The major luxury houses long thought of as being hidebound by conventions, are now intent on extending their collections and modernising their language to reach out to a much broader audience. None other than Karl Lagerfeld contends that haute-couture garments are made to be worn on the street, not exhibited in museum display cases. Taking the sacrosanct out of luxury calls for root-and-branch modernisation… with a pool of young stylists, proper care for models (we mention LVMH and Kering who launched a working conditions charter for fashion models), designing off-beat items and communicating out of the normal luxury house box.
Some labels are now stepping out, coming up with luxury that is more in keeping with the times… by challenging the codes and creating trendsetting items. The focus is switching to luxury that brings a smile and is cut out for a more modern, quirky generation.
Fashion and luxury shed their inhibitions
It has dawned on the luxury labels that we are being swept by a wave of impertinence expressed as bold creations in the fashion world. The major houses are competing for young creators to inject new casualness into their collections and seek a fun approach.
Fendi immediately springs to mind when we talk about uninhibited luxury. Silvia Venturini Fendi, the heir and creative director of the Rome-based label for women’s accessories and men’s lines is fully behind Karl Lagerfeld as he applies his humour and tongue-in-cheek attitude to his original creations. For more than 50 years, the famous couturier has put his imagination to work for the House of Fendi into off-beat, fun styled creations.
As for Silvia Venturini Fendi, materials amuse her, and she plays with details by devising charms in the couturier’s effigy, and bags like the Peekaboo and Baguette it-bag that fast became iconic… items that can be set off with a pair of monster eyes for instance.
Another champion of joyful fashion is the Madrid fashion house and custodian of Spanish know-how, Loewe. The fashion house has been rejuvenated since J.W Anderson took the helm as its creative director. His take on ready-to-wear is pared down with way-out, sometimes arty, often cutting-edge details.
Other houses have set their sights on daring alliances to update the luxury industry. We think of Louis Vuitton which branched out into partnerships with prestigious artists way ahead of its time such as: Takashi Murakami, Richard Prince and even Cindy Sherman. Its association with Jeff Koons has left its mark and for good reason – the luxury label even agreed to have the house’s hallowed sanctum, its monogram, reworked for the first time, adding an emotional dimension to its iconoclastic models. Van Gogh, Picasso and Monet rub shoulders with the Speedy, Neverfull and Keepall bags that are now emblazoned with the Grand Master’s masterpieces. In the same vein, François Rénier Paris makes its “Homage to Paul Cézanne” on a paper tote.
Fashion as a vehicle for expression
If formerly luxury was deemed inaccessible when new collections were paraded at society gatherings and on the runway, and so often the preserve of the chosen few featuring totally unaffordable creators’ creations, the major houses are now trying to shake off this ingrained taint on their image.
The luxury label Chanel reflects this anomaly and has eschewed its formal, chic framework through more playful positioning. It opened a pop-up concept-store in Tokyo in 2018, where beauty and gaming come together to attract younger customers. The Coco Game Center, with its video arcade given glamourous touches, is a shrine to retro and luxury, that attempts to come into the present time.
Over and above playfulness, fashion seems to place particular emphasis on self-expression. There is no getting away from the myriad possibilities of customising garments and accessories that the luxury industry comes up with to turn beauty into play.
In a nutshell, playful styling is a way of creating access to fashion that lets fashionistas reveal their personalities by making luxury items their own. Creators are exploring new styling opportunities by combining luxury and creativity in stunning ways to satisfy a generation that is hungry for innovation.