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Fashion history to report the present: the 70’s social crises are still contemporary

1970s’ dark times replaced by the excess and individualization of the following decade. Giorgio Armani has reflected the idea of a democratic style

The Seventies decade

From an economic point of view, political scientists agree on the significance of the Seventies in the textile field. The austerity caused by the economic downturn in the Seventies brought haute couture to loose its influence. American and European designers started creating ready to wear markets through licensing agreement for jewelry, perfumes, handbags and clothing. People were changed. People wanted to dream. People wanted to be entertained. In those years,  Giorgio Armani started referring to a concept of democratic fashion. The 1970’s would become a decade defined by the movements and the recategorizations. For women’s rights, equality for people of color as well as justice and acceptance of the LGBT community. Other movements brought up the questions of gender identity and sustainable development – a world of culture in which traditions, consensual values and universal standards have been challenged and rejected for heterogeneity and differentiation of the following decade. Those could be seen as years of decline in fashion. Many designers focused on the emphasis on handmade materials, looking at the past, continuing the 60’s themes of Pop Art with its paper dresses and psychedelia, with bold prints colors and geometric designs. Saw austerity, Cold War and the stagflation – the crippling coupling of high rates of inflation and economic stagnation as well as the impossible combination of rising prices with high unemployment, slow growth and declining increases in productivity, which got its name during the 1973-1975 recession. 

Emporio Armani FW 2021 in the mood for Pop

From Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto creating dresses from deconstructed tennis balls, to Rei Kawakubo who used elastic, rayon and canvas to build garments, clothes were outsized and tattered. Anti-authoritarian by nature, the movement refused to recognize the authority of any style or definition of what art should be. Vivid colors and exaggeration: every garment reflected a statement, mirroring the desire for subversive declarations with commercial appeal and a different approach to creativity. Christian Lacroix’s theatrical designs, Azzedine Alaia’s figure-clinging dressed and Thierry Mugler’s angular shoulders dominated much of the decade. In a cross dialogue with today’s social and cultural emergency, Giorgio Armani echoed the transition from the stagnant growth. Filmed against a backdrop of the brand’s name written in neon color, In the mood for Pop collection references to Emporio Armani’s own vocabulary «as strong as the evident yet subtle will to update it» as the designer notices. «An outburst of creativity, fantasy, and money that came right after the harshness of the 70’s» said Mr. Armani.

ARMANI SINGER
Jayne County, a rock’s first openly transgender singer

1980’s fashion history and lifestyle

It was 1981 when Giorgio Armani created the Emporio Armani brand and opened his first store in Milan. The period saw great social and economic changes: from 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall, along with the Cold War ending and the disintegration of the Warsaw Pact, which led the Soviet Union to abandon political hostility to the Western world, the quest for independence was being chased. Social consequences, as the dissolution of the distinction between high and low in every field brought to the downfall of the institutions built on this social scale. Clothing was no longer associated with the type of social hierarchies it once was. Designers all over the world started creating garments symbolizing an era of international economic boom, playing with established structures and borrowing from men. Traditional gender roles were turned upside down when power dressing began to take a turn as women were entering jobs with equal roles to the men. The election of Margret Thatcher as British Prime Minister gave a boost to entrepreneurs including those in the creative industries. Giorgio Armani’s suits projected authority, power and ambition becoming the power suit. Many Wall Street stockbrokers and Hollywood agents favored the Armani suits while dark or neutral-colored jackets and pantsuits became standard attire for women in the workplace. The references to the 80’s echoed this dialogue of mirroring between men and women. The feminine silhouette in Emporio Armani’s collections is elongated and slender, with a high waist, while the masculine one is flowing and deconstructed. Jackets are wide with drops shoulders, while a mixture of patterns such as herringbone, pinstripe and cable knit are traced in sequin, jacquard or raised knit in evening suiting for women.

80s power suit shoulder pads by Giorgio Armani

Soft-shouldered tailoring for men and women played against sportswear inspired pieces – a dedication to being modern without sacrificing the house’s distinctive codes. «The atmosphere is exactly the same: the quest for macrographic designs, the allusion to sophisticated loungewear, and even the unexpected glimpse of a tie» explains Armani, recalling the 80’s. The late 70s combination of formal wear and loungewear, its bold colors, along with the lighter fabrics including bouclé and flannel were part of the revolt toward the previous cultural mainstream. A global experience of the cultural transition of the 1970s, involving a redefinition in designing clothes. Menswear was no longer restricted by utilitarianism, it was reimagining of men’s lifestyles and aspirations. The lowering of the bottoms removed the military rigor of traditional suiting, tearing the barriers down between formal and casual. Richard Martin and Harold Koda, the co-curators of Images of a Man (1990) defined Armani’s creativity as punctuated by a series of radical gestures, beginning with the unlined and unconstructed man’s jacket. It offered hints of the body beneath, marking a major departure from the suits that straitjacketed men in the 1960s as well as the sartorial abandon of the hippie generation. 

ARMANI POWERSUIT
The power suit, Giorgio Armani, 1980

Armani’s deconstructed jacket

Natalia Aspesi writes: «It was created to fit the restlessness and new authority of women, and to offer men the impetus to liberate themselves from the uncomfortable armor they had been using to protect their dignity and insecurities». As mentioned in Emporio Armani magazine published in 1996, when Armani began to design, everyone wore the same uniform with no defects. He liked defects. He illustrated that removing the structure, garments which fall over the body in a natural manner could be created, satisfying the emotional and psychological requirements of a femininity tending to the masculine as well as a masculinity that aspired in a society that has liberated its sartorial male possibilities. Rising to prominence in the early 80s, Emporio Armani became part of Pop culture with its relevance solidified when Armani met Andy Warhol, who created a portrait of the designer in his pop art style. «I felt that, somehow, in having my portrait painted by the master of pop culture, I had become part of that culture for the first time» reveals Armani. The Sixties ended with the events of 1968, the Great American ride finally ran its course. The political credo of the previous government was dead. The transition from the 70s was replaced by the desire for levity, imagination and ambition, embodied in Armani’s deconstructed process of postmodernism. 

IMAGE GALLERY

A history of cultural and social deconstructions. Since 1981 Emporio Armani has reflected a different approach to young men and women looking for entertainment and a fashion accessible to everyone. The cultural and economic evolution between the 70s and the 80s as the key understanding for Emporio Armani In the mood for Pop collection. 

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