Iconic styles

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 November, 2011, 12:00am


Fashion today moves at lightning speed. Once customers had to wait months after Fashion Week to discover which styles which would be popular the following season. Now with the internet and social media, they can access information instantly, resulting in a constant demand for something new and exciting.

While mass retailers have embraced this concept of fast fashion and made a fortune in the process, many designers are experiencing fashion fatigue. It's impossible to keep up when, to paraphrase the words of Project Runway's Heidi Klum, one day you're in, and the next day you're out.

It's for this very reason that designers continue to reference popular looks and styles from the past. A look at the upcoming autumn/winter collections is proof as numerous designers have chosen to rehash silhouettes from the 1960s. Mod-style shifts and miniskirts worn by Mary Quant and Twiggy have reappeared on the catwalks of brands such as Prada, Bottega Veneta and MaxMara.

These tried-and-tested looks have become a permanent part of the fashion vernacular because they have survived the test of time. In the words of Coco Chanel: 'fashion fades, but style remains.'

Chanel was one of the founders of classic elegance, a style that continues to inspire designers from Stefano Pilati at Yves Saint Laurent to Marc Jacobs. 'I think of Jackie O on her yachting weekends but I also am reminded of Marilyn Monroe in pedal pushers and skinnies,' says Eizelle Taino, owner of fashion boutique Indigo in Staunton Street.

Grace Kelly, the 1950s Hollywood starlet, was one of the first women to define the look, as shown in the exhibition, 'Grace Kelly: Style Icon,' at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. It showcased the Princess of Monaco's most iconic looks from an elegant knee-length coat-and-dress ensemble by Oleg Cassini (a designer who was also a favourite of Jackie O) to her Kelly handbag by Hermes.

Hallmarks of the style include elegant, quality wardrobe basics that are well-cut such as the little black dress or turtleneck as popularised by Audrey Hepburn or the fitted button-down white shirt loved by Kelly. 'One of my favourite looks is Audrey Hepburn in her black skinnies, turtleneck and ballet flats in Funny Face,' adds Taino.

Choose streamlined silhouettes that are modest and blend together seamlessly, such as the plain T-shirt and Capri pants combo favoured by Jackie O which is the subject of a new book released by luxury brand Tod's. For men, think of sartorial icons such as Cary Grant and Tom Ford who have championed the three-piece suit and pocket square combo.

Hand-in-hand with classic elegance comes Hollywood glamour, a look channelled by many starlets today. Pin-up stars Veronica Lake, Vivien Leigh, Lana Turner and Rita Hayworth have inspired the actresses who walk the red carpet in vintage-style gowns reminiscent of the 1940s and 1950s. The look is elegant, with floor-length, body-hugging gowns, matched with coiffed hair and bold red lips. The key is to choose a silhouette that shows off a woman's curves - sweetheart necklines and nipped in waists were popular - while floral prints and delicate beading add a nostalgic air. While classic femininity is always in vogue, at the opposite end of the spectrum is the androgynous look which is prevalent thanks to designers Alexander Wang and Yohji Yamamoto. The look was spearheaded by 1930s actresses Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich.

In the 1960s actress Katharine Hepburn made it part of popular culture with her signature tailored, high-waisted wide-legged trousers and matching blazer. Since then other fashion icons have experimented with the boy-meets-girl look, including Diane Keaton, in the film Annie Hall. Her eccentric wardrobe, designed by Ralph Lauren, featured vintage men's clothing, vests, ties, loose trousers and hats.

Bianca Jagger made headlines in the 1970s when she wore a Yves Saint Laurent tuxedo instead of a traditional gown to her wedding with Rolling Stones front man Mick Jagger.

'While not everybody suits the androgynous look, you cannot go wrong with a well-cut blazer and pair of trousers,' says local fashion designer Tania Mohan. Modern-day icons Alexa Chung and model Agyness Deyn embrace this look with tailored blazers and loafers.

A look that has also experienced a renaissance is rock 'n' roll, as seen at Balmain and Chanel. Its godmother is 1960s icon Chrissie Hynde, the front woman of the Pretenders, who was known for her leather trousers, ripped tees, skinny scarves and black eyeliner.

'Rock 'n' roll is a timeless look - skinny jeans or leather pants are now wardrobe classics, especially when worn with a tailored jacket or biker jacket and a biker boot,' says Sarah Rutson, fashion director at Lane Crawford. During the 1970s the torch was passed onto British designer Vivienne Westwood with her iconic punk style together. The look was all about ripped jeans, torn T-shirts and safety pins. In the 1980s and 1990s other rockers chanelled their own versions including Joan Jett, Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, Axl Rose and Courtney Love. Today, modern icons include former French Vogue editor Carine Roitfeld and Kate Moss. Theirs is a more chic version that includes tailored leather jackets, skull scarves, leather chaps and plenty of black.