This time, Fashion Courier focuses on two designers who, for the spring-summer 2023 season, go back in memory to their first steps in fashion, and to the style with which they captured clients while they were still early names in the industry. Stella McCartney and Isabel Marant prove that their original ideas are consistently timeless and desirable for modern women.
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Back to the past
In response to the seasonal trend mentality, we are increasingly seeing a renewed interest in quality andheritage (“heritage”) on the world’s catwalks. This is best justified by the booming vintage clothing market. In this way, fashion is increasingly being positioned as a collector’s item that gains value over time. Not surprisingly, designers are increasingly revisiting their archives and taking inspiration from their own work – especially from their first, memorable collections. Yet not every brand, however, is able to wrest such nostalgia in an interesting and fresh way. The phenomenon of re-editions, or capsule collections recreating archival projects, is no longer new to the industry and often ends in sales failure.
The spring-summer 2023 season largely revolves around the theme of nostalgia. The smartest approach was taken by two established designers, who during Paris fashion week showed that revisiting the past can be exciting. Stella McCartney i Isabel Marant have returned to their fashion roots, harking back to their greatest hits from the early 2000s and proving that their original ideas are as hit-and-miss as possible in 2022.
A history lesson
To better understand the context of Stella McCartney’s latest collection, it is necessary to go back twenty years – that is, to the period when the designer took her first steps in the industry, resurrecting (for that moment) the sleepy fashion house Chloé. The spring-summer 2001 collection for the Paris-based brand was a perfect blend of youthfulness and carefree attitude. And its downright cheeky tone was meant to symbolize McCartney’s rebellious approach to the elegant, slightly too serious world of high fashion. The petticoat with a pineapple print placed in the crotch became one of the most controversial styles of the early 2000s. The collection immediately became iconic not only because of its recognizable emblems, but also because it cemented Stella’s status as a designer whose point of view matters. Stella stood at the helm of the brand in 1997, aged just 25 and fresh out of design school. Also important is the fact that she was taking over the position from the recently fired Karl Lagerfeld. The press was initially abuzz with skepticism about her nomination, and the most touchy subject was her recognizable name. However, the designer quickly proved that it is not the Beatles’ name that is the ticket to her success, but her true talent and understanding of exactly what women want in their closets. Each of her subsequent collections has been eagerly awaited by fashion editors. McCartney had a huge influence on other fashion houses, which began to copy her style. After a few seasons, she left Chloé to start her own brand in 2001 – which to this day is a pioneer in the use of eco-leather.
Sensing a growing interest in her designs for Chloé among fashionistas of a new generation, McCartney looked through her archives and smuggled in several references to this period of her work in her collection for spring. The show opened with gold chain tops, which the designer debuted in Chloé’s spring-summer 2000 collection. In 2022, McCartney suggests wearing them under large blazers, along with asymmetrical skirts and mesh stockings. Amber Valletta, who wore a similar top on the runway more than two decades ago, styled with white denim hipsters, showed an over-size, work suit in McCartney’s new collection. The Hadid sisters were also dressed as if straight out of the early millennium: Gigi in a utilitarian Savile Row-style set (that is, McCartney’s eternal inspiration; another reference to her first collections); Bella in a matching vest and fashionable low-waisted pants with cutouts around the hips adorned with zircons. The designer has always loved the expressive print. Instead of pineapples, she used Yoshimoto Nara’s charming illustrations to decorate her dresses and tops. The best testimony to the fact that McCartney’s designs are timeless and generate the same interest now as they did at the beginning of her career is her daughter. “My daughter, who is 15, goes into my closet and takes all my old projects for herself. I tell her, “oh, after all, I’m doing similar things now”. But she is not interested. She only wants things from the 1990s,” the designer confessed after the show, laughing.
Isabel Marant is a designer who needs no introduction. The epitome of immortal Parisian chic, the brand was founded in 1994 and continues to this day to offer customers a timeless closet filled with French je ne sais quoi. For spring-summer 2023, Marant is returning to the “urban warrior” style that has made fashion icons such as Kate Moss and Sienna Miller love the brand. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, there was a new mood on the streets of Paris, austere and nonchalant, full of charm, but difficult to grasp for those “outside” the French capital. A new fashion archetype of the woman was born, a kind of recognizable shabbiness, a combination of grunge and boho. It might seem too early to resurrect a style that dominated fashion trends less than a decade ago. But in the age of social media and the search for the next big thing, the indie sleaze style (the best definition of it is the instagram profile @indiesleaze, which is a sensational chronicle of this phenomenon) is doing really well. Not surprisingly, Isabel Marant’s style is going through another renaissance.
In the designer’s spring collection, there is no room for any “quirkiness” or conceptual approach to the outfit. A silk shirt in a darkened floral pattern styled with a leather mini skirt is nothing subversive, but this season it is certain that such a no-strings-attached look will be eagerly chosen by women who want to opt for a carefree look after a period of pandemonium or general crisis. Loose cargo shorts juxtaposed with a top made of hand-knitted macramé sets a carefree summer mood. Marant’s first collections won the hearts of the editors of Vogue France (then Vogue Paris) with leather pants of a specific “three-quarter” length and with a distinctively accentuated zipper. This trouser model was presented in the spring show several times, in different color versions. The designer recommends wearing them with a lightweight, voluminous, lace blouse in certified cotton that looks like it was scrounged from the most stylish vintage boutique in Paris.
A woman’s approach
Stella McCartney and Isabel Marant represent two vastly different styles that evolve, but almost never stray from a consistent and recognizable image. In McCartney’s case, the approach to fashion is more pop-oriented, full of patterns and colors, and inspired by contemporary visual culture, while in Marant’s case, a subdued, rock style dominates. The key to their success is understanding the desires of modern women. They offer them designs that serve every day, regardless of the occasion or mood. The designers do not make overly complicated creations, and shy away from the avant-garde. They are triumphing in the niche of brands that create feel-good clothing. The return of Stella McCartney and Isabel Marant this season to their original classics, or even re-editions, does not give the impression of nostalgic repetition or creative stagnation. Rather, it’s to solidify their position in the industry and show that their feminine approach is timeless.