There’s something about the extravagance and showmanship of 70s dressing that is so different to today’s definition of ‘cool’. Cool is now synonymous with being understated, and looking effortless. “Oh, yeah, I just threw this shit together and it turned out perfect”. It’s a perfectly acceptable way of dressing but I’m more drawn to a style that calls for a feather boa or a sequin embellishment. Marc Bolan is my ultimate in ‘laid back style’. Laid back enough not to look out of place lounging on a tour bus but dressed up enough to be able to step on stage at any moment.
Topman Design is, clearly, the collection that stands out as the ultimate throwback collection; not using the decade as an inspiration point so much as designing a pretty accurate reproduction. It has everything: flares, wide lapels, fur, shearling, denim, big coats, slimline shirts, turtle necks, tank tops, psychedelic prints, Formula One style overalls (the 70s was a fast, dangerous golden era for the sport), patches, and Bay City Rollers-esque tartan check.
While Topman paid full homage to the decade, Todd Lynn took a hybrid approach with a punk meets grunge collection. Black bob-topped models walked to the sounds of punk band Slaves playing live at the start of the runway. Subtly flared hems, fur coats and bare chests suggested a glam rock influence whereas long line knits and extra long sleeves were they key to adding a little grunge into the mix.
J.W. Anderson is no stranger to throwing a little (or a lot of) femininity into his designs – I can picture David Bowie rocking up on stage in any number of J.W. Anderson get ups – so this is an era that sits comfortably within his vision. 70s men (well, some…) weren’t afraid of a stacked heel, a silk scarf, or a dab of glitter, just as the J.W. Anderson man doesn’t fear a strapless top or a frilled hemline.
Split seam flares, wide, spread collars, extra wide cuffs and high necks make up a lot of his AW15 offering at a first glance or a quick scroll through, but upon revisiting you notice the scooped necklines of the velvet jackets, the knit bodices layered over shirts, even the deep hemlines. Fur and shearling make another appearance, but here it sits against red and purple leather, colour blocked chenille, pastel corduroy and exquisite, sculptural buttons, zips, and buckles.
Newcomer and oft proclaimed one to watch, Grace Wales Bonner further diversified and developed the theme in her Fashion East presentation. Exploring black history, heritage and culture, her reference points are solid and her dedication to exploring and expanding upon the subject is clear in her thoughtful design and her eloquent responses when questioned about her influences.
1970s radical black poetry was one such solid reference point so, yes, the 70s shine through here in the flared leg lines, high waists and the styling of the tuxes, but this collection is anything but one dimensional. Based largely around the history of “how black people were represented in paintings in the 19th century, and how that manifests itself today”, there is also the exploration of homosexuality and the gentleness of a relationship between two men, a look at the 20s and the renaissance, and a clear nod to opulence and excess. Referencing a certain era needn’t simply be a lesson in costume design. The ability to reinvent rather than just re-do is absolutely necessary if you’re going to take something old and make it new again.
Topman Design AW15. Images: Fucking Young
J.W. Anderson AW15. Images: Fucking Young
Wales Bonner AW15. Image: i-D