The Year in Fashion – 2012

Marc Jacobs and Kristen Stewart were famous for their see-through clothes during 2012.

Marc Jacobs and Kristen Stewart were famous for their see-through clothes during 2012.

Was the big fashion news of 2012 a growing popularity for a lower hemline and the more prominant use of ethereal fabrics like chiffon and lace? Not really. The days of fashion actually taking precedence in a news story about fashion is long gone. Today it’s all about brands and names – the success of online shopping where Michael Kors is the reigning name, and the increasing use of limited edition designer collections for box store retailers (that included Jason Wu and Kirna Zabete for Target, and Donatella Versace and Martin Margiela for H&M in 2012), or the survival of labels under new designers like Sarah Burton who expertly maintains Alexander McQueen two years after his death, and Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli who continue to keep Valentino a popular label.

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Tilda Swinton wearing Haider Ackermann for the Golden Globes, January 2012

I find it’s becoming increasingly difficult to even remember who is at the design helm of most companies, because its rarely the name on the label. Do fashion journalists who actually get paid to write for fashion magazines and attend all the shows even remember who is working where? In 2012 Hedi Slimane (who I have never heard of) took over at Yves St. Laurent from Stefano Pilati (who I have barely heard of), and promptly renamed the YSL brand “St. Laurent Paris” and moved YSL HQ to L.A. Meanwhile, Alexander Wang displaced Nicholas Ghesquiere at Balenciaga, and Raf Simons was named creative director at Dior, more than a year after John Galliano’s firing for his anti-semitic slurs in March 2011… still with me?

Wes Gordon and his Mullet hemline for fall 2012

Wes Gordon and his Mullet hemline for fall 2012

It gets more confusing if you try to keep track of new names, especially as they tend to surface for one or two seasons before disappearing into obscurity. I try not to get attached to anyone new until they have been around for a while, so while I am just getting familiar with names like Haider Ackermann and Rodarte, there is a whole new crop of designers on the rise including: Wes Gordon, Tanya Taylor, Simone Rocha, Sally LaPointe, Jonathan Simkhai, Otswald Helgason, Jen Kao, Clover Canyon, Misha Nonoo, Dion Lee, and Cushnie et Ochs. Some will make it – most won’t.

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Giselle – at the top of the pay scale heap of models

Worse than keeping track of names of designers are the names of models. I know most of the new models are Russian, that Gisele Bundschen is the new Heidi Klum, and that Kate Moss is the antithesis of newbie Kate Upton who is the new Brigitte Bardot. Otherwise, Naomi Campbell still seems to be getting work (pretty impressive for someone who is 110 in model years, and has been in a bad mood since 1995). To be honest I don’t see models as important to fashion right now – it’s not like the 1960s or the late 1980s-90s when the right model was critical for a look to find success. The most important designers right now are the ones whose clothes are worn not by models but by leading ladies: Kate Middleton, Michelle Obama, Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie…

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The ‘In’ haistyle and moustache, March 2012 but looking more like March 1912.

Some of the most interesting fashion looks this year were for men. The hairstyle consisting of short shaved temples and a long top that looked surprisingly bad on David Beckham in 2011 became more popular in 2012. Moustaches also saw an upswing in popularity, and not just for the month of November. Geek chic had a boost with Margaret Cho look-a-like singer Psy who road his imaginary pony while wearing white shoes and a bad tux, Gangnam style (simultaneously blowing Justin Beiber out of the water for ‘most-watched viral video.’) The life of Psy might just become mainstream in 2013.

Ono for 'Opening Ceremony'

Ono for ‘Opening Ceremony’

And just as I was about to forgive Yoko Ono for breaking up the Beatles, she produced the no-contest winner for the worst collection of 2012 consisting of hand print crotches that only uber-fashion-twinks desperate for attention will wear.

Other fashion disasters for 2012 included: Lagerfeld’s hula-hoop purse for Chanel, Brad Pitt’s Chanel Number 5 commercial, Angelina Jolie’s over-posing leg at the Oscars, and Stella McCartney’s stylish but politically incorrect British uniforms for the summer Olympics (she forgot the Union Jack was more than just a design – the colours and crosses actually mean something and that omitting a part might offend fellow Britons.)

Lagerfeld's Hula Hoop purse for Chanel - now where are my mints?

Lagerfeld’s Hula Hoop purse for Chanel – now where are my mints?

2012 lost Betsy Johnson’s business, which went bankrupt in April. And Fashion History forever lost Lea Gottlieb, designer of Gottex swimwear; Tommy Roberts, English boutique retailer especially known for his shop Mr. Freedom in the early 1970s; Vidal Sassoon, English mod hairstyling pioneer; Helen Gurley Brown, Cosmopolitan magazine editor and creator of the Cosmo quiz; Mikhail Voronin, Russian fashion designer; and Nolan Miller, American fashion designer and costume designer of 80s television hit Dynasty.

Spring collections for 2013 look interesting and I think we might be onto a new look – now if only Kanye West would just go away…

Here is The Guardian’s take on 2012

About Jonathan

Jonathan Walford is a fashion historian and co-founder of the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario. The FHM maintains a collection of nearly 12,000 artifacts dating from the mid 17th century to the present. Jonathan has authored various books and museum catalogues, including The Seductive Shoe, Shoes A-Z, Forties Fashion, 1950s American Fashion, and Sixties Fashion.
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11 Responses to The Year in Fashion – 2012

  1. What a fun look back at the year! The changing names behind the labels is very confusing (and really underscores the morph of designer labels into brands). I’m impressed that you can track so many of the helm changes, and know so many of the rising labels–I hadn’t heard of ANY of the ones you mention!

    And oh, my, those Yoko pants…

  2. Hollis says:

    Thank you! Now I feel I have a grasp on a very confusing year.

  3. Ian Drummond says:

    thanks for the wrap up Jonathan,
    somehow I missed that chanel purse and it is doubtful I will be able to sleep tonight knowing it is out there in the fashion world. i had heard that YSL was in for a shake up but to move HQ to LA! Even the best movies aren’t made there any more.
    Happy new year!
    Ian

  4. Liza D. says:

    Amusing and informative, as ever. But my eyes will never be able to “unsee” those crotch-print trousers and mesh “shirt.” Oy.

  5. Barbara says:

    Thank you for yet another inspired and amusing peek at the year in fashion. I have never forgiven Yoko, and now the pants….yikes! It is not just that they are ugly, but not at all original…we have seen this before, haven’t we? Let’s hope 2013 will have some fashions that are a breath of fresh air from the overall dreck of 2012. Sorry to hear about Betsy closing up, she used to be a favorite of mine back in the day. Happy New Year to all!

  6. Pingback: Vintage Miscellany, January 20, 2013 | The Vintage Traveler

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