After hearing of the sad passing of one of fashions most singular designers last month we decided to focus our latest designer bio on Emanuel Ungaro. A master of bold colour, outlandish floral prints and incredible draping, along with designers like Thierry Mugler and Claude Montana, Ungaro ruled the 1980s fashion scene. However, his career was more diverse and interesting than the excess he was known for in his 80s heyday.
Signature details of vintage Ungaro clothing:
- Large striking floral prints.
- Draped, ruffled and pleated details.
- Shoulder pads to create a dramatic silhouette.
- Favourite fabrics include silk, velvet and wool.
- The haute couture is obviously made in France and the ready to wear line was most often made in Italy to a very high standard.
Background - the early years.
After working for Balenciaga for three years, Ungaro decided to create his own fashion house in 1965. At Zeus Vintage we've had a few of his early pieces from the mid to late 60s and it's interesting to see the difference between then and the look he is known for now. Rather than creating a bold maximalist aesthetic many of his early designs echo what the Parisian and British designers around him were doing. He created clean lines (beautifully constructed, of course) with less of a focus in draping or heavy floral prints and more of creating his own take on the futurism and mod style looks that were popular at the time. Whether it is a splash of texture or a slightly irregular print, you can see in his early work the flamboyance that is soon to come.
Not only did Emanuel Ungaro create incredible haute couture designs in 1968 he formed the Parallèle label which was his ready to wear line. He was also quite adept at creating classic tailored menswear after the formation of his Ungaro Uomo line in 1975.
The Heyday - the 1970s and 80s.
It was in the 1970s that you can see in Ungaro's work the fun that he started to have. The incredible draping that became synonymous with his name was featured on bohemian style dresses with bold pops of colour. This transitioned perfectly to the 1980s where his signature look was a shoulder padded, draped dress usually with a bold, in your face floral or abstract print that made the wearer feel like a powerful, independent woman. The floral patterns on vintage Ungaro dresses were for the modern woman, they weren't the sweet, feminine florals of the 1950s - they were loud and demanded your attention and this attitude is why they still work so well in a woman's wardrobe today.
At Zeus Vintage we love the exuberance and personality of an 80s Ungaro print but actually my personal favourite designs by him were when he had a slightly darker palette and focused more on silhouette or had a more subtle pattern. These kind of pieces created an almost Gothic, film noir style look with bold shapes or employed Victoriana references like a ruffled high collar and mutton sleeves. I've added a few pictures of pieces we've had in the past and some now to represent what I mean. It is this ability to create differing aesthetics yet still create a cohesive vision for his fashion house that Ungaro should be remembered as one of the greats.
After Ungaro - the 1990s to today
In 1996 the Ungaro fashion house was bought by Italian label Ferragamo. During this time Ungaro hired designers as creative directors who would become prestigious in their own right like Giambattista Valli and other lesser known designers but they came and went and the house of Ungaro started struggling. In 2005 Emanuel Ungaro retired and the house carried on without him and started losing a lot of money. The perfumes that Ungaro created earlier were still making money, however.
In an attempt to revitalise the brand and give it a youthful feel, in 2010 Lindsay Lohan was appointed artistic director. This became a moment that not many will forget but not for the right reasons. The collection that Lohan alongside her designing partner, Estrella Archs was panned critically and many high end department stores stopped selling the line after this misstep. The collection was described as "tasteless", "old-fashioned" and "a bad joke" by Vogue. I'll link to the collection here so you can see it in all its nipple pasty, cropped-harem-jumpsuit glory. We do feel like the collection was misjudged and not to our taste but we appreciate that there were slight references to Ungaro's past in an balloon sleeve or a pleated / draped detail on the first dress. Ungaro himself was furious at the collection calling it a 'disaster' and said he felt 'frustrated that there isn't a thing [he] can do'. Lindsay Lohan didn't continue with the house after that collection.
After this the house of Ungaro has changed creative director too many times to count and hasn't produced a runway collection since spring 2018 (about 3 years ago) instead opting for the cheaper lookbook. Despite the struggles of the house in the last two decades, Emanuel Ungaro is remembered as a fashion giant who made women feel powerful whilst still being full of personality and his vintage clothes certainly reflect that.
Fashion is often thought of as a fanciful industry without any objectives or substance. However, fashion and politics has very often been intertwined. Firstly, it can be used as a reflection of the political and socioeconomic changes in society. For example, the hemline index is an economic theory that shows in periods of recession and austerity the fashionable hemline lengthens and in periods of growth and prosperity the hemline shortens. Fashion can also be used as the political statement in itself. That could be in the form of collective dressing - like the celebrities who donned black at the Oscars in solidarity with the Me Too movement - or by using the runway show as a form of political performance art, like in Hussein Chalayan's highly controversial spring 1998 collection which showed a series of increasingly shorter takes on Islamic traditional dress posing questions about attitudes towards Muslim women.
Political fashion can also be worn in a single piece using the beauty or eyecatching nature of the outfit while also displaying the wearer's convictions or calling to others with the same values - a form of individual activism. Below I'd like to showcase some of the best political vintage garments we have had, past or present, showing pieces from different designers that all make a punchy political statement. Please remember this is just to show how fashion can be used as political art and the views expressed by the designers don't necessarily reflect our own.
1989 Katharine Hamnett - 'Clean Up Or Die'
This stunning denim jacket is by political fashion doyenne, Katharine Hamnett. It has studs creating broken hearts, crossbones and skull & crossbones with 'clean up or die' across the bottom.
1980s Moschino - 'Fur Coats Are Worn By Beautiful Animals and Ugly People'
This amazing jacket is actually the second we've had from this collection, the first one we had sold in minutes and it is no surprise! This museum worthy jacket has the bold animal rights focused statement 'fur coats are worn by beautiful animals and ugly people'. It was created in a short pile faux fur fabric for Moschino's 'Fur for Fun' collection which was aimed at showing how fake fur can be just as good as real fur without the cruelty - an ethos which Jeremy Scott has carried on as creative director of Moschino.
1994 Moschino - 'Save Nature'
I wanted to show this piece next as it ties in perfectly with the previous jacket. This 'Save Nature' jacket was created just a few years after the 'Fur for Fun' jacket. This was part of his final collection and really shows the vision Franco had for his fashion house. The collection was named Ecouture (from eco and couture) and were made from organic cottons and other enviromentally friendly fabric. The labels from this collection also have 'Nature Friendly Garment' embroidered on them. It was a great sadness that Franco passed away so early as it would have been incredible to see if he would influence other fashion houses to be more eco friendly and where he would go next.
1990s Destroy by John Richmond - 'Destroy. Disassociate. Disorder.'
This jacket is by John Richmond for his cult-status Destroy line. I chose this jacket (which sold a while ago) because it sums up this line's political identity perfectly. It has punk style patches with statements like 'guns kill', anti drugs and 'Destroy Agent'. It also has Destroy's anarchic philsophy on the back 'Destroy. Disassociate. Disorder.'
1990s Carlo Colucci - 'The American Dream. Make me a Millionaire.'
This sweater is interesting because its intent is rather ambiguous. It could be a satirical poke at American materialism or it could be an aspirational statement expressed by the likes of hip hop stars at the time.
6 Key Designers who were known for creating political vintage fashion.
Jean Paul Gaultier
There are so many more examples of politics in fashion in single garments, from Gaultier putting men in skirts in 1994 or Vivienne Westwood's entire career so please check out some of our favourites on our pinterest board below.
The luxury German fashion house Escada was founded in 1976 by Margaretha and Wolfgang Ley. They became known for their bold, fabulous look that was worn by sophisticated women around the world. Princess Diana of Wales was often seen in Escada, Kim Basinger won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 1998 wearing an Escada gown and Naomi Watts more recently wore an Escada dress to the Oscars - showing the brand is still very relevant today. Unfortunately, Margaretha Ley passed away in 1992 but the label still kept her name on the label until the late 90s.
Bold patterns - whether that be vibrantly coloured knitwear with images of animals or bright paisley printed silks.
Blazers - Escada in the late 80s and 90s was almost synonymous with a sophisticated look worn by a working woman. They were particularly known for their tailored blazers - either in bold colours or patterned with statement buttons and shoulders.
Velvet - Even more so than silks and wool bouclés, vintage Escada clothes are often made of velvet - fitting with their opulent aesthetic.
How to Wear
Vintage Escada clothes integrate really well into modern wardrobes but the highly stylised looks in the campaigns of the 80s and 90s might not be for everyone. Picking a statement Escada jumper, or jacket and dressing them down with a pair of jeans and a t-shirt can be a great way to create a bold but modern look.
A label from an example of the high-end Escada Couture line founded in 1995.
In 1995 the 'Escada Couture' line was created with a focus on even more expensive fabrication in sleeker silhouettes. We really recommend keeping an eye out for these rare pieces as they are of amazing quality and make a great option for the evening.
To check our our collection of vintage Escada clothing click here
Or feel free to check out our Pinterest board, containing some of our favourite Escada looks from throughout the brand's history below.
Check out our latest collection, Neo Bourgeois. Heavily influenced by the ladylike fashions of the late 1970s and 1980s - this look was preeminent on the Autumn Winter 2019 runways. Key textures include wool tweeds with herringbone or checked patterns, pussybow and frilly blouses or layered knit pieces. With unlikely style icons varying from early Princess Diana and Jackie O Kennedy to Joan Collins - this look is less about socio-political identities and more about an elevated minimalist aesthetic in tradtional fabrics and timeless, quality pieces.
For an updated look on the traditional style, create a Neo-Bourgeois look by taking statement designer vintage coats and sweaters and layering them with more modern accessories and casual pieces like flats and tees.
To check out our collection of Neo-Bourgeois clothing click here or take a look at our Pinterest moodboard below.
The 1980s and the 1990s in fashion are often seen as two greatly different eras with two very opposing aesthetics. The 1980s are remembered by many as being the decade of excess with designers like Thierry Mugler and Claude Montana creating bold, colorful designs with exaggerated silhouettes. The nineties however, are often chracterized by the stark minimalism seen in the work of Giorgio Armani and Jil Sander. In this blog we'd like to show that the 80s and 90s were linked by their freeing attitude towards fashion, with designers being able to be introspective and poke fun at the fashion system itself in a way that hadn't been done before.
Prominent Designers Include:
Christian Francis Roth - created many humorous designs including a collection of 'Rothola' dresses, with one sleeve in the style of a crayon.
Jean Charles de Castelbajac - Created fun, witty clothing for his own label and for the luxury Italian fashion house, Iceberg. Often using existing licensed characters from Looney Tunes, Charlie Brown and Disney etc.
Patrick Kelly - An incredible African-American fashion designer who used surrealism and fun to tackle social and political issues like blackface.
Humorous or whimsical clothing in the 20th century has its roots strongly in the surrealist movement with its irrational placement of unexpected imagery and symbols. It was in the 1930s and 40s that the brilliant fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli that implemented surrealist techniques used by artists such as Dali and Ernst and applied it to fashion. Some of her most iconic surrealist designs include a wedding dress, was made in collaboration with Salvador Dali that was printed with trompe l'oeil rips and fabric strips as tears to create a distressed look and one of my personal favourite dresses ever, her 'Skeleton Dress'. This was a clingy silk crepe gown with trapunto quilting to create 3D 'bone' shapes that are perfectly placed to create a look that is both sultry and grotesque and that looks years and years ahead of its time.
Franco Moschino is a name that you cannot omit when discussing wit and humour in designer vintage clothing from the 80s and 90s. He started his fashion house in 1983 and became a controversial figure known for his use of satire to mock the fashion industry that he was a part of. This was a new perspective for the couture fashion houses that were starting to seem a bit stuffy and rigid and the fashion industry as a whole, which prior to this took itself very seriously. He was famously sued by Chanel for copying one of their suits - he saw that these brands were often bought only as status symbols and so created tweed jackets and suits with huge buttons and trimmings, exacerbating the ostentatious attitude he saw. Another of his great creations harked back to the work of Schiaparelli with its surrealist influences - he took a collarless blazer style jacket (most of his designs used classic shapes and silhouettes with a twist) and placed forks and cutlery instead of buttons to create a literal 'dinner jacket'. His wit and irony was seen in every aspect of his fashion house, with his second line named 'Cheap and Chic'.
Check out this Moschino 'Dinner Jacket', sold by VintageEnMonde on Etsy
Fashion that used humor in the 80s and 90s could either be completely flamboyant and maximalist such as Patrick Kelly's dice suits from Spring Summer 1989 which were printed throughout or appliqued with plastic dice with matching dice shaped headpieces to match. However, a piece could be just as clever and witty without the need for bright colours or heavy accessories, example: Moschino's iconic 'M.o.s. Chi? No!' dress, printed on a simple black bodycon with a clever play on words of the designer's own name. We'll link a few of our favourite humorous items from our store below, including a Moschino dress appliquéd with windows and a door to create the look of a house and a Moschino watermelon dress.
Want to see some of our favourite uses of humour in fashion from 1980-1999? Check out our pinterest board below.
Katharine Hamnett founded her label in 1979 but it wasn't until she started creating her iconic t-shirts with political slogans on that her career really took off. Worn by huge celebrities of the day, including Wham! Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Naomi Campbell, her sloganed tees were printed with powerful statements like 'Worldwide Nuclear Ban Now', 'Use a Condom' and 'Choose Life' (which is often mistaken for being an anti-abortion slogan but was really intended as an anti-war sentiment). These timeless statements are still so relevant today and because of the classic colouring and simple cut they were much copied, something which is often a big problem for designers, but it actually helped further Hamnett's goals and bring attention to the issues she cared about to the masses.
Frankie Goes to Hollywood wearing an anti-war t-shirt // Wikimedia Commons
Because of her timeless appeal, Hamnett has recently brought back her label with printing tees with modern political statements like 'Cancel Brexit', 'Save Life on Earth' and 'Choose Love'.
However, vintage Katharine Hamnett clothing is so much more than her iconic tees, she was also a fantastic designer ahead of her time. Her clothes which were often a mix of sexy and unusual attracted the British club scene of the 1980s and 1990s. We've had so many pieces sold in our store that I really loved, her Katharine Hamnett Denim line (which sold way more than just denim) had some incredible velvet mini dresses, oversized denim jackets and boldly patterned shirts. Her vintage clothes are such great quality too, nearly always made in Italy or the UK.
For me though, one of the reasons why vintage Katharine Hamnett clothing is so great, is down to her brilliant menswear. This can be so hard to find, it is no wonder she had, and still has, such a fierce cult following. I adore the flamboyant, almost androgynous menswear of Hamnett's more famous contemporaries like Jean Paul Gaultier and Gianni Versace but what sets her designs apart is that they all retain more of a laid back masculinity, which is great for different clients or different moods. For example, she was great at taking a traditionally masculine silhouette like a denim trucker jacket and making it more interesting by completely studding it or cutting it from a fine black corduroy. My favourite item of hers we have in stock at the minute is a blue denim jacket which takes a military pea coat shape but elevates it by extending the lapels adding an interesting flair and making it out of an unexpected denim.
To see some of our favourite Katharine Hamnett clothes and advertising campaigns, check out our pinterest board below.
French haute couture is often hailed as the pinnacle of fashion and while it may be true that France has produced many of the greatest fashion designers of all time, clothing constructed entirely by hand in innovative fabrics and silhouettes could be found in other countries during the 20th century.
Haute couture, as defined by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture in Paris, has certain conditions. Firstly, that the clothing be entirely constructed by hand and made to order in a Parisian atelier at least twenty skilled employees. An haute couture house must also present a collection of at least fifty garments twice a year. Obviously, this definition heavily favours designers of French origin, so for this blog post we'll focus on what we deem to be the most important factors of 'couture' (literally, sewing), the fact that garments are made entirely by hand in a workshop - wherever that may be based and that the clothing is custom made with fittings. Under these conditions, all of the following British fashion designers (and designers of other countries, which we'll blog about at a later date) certainly create beautiful couture clothing, even rivalling their French counterparts.
5. Bruce Oldfield
There were two great periods and revivals in British couture during the time period we're concerned with, the 1950s and the 1980s. The popularity and success of British couture is inextricably linked to the British royal family and during the latter of the two periods we mentioned, the 1980s, the success of British couture revolved around the Princess of Wales. Many different sources state different fashion designers as Diana's favourite but as her close friend Bruce Oldfield certainly created some fantastic pieces for her which led to great success for his label. In addition to his couture made clothing he had a 'custom-made' line and a ready to wear label, both of which focused mainly on eveningwear and were very successful in the 80s and 90s. After founding his fashion house in 1975, he started producing couture creations in 1978 and is the only fashion designer on this list to still be designing and is very successful today. His notable clients have included Sienna Miller, Taylor Swift, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Diana Ross.
4. Belinda Bellville & David Sassoon
I still remember the first Belinda Bellville et Cie piece we had in our store, a green, maxi length silk organza jacket with an ever-so-subtle iridescent hue, trimmed with green marabou feathers. It was then that we realised what a fantastic designer Belinda Bellville was. There has been a long evolution of Bellville's fashion house since then. After founding her label in 1953, Bellville created fantastic couture level garments for her aristocratic clients in Knightsbridge, London called Bellville et Cie. In 1970 she renamed the label Bellville Sassoon after her partner David Sassoon who was also designing alongside her. It was this partnership that is most well known today (and is now designed by Lorcan Mullany). Again it was the Princess of Wales that helped to truly bring Bellville Sasoon to the mainstream, being one of her first prolific designers to get attention. Bellville Sassoon has since created their ladylike custom designs for the likes of Audrey Hepburn, Jackie Kennedy and Helen Mirren.
3. Thea Porter
Known particularly for her bohemian silk kaftans which were reminiscent of her Israelian heritage. She was one of the first fashion designers to reuse fashion, hand making her patchwork clothing out of old textiles and antique trimming. At the time fashionable woman such as Faye Dunaway and Elizabeth Taylor wore her designs. Since then, her name faded a little into obscurity and has been revived in the eyes of true vintage fashion lovers with Nicole Richie and Kate Moss being photographed in her original 1970s dresses.
2. Hardy Amies
Possibly the best known and most successful business-wise couturier on this list is Hardy Amies. In 1945 Amies moved to the legendary British tailoring quarter, Savile Row. Traditionally a place where the most expensive well made men's suits are made in the world, Amies was paving the way by creating clothes for women and men in his atelier. He became the official dressmaker to Queen Elizabeth II in 1955 and designed for her until 1990 and was eventually knighted in 1989 for his services to fashion. Hardy Amies is perhaps best known due to his appreciation of couture but pragmatic ability to see the benefit of ready to wear clothing and ability to make that clothing mainstream yet aspirational in a similar vein to Yves Saint Laurent with his Rive Gauche line and licensed goods. In particular his menswear collaboration with British store Hepworths proved quite successful and was quite fashion forward for being a mid-priced label.
1. Norman Hartnell
The 1950s was a great period of success and visibility for British couturiers. This is again strongly influenced by the royal family, Hartnell became a royal dressmaker for the Queen Mother in 1940 but it wasn't until the young Princess Elizabeth, heir to throne, asked Hartnell to design the dress for her 1947 wedding that he became truly noted.
Possibly the biggest milestone of Hartnell's career and arguably the biggest accomplishment of any of the designers on this list, was designing the Queen's coronation dress in 1953. This legendary dress was seen by 27 million people and was designed with the help of his assistant Ian Thomas (who later became a great British couturier in his own right). It took eight months to create, research and intricately embroider the dress and there aren't many dresses that have their own wikipedia page like this one. Due to this success, Hartnell became legendary having to employ 500 people in the mid 1950s and dressing famous celebrities of the time like Eileen Joyce and Fanny Craddock. Thus, placing him as the preeminent British couturier of the latter half of the twentieth century.
To see a selection of our favourite designs by British couturiers, please check out our pinterest board below!
Other honorable mentions include Victor Edelstein and Catherine Walker, other favourites of Princess Diana and Edward Molyneux who is definitely worthy of being at the top of this list but whose atelier only operated until 1950 and was based in Paris.
The Japanese born fashion designer Giuliano Fujiwara started his label in Milan in 1986. His work stands apart from fellow Italian contemporaries due to his refined, minimalist aesthetic but with the brilliant tailoring and innovative fabrications that Italian menswear is known for.
Check out our collection of vintage Giuliano Fujiwara clothing, including these jacketshere
Vintage Giuiliano Fujiwara clothing has much more nuance than just East-meets-West though, incorporating avant garde details and American Ivy League influences into the mixture, adding an extra dimension to his designs.
For examples of how Fujiwara's multifaceted inspirations perfectly come together, check out the video below of his Autumn Winter 2003 collection on the Fashion Channel's Youtube. In this collection you can see pieces like a simple sweater vest, traditionally a preppy American style that has been elevated with an intricate, textural macrame surface design trimming the neck and sleeves and made stark and simple in a fine grey knit. Other interesting designs to note are the ultra cropped double breasted jacket and a 1960s Japanese-schoolboy-meets-yuppie outfit on a model that comes out nonchalantly riding a bicycle.
British born designer, Nigel Curtiss started his eponymous label in 1992, but not before having an already prestigious fashion career. Most notably, Curtiss is known for working with Rei Kawakubo to create the Comme des Garçons Homme Plus line, he put the idea to her of starting a menswear line after seeing the value in creating experimental men's fashion.
Check out our collection of vintage Nigel Curtiss clothing, including this 90s mesh jacket here
All vintage Nigel Curtiss pieces were made in Japan to a high quality, in experimental and innovative fabrics. The list of celebrity clients Nigel Curtiss has dressed in his menswear is varied and extensive, including men as different as Mick Jagger and Arnold Schwarzenegger to Ozzy Osbourne.
To see an example of Curtiss' minimal yet forward thinking approach to fashion, check out the video below of his fall winter 1995 collection available on Fashion TV's YouTube, featuring Mickey Rourke as a model.
1970s Designer Vintage Dresses - Top 3 fashion designers.
A legend in the vintage fashion industry, Ossie clark is one of the most collectible pieces of 1960s and 1970s desiger vintage. He started his career by designing under the also iconic Alice Pollock's Quorum label. He is known for his incredibly sexy yet elegant designs, often in his signature fabric, moss crepe, or in delicate chiffons. His then wife, Celia Birtwell created the prints for his clothing becoming one of the most iconic designer duos in the fashion industry.
With the bold sex appeal created in the designs of Ossie juxtaposed with Celia's soft, feminine floral patterns, they appealed to glamorous women all over the word with the Ossie Clark woman often being young models, girlfriends of rock stars and cool girls. Today, vintage Ossie clark clothing has the same appeal with beautiful and talented celebrities as varying as Kate Moss, Florence Welch, P!nk, Amal Clooney and Emma Watson all have worn his vintage dresses.
Click hereto shop our collection of 1970s designer vintage dresses, including evening dresses by Ossie Clark.
The Parisian Chloé label was started in 1952 by Gaby Aghion. However, it really became an iconic luxury label in the 1970s after Karl Lagerfeld was hired as the creative director. He designed for Chloé from 1966 but his most iconic era was during the late 60s and throughout the 70s. The beautiful bohemian and playful clothes designed under the Karl Lagerfeld era have become some of the most collectible 1970s designer vintage around. Indeed, the Chloé label is as iconic today for its early 70s youthful and feminine clothing as it was at the time.
You can shop our collection of 70s designer dresses by labels such as clothing by clicking here.
The British fashion designer, Zandra Rhodes is one of the most covetable labels for collectors of 1970s designer vintage dresses. Known for her luxurious fabrics, she is predominantly a textile artist who puts her wearable art on floaty chiffons in bohemian silhouettes. Some of her most iconic collections include the 'Conceptual Chic' collection of 1977 which recognized the punk fashions coming out of Britain in this period and elevated it creating a 'punk couture' look, with cut outs creating a calculatedly distressed design and faux pearls draped in a necklace style, referencing the chains in DIY clothing at the time.
Click here to shop the collection of luxury vintage gowns from the 70s, including items by Zandra Rhodes.