Fashion Looks Back From the Future

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Fashion Looks Back From the Future

After a Decade of Techno-Chic Clothing, the Origin of Life Is Now in Style

When John Galliano, leader of the fashion vanguard of Planet Earth, swept onto the stage last season, we thought we knew what we were going to get. But the British couture designer based in Paris confounded all expectations, presenting the world with a series of gowns made of what is normally found in garbage, turning used swatches and newspaper into applique.

The audience reportedly fell into a state of shock during the first minute, then broke into a thunderous standing ovation. The designer's about-face - going back to something almost indecently basic, rather than fulfilling audience expectations for a presentation of technology-oriented chic - meant that some fashion fanatics, at least for the time being, gave up wondering when they were going to get to wear seamless space suits for power breakfasts. Expecting wired-up fashion that echoed the sci-fi movie "Matrix," we were taken aback by the designer's wild reinterpretations of elements from our past. The fashion world's visionary proved that he still retained the power to lead the vision-hungry.

For the last half-decade, fashion has meant an urban techno mix of futuristic and functional. For the functional edge, anything stretchy and Lycra worked well, even in a formal suit. Simplified home wear and sportswear took straight to the street. Zippers and Velcro, detachable pockets and hidden hoods became essentials. Rubber soles, formerly far from the mainstream, paved the way for dandy dressers to attain extra comfort and make a fashion statement at the same time. Futuristic ideas kept designers busy reinventing, using whatever new, technologically advanced materials they could get their hands on. Fluorescent techie colors glowed in the ubiquitous clubs and underground rave scenes that had become the "in-thing" among the generation born after 1970.

While clubbers toyed with up-and-coming cool gadgets and gizmos, industrial and fashion designers pooled visions to create the suggestion of something newer each day. And all were made for the urban setting of the contemporary agenda that included a jet-set lifestyle, fast action and big money.

That was until the late '90s. Suddenly people got sick of anything techno and began to imagine different things. Why in 1997 did we find "Boogie Nights" fashion not gaudy but funky? We were not embarrassed but amused to see glittering shades, white leather hip-huggers, hot pants and overly sexed-up Farrah Fawcett posters. Still, being hippy sexy wasn't enough. The "Saturday Night Fever" of the '70s turned into the Blondie ambition of the '80s. Gucci glamour girls mimicked Debbie Harry, the vocalist-turned-fashion icon of the '80s. They walked down the runway in python halter dresses and scandalously high heels. You watched the model Amber Valletta emerge in head-to-toe rock star garb (as part of Gucci's "sex sells" advertising campaign beginning in 1996). What a breathtaking sight it was!

We wanted to see more of something distant yet familiar. Rather than a cold, impersonal, technological space battle in darkness, "Star Wars: Episode One" (1999) was packed with organic creatures wielding slingshots in broad daylight. As we were led to rethink our distant cosmic future, Luke Skywalker's retro-style world depicted in the original Star Wars trilogy started to look curiously interesting again. Capes, pouches and sandals made of rawhide and barbaric shearlings dominated the movie costumes while Queen Amidala's magnificent habit reflected a queer mixture of Occidental and Oriental historic garments.

It was as if we had come across an old LP jacket in our attic. We could talk about where we came from, just kick back and be at ease, really. And we were tired. Tired from being cutting-edge, fast, always catching up. We wanted to go back to our roots. Isn't home where the heart is?

Like history, fashion repeats itself. Responding to the need for change, fashion made a dramatic turnaround this year. Instead of going cyberstyle futuristic, it went back further and deeper into our past. This time, it went all the way back, to the origin of life. Galliano went out to rummage what we had left behind. He dug and excavated, turning his finds into a crude yet creative reinterpretation of our wild past, making it the look of the moment. Behind this avant-garde presentation lay a genius concept, juxtaposing leftover materials with edges and fringes cut and left unhemmed, natural materials found and worn as they are, a symbolic reminder of our long lost, wilder past.

Finally, a fashion tip for tireless souls:
For the most up-to-date look, throw in a wild-cut shearling accessory whenever and wherever!

by Ines Cho

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