It’s been at least three years since the trends of the 1970’s infiltrated our wardrobes, sometimes haunted by Queen Victoria with her lace, sometimes by Russian peasant women with their floral skirts and sometimes by hippies with their platform soles and bell bottoms. The only item we have escaped for the moment is the infamous shirt collar in the shape of a cake slice.
Admittedly, the most brilliant, and arguably the most stylish thing the 70’s did was to create joy in a world that was at least as dark and gloomy as our own. The generation before us experienced the first oil crisis and the rise of terrorism, successfully lobbied for the end of the war in Vietnam, sensed the crisis to come due to the depletion of resources and the impossibility of a planet B, and lived through it all by exploding flowers and colors wherever they could.
Let there be no mistake: everything about this ostentatious outpouring of joy was political.
From behind the Iron Curtain
Floral prints first. The punk movement and its goddess of the time, Vivienne Westwood, advocated the urgency of a return to nature. The application of this idea occurs in a profusion of stylized daisies and sunflowers, among other motifs, on upholstery as well as on clothing. This invasion of flowers is accompanied by an earthy color palette of rusty orange, moss green, banana yellow and every shade from beige to brown. A less pop and less dangerous trend for the eyes, is the so-called “peasant fashion” with its full and long skirts and bishop sleeved shirts borrowed from the bohemian women of Central Europe, it also deploys floral prints, but in an ethnic genre. We are in the middle of the Cold War, and this part of the world is still, like the dark side of the moon, inaccessible, intriguing, hidden behind the Iron Curtain. These fashion citations allow it to exist in our consciousness. Yves Saint Laurent will offer a historical interpretation.
Back to nature
In 1973, the price of crude oil soared, vindicating a vast movement of revolt against the devastating effects of overconsumption, overproduction and intensive agriculture. Joining the Arts and Crafts movement born in Great Britain at the end of the 19th century, in reaction against the growing industrialization of human activity, the 1970s also saw moves to slow down and rediscover a rustic simplicity, the nostalgia for which became painful. This will result, among other things, in a fashion for handmade products. Between Tupperware sessions (almost every housewife organized meetings at home to sell these plastic storage boxes), mothers devoted themselves to weaving macramé objects, including, who knows why, “decorative” owl mascots. Fashion picked up on the trend and introduced multicolored knitted and crocheted pieces, of which Missoni delivers the most refined versions.
A second-hand “Deco”
Art Deco was also an important aesthetic reference for the Seventies. No doubt because it refers to the Roaring Twenties, which, despite a distressing context prefiguring a new global conflict, also maintained a festive effervescence in the carpe-diem mode. The “Deco revival” is in fact a second-hand Art Deco, borrowed from the glamour of Hollywood films of the 1940s. But it’s all there: stylized flowers, oriental inspirations, stripes and zebras, op’art, Bauhaus geometry. All of this is reinterpreted in different ways, including the iconic 1970s earthy palette.
On the Arab side of the neo-Seventies
Capturing the feeling of a changing world, young Arab designers are now joining this trend in an almost instinctive way. Under her label Jessica K, Lebanese designer Jessica Khoueiry is launching, in collaboration with Iranian-Swiss influencer Soraya Bakhtiar, a collection of vests, skirts and small tops based on a crochet square module. Bangs and cords add a joyful movement to acidic pieces where bright pink adds its modernity to the orange and green of the 70’s.
For her part, Palestinian Reem el-Banna, founder of the Emirati brand Reemami, proposes a fresh and daring fashion where floral and vegetal motifs as well as landscapes and sheep clash with psychedelic waves.
As for the Lebanese Salim Cherfane, a graphic designer who came to fashion by chance and the founder of the brand Jeux de Mains, he managed, a few seasons ago, to make Beyoncé fall in love with one of his pant suits born from crossing cotton candy with an aurora borealis seen at the time when Jimi Hendrix set fire to his guitar.
Drawing its joy and energy from an era as disenchanted as ours, fashion turns two concerns into an optimism to which we madly adhere.