How to wear | 12 February 2017

The 90s: A Turning Point In Fashion

The 1990s saw a brilliant clash of bling, minimalism and grunge, it was a time of anything goes. Jean-Denis Franoux, fashion historian and professor at Studio Berçot in Paris, talks us through the decade that opened the door to infinite possibilities. Contrast was used to spectacular effect, creating a fashion movement that continues to inspire us today.

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From left to right, Maison Martin Margiela A/W 2000, A/W 1995, S/S 1990

What were the major changes to fashion during the 90s?
Until then, fashion was to an extent fairly elitist, it was only women of a certain age from a certain social class that could afford luxury clothes. The 1990s made fashion more accessible, more conceptual and more rebellious too, mainly thanks to young designers such as Martin Margiela, who radicalised fashion with new aesthetic, a radically different perspective of the female body and shows held in unlikely venues such as car parks and bleak wastelands. All of which spoke to a wider audience, and eschewed the glamour, exclusivity and opulence of the 80s.

From left to right, Helmut Lang S/S 1997, Chanel S/S 1994, Versace A/W 1992

But opulence was still incredibly popular at the time?
True – back then, brands like Versace, Christian Lacroix and Chanel were really big on bling; bold prints, designs emblazoned with logos, shoulder pads and gold chains. Minimalism established itself in response to these outlandish trends. For example Helmut Lang, one of the greatest contemporary designers, favoured practicality with his almost mundane designs, incorporating very little detailing, in tones of only one colour: black, grey or beige, avoiding any obvious signs of wealth. It was in the Nineties that fashion first became concerned with timelessness, bringing us the modern silhouette that’s still present today, and probably explains why it is still so influential.

From left to right, Vetements Haute Couture A/W 2016/2017, Y/Project S/S 2017, Céline S/S 2017

Are new wave designers like Vetements, Y/Project and Wanda Nylon worthy successors of these 90s designers?
You need to qualify a comparison like that. They may be considered inheritors who are experimenting with deconstruction in a similar way, but they treat clothing very differently. Among these brands, there exists a striking parallel with streetwear, which doesn’t apply to Margiela, etc. The evolution of streetwear is really interesting, it was first seen in America during the late 80s/early 90s and became a key influence. At Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld sent models down the catwalks in chains and logos, not unlike those looks seen in the earliest hip-hop music videos featuring Versace shirts and sunglasses. Different worlds were being brought together. The same goes for grunge, which sprang from iconic collections including the one by Marc Jacobs for Perry Ellis in 1993. All of a sudden, everyday fashion was on the catwalks and being worn by the same models who worked for the most luxurious fashion houses.

From left to right, Marc Jacobs show for Perry Ellis S/S 1993, Saint Laurent by Hedi Slimane S/S 2016, Kate Moss in 1994.

Grunge is one of the most iconic Nineties styles. How does it exist now?
Grunge is not so much a style as a really relaxed feel, being ‘cool’ was what mattered. When Kate Moss, Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love paired ripped jeans with oversized plaid shirts, or wore floral dresses with a white T-shirt and Dr. Martens, that was grunge because it combined elements that appeared completely unrelated. We still have this same mixing of genres today. When I see a young person wearing ankle grazers, shoes without socks and a parka, I consider that grunge. It all goes hand in hand with this devil-may-care attitude that’s still cool and which new designers are still building on now. That is what the 90s gave us. They opened the door to infinite possibilities in terms of styling and silhouettes, providing fashion with this sense of spontaneity.

Linda Evangelista for Helmut Lang A/W 1994, Naomi Campbell for Prada S/S 1995, Stella Tenant for Ann Demeulemeester Spring 1997

What role did the top models play in the context of the 90s?
The girls at the centre of this watershed moment in fashion, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington and Linda Evangelista at Chanel, were all of a sudden walking for Helmut Lang and Ann Demeulemeester, alongside Stella Tennant and Kristen McMenamy, who with their more angular faces and less commercial looks, were the original androgynous models. Supermodels were the epitome of versatile, changing their appearances radically for the different brands that they walked for. They were associated with a whole new way of communicating fashion, driven by magazines such as i-D, Self Service and Purple that defined the style of a generation and a parallel vision of beauty that’s still celebrated now.

MAISON MARTIN MARGIELA MID-LENGTH DRESS
  • WE LOVE

MAISON MARTIN MARGIELA

MID-LENGTH DRESS

Size: 42 IT

Oops sold! Wednesday, 22 February, 2017 Vintage

CHANEL White Leather Handbag
  • Ready To Ship
  • WE LOVE

CHANEL

White Leather Handbag

Oops sold! Wednesday, 15 February, 2017 Vintage

COMME DES GARCONS Jacket
  • WE LOVE

COMME DES GARCONS

Jacket

Size: L

Oops sold! Sunday, 2 April, 2017 Vintage

VETEMENTS Patent leather boots
  • Ready To Ship
  • WE LOVE

VETEMENTS

Patent leather boots

Size: 37 EU

Oops sold! Saturday, 25 February, 2017

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EDITO | commentaires

francesca
francesca February 25, 2017
90s magic and full of Made in Italy designers
natalia
natalia February 20, 2017
Look at my Helmut Lang jacket in off-white!
françoise
françoise February 13, 2017
J adore ces années ,mes années bonheur très fine synthèse
christine
christine February 12, 2017
Oui je reconnais bien là les années 90.....Merci pour cette synthèse
angela
angela February 12, 2017
Very interesting article!
rita
rita February 12, 2017
In my Dressing you will find a Python GUCCY by TOM FORD Jacket like the one catwalked by NAOMI CAMPBELL!

COME AND SEE!

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salt
salt February 12, 2017
Have a look at my stuff!!
annik
annik February 12, 2017
Agree with filippo PRADA was one of the brands and came up in the 90s with magnificent, opulent designs but also an upmarket quality in textures and materials, PRADA reinvented the "cachemire mousseux" I still have many of her cachemire sweaters and double cachemire coats, they have a timeless but very edgy elegance I love and buy
clara
clara February 12, 2017
Excellent!
FashionLover
FashionLover February 12, 2017
Très bonne analyse des 90 !
Ajda
Ajda February 11, 2017
My page is full of Versace's 90's pieces, and other designer's 90's piece as well. Come check it out! :D
nicolas
nicolas February 11, 2017
Gaultier and Galliano are missing as well in this article.
filippo
filippo February 10, 2017
Loved the article and feel really close to the Nineties, since I was born in the middle of that decade, but as an Italian, I can't believe such an influent designer as Miuccia Prada hasn't been mentioned! It might be true her designs weren't daring or "mature" as they used to be since the 2000's, but it's undeniable those were the years in each she introduced the concept of a "democratic" and more sober fashion adressed to an avant-guardist audience and in particular to socially and economically emancipated women!