It’s not the first time that you will hear of hippie style being about to make a return to fashion and it’s certainly not likely to be the last time either. It’s already hit the mainstream that the fashion powers that be are envisaging a return to the flower power of the 1960’s and all that goes with it in the coming seasons.
Under this general trend, ‘The Traveler’, one of the many notable men’s fashion stories in the current issue of Geil, takes the broad idea and makes things that little bit more specific. Shot by Yannick Leconte and styled by Philippe Uter, it’s a heady rich affair that conjures up Gypsy romance as much as decadent bohemians heading for the seductive promise of Marrakech and Kathmandu. This is most certainly about the refined nomad rather than barefoot New Age dropouts tripping in a field in front of their love bus.
The warm tones of the images, the louche bling of the dark interiors and the studied camp of the styling all add up to a notion of the original hippies: the effete anti-hero of a novel by Huysmans or some dissipated poet aristocrat suffering from ennui in a distant oriental fleshpot. Chuck in a bit of wild gypsy boy sensuality – the kind of amusing plaything for the poet, of course- and it all makes complete sense. You can practically smell the incense and opium.
It also works perfectly to summarise the mood of some of the hottest menswear collections. Rich patterns, heavy brocades, here and there the trinkets acquired in wild adventures amongst some remote tribe or the remnants of a gentleman’s wardrobe secured from a tailor of good repute long before the owner abandoned himself to hedonistic pleasure. It all creates a cohesive whole that captures the essence of fashion things soon to come. Rather than simply referring to the contemporary notion of ‘the traveller’ – the offspring of the hippies- it’s more of a languid ode to the forebears of the hippie; the nineteenth century bohemians who formulated a riposte to modernism with their own visual culture.
Showcased brands such as Jean Paul Gaultier or Christian Lacroix, for example, have long drawn on such rich sources to create fashion. But what is particularly nice in this story is how this connects such brands with the younger designers from latest generation of acclaimed menswear designers -such as Alexis Mabille- or even reconfigures those who are more readily associated with a sleek, undecorated look –such as Lagerfeld.
In so doing, it gets under the skin of an emerging idea in current fashion; a new – or renewed- decorative aesthetic that will look to many of the same places as hippie culture for inspiration and identity statements; history, folk culture and non-western cultures. If we are already envisaging with trepidation how this might play out in high-street brands or in the pop culture of the zeitgeist for a generation much more easily able to travel to all those traditional stopovers on the hippie trail heading east, then at least it’s reassuring to see that there are also options put together by the very capable hands of some of the world’s top designers.