From the rich autumnal tones of the Gucci SS15 collection to Saint Laurent’s lascivious take on mini dresses a year later, ‘70s fashion is having a moment. The era’s inimitable sense of free spirit has motivated designers to delve into their archives and conjure up a brand-new spin on bohemia.
With fresh faces at the helm of some of the most established fashion houses, it’s fascinating to watch this thoughtful and thrilling return to '70s fashion.
Defining a decade
It seems fitting that Saint Laurent has had such an input in this revival. Yves Saint Laurent himself was hugely influential in revolutionising the landscape of 1970s fashion. From the late ‘60s onwards, he pushed boundaries – both socially and stylistically – causing controversy in ‘71 when he featured models sans lingerie in sheer black lace at his couture show.
Until he left Saint Laurent in March after a four-year stint as creative director, Hedi Slimane pioneered a similar ethos. He gave his SS16 collection a hyper-sexual edge: think flirty Ossie Clark dresses, but with plunging scoop necklines.
Slimane’s SS16 at the helm of Saint Laurent showcased trousers that were androgynously skinny or outlandishly wide, on both men and women. For those who prefer a flare, Dolce & Gabbana is a key reference point. From lace offerings to outsized patterned palazzo pants, there was more than a hint of ‘70s style bohemia running through D&G’s ready-to-wear clothing for SS16.
For the era’s comeback, Emilio Pucci trousers’ wider-than-wide hems were adorned with vibrant tiled patterns and elegantly eccentric florals in the same season. The
iconic Pucci print calls to mind Bianca Jagger at Studio 54 and the glamorous jet-set lifestyle of the late ‘70s, a look that’s about outsized sunglasses and even larger hats, billowing trousers and a one-way ticket to the French Riviera.
The ‘70s was also a time of pale denim. On a barefooted Jane Birkin and a feather-haired Farrah Fawcett, bell-bottoms were a staple. Designers have given the style an update for the modern era, with Current/Elliott denim offering a new shape for 2016: cropped with raw edges.
Tom Ford received recognition in the 1990s for rejuvenating a lagging Gucci with his ‘70s glam-rock-inspired line for AW95. Yet Alessandro Michele, the latest creative force at the fashion house, has taken the decade’s influence in a different direction. With Wes Anderson-esque accents, his SS16 collection championed jewel tones, eclectic layering and a haute-flea-market approach. Silky pussy-bow blouses paired with pleated skirts and heritage brooches, as well as androgynous two pieces with wallpaper prints, epitomise the style.
Moschino’s oversized bows and cuffed sleeves in vibrant hues were in line with Gucci’s aesthetic for SS16, while Missoni’s colourful graphic prints have always embodied the idiosyncratic style of ‘70s clothes. From zigzag midi dresses to knitted bodycons, rainbow shades bring this trend to life.
In the same season, several fashion houses followed Michele’s lead with accessories, from an eclectic mix of jumble sale jewels to heritage pieces. Delicate rings with a sense of humo
ur were seen at Rosa de la Cruz, while Stuart Weitzman’s knee-length gladiator sandals exuded a laid-back charm in neutral tones with intricate straps.
Cutler & Gross, meanwhile, has been producing stylish shades for years, but the brand’s sunglasses were bolder than ever in 2016. Aviator designs nodded to Amy Adams in American Hustle, while square frames gave 1970s fashion a gorgeously geeky appeal.
Fight for your rights
Chanel’s now-infamous SS15 protest show may have divided critics, but it exemplified the current nostalgia for ‘70s fashion. While technically based on the 1968 student riots in Paris, the styles on show spilled over into the next decade, with bright colours woven through tweed twin sets or long and loose tailoring.
Creative Director Karl Lagerfeld brought the anti-establishment movement into the 21st century by referencing contemporary feminism. The shocks of deep pink, purple and blue, along with the fantastical floral watercolour prints, were louder than Cara Delevingne's “Come on!” cry as she led a band of protesters down the runway. The models held placards – and bags – emblazoned with slogans like “Ladies First” and “History is Herstory”.
While Chanel plunged headfirst into the ‘70s, other brands sifted out softer looks from the decade. Vanessa Bruno’s offerings in 2016 were adorned with frills and folky embroidery embodying the bohemia of late ‘70s dress, while IRO leapt onto the Woodstock bandwagon with delicately embroidered tops and flowing kaftans.
The contemporary ‘70s clothes revival is easier to pull off than its original incarnation – thankfully, as very few people today could work a single look from Soul Train. And while the decade has been taken on wholeheartedly or referenced subtly by fashion houses of late, there’s no doubt about it: the ‘70s has returned.