The mid ‘60s to early ‘70s saw the fashion industry reflect the social change happening worldwide. At a time of social upheaval and spiritual awakening, the march to freedom and liberation would not be met without any challenges.
The Vietnam War, The Civil Rights Movement and the fight for gender equality transcended boundaries in social structure, held together by class and race solidarity that contributed to the liberation of suppressed and victimised civilians.
It was the time for unity demonstrated at rallies, sit ins and letters to the government- the same actions we see today as the fight for equality continues.
The rise of the hippie movement in the mid ‘60s was a direct reaction to the chaos that was happening in America. Events like Woodstock (1969) are just one signifier of a united time.
The movement which would see transcendent change in its brief history introduce the notion of peace and equality needed for humanity to evolve further from war and false diplomacy.
Fashion’s greatest asset is having the ability to reflect a specific time. We often associate vintage clothes with decades as the progression of the industry over time has proven how influential a decade can be.
When one takes a peek at the state of menswear today, one might notice an influx of silk and lace shirts, flares and traditionally “feminine” clothing. Gender ambiguity has been in the sphere of relevancy over the past couple of years, with designers opting for genderless clothing each season.
Gender is blurring, a direct reflection of a fashion revolution that laid its foundations on the industry; enabling designers from their respective houses a deep archive that tailors to the gender bending aesthetic adhering to the codes of fashion amongst the post millennials worldwide.
The Peacock Revolution of the ‘60s and ‘70s represented the opposition against gender roles and gender expectations. One of the defining moments of the revolution is that it provided men to explore individuality for the first time.
The rigidness of ‘50s gender norms on what men are expected to do is one main reason why the revolution garnered so much youth appeal. Creativity and self-expression were seen as a feminine quality with no space for a man to exist outside of a certain stereotype.
Fed up with the limitations on what men are supposed to be, the post-World War II generation took the opportunity to express their identity outside of a work uniform. It was a way to break the conformist traditionalism their parents have upheld, passed down from generation to generation until it reached a breaking point.
Men took to effeminacy- trading mundane suits for silk and chiffon, flamboyant prints, and a supreme confidence in exploring this newfound creative freedom in self-expression. Men of the Peacock revolution broke the barriers of the sartorial world by widening the definitions of what “masculinity” and “femininity” are.
Cultural icons like David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix and Mick Jagger carried the mantle of this liberal state of mind, each holding themselves to diverse aesthetics that interpret the genesis of the Peacock Revolution from their own perspective.
One cannot discuss fashion in the 1960s without mentioning Yves Saint Laurent. Arguably the industry’s biggest designer, Saint Laurent transcended fashion through his ready to wear collections.
From sending clothes down the runway inspired by artists such as Warhol, Van Gogh and Brague, Saint Laurent’s ability to inspire conversations through his clothing is one of the many reasons as to why his name is held to the upper echelon of the industry elites.
His 1965 Mondrian collection which paid homage to Piet Mondrian in the form of six shift dresses encapsulated the entire modernist spirit of that generation. However, it is perhaps Saint Laurent’s blurring of gender line that set him for unparalleled success.
Saint Laurent’s introduction of androgyny into high fashion changed the way the industry perceived womenswear. His introduction of the iconic Le Smoking women’s suit in 1966 challenged gender roles.
Inspired by a menswear tuxedo, the suit symbolised that women were no longer inferior to men; that the modern women deserve the same respect as a man.
Saint Laurent predicted the transcendent rise of the suit in one of his most famous lines he ever spoke.
"For a woman, Le Smoking is an indispensable garment with which she finds herself continually in fashion, because it's about style, not fashion. Fashions come and go, but style is forever."
The Le Smoking suit represented an innate sense of power; a uniform for the new woman not held to any gender roles. Saint Laurent dressed a new generation, adding to the legacy of a man who would go on to influence the industry.
However, it wasn’t until Hedi Slimane took over the helm at Saint Laurent in 2012 that the smoking suit came back into the fashion sphere and with it, Slimane was able to turn the brand from the brink of bankruptcy back to being one of fashion’s biggest house.
Relying on this early ‘70s era as references for his future collections at Saint Laurent and now Celine, Slimane’s code of fashion is inspired heavily from the attitude and spirit of the younger generation that continued to fight for change.
Over the past couple of years, fashion continues to pay its homage to the ‘70s. While Slimane opts for the ‘70s rocker aesthetic, Alessandro Michele’s vision for Gucci plays on the glamour and joyfulness of the ‘70s proves just how diverse and eclectic the decade was.
Michele has transformed the house to match the extravagant aesthetic he has explored since his appointment of Creative Director in 2015. Michele’s use of bright colour palettes, clashing patterns and an overall adoration of the ‘70s aesthetic, has made him among one of the industry’s leading designers.
Dressing the likes of Harry Styles, Jared Leto and Lana Del Rey, the eclectic vision of Michele’s perspective on the ‘70s since he took the helm has proven to be one of the significant factors that is helping the resurgence of the ‘70s we are currently seeing in trend today.
And while the day to day consumer cannot afford the luxurious price tags of new season designer clothing, this newfound obsession with the ‘70s has shown this new generation’s creativity with working their budget.