Armani, Spring 1989
There’s a theory that post recession comes an inevitable shift in fashion, along with contradicting turns to unbridled optimism and dark cynicism, towards ethnic inspiration. Referencing a culturally and geographically distant style of dress offers a pragmatic means of escape, the idea of a simpler life, and something that is just new. In 1989 Armani struck a note with his orientalist* leanings, this instance drawing from Middle Eastern and North African dress. The fallout of the 1987 stock market crash put an end to the over the top spectacle of the 80’s and paved the way for new codes of dress in the 90’s including grunge (or rather the aggressive appropriation of disparate youth culture ala Marc Jacobs), minimalism, and a pop sexuality that became the hallmark of Versace and Dolce & Gabbana. It enabled retrospection and a rigorous reassignment of values but most importantly it enabled change.
There is something of those Armani looks in the recent menswear collections from Paris: the encompassing theme of the middle east done with a nod to the silhouette of the early 90’s. It’s a far cry from the military/rock n roll aesthetic that has swallowed menswear, a denial of what has been the norm for the past decade, and a step forward to another world.
*I use the word “oriental” to specify a specific manner in referencing Asian culture that eschews modernism and contemporary global culture in favor of a dated and western habit of exoticism.