Fashion’s History of Looking to the Past for Inspiration – WWD

Inspiration and influence from as early as the 14th century continue to proliferate in seasonal fashion collections. Creative interpretation is what fashion storytelling is all about, and designers have an endless pool of inspirations to look both back and forward to. 

RELATED: Fashion Looks to Art as Inspiration and Influence

For a group of visionaries, the 1960s’ cultural, social and political conversation would prove perfect for swapping out the constrictive glamour of the 1950s for a vision of modern yet fashionable clothing. Mary Quant, André Courrèges, Pierre Cardin and Paco Rabanne were among the designers pushing the conversation forward and anticipating the future of fashion. They used what were then considered unlikely materials, from metals to plastic, in silhouettes that emerged in what became known as Mod. As the trend crossed the pond from Europe in 1965, WWD wrote that it “would not be a fad.” Two decades later, American designers like Larry LeGaspi and Parisians Thierry Mugler and Claude Montana took up the mantle, presenting fashion collections to fuel fantastical escapades into the unknown, using post-millennial materials enhanced by technology. Their efforts continue to inspire collections at the design houses of Hussein Chalayan and Iris van Herpen, among others. And while mind-bending excursions into the future are inspiring, fashion still has its love affair with the past. In the 1970s, designer Perry Ellis reaches back to the 14th century; Lester Hayatt would get his 1980s inspiration from the 1950s and in the ‘90s, historical influences from corsets and panniers to Hollywood glamour and bohemian chic reimagined by designers like the late Alexander McQueen and John Galliano brought the past into the future in collections that could rival any storybook reference.

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