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VI.

A NEW FASHION SYSTEM


VI.1. FASHION IN THE 90S Already in the 80s, several Japanese stylists had become popular standing aloof from an aggressive and sophisticated woman, typical of the western world. So Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo, stylist of the famous French brand Comme des Garons, started considering women dresses as something poor and shapeless, wrapping the body in a series of clothing stratifications: they mixed a sort of intellectual and sophisticated neopauperism with the traditional and minimalist aesthetics of the Japanise Zen culture.

Picture 16 In the second half of the 80s, the Italian couturier Romeo Gigli proposes a fashion against the schemes: minimalist and meant for a thin, slender woman, with minute shoulders, long skirts and oriental slippers. After the Wall Street crisis in 1987 and with the upcoming of the 90s, the Italian fashion system manages to transform these proposes in Pret--Porter, through Japanese markets. In the entire western world, everyone loses hopes for himself and for the future, in a situation in which wealth no longer means security, leading consumers to look for greater quality and buy classic clothes. During the 90s, the refusal of stylistic excesses as well as a critic economic

situation, led to a minimalist style characterized by dark colors, mainly black. So the consumer passes from a compulsive search for latest news, to a new, long lasting, evergreen style, undermining the changeability of fashion itself that starts organizing in a stable system, based on a small number of consolidated styles. This phenomenon has also been the result of a transformation process of a former system based on the brand to a new one having its roots in companies specialized in the production of luxury goods. Probably, all this situation occurs because fashion has nothing new to offer to consumers, so the history of fashion itself becomes a tank to draw ideas: we witness the creation of the vintage style, second-hand, brand dresses as well as limited editions, reproposal of models already proposed on the market in the past. VI.2. GUCCI The brand, founded in 1921 in Florence by Guccio Gucci, was able to effectively express a kind of fashion recovering some status principles, thus creating symbolic objects such as the bag with the bamboo handle (1947), the classic moccasin with the metal horse-bit (1952), or the Flora silk foulard (1966), created for Grace Kelly. Starting from the 60s, Gucci proposes a posh, luxury, bourgeois style. Right after that, though, he trivialized its image by lending its brand to a number of products without giving the right attention to quality. Always during the 90s, the American stylist Tom Ford became the creation manager of the company and started rejuvenating a brand that was destined to circle the drain. He did so by leaving aside business women and focusing more on a broader citizen of the world with a fine style, drawing ideas also from the fetish and S&M universes to reach a fusion of seduction and minimalism. Mr. Fords collections are meant for a woman who is super self confident, sexy, aggressive, determined, and she knows it. VI.3. PRADA Beside the sensual and aggressive women proposed by Gucci, there was also something else revolutionizing haute couture with a sophisticated and vanguarding style. Prada proposed a strong identity able to allow consumers all around to world to express concepts and thoughts rather then to wear mere forms and decorations. As Chanel, Prada does not draw dresses but thinks them. Pradas fil rouge was a sort of exasperation of the refusal of the trend: Prada models in fact did not represent the ideals of wealth and beauty, but tried to get as close as possible to everyday life women. We could thus say that like Chanel, Pradas fashion was a paradox, being at the same time luxurious and democratic. During the 80s, businesswomen had found their dimension in Armanis destructured jacket.

Pradas trivial style, on the other hand, seems to be in line with the most advanced level of maturity reached by women; they are now more self confident and do not need a uniform defending or representing them. It is no wonder then that also Prada recalled the 60s and the 70s, depuring them and making them abstract and aseptic, also under the point of view of sensuality. At a first sight, Pradas dresses do not look minimalist because, as happened with Chanel, they hide a baroc nature when it comes to details (stitchings, zips, etc). VI.4. VUITTON AND HERMS During the 90s, the market of luxury goods increased sharply. At the basis of this phenomenon, there is an increasing social legitimacy of ones pleasure and an unprecedented rush towards it. There are no longer the stumbling blocks of the moral taboos linked to traditional culture. Furthermore, consumers started looking more and more for quality products. This expansion was probably due to the difficulties of traditional criteria when defining peoples social role: hierarchies are no longer rigid, borders between social classes start to fade and those products taken as symbol of a given status are used by individuals to flaunt their social position. And this was the need of the latest social elite born during the 90s in the western world: we are talking about new managers enriched thanks to the boom of the new economy and the Stock exchange. This elite - instead of hiding their wealth - tried to show off through luxury consumption their new social status. This development of the luxury market allowed the expansion as well as the strengthening of companies already existing and with a long lasting tradition. And this goes for the French group LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy), which has been the luxury sectors undisputed leader for many years. The founder of the company, Luis Vuitton, had a very peculiar job: during the second half of 1800 he went up to rich travellers of that era to pack their clothes into their suitcases to avoid wrinkles, and the aristocracy throughout Paris wanted his services. After the endless attempts of imitation of his suitcases he founded in 1888, together with his son Georges, the world famous canva print: cotton rubbed with pumpernickel glue to make it more resistant and waterproof, with a L and a V printed. Another very important firm of the luxury sector today is Herms, founded in 1837 by Thierry Herms to produce saddles but later on covered all the products of the fashion world. Starting from 2003, the pret--porter women collection is designed by Jean-Paul Gaultier, lenfant terrible of French fashion. Ties and foulards are the most outstanding products of this brand, as well as bags such as the Kelly famous because Grace Kelly, when she was pregnant, tried to hide her pregnancy from photographers with her bag or the Birkin, a big and resistant bag meant for working mothers and inspired to the actress Jane Birkin.

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VI.5. A NEW REFERENCE POINT IN FASHION In recent years, two big giants of the sector have controlled the distribution of clothing products: the Swedish H&M and the Spanish Zara. These chains owe their success to the introduction of the so-called fast fashion. Such model revolutionated the world of the pret--porter and of the traditional 6-month deadline of fashion, introducing the principle of temporal continuity by integrating the collections monthly. By doing so they not only offered authomatic proposals close enough for the stylistic content to those of the mid and entry level collections of great couturiers (like Armani, etc) but also stimulated consumers to buy new items not for necessity but led by an authomatic impulse. Thanks to this policy, products prices are low and the offer of items is renewed monthly. Rather than cheap prices all this process offers to the modern consumer a cheap psychological price as he is aware that, although he buys something wrong, he did not spend much money. In a certain way he feels

inadeguate in front of such a wide and rapidly changing choice, imposing a quick choice too, but he also feels reassured by the low psychological investment needed. In a certain way this fast fashion model can be considered as the third model of the evolution process of modern fashion, following haute couture and pret--porter.