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Spinning around in circles: Retro returns

Robyn Ball explores the ways in which fashion is cyclical in nature

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"What goes around comes back around". This statement may have been a lesson taught in childhood, however, its essence is a funda- mental part of the fashion industry. While fashion may appear to be about the new; each season brings us fresh pieces to introduce into our wardrobes. With the introduction of fast fashion there appears to be a constant stream of contemporary clothing arriving on the high street, on a monthly basis, our desire for something new parting us from our cash. However, while there is an onslaught of the new, is it in fact actually new?

Fashion takes from the old in order to become new. Such a statement may seem counter-intuitive but you only need to flick through the history books to see elements of fashion history walking down the runways and sneaking into the rails of the high street. If we look at recent fashion trends we can see a resurgence of clothing that has taken inspi- ration from the past. The straw baskets and linen dresses that have been dominating the high street harken back to those such of Jane Birkin and Francoise Hardy in the 1960s. The rise in denim, such as flares and straight cut jeans, takes us back to the 70s. We see trends on repeat, each season bringing us something new yet so often familiar.

Image: Marta Jakubowski

However, if we establish that fashion trends are cyclical, then why does fashion still appear to be new? Why are we so focused on trends if everything is of the past? While de- signers may draw inspiration for new season garments from past ideas it is the new men- tality that develops with time that prevents the pieces from seeming dated. Such items are time-honoured yet inherently modern. The way we view clothes and our attitude towards fashion is reflective of how we as a wider society function. While fashion has the tendency to look back into history, society is still moving forward.

Fashion is subversive; many of the cur- rent 'trends' we see are the offspring of re- bellion. Designers have looked to what peo- ple wear on the street and used it to inspire and give rise to new designs in high fashion. Look at designers such as Vivenne Westwood whose brand ethos is to destabilise the status quo by breaking fashion norms and creating innovative designs that reflect this desire. Such acts of rebellion influence the fashion industry and are sewn into the fabric of what fashion has become. As time moves on and we begin to look back, new designs take inspira- tion from places such as the aforementioned designers, creating trends that upon second glance resemble fashion history as much they do modernity.

I write this as one of my last contribu- tions as Fashion Editor this year. Perhaps it is my own indulgence, but I hope that like many fashion trends the fashion section is constant- ly being reborn, that each edition, trend, and style will come round once again. The next incarnation and the one after that using new voices and new ideas to interpret the present; the past a reference point in order to carve out a new identity for the future. Therefore, in a cycle fashion is constantly being reborn, spin- ning round and around so that the past merg- es into the present and the present, the past.

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