Alexander Fury: Fashion’s in the air, not a conspiracy

How do five designers alight on the same obscure inspiration? How are ‘trends’ born?
  • @AlexanderFury

A question I’m asked about fashion, again and again, is: how does it all get decided? Who comes up with it – the new black, the new hemline, the new skirt? How do five designers on two different continents alight on the same obscure source of inspiration? How are “trends” born?

Lots of people assume there’s some kind of massive trend-forecast conspiracy. It’s not the case – generally. There are logistical factors that influence “inspiration”. Designers go to Premiere Vision, the biannual fabric fair held in Paris. They use the same clutch of powerful stylists. And of course, they all react to cultural stimuli – this summer’s high-profile celebration of punk style, Chaos to Couture at the Met, unleashed a deluge of shredded and safety-pinned collections for winter 2013. It’s entirely logical.

Some of it, of course, isn’t. Watch Unzipped, a documentary following the creation of New York designer Isaac Mizrahi’s 1994 collection inspired by an unexpected source: the 1922 docudrama Nanook of the North. A week before Mizrahi’s show, Jean Paul Gaultier unveiled his own line, inspired by the same film in Paris. Cue gnashing of teeth as Mizrahi got “Nanooked”.

How they both alighted on the same source of inspiration is uncertain. It still happens today. I referenced Cher in my review of the last Versace show: two weeks later, she loomed large in Marc Jacobs’ final Louis Vuitton collection, every model topped by a millinery homage to her 1986 Oscars outfit. I don’t think anyone could possibly have trend-forecast that. Maybe it’s something in the air. Or rather, in the Cher.