Fast Forward Fashion
Fashion is wearable art, and like all arts, it undergoes shifts in public relevance and visibility. During and immediately after world war two, fashion (clothing) was a necessity rather than a statement, and since then it has increasingly become a staple of art, fashion shows and popular culture. However, that said, Hugo Boss famously designed the Nazi soldiers’ uniforms, something the company has since apologized for. Hugo Boss himself was a member of the National Socialist Party, and in this sense, we get a picture of fashion’s place in culture – it both serves and instructs society.
The sexual revolution of the 60s saw the empowerment of women and the empowerment of their aspirations. Out from the little studios came the couture designers. It was an era of barely disguised sexism and barely clad women. Designers picked up on this and started making clothes that women could choose to wear, that did not point directly to their appeal to men. Women were in control and the designers responded. The era of free love also gave birth to the next major influence, the rock and roll and punk of the 70s.
Perhaps the most iconic moments in fashion in the last 50 years come from the late 70s and 80s. The rise of punk freedom designers like Vivienne Westwood, the constant conversation between music, fashion and popular culture, and then later the decision by Anna Wintour at American Vogue to put celebrities on the cover of the magazine cemented fashion as a centerpiece to culture. Now celebrities were not just judged on their life’s work, but also what they wore on the red carpet. From Madonna and Michael Jackson onwards, the popularization of fashion was complete.
Fast forward 20 years and we follow Lady Gaga’s dress sense as much as her music and antics. Fashion is a household norm. Even art museums have come to the party, displaying iconic fashion from the great designers in hugely popular exhibitions – quite an achievement for an industry that has historically been either utilitarian, or reserved only for high society and often dismissed as ‘ephemeral’ and not worthy as serious art. A quick look at a museum or a Parisian runway demonstrates that fashion is now firmly in the pantheon of Great Art, to be enjoyed down the ages.