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While inspiration may be the crucial element for a fashion designer, history has shown that the influences they receive from their surroundings – in particular, what’s going on in their society – are often the most important factor in creating a collection.
It is a common truth that most fashions are created with an underlying concept, which is usually grounded in an attitude towards or approach to life, art, politics and, of course, society.
Have you ever thought of how different fashion in the past century would have been, if it wasn't for all those social changes and needs? Fashions have always – and will always – respond to culture.
Take women’s liberation. When women gained the right to vote, they bobbed their hair and raised their hemlines above their knees. When in the 1980s women first entered the professional ranks in large numbers, shoulder pads took off as a way to create a stronger physical presence.
Let's get started with Coco Chanel. Chanel is, without doubt, the fashion creator who completely understood the needs of her era and translated them into fashion designs. In the 1920s, she revolutionised fashion and liberated women by designing easy-to-wear clothes in a basic palette of black, white and beige.
One of the most common items of clothing, the blue jean, also has a long history before it became a classic trend. Invented by Levi Strauss in the mid-nineteenth century, jeans were originally equated with work, and worn by minors, prospectors and laborers.
The feature of jeans that brought them out of workwear and into the realm of fashion is a unique centre seam, which hugs the curves of the behind, giving women the perfect flattering fit. Looking back over his career, Yves Saint Laurent claimed his one regret was that he did not invent the blue jean.
Biba clothes were extremely cheap and badly made. However, their low prices made them desirable among the young, working-class consumer, who wanted to dress fashionably. For the same price as a dress from Mary Quant, a girl could walk out of Biba with a new coat, dress, pair of shoes and hat!
As the modern diffusion of pop culture and social media bring fashion and society closer together than ever before, it would be easy to view fashion and social trends as recent bedfellows. And yet, walking through the history of some of the greatest designers of the past just proves that since its inception, fashion has never just been items of clothing, but a barometer of culture.
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