established himself as the new teenage heartthrob; and the first unisex fashion collection inspired by the film showcased earlier this month at Tokyo Fashion Week.
The designer behind the collection is Johan Ku. He reinterpreted the romance drama through his SS19 collection Elioliver, a name combination that also represents the intertwining relationship between the two protagonists. Founding his namesake design studio in 2005, the now London-based Taiwanese is known for incorporating his love for cinema into fashion, and this season is no exception.
Andrew Weng, a Taiwanese senior fashion PR specialist based in Shanghai, says: “The film speaks to me on a personal level. And as a professional PR, the creativity and meanings behind Elioliver are worth promoting and perfect for storytelling as well.”
Print is a staple in this collection. Ku heavily references scenes designed by Roberta Federico, the art director for the film who also worked with Guadagnino on his 2015 film A Bigger Splash, starring Tilda Swinton.
Renaissance sculptures, succulent fruit on breakfast tables, literature and music sheets stacked together – the sentiments of these objects is captured through the digitally-printed pleated shirts, knitted jacquard tops, and graphic jackets.
Although the featured textiles are simple, the various textures, gentle lighting and hazy hues translated through the graphic designs gave the fabrics an extra layer of vibrancy. Pastel-coloured blocks are also an unmissable element amidst the garments. Sky blue, cotton candy pink and duck yellow make up the colour palette that hints at the celebration of the sensual homosexuality in the film.
This also echoes with the annual gay pride parade on October 27 in Ku’s home country, where a historic vote on same-sex marriage is taking place next month, making Taiwan the first government in Asia to embrace marriage equality for different sexualities.
Ku has proved once again how art and fashion always go hand in hand. And in this case, the lyrical cinematic language is perfectly portrayed.
The Elioliver collection is now available for pre-order on the official website.
*This article is originally published on _shiftlondon
Uniqlo and Google are transforming fashion retail into no-man’s-land. And they're not the only ones...
“I’m looking for a pink wool dress for a dinner party.”
You would assume that this conversation takes place over the phone with a friend or in a store with a salesperson. But now you could be wrong. This might also be a text sent to Uniqlo IQ, the new artificial intelligence (AI) customer service feature added to the Japanese fashion retailer’s smartphone app.
The message can also look like this: 👩🏻🍑🐑👗Because, yes, this voice-activated digital assistant using Google’s Dialogflow conversational interface is also more fluent in Emoji than most of your family members.
After a trial run in the US and a beta programme targeting 2,000 Japanese users, Uniqlo IQ went live in the brand’s home country this summer and is looking to expand this highly-personalised service to the global market.
Rather than aimlessly scrolling through pages and pages of product catalogues that are usually over-simply categorised, the official updated version of Uniqlo IQ encourages customers to text the chatbot about their desires—the more specific the better—from style, colour, material to any other features that’ll help narrow down the results. Instantly a list of recommendations comes up for you to swipe through.
It can show you the bestsellers from the past 48 hours, items featured in the latest issues of Japanese fashion glossies, or even outfits suggested based on your horoscope. You’re also able to check the real-time inventory of that Alexander Wang collaboration heat-tech underwear that you know is going to sell out any minute at the closest store from your current location.
Uniqlo has always been known for its simple, practical and comfortable designs. But now with their ambition to score the AI-integrated e-commerce game, the ever-innovative fashion retailer promises an online shopping experience that is a lot more immersive and personalised.
Jessica Hsu is a loyal Uniqlo customer who has recently moved to Japan. She always looks up products on the brand’s website before visiting the store, and after trying them on in store, sometimes she places the order on her phone for it to be delivered. But regardless of her shopping habits, her friend’s opinions are always needed.
She gave Uniqlo IQ a try: “You don’t really need instructions for how to use it because it’s actually quite instinctive. But I do need time to get used to this way of online shopping—they demand customers to have a pretty clear idea of what they want to get in order to get the most out of this service.”
Meanwhile, Parisian premium fashion brand Sandro just welcomed its first iPad instore in the past week. However, instead of providing the devices for the customers to use, the company invested in these additional tools just to help sales associates deliver better customer service.
Richard Simmons, the store manager at Sandro Covent Garden, agrees with the brand’s continuous focus on human-based customer service by saying: “I think people are more integral with premium brands because the designs and cuts are more unique than the normally generic high street and the perception is that they can’t figure that out alone and need the help.”
Simmons also believes that high street brands are safer in terms of fit and style, and this makes them easier to shop for, while premium fashion is more complex and needs interpretation. It seems that the lower the brand’s price point is, the more relevant AI is to the offered shopping experience, and the more feasible it is for high-tech e-commerce to really shine through the market.
And across the Atlantic Ocean, there is Stitch Fix, an online fashion subscription service available in the US and soon in the UK as well. Founded in 2011 by Harvard Business School graduate Katrina Lake, Stitch Fix blends the science of algorithms with the art of personal styling by delivering a box of outfits that consists of five pieces of apparel and accessories to your doorstep.
Items are selected by one of the trained stylists based on a combination of your AI style profile (completed upon registration), sales data, and perhaps just a hint of his or her personal taste.
After trying on the pieces in the comfort of your own home, you get to pick and choose what stays and what goes back to the company at no additional cost. And Stitch Fix, in turn, records the subscribers’ feedbacks in order to optimize their database for future suggestions.
The concept sounds like music to the ears of people who find shopping and finding the perfect outfit a chore. But in reality, some feedback on review platforms such as Trust Pilot and personal blogs has been average, if not disappointing. The precision of suggestions made with the aid of AI backfired and many users end up returning most of the items from the subscription box.
Wilfred, who has had years of experience working in Louis Vuitton’s VVIP Private Client Relations team, is not surprised by the let-down. He says: “No AI can replace the human touch, the honest and constructive advice a salesperson can give to the customer.”
TBut mind you, the luxury shopping environment is fundamentally different from any other. When customers shop luxury, they want the whole experience, in real life. Wilfred adds: “They expect the best of services from the moment they step into the store—plush sofas ready, refreshments and champagne served, exclusives and alternatives suggested…everything!”
It may sound superfluous and old-fashioned, but at the same time, that’s what makes it organic—or let’s be honest—luxurious. So will AI be replacing salespeople any time soon? The indications are giving us mixed signals. Perhaps we can withdraw from the constant decision-making about how to shop till we drop and look to literature for insights.
Courtney Maum’s much-raved social-commentary-style fiction novel Touch, which came out last year, investigates into what it means to be an individual human in a highly globalised and digitalised world. She writes: “You think the future belongs to the type of people who are going to sync their fridges with their smartphones, but people are ready—not tomorrow, but now—to be vulnerable and undirected and intimate again.” And the verdict is in your hands.
*This article is originally published on _shiftlondon
The revival of bum bags (“fanny packs” for friends across the Atlantic Ocean) embodies the two golden adages in fashion: what goes around comes back around and, can we turn a “Ew no” into a “Hell yeah”? Okay I made that one up myself but how did the once fashion joke get fairy dust sprinkled all over itself and become a street style hit?
It’s no easy task to track down the exact origin of this ugly little duckling of the handbag family. There are traces of lookalikes found throughout history and around the world. For example, Chatelaine bags, a small purse attached to a belt with a chain was popular among Victorian and Edwardian women to carry their little trinkets. It is also said to derive from the French chatelaines of the Middle Ages.
Native Americans wore buffalo pouches around their waist or neck instead of simply sewing pockets into their clothing for reasons we will never know. And Scottish men in the 1800s sported sporrans, a fancy upgrade from plain waist pouches worn by Medieval Christians as they decorated the leather bag with metal plates, feathers and tassels and hang it right in front of the body. A perfect but absolutely random chance to accentuate their you-know-what, right?
An Australian called Melba Stone is widely credited with inventing the first bum bag in 1962 as we know it today. It is said that she got her inspiration from—you guessed it—her motherland’s most-loved, pouch-bearing roos. No brainer, that one.
Love it or hate it, there is no denying that the bum bags have always been around in modern fashion, and are apparently here to stay. The 1980s showed the first glimpse into normcore, one of the biggest trends in recent fashion history: while tourists started to wear them everywhere to ward off wallet-snatchers so they can do even more tourist things, Neneh Cherry, made a bold fashion statement by adding a gold one to her red carpet look for the MTV awards.
And it doesn’t stop there.
There’s nothing high fashion loves more than a good underdog comeback story. In the 1980s Chanel came out with the first designer bum bag that is now spotted on Kendall Jenner. And Vivienne Westwood’s 1996 limited edition creation for Louis Vuitton made it to the history books, literally.
Fast forward to this year’s fashion scene, bum bags in all shapes and colours are seen on runways models at Gucci, Stella McCartney, Marc Jacobs, Fenty x Puma, and the list goes on. It has also become a staple for show-goers and street style stars. So don’t be discouraged to sport one on a day out (or even a night out!). Even if people don’t get the chicness of the trend, you’ll have free hands to hold an extra drink to block out their comments.
Yes, bum bags might never escape in the dad chic territory, but the ‘dad bags’ designed by British Albert Pukies literally turn you into a dad, and the ‘dad-est’ of them all—the Internet-viral bum bag is covered with a disturbingly realistic print of a hairy pot belly. (£10.99 on Amazon) This one shall forever be in the ‘Ew no’ category.
As described on Balenciaga’s official website, this shirt from the Fall ’18 collection is made of 100% cotton and lightweight, breathable poplin, is made in Italy, and offers two wearing options.
When did high fashion become so wearable and versatile? Apparently the two ways of wearing the piece is to: wear the short sleeves shirt with front drape effect…or the long sleeves shirt with back drape effect. Wait…what?
Yes, the Balenciaga T-shirt Shirt is basically what it suggests with its name—a shirt sewn on top of a T-shirt. A buy-one-get-one-free deal we’re missing? There’s just one slight problem: It’s selling for $1,290 (£935). Oh and don’t even think about putting it in the laundry machine. It’s hand-wash, or dry clean only.
People are baffled. The Internet exploded with trolls. And the media is on their side—“Holy shirt: Balenciaga is selling a ‘T-shirt’ for $1,290,” The Gaurdian’s headline reads. And things really came full-circle when netizens got creative and crafty and began making their own DIY T-shirt shirts.
This is not the first time Demna Gvasalia’s Balenciaga trolled us with fashion that’s designed to go viral. Remember just over a year ago when the Spanish brand came out with a leather version of the $99 cent Ikea Frakta shopper? The Internet was sent into a frenzy and Ikea even put out a tongue-in-cheek guide to telling the genuine from its £1,600 imposter. (apparently if it rustles it’s real). But then they sold like hot cakes.
The £850 Balenciaga x Crocs made its ground-breaking appearance at Paris Fashion Week last year. And it’s the same story—intense mockery ensued, and the next thing you know, it was sold out before they were actually released for sale.
It doesn’t take a genius to see the patterns; this strategy is no rocket science. But it sure works like one. Demna Gvasalia, who took the helm as Balenciaga’s creative director since October 2015, “has made something of an art form out of appropriating the basic clothing (or high fashion) common denominators that we have long take for granted and twisting and torqueing them into forms that demand a rethink. Now he is doing exactly the same thing we our reactions,” Vanessa Friedman wrote in the New York Times.
This tactic could only ever work in the age of the Internet, where selling a weird and controversial thing for a ridiculous amount of money is only one of the infinite ways to get people riled up on the digisphere. Also, who would pass up the chance to feel like Anna Wintour for a second and roast fashion to its core?
If there’s anyone who finds more comedy in all this backlash than the haters online, it’s Gvasalia himself. Because it all plays right into his hands: “I think it’s very interesting, the definition of ugly. I think it’s also very interesting to find this line where ugly becomes beautiful or where beautiful becomes ugly. That’s a challenge I like. I think that’s a part of what fashion stands for and I like that people think my clothes are ugly; I think it’s a compliment,” he told Vogue.
“Demna is not giving up its throne as the troublemaker in fashion now, and I’m not complaining—I don’t know if I’m buying the T-shirt shirt (which is already saying a lot), but I know I got a good laugh out of this and I love that fashion’s fun again,” says an inside source at Dazed Media and Nowness.
1000 memes baited means 1000 sets of eyeballs on the product. Bad press or not, it’s good publicity. And it paid off, literally—CEO of Kering, the global luxury conglomerate that owns Balenciaga, Gucci, Saint Laurent and more, said that the brand is the fastest growing label within the group thanks to the meme-fluent audiences. Guess who’s having the last laugh?
On the other hand, good ole’ BBC has even contacted the company in an attempt to solve the mystery as to why Balenciaga thought this would be a good idea, but have yet got a response. To me, this seriousness is the biggest joke of all.
The Balenciaga T-shirt shirt is currently available for pre-order. Knock yourselves out everyone. Or just wait for the high street to bring out something similar.
It’s a running inside joke for the Chinese community in London that if you want to feel most like home and see familiar faces, your go-to places are Chinatown restaurants and Harrods’s shop floor. But it is no joke when it comes to the Chinese customers’ contribution to the luxury market. By far the most important national cohort of consumers, Chinese buyers made up 32 percent of the purchases in the luxury good market in 2017. For brands particularly favoured by them such as Burberry, Ferragamo, Gucci, and Bottega Veneta, the number is even higher.
Among them, one of the fast-growing and most influential group of Chinese customers is called the “post-90s generation”. One thing to know about them: They are almost always the golden only child in the family due to the country’s one-child policy. Their parents, the first Chinese generation to experience new wealth, invest their earnings in showing their status and success, or upgrading their living quality. They also raised a new generation to become the “real and organic” consumers.
“They don’t need to worry about (purchasing) properties. Their education has been paid for, they can walk into a job quite easily, and they don’t have a mortgage. So basically they’re a group of people who have never felt the need to save (money) or work hard to make money,” Angelica Cheung, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue China, told Business of Fashion.
With so much disposable income, the post-90s generation are granted to make purchases based on their own judgements, however shallow or complex that may be. “A few years ago you would talk about Chinese consumers as new money peasants with money but no taste, but now they want to become more sophisticated, and to me that’s a very positive thing to see,” says Cheung.
So the luxury fashion brands market their products with the packaging called “good taste”. Duh. What could ever go wrong with that? It’s just a matter of what is considered good taste to the elusive Chinese post-90s gen.
Of course, taste is a very subjective idea. But in China, where social media is more influential than ever to the hearts and souls of this generation, celebrities and KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders) like are the ultimate tastemakers. It’s a two-way lane for the brands and the influencers: collaborations are done, reputations are built, and consumers are gravitating towards their say on what’s in or not.
Ye Si, also known as Gogoboi, is one of the biggest social media personalities in China. The fashion-features-editor-turn-blogger has over 7 Million followers on Weibo and opened his own e-shop on WeChat last year, partnering up with major luxury e-tailers like Yoox, New-a-Porter and Farfetch. And Ye’s only one of the major pool of influencers that’s shaping the generation’s consumer behaviour.
On the other hand, a survey conducted by McKinsey & Co. shared with Business of Fashion showed that Chinese customers are collectively picking up taste preferences that are influenced by Western cultures. The young consumers, in particular, prioritise the product’s quality and value, and whether the brand is social-conscious. “Brands that are really innovating, like Gucci, or even Burberry on the digital front, are winning over customers,” says Lan Luan, one of the authors of the report.
Although it does no good to my never-ending fashion wish list, I do enjoy going shopping with my big-spender Chinese friends. They’re digital-savvy, so they live and breathe information on the latest hot trends; They’re also conscious shoppers, so research is always done before the shopping trip. It’s almost enlightening to shop with them, also I just really get a kick out of watching people splurging on Chanel handbags.
I bet you’ve all seen a prototype of the fashion-forward Chinese post-90s gen on the streets of London before: head-to-toe designer names or cult streetwear brands, constantly checking WeChat or Weibo on their phones, and just oozing this sense of style that’s balancing on the fine line between expensive good tastes and trying too hard.
I asked my Chinese friends what they think about their fellow youngsters. “Often it’s obvious to tell the difference—some of them are brought up with expensive tastes, and that adds up to become real styles; some of them are just blindly following what’s considered good taste, but the way they’re trying so hard to flaunt it, it just becomes tasteless really,” says one of them.
Benjamin Lin, Global Private Client Executive at Farfetch, shares some insights into this group of customers by dealing with them directly over the years. At first, he was curious about, and a little frustrated even, with how the young Chinese customers have quite a collective taste on brands and products. “Then I learned that they want to invest in good taste. So often they ‘default to’ certain brands or products to stand out while blending in,” he says.
So who cares if legendary fashion magazine editor Diana Vreeland once said that “A little bad taste is like a nice splash of paprika. We all need a splash of bad taste”? Even if it’s a splash of bad taste they’re after, they’ll make sure that it’s so unique and quirky that it becomes good taste in other people’s eyes.
As headwear go, few are as simple as the beret. The subtly tailored round cap is almost always woven in one piece without a seam or binding in knitted wool or woollen flannel. There are a variety of ways to style them: Sharply angled, jutting forward, tilted backward, or just sitting atop your head, there really is no universal rule to the manner of wearing the beret.
But as simplistic as the accessory is, the beret encompasses a rich mix of historical and cultural meanings. And for Autumn/Winter 2017, it is back to reinterpret the modern take on the timeless fashion statement. Maria Grazia Chiuri introduced Dior’s version of the headpiece (crafted by master milliner Stephen Jones) and had them styled with her blue-washed collection.
“I love berets because they’re the t-shirts of hats–young, old, rich, poor, male, female, child, baby. A beret suits everybody,” says Jones in an interview with Fashion Unfiltered. His remarks didn’t come out of nowhere. Berets are suitable for everyone because they are indeed, once worn by people from all walks of life.
Widely acknowledged to be first worn the assemblage in the Bronze Age across Northern Europe, including Greece and Italy, the beret’s modern origin is found in Basques. People living in the Pyrenees mountain range that divides Southern France from Northern Spain are great fishermen and sailors, which explains the similarity between the beret and the Scotch tam o’ shanter, the traditional Scottish bonnet worn by men.
The 17th century saw the first surge in popularity for the beret. In Italy, it became highly fashionable, especially among nobility and artists; In France, the Basque-style beret started its commercial production in the Oloron-Sainte-Marie region in Southern France.
How did the beret officially came to France is unknown, but it is unquestionable that it is the very place that adapted it to iconic heights, and eventually, became the stereotypical emblem of the French. “French people really do have a thing with their berets,” says Jody Liu, a fashion design apprentice in Paris. “because of all the history that comes with the hat, I would say that it still requires a certain sense of confidence to wear them, but people in Paris really do, in a way, wear them with a hint of attachment and pride".
Worn by peasants and artists alike, they had a sense of classlessness that was favoured by the intellectuals in Paris in the early 20th century.
And during the Resistance movement in WWII, the beret is opted to symbolise the French nationalism and had finally entered public’s consciousness as a political accessory. With the French as predecessors, the beret has gradually become an integral part of military uniforms across the globe. Often, different colours were used to distinguish forces, among which the most established being the Green Berets representing the USA Special Forces.
Perhaps the most famous beret wearer in the world, Che Guevera’s dark beret made it a worldwide symbol of the revolutionary guerrilla warrior. Since then, they have also been associated other revolutionaries like the Black Panther in the late 1960s and New York’s crime-fighting Guardian Angels in the late 1970s.
However, the beret’s fashion attitude goes beyond its social and political links. Long adored with artists like Rembrandt and Picasso, film directors, writers and bohemians, the headpiece has also set the look for characters throughout film history.
“Once again, because of its rich history and versatility, the beret can also embrace a wide spectrum of possibilities, which makes it the perfect styling piece. Put it on different people in different settings, and the beret will do its magic,” says Liu.
The classic black beret awoke with its elegance flair when Lauren Bacall wore hers slanted to the side in the 1946 film The Big Sleep; The ingénue Anna Karina sported her perky berets in the classic French New Wave film A Woman is a Woman (1961); Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde (1967), slouching against a car, with a beret on her blonde head of locks and a handgun in hand.
All the way to the 1990s, who could forget Cher in Clueless, portrayed by Alicia Silverstone, and Julia Roberts in the Richard Curtis film Notting Hill, who both completed the characters’ signature looks with the classic and versatile adornment?
Dramatic yet simplistic, classless yet classic, the beret had risen to spiritual peak, fallen into twee; been celebrated for its chic, and disregarded for its cliché. There’s quite a history with these flat caps of style. But there’s one thing for certain: it’ll never be gone and is in fact, marching fearlessly for a comeback.
Founded by Yael Aflalo in end-of-recession Los Angeles, Reformation is officially established thanks to a trip she took to China, where she was so devastated witnessing first-hand the pollution created in the garment-manufacturing process that she decided it’s time she did something about it. Eight years later, a cult following of the brand is gained, and Reformation is now an it girl favourite with celebrity customers such as Taylor Swift, Alexa Chung, Emily Ratajkowski and more.
It’s hard to distinctly describe the brand as sustainably fashionable or fashionably sustainable, because it is obvious that fashion design and sustainability are equally important to them. “Green fashion designers need to make their clothes fashionable for them to be viable. I think a lot of them just don’t give a shit about design. They make something that’s eco, but it looks shit and nobody wants it,” said Aflalo, the fashion-school-dropout-turn-entrepreneur, in an interview with publisher FRANK151.
Targeted at women in their 20s or 30s, Aflalo’s designs are a mixture of bohemia, elegance and rock-and-roll, and they give off natural, sensual but also provocative vibes. The clothes are often cut in classic shapes with a modern twist, and constantly reference the seventies. What adds an intimate feel to it is that all of the pieces have their own personalised names and many belongs in a themed “story”.
These stylish eco-conscious garments went through green processes before they are hung on recycled hangers in the Reformation boutiques in downtown LA, New York and San Francisco (and now pop-up stores in London and Miami!) or sent to your doorstep in recycled packaging.
Starting with sourcing of the fabrics, 40% of the materials they use are vintage or deadstock, which are all originally en route to the landfills, but the Reformation team buy the unwanted and wasted fabrics and give them a makeover and a second life. The rest are all eco-fabrics like Tencel, a semi-synthetic fibre made by Austrian company Lenzing to replicate cotton, and viscose (a viscose blouse requires approximately half of the energy than a cotton top to produce, who knew?)
Yael Aflalo believes that sustainability efforts will only be successful based on how easy they are for people to adopt into their lifestyle; therefore, Reformation is really big on educating their customers about the impact of fashion. They also create a “RefScale” for each of the garments showing their environmental footprints and calculates the waste their supply chain saved compared with most other clothes on the market.
“We are not part of fast fashion. Our design and manufacture process is fast, but we keep the clothes sustainable and they are all limited editions. Also, there’s a cause in what we do,” said Liz McCormick, a Ref “circus cast member” expatriated to the pop-up store in Covent Garden, London.
Apart from their beautifully curated website, the brick-and-mortar shopping experience is also highly valued by Reformation. The store vibe is tasteful but not extravagant, casual but not dismissive. They also incorporate tech into the shopping experience, setting up touch screens for people to flick through their collection look books before seeing the actual garments. “We try to make people want to come in and see the clothes, feel the quality but minimise the fuss at the same time,” McCormick explains.
Reformation is a pioneer in sustainable fashion and a rising star among fashion brands in general, and as Yael Aflalo aspires, it’ll keep “making the world a better place, one dress at a time”.
Meg is a full-time fashion journalism student at London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London. She moved to London at the age of 18 to pursue her dreams of becoming a writer.