Thursday, 23 June 2011

70s Style

Pivotal 70s designers

Bill Gibb fashion show

Jerry Hall in Issey Miyake's fashion show

The second talk at the UAL grad school was based on 70s style and design and was led by author Dominic Lutyens who has recently co-published a book on this subject titled '70s Style & Design'. As he felt it was a vastly unfamiliar and unwritten about decade in term of its style credentials.

The 70s was undoubtedly a creatively diverse decade. The post war baby boomers were now coming of age and new freedoms and ideas brought on a wave of liberalism and ‘que sera sera’ attitude. Or what we may commonly refer as ‘the hippy movement’. The vast unrest, which reached its culmination with extensive rioting in the late 60s, had brought about a new rejection of usual, accepted values. Equality rose to the forefront of this new preoccupation with feminism, gay liberation and black civil rights movements. All of which fall under the umbrella of the ‘Modernist Backlash’. The people turned away from mass production and instead chose to revert back to nostalgia, hence a revival of art deco style was seen. Barbara Hulanicki, the founder of BIBA was one of those who pioneered this new looking back consciousness.

Sarah Moon's 1972 Pirelli Calendar

In terms of fashion, a defiant rebellion against conservatism and western ideas of beauty was observed. The Coquettes, described rather abruptly by the lecturer as ‘gay hippies from San Francisco’ were individuals mainly in their 20s and 30s who chose to wear exuberant, brightly coloured garments from thrift stores. This style movement had an immense influence on the art and design world. The fashion trends of the masses reflected ‘Coquette’ style by adopting a pick and mix approach. Wonder Workshop fashion label. Another clothing trend saw the wearing of utilitary clothing, perhaps another way in which to defy the accepted norms. Shoe designers such as the incredible Thea Cadabra pushed boundaries like never before with extremely outlandish and bold offerings.

Coquette member, 1971

Andrew Logan (an artist who has a gallery in Berriew, a little village near where I come from in Wales) can be recognized as one of the first individuals to challenge gender stereotypes, way before the phenomena of Boy George in the 80s. Celebrity icons such as Debbie Harry championed kitch style, which was readily embraced by a generation of urban, hip people. The Pointer Sisters in their glam rock platforms equally compelled the public to don their lurex and sequins.

Andrew Logan

Blondie, aka Debbie Harry

The Pointer Sisters

The world of interiors was dominated by a super graphics craze with bold stripe and dotted patterns. The work of artists such as Bill Topley and Frank Seller was particularly popular.

New York dining room decorated by New York artist Bill Topley

The Rainbow Room

The graphic album cover of Barney Bubbles was directly inspired by the striking approach of artist Kandinsky.

Considered graffiti graced the urban environment of cities such as New York, a form of self-expression typical of the time.

In terms of architecture, Denise Scott Brown’s Las Vegas flamboyant housing facades summarize the new wave of art/pop style, as did extraordinarily unusual creations such as Michael Car Michael’s armadillo house. It was interesting to learn that eco architecture also rose to prominence during this time. With the architect Paolo Soleri’s building within the Arizona desert offering high density construction as a counter-act to the urban scrawl.

Mesa city- the hypothetical desert city sketched by Paolo Soleri

This new wave of environmental consideration can perhaps be attributed to the 1973 oil crisis, which played heavily on many minds. Textile companies such as Laura Ashley sought inspiration from rural surroundings and adopted the ‘back to nature’ approach.

The 70s also heralded a new found interest in craft with the general idea that fine art and beauty were to be prioritised over functionality. The book ‘Native Funk and Flash’ promoted and encouraged the emergence of folk art and crafts such as patchwork and macramé gained extensive popularity.

Once again, the Mediterranean cookbook of Elizabeth David popped up as a key product, which can be attributed as being the cause of a domino effect of global discovery and cultural investigation.

It’s true, 70s style is vastly underrated and forgotten about. Although is may not embody the glamour and opulent style of the 20s, nor the swinging energy of the 60s but it is undoubtedly a melange of influences from all the preceding decades which has played an instrumental role in influencing what we know as style today. Without the 70s we wouldn’t have experienced Punk culture. And without Punk culture I’m sure the world today would be a duller place.

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