Fashion’s age of hyperinflation
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Designers have long played with amped-up volume, but details have rarely been as inflated as they are this season.
At Louis Vuitton, Nicolas Ghesquière took functional elements and blew them up to out-of-this-world proportions: puffed-up space-age vests were festooned with mammoth-sized zippers (reportedly the largest ever manufactured), trompe l’oeil leather dresses had zoomed-in hardware details and camel-toned trench coats were fastened with poppers the size of plates. It was “a stylistic exercise that re-evaluates the proportions of clothing and its adjuncts”, read the show notes, “one in which the codes of femininity unsettle scale”.
Jonathan Anderson also took on the inflated trend. At Loewe’s SS23 collection, models walked the runway wearing giant anthurium flowers, pumped-up heels with balloon details and leather coats with floor-sweepingly long sleeves. Michael Kors paired ruched crimson dresses and fringed sarongs with large gold buckles, while at Miu Miu, giant ’90s-inspired utility belts featured exaggerated pouches, and burnished leather coats came with colossal cargo pockets. At Akris, creative director Albert Kriemler repurposed the XL gold buttons from a vintage 1979 cashmere caban in tribute to the era that was all about making a statement. “Volume, structure, silhouette,” says Kriemler.
While these magnified details attest to the popularity of more functional clothing, their attention-grabbing size also speaks to the impact of consumption via the small screen. “We’ve seen, since the beginning of the iPhone era, that [the smartphone] has influenced design,” says Dr Valerie Steele, fashion historian and director/chief curator of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. “We’ve seen many more colours and prints than before because that shows up so well, whereas an all-black ensemble doesn’t show up at all. Similarly, details of fabric, shiny fabric, matte fabric, velvet – you don’t see that on the screen.”
“It’s also a great way of distinguishing one designer’s work from all the others,” adds Dr Steele. “As you’re scrolling through a million things, you say, ‘Oh my God, it’s Louis Vuitton.’ You immediately recognise its collection because of those hyper-inflated details.”
Fashion has long served as a barometer for the changing tides of the economy. In 1926, Professor George Taylor came up with the Hemline Index theory, suggesting that the length of women’s skirts and dresses was a metric for the direction of financial markets. Today’s supersized accessories perhaps represent a similar reaction. “This idea of ‘peacocking’, or showcasing your finest ‘magpie’ jewellery, is a way of people putting their best foot forward,” says Laura Yiannakou, senior strategist of womenswear at trend forecaster WGSN, “in an attempt to take back control by smartening up and feeling good about themselves.”
Feeling good was top of the agenda for Jeremy Scott, who tackled the issue of inflation literally by injecting blow-up elements into his collection for Moschino. Ladylike dresses featured inflatable lapels and hemlines, while technicolour pool floats were fashioned into jaunty hats and peplum inserts, bringing a typically playful twist to the theme. From searingly bright-pink flamingos to dolphin armbands and turtle floaties, it was a collection abundant with optimism and humour.
“Obviously, when we are having so much stress in the world and negativity, you have to find a place for joy,” says Scott. “You kind of need a life-preserver... Inflation is something everyone is talking about. You can see it in the news with the cost of everything going up: housing, food, life,” he adds. “I wanted the collection to be uplifting – its motive is mood buoyancy. We must be cognisant of what’s happening around us, yet we must also hold space for joy.” Escapist fashion to keep us afloat.
Model, Ena Poppe at Women Paris. Casting, Ben Grimes at Drive Represents. Hair, Alexander Soltermann at Home. Make-up, Ruben Masoliver at Walter Schupfer. Photographer’s assistant, Vassili Boclé. Digital Operator, Sarah Reimann at Imagin. Stylist’s assistants, Aylin Bayhan and Elsa Durousseau. Production, Jason Le Berre at Home. Special thanks, Royal Cheese Studio and RVZ Paris