For over a decade, minimalism reigned supreme on the catwalks, from Céline and Jil Sander to Helmut Lang and more recently, The Row. But whether it's down to the Alessandro Michele/Gucci effect or a desire for bolder, brighter, more textured clothes for the visually led Insta generation, maximalism is well and truly back on trend. Seventies-inspired silhouettes and prints have trickled down from high fashion to high street over the past few years, however, the last couple of seasons have also seen a return to the '8os, with the resurgence of disco fashion and high-octane glamour, glitter, sequins and feathers.
Thirty-year-old designer Michael Halpern is at the centre of this renewed interest in disco and all the shimmering embellishment, unabashed elegance and hyper femininity that comes with it. His sequin-focused label, Halpern, founded in 2016, made its London Fashion Week debut last February to critical acclaim, then in December, Model of the Year Adwoa Aboah wore a glittering Halpern creation to the Fashion Awards, where the young designer also won the Emerging Talent prize.
At the SS18 shows last September, fashion's obsession with sequins and feathers continued; Anthony Vaccarello's ultra glamorous collection for Saint Laurent was studded with sequins and ostrich feathers aplenty, and sequins twinkled everywhere from Gucci and Marc Jacobs to Molly Goddard and of course, shimmered heavily at Halpern. At Prada Resort 2018 back in May, chiffon and organza dresses were enhanced with sequin details and feather hems, then at the SS18 shows feathers fluttered at Maison Margiela, Ann Demeulemeester, and Nina Ricci; even Ashley Williams offered a more dressed-down, everyday take on the trend.
Data from global fashion search platform Lyst revealed that searches for sequins increased by 42% in the second half of 2017, proving that shoppers are enthralled by the glittering trend. “The resurgence of disco is largely thanks to designers’ current fascination with the late '80s and early '90s," Lisa Aiken, fashion director at Net-A-Porter explained. "The SS18 shows were awash with references to Lady Diana, Pretty Woman and the Supers, all reimagined as a vintage mash-up to appeal to the ‘it-girl’ of 2018 – think Gigi Hadid, Kendall Jenner or Kaia Gerber, who we imagine will be wearing so many of these looks. In general, the Net-A-Porter woman invests in eveningwear across the board, in fact as a category it is growing faster than any other department – sequins, crystals and feathers are all key elements of this trend. In terms of fabrications, designers are pushing the boundaries.”
It would be a serious omission to discuss sequins without mentioning London Fashion Week favourite, Ashish. “Sequins have always been a protest for me," designer Ashish explained to Refinery29 after his SS18 show. "It’s always been a revolution for me. A protest against blandness.” Adored for his explosively colourful and creative use of sequins throughout his career, Ashish's latest collection was considerably darker and dreamier. "We live in dark times. It was that Martin Luther King quote that in darkness, you see stars; it’s about finding hope in dark times. I wanted to channel that energy into something beautiful," Ashish affirmed backstage. "I just felt like I don’t want to be celebrating colours because everything that is going on is just so dark. But in that darkness is hope, so there are still a million sparkles and sequins. I wanted it to be a cathartic experience. I feel like I staged my own funeral!"
Ida Petersson, buying director at Browns Fashion echoes Ashish's sentiments with the idea that the prevalence of colour, texture and glitter on the catwalk is a reaction to the relentless tragedy and global upheaval of the past few years, and a nod to happier times. "Designers are injecting some fun into their collections for SS18 and I couldn’t think of anything better than an abundance of sequins! Creating a party mood is almost a way of giving the finger to all the madness that happened in 2017, and a nod to a fantastic era where everything for a few years was just fabulous. This season's mantra seems to be the glitzier the better, with several of our designers such as Halpern, Molly Goddard, Faith Connexion and Gucci all infusing a dose of sparkle into their collections."
The glitter and glamour we saw in New York, London and Milan with Halpern, Goddard and Gucci continued in Paris. For Dior SS18, Maria Grazia Chiuri stuck with the strong feminist message that has run throughout her collections since her first offering in September 2016, with a new collection that was inspired by female artists (or the lack thereof) as well as the female forces of change in the '60s. The show closed with glittering mosaic gowns in Chiuri's now-signature silhouette, reaffirming sparkle as this season's standout trend.
At Marques' Almeida SS18, both feathers and sequins cropped up in the eclectic collection. In the show notes, the design duo explained: "We’ve been thinking a lot about the expectations on girls and women and everything they're expected to do. You're expected to be great at your job, build a successful career but you can't leave behind your personal life and should be able to have a family and look after your family and look amazing while doing everything, whether you’re a teenager, a mum of three in Mid Town America, a 60 year old retired business woman or an artist... This collection feels so free and so full of different references to so many different amazing women." As Marta Marques and Paulo Almeida so pertinently put it, when women in 2018 are being pulled in so many different directions, fashion ought to be freeing. In such unstable sociopolitical times, we ought to celebrate individualism, energy, creativity and optimism, and our wardrobe can be an instantly gratifying and uplifting outlet for that. Sequins, sparkle and texture offer the perfect opportunity for self-expression, projecting hope as immediate mood-enhancers. It certainly feels timely to turn away from the austere, pared-back designs we adored in the '90s and '00s and revel in sequins and feathers.
Whether it's a sequin hairslide courtesy of Ashley Williams, a glinting 'Good Mourning' Ashish hoodie, feathered Marques' Almeida skirt or glittering Dior gown, we're welcoming the return of glitter and glamour with open arms.