From Heritage to Today

From Heritage to Today

The last few seasons have seen a strong lean back towards heritage brands and classic workwear. Trusted, original, authentic and functional, brands such as Redwing, Woolrich, Pendleton, Filson, Gloverall and Levi’s among many others are associated with the rugged outdoor life and real hard work.

We’ve taken a look at some original vintage items featured in the “Vintage Menswear” book, which is a beautiful collection of archive pieces from the Vintage Showroom in London, collated together in one book, which boasts original sportswear, military and workwear items which still inspire today’s brands and designers.

Let’s start with the trench coat, originally a civilian item but later used for military use. Key features are double breasted, wide lapels, storm flap, shoulder straps and belted waist and cuffs. An iconic piece which might conjure up images of Dick Tracey or Inspector Clouseau. One thing is for sure, it’s timeless, stylish and it means business. Fast forward to 2012 and a key fashion trend seen on the streets for women is the oversized trench coat, worn layered and relaxed with the sleeves rolled up.

The Parka jacket; a functional heavy, hooded and fur-lined jacket, – originally invented by the Caribou Inuit (Eskimo) of the Arctic region to protect themselves from the extreme wind and freezing temperatures whilst hunting and kayaking – is still a key trend in young urban street fashion. Here, featured from the Vintage menswear book, are an U.S. Army 1942 snow parka, a 1950s Hunting parka and a 1960s expedition parka. If we take a look at designer menswear of today, we see how Nigel Cabourn has translated these original features and details into a contemporary “Antarctic Smock” as it is named, using modern fabrics and styling, the item takes on a whole new modern and fresh look.

So why the nostalgic obsession with all things heritage right now? It seems people have a need to re-connect with a time when these clothing items represented labour, hard work, outdoors and getting your hands dirty. With many of us sitting in an office in front of a computer screen for a big part of the day, perhaps we feel more in connection with nature and our ancestors if we are sporting a pair of red wing boots, artificially aged and worn-in jeans with a fur-lined parka on the back of the chair, ready to be put on at the end of the day to brave the commute home.

Tamsin Cook – Images courtesy of the “Vintage Menswear” book of The Vintage Showroom, Nigel Cabourn

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The Antithesis of Today’s Throwaway Fashion

The Antithesis of Today’s Throwaway Fashion

The fashion apparel industry has drastically changed over the last twenty or so years. By consequence, today’s ‘fast fashion’ industry, with the retail conglomerates in the frontline, has become hugely standardised. This has led to immeasurable bulks of ‘anonymous’ and often poorly made clothes. Rapidly produced fashions without any history or noteworthy source of reference, readily available to be thrown away. As a result, the disdain for these disposable fashions is growing.

By contrast, German men’s wear label Merz b. Schwanen, shrewdly understands how in today’s fashion realm, craftsmanship and expressing authenticity and quality has become imperative in establishing a sense of fashion rigueur.

The Berlin based fashion label, founded by Peter Plotnicki, offers a range of beautifully basic army shirts, singlets, pants and sweaters, all of which are inspired by vintage workmen’s undergarments from the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. Each piece of clothing is made with care and generated by authentic manufacturing processes, whereby original, historic circular knitting machines are being put into use again. Accordingly, in line with traditional production facilities that were customary in various parts of Germany from the 1920s up to the 1950s, an old way of crafting is revived.

The effect of this bygone technique is an irregular weaving pattern, which leaves the clothes without a side seam, giving each item a refined, singular and authentic look. In result, the knitted ‘vintage feel’ garments made by Merz b. Schwanen hold a surplus value that industrially developed fashions are a-priori deficient in.

Labels as Merz b. Schwanen can be considered a welcoming counterpoise to today’s throwaway McFashions, a term once brilliantly coined by sustainable fashion designer and author, Kate Fletcher. Moreover, the turning away from mass produced, standardized apparel matches a larger cultural trend that is comprised in a returned interest in the decorative and handmade. (See the documentary series Made by Hand that is an active proof of it.)

Additionally, in our increasingly fast paced 24/7-stress society, time has become a true luxury ‘good’. As such, time equals quality (simply put). In view of this, these kinds of labour intensive, carefully crafted ‘slow fashion’ clothes, permeated with historicity, will almost certainly hold a radiantly bright future.

Claire van den Berg

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Retro – Recycling or Innovation?


Retro – Recycling or Innovation?

Retro and vintage are not unusual expressions when talking about design, fashion and style. The interest for the 20th century is an obvious reference and affecting point in the current fashion, as well as styles and outfits are copied right off through a mix of vintage clothing and retro trend pieces. While innovation, new thinking and uniqueness normally define fashion, it’s also a part of historic continuity where a constant progress also includes the revival of elements. Discussed from a historical angle, the reinterpretation of styles could be taken all the way back to when the Romans ‘reinvented’ the ancient Greek dress.

Lately the 30’s and the 60’s have been strong influencers in fashion. TV-series like Mad Men and Pan Am create nostalgia and somehow the decades are looked at as a ‘simpler time’, creating a window of escape for the audience. Even though not every woman will wear figure-hugging dresses and the men’s fashion might not become that much more slim, the inspiration is definitely noticeable.

The Röhsska Museet, the only museum dedicated solely for design and craftsmanship in Sweden, is hosting a vintage exhibition to specifically talk about how today’s trends are inspired by the 30’s and 60’s and how the era is affecting us. With a backdrop trailer from the film W.E. (about Wallis Simpson) the exhibition will together with fashion and interior design pieces also show exclusive vintage cars, borrowed to the museum from private collectors.

Even though both vintage clothing and the inspiration from the history are well accepted, the fashion industry is all about novelties. Some see retro trends as “old news by new designers” while others mean that ‘new’ should be seen as more than complete innovation. As a trend, retro is caught up in contemporary debates and becomes more than a static expression. Instead of looking at it as pure recycling, it might be the different ways of using ‘retro’ that become the innovation.

The Cars, Fashion and Design exhibition will be displayed at Röhsska Museum in Gothenburg, Sweden, between 26th of May and 9th of September 2012.

Lisa Olsson Hjerpe – Image courtesy of style.com

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