An archivist’s task is not only to preserve the past, but also to analyze its ebbs and flows. Thanks to the sheer number of Fashion Weeks and the plethora of seasons, to say nothing of trends, fashion can seem mercurial. It’s true that some designers seem to follow the butterfly’s fluttering path, alighting briefly on an idea or look only to move quickly on. Look closer though, and many return to the same flower, as it were, time and time again. This same, cyclical pattern is often repeated at heritage houses, regardless of the rapid rotation of design leads. A creative director’s remit is no longer just about respecting or rejecting the history of the house going back to its founders, but taking into account all of a maison’s histories, past and present.
Inspired by viral #10YearChallenges, we’ve done a fashion version, digging into our deep archives (spanning more than 20 years) to compare and contrast Spring collections from 1999 and 2009, and 2009 and 2019. Enjoy.
Alexander McQueen 1999 vs. 2009
Lee Alexander McQueen was creating Insta-perfect moments long before Facebook existed. One of the most unforgettable of those experiences was the finale of “No.13,” featuring Shalom Harlow on a spinning platform being spray-painted by two robotic arms rented from a car factory. The designer, known for juxtaposing the raw and the refined, here created a confrontation between technology and heritage—this show was presented just before Y2K mania set in. Ten years later, the nature-loving McQueen harnessed technology once again. This time, in the interest of environmentalism, he celebrated nature through digital prints based on things like wood grain and butterfly wings.
Alexander Wang 2009 vs. 2019
This New York wunderkind might be best known for his scruffy dressed-down MOD (model off duty) aesthetic, but there’s a strong streak of athleisure running through his work, too. Call it a case of opposites attracting: The designer, not one for team sports, has consistently borrowed from the sartorial playbooks of football, surf, and, in 2009, boxing. Ten years on, vestiges of his rah-rah sports spirit remain, if now playing second string to a harder, edgier look directed to Insta-girls.
Balmain 2009 vs. 2019
Balmain was once a bastion of conservative couture, but when Christophe Decarnin took over in 2005, the house was more than dusty, it lacked identity, allowing Decarnin to approach the brand as if it were blank page. The Frenchman cut a swagger with peaked-shoulder silhouettes and plays on high and low (ripped jeans with a bejeweled jacket) that sometimes teetered on the edge of good taste. Indeed, they were seemingly pulled back from the precipice by their hefty price tags alone. Working alongside the reclusive Decarnin for some of the glory years was the young, outgoing, and media-savvy Olivier Rousteing. Since taking over design responsibilities in 2011, he’s retained some signature silhouettes from Decarnin’s time, while upping the wow-factor both in the garments and on the front row.
Calvin Klein 1999 vs. 2009
Calvin Klein’s Spring 1999 show opened with airy white looks and closed with shots of bright color, which he mixed or used alone in solid strokes. Ease defined this collection, as it did the “King of Clean’s” approach to fashion in general. Klein served up minimalism charged with sexuality, and he had no time for fuss or stiff formality. When Francisco Costa, a Gucci alum, took over, he maintained Klein’s legacy, tweaking it with bits of structure, and in the case of his Spring 2009 collection, Deco touches.
Christopher Kane 2009 vs. 2019
With his debut collection of neon bandage dresses in micro-mini lengths, Christopher Kane established himself as a go-to designer for latter-day sex kittens. By 2009 he had moved onto bigger prey, having rewatched Planet of the Apes, The Flintstones, and One Million Years B.C. A decade on, his collection was informed by nonfiction fare, specifically David Attenborough’s films on the mating behaviors of wildlife, through which he imbued his clothes with some animal magnetism.
Louis Vuitton 2009 vs. 2019
In 1997 Marc Jacobs was tasked with creating a ready-to-wear collection for the famed French leather-goods firm Louis Vuitton. His Spring 2009collection brought together wide-ranging references, from Africa to 1940s pompadours, all served up with a helping of 1970s decadence. “It’s the coming-together part that gives it its spirit,” mused Jacobs. Nicolas Ghesquière, creative head since 2013, said he took the time “to dig into my obsessions” for his Spring 2019collection. Foremost among his interests is futurism; the ’80s are a recurrent preoccupation as well, and he combined them in a way that spoke to life in a shattered, image-heavy, digital age.
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