The more analytical among us might ponder why, exactly, contemporary fashion and its visual culture seems to be fixated on referencing the fashions of the second half of the twentieth century. Although the past few seasons have seen imagery from the early 1960’s, the 1940’s and even elements of the 1950’s float into seasonal trends, it’s not too much of an overstatement to say that the overriding trends in fashion over the last twenty years have often seemed like a two-horse race between the retro revivals of 1970’s and 1980’s styling. And, with advocacy of a late 1970’s dissipated glamour being everywhere in august fashion titles for SS11, one can even wonder if we are now trapped in an ongoing ping pong match between the two respective decades.
One reason for this could be that for the generations that now shape fashion at its highest levels, these decades remain a direct and vivid memory. And as we all learned from Proust and Freud, nothing else quite impacts with the ferocity of childhood memory. A second reason could be that the same generations have also contributed most heavily to chucking the imagery of the popular culture of these decades into the great communal memory that is the Internet, eagerly bringing their own nostalgic documentation of heady childhood memories or misspent youths as participants. Since the imagery itself in the form of photos or hoarded magazine pages are also more readily available than say fashion shoots from the 1930’s it has also been easier for the amateur archivist to legally or otherwise convert such imagery into digital form and throw it out the car door on the Information Highway.
Whatever the reason, the taste and nostalgia for fashion and lifestyle from the 1980’s and 1970’s is in the ether and Louis Vuitton’s SS11 campaign taps into the zeitgeist and turns it into something rich and sumptuous.
Shot by Steven Meisel, it’s a flamboyant affair, one part a shimmering ode to the disco decadence of the late 1970’s, one part a reworking of 1930’s Chinoiserie. Think Shanghai before the Japanese attacked.
Top models Freja Beha Erichsen, Kristen McMenamy and Raquel Zimmermann smoulder with over-sized fans and tassel earrings evoking both the stylishly bored elite of late 1970’s NYC waiting for their ride to Studio 54 and the badly behaved western women of 1930’s Shanghai whose notoriety could barely be contained even all that way from home. The incense-drenched mood is underscored by the Oriental touches of the interior location; lacquer, mirror, gold.
The SS11 campaign is the perfect vehicle for the Louis Vuitton seasonal collection. Artistic Director Marc Jacobs is certainly no stranger to the fashion of the late 1970’s with a proven affection for the aesthetic of the period in both silhouettes and styling in his previous work. Combined with taking its cue from this season’s Eastern-inspired collection, it adds up to a knowing reworking of Orientalism –itself a strand that reemerged in the high fashion of the late 1970’s- to create the perfect hybrid imagery for something that is completely of the moment.