For over a decade, minimalism has dominated on the catwalks. From Céline to Jil Sander and The Row, muted colors and shapeless silhouettes have become the epitome of cool. But whether it's down to the Alessandro Michele/Gucci effect or a simple desire for bolder and brighter clothing for the visually-led Instagram generation, maximalism is alive and well. And though '70s-inspired silhouettes and prints have trickled down from high-fashion to fast-fashion over the past few years, the last couple of seasons have seen an '8os revival with the resurgence of high-octane glamour, glitter, sequins, and feathers. Turns out disco isn't dead.
The proof of their popularity is in the numbers: Data from global platform Lyst revealed that searches for sequins increased by 42% in the second half of 2017, likely a result of the spring 2018 shows last September, where the industry's obsession with decadent details hit fever pitch.
“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 spring 2018 shows were awash with references from Lady Diana to 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." She adds that evening wear is one of the site's fastest growing categories, and that sequins, crystals, and feathers are all key elements of that. "In terms of fabrications, designers are pushing the boundaries.”
Sequins were aplenty at Gucci, Marc Jacobs, Molly Goddard, and, of course, Halpern, where 30-year-old designer Michael Halpern is at the center of this renewed interest in shimmering embellishments, unabashed elegance, and hyper-femininity. Then, naturally, there was London Fashion Week favorite, Ashish, who takes sequins to the next-level. “Sequins have always been a protest for me," the designer said after his spring 2018 show. "It’s always been a revolution for me. A protest against blandness.” Adored for his explosively colorful and creative use of the small shiny discs throughout his career, Ashish's latest collection was considerably darker and dreamier, though that didn't stop it from shining. "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," he affirmed backstage. "I just felt like I don’t want to be celebrating colors 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."
Ida Petersson, buying director at Browns Fashion echoes Ashish's sentiments with the idea that the prevalence of color, texture, and glitter on the runways 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 spring '18, and I couldn’t think of anything better than an abundance of sequins," she says. "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."
Beyond sequins, feathers, too, popped up on numerous occasions (the look even fluttered over to the resort 2018 season, when Prada showed chiffon and organza dresses enhanced with sequin details and feather hems). At Anthony Vaccarello's ultra-glamorous collection for Saint Laurent, clothes were adorned with ostrich feathers, as were pieces at Maison Margiela, Ann Demeulemeester, Nina Ricci, and Ashley Williams, who offered a more dressed-down, everyday take on the trend.
Meanwhile, label Marques ' Almeida included a little bit of everything for spring '18, making for not just an eclectic collection, but one that emphasized the powers of these over-the-top embellishments. 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 are being pulled in so many different directions, fashion ought to be freeing. In such turbulent sociopolitical times, we ought to celebrate individualism, energy, creativity, and optimism, and our wardrobe can and should be an instantly gratifying and uplifting outlet for such. Sequins, sparkle, and texture offer an 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. They may be extravagant, but we're all for clothing that brings us happiness. Now all we have to do is embrace the return of glitter with open arms.