Taking Notes from 90's Fashion by Samiha Charles
Fashion throughout the decades has made a remarkable impact on people as well as the fashion industry itself. Through different fabrics, styles and colors, designers were able to push the agenda of what’s hot and what’s in for the time period. In the 1990’s, designers expressed how unafraid they were of going against the grain and taking risks. As a result, their models, as well as their outfits exhibited a combination of mixed concepts; both retro and modern, sophisticated, and poised self expression.
In modern day fashion, we see a different approach in how clothes are designed and expressed to appeal to a mass audience. Beginning with inclusion, the incorporation of different body types, races and ethnicities, designers can explore different cultural garments and fabrics while displaying it on the bodies of models from those backgrounds. In addition, they can allow consumers of different body types to feel included by showcasing more men and women of different sizes. However, with newer accommodations to appeal to a wider audience, runways still seem to lack the form fitting and sensual aesthetic that many 90’s runways successfully used as their main themes.
To start, fashion designers convey a message within their pieces. Whether it be haute and glamorous or retro chic, designers like Karl Lagerfeld, Gianni Versace or Thiery Mugler, knew how to make clothes that made women feel bold, sexy, and were oftentimes, minimal.
The fashion and set designers, as well as the models put on such a memorable experience for their audience. From the music to the set designs, the extravagant outfits and the catwalk performances, they all came together to make an unforgettable masterpiece.
The amount of work put into the designs, finding the right models, fitting, hair and makeup are only a fraction of the insurmountable effort that goes into the shows and it's often displayed in the outcome. The process of making a fashion show starts with finding a venue then making a theme. Some designers use old warehouses to really capture that grunge effect. Modern venues often go for something futuristic and digitalized. They may also go for something neutral. Some of the themes used in the 90’s were minimal and grunge. Things that went against the trends in the 80’s like shoulder pads and polished colorful outfits, transitioned into models with more piercings, tattoos and less clothes.
Alexander Mcqueen was one of the most notable designers for his unique themes and choice of models. Often including models with shaved heads, tattoos and sometimes featuring pregnant women to perceive a slightly Victorian and eurocentric concept.
As you may have noticed from the 90’s clips, designers were creating atmospheres that set specific themes for their shows. For Mcqueen, his intentions were for a dark medieval effect. He set this tone through pan flute music, minimal and dimmed lighting, and few set decorations to give his audience a different experience. He wanted the outfits and the models to tell the story. Modern day tones and atmospheres can be a bit more ambiguous. Many times the music will be on repeat. However, the stages will range from one that’s interactive to some that are futuristic or has taken a modern approach to a fairly older concept. An example of this would be the Versace Spring summer 2021.
The set designer created an atmosphere that resembled the city of Atlantis, including Greek Statue broken columns and the signature Versace symbol in the background. Models were strutting down the catwalk with poise dressed in colorful garments and a “wet hair” look.The garments are displayed almost as though they can be customizable with other pieces rather than just one set.
But even with all the glamour and rave of the fashion industry then compared to now, they still both share the flawed perspective of minimal inclusivity and representation.
There may be a few more black and people of color on the runway now, however, it still seems like it comes from the ideology of a white male executive, rather than a person of color who genuinely understands the beauty in diversity. The Savage x Fenty fashion shows are a great example. Every single model came and served representing different sizes, ethnicities and cultures. The models felt comfortable and sexy which aligns with the purpose of Rihanna's fashion line. Most importantly, it represented different groups of people who are often pushed away from the spotlight.
For brands like Givenchy and Gucci, there is much more work that needs to be done to have that representation stick and count in their shows. If you’re going to appropriate certain cultures in fashion, at least add models from those cultures. While the sets are still well presented and iconic, the lack of diversity in model casting is what affects the shows from reaching their fullest potential of extravagance.
There’s a lot of improvement that has come from these newer fashion shows but there is still work that needs to be done to restore and revolutionize the fashion industry. I think taking a look back at the timeless pieces and runway shows, as well as inclusion can help elicit the change we need!