2010-2019 – So What Was Fashion?

McQueen’s Plato’s Atlantis collection, spring/summer 2010

The decade got off to a glum start in February 2010 with the unexpected passing of fashion’s brightest star, Alexander McQueen (although his last collection would go on to influence women’s fashion well into the decade.) Most fashions at the beginning of the decade were restyled knock-offs of vintage looks, jersey dresses and cardigans that clung and draped about the body, or jackets worn over T-shirts and spandex leggings – a substitute for pants that is still popular at the end of the decade. Footwear had a new look with open-toed boots and hyper-styled shoes with towering platforms and skinny heels by designers like Nicholas Kirkwood.

Nicholas Kirkwood, 2010

Things got even more glum in 2011 when fashion’s next brightest star, John Galliano, had a public melt-down that ended his stint at Dior and put his career on hiatus while he went through rehab. Fashion moved towards drab colours like putty, nude, grey, and eggplant. McQueen’s legacy inspired short, mirror-print dresses that paired well with the new footwear styles and stood out from the animal prints, boho tops, and other trends that had been recycling through fashion since the turn of the century.

Luxury brands began to embrace their own vintage histories when companies like Chanel loaned dresses from past collections to stars walking the red carpet. Lagerfeld’s vision for Chanel would became increasingly similar from season to season as he perfected a look that really didn’t need to explore new directions to remain successful.  

Kate Middleton’s fascinator was the biggest fashion story of 2011

Fashion industry news in 2012 included Marc Jacobs leaving Louis Vuitton after 16 years, and Galliano picking up the needle again after his temporary banishment. It was becoming increasingly difficult to keep track of who was designing under what label. Sarah Burton was expertly maintaining Alexander McQueen, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli took on Valentino, Hedi Slimane replaced Stefano Pilati at Yves St. Laurent, Alexander Wang took over Balenciaga from Nicholas Ghesquiere, and Raf Simons was named creative director at Dior. The revolving door of young creative directors at long-established ateliers got more confusing as the decade progressed. 

Tattooing remained popular but with concerns over tanning-bed induced skin cancer, spray tans (identifiable by their orange hue) became more common. For men, undercut hairstyles with shaved temples were matched up with moustaches for ‘Movember’ cancer awareness campaigns. 

The problems of fast fashion created by companies like Zara, H&M, TopShop, Primark, and Forever 21 began making news. The high cost of cheap clothing in a price-war race to the bottom came to light when the Savar factory collapsed in Bangladesh in 2013 killing over 1100 employees who made Benetton, Joe Fresh, Walmart, and other fast fashion clothing brands.  

Inclusive and diverse – real women model Rick Owens spring 2014 collection

Steampunk was fading when the Hipster lumbersexual arrived in 2014. Men with dad-bods and man-buns adopted full Ozark-style beards, plaid flannel shirts, 90s grunge-style ripped jeans and knitted toques. For women, black boots, catsuits, and biker jackets were popular, sometimes worn with seapunk pastel tinted hair, or long hair with swept-to-the-side bangs like Taylor Swift. The new buzzword for the year ‘normcore’ identified dressed-down looks like pyjamas worn by teenagers to school.


For non hipsters a trend for dressing up became evident when Yahoo revealed their top searched question of 2015 ‘How do you tie a tie?’ While more businessmen were donning blue suits with brown shoes, the most controversial fashion news story of the year occurred when Barack Obama wore a tan suit for a press conference during an August heat wave. Across the Canadian border, Justin Trudeau’s novelty socks were the only faux pas commented on by the fashion press. 

For women, neutrals were making a strong comeback, and trouser suits gained momentum in every pant style from legging tight to palazzo wide. Fashion was finally moving away from retro vintage inspirations to conspicuously contemporary styles, using futuristic textiles and technology via designers like Iris van Herpen.

Iris van Herpen 2015 — too extreme for most, but influential in pushing fashion to look forward to the future

The Adidas collections by Stella McCartney brought rise to the new term ‘athleisure’ in 2015. Her upscale athletic clothing styles took yoga pants and hoodies into the luxury market and set off a trend that continues to grow. The word ‘athleisure’ was even officially added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary in 2016, just as flyknit sneakers by Nike were becoming popular. The most controversial athleisure outfit of the year was the burkini – a head to toe swimsuit designed for Muslim women that was as scandalous to some as the bare breasted monokini had been fifty years earlier. 

In a palette of black and white tailored shirts and ankle-length skinny pants, shapeless jackets, and soft, woolly coats, a non-gender-specific style gained popularity mid decade.

In 2016, fashion was becoming political. Trump, Brexit, Black Lives Matter, transgender bathrooms – these were the headlines of the year, and fashion was not immune to being a part of those headlines. Fashion politics continued into 2017, from pink pussy hats to President Trump’s inability to knot his tie to the right length.

The undercut hairstyle, fashionable in 2012, was dropped by all but the Alt right during 2016 who paired it with white polo shirts and chinos for a ‘faschic’ look

Rules of conduct came into question in 2017. Vogue declared in late November that “…the biggest rule is that there are no rules. You can wear a princess gown with sneakers! A bathrobe to an evening event! Even slippers to the office!” However, dress codes did still exist. This became apparent when two teenaged girls were not allowed to board a United Airlines plane for wearing leggings. A few months later, a brouhaha erupted over a ban on sleeveless frocks and open-toed shoes for female reporters at the U.S. Congress. More dress code stories hit the headlines ranging from whether restaurants could require their hostesses to wear high heels, to fashion dos and don’ts posted by American restaurants that were really thinly disguised racial profiles. 

Leggings, especially nude coloured, were THE worst fashion of the 2010s

The Hipster look began to wane as designers jumped on transgender chic for menswear. Many young designers avoided traditional fashion weeks and directly marketed to their fanbase via Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. Some of the older, established labels, like Vivienne Westwood and Versace, profited from market interest in their vintage pieces by remaking favourites from past collections. At auctions and vintage boutiques, buyers were battling it out for museum-worthy couture. 

Other than Meghan Markle’s trend-setting preference for bateau necklines, politics made most of the fashion headlines in 2018. Fashion news always seemed to be about some sartorial gaff, from cultural appropriation to the “I Really Don’t Care, Do U?” green Zara jacket Melania Trump wore to fly to Texas to visit children separated from their families at the U.S. border. Other politically-charged fashion news in 2018 and 2019 included: the closure of Ivanka Trump’s off-shore fashion business due to the widespread boycott of the Trump brand; Hollywood actresses creating a fashion blackout at the Golden Globe awards; Nike catching flak for hiring Colin Kaepernick, the San Francisco 49er quarterback who started the ‘Take a Knee’ anti-racism protest; France’s gilets jaunes yellow vest protestors; Dolce and Gabbana’s promotional ads that offended the entire Chinese nation; London fashion week going fur free; a Gucci sweater resembling blackface; and Victoria’s Secret last fashion show due, in part, to pushback for their propagation of unrealistic body images.

Melania Trump on her way to visit children separated from their parents at the Texas border, 2018

Via cheap labour, massive investment, and luxury spending, the fashion industry underwent a ‘Chinafication’ over the past thirty years. However, as the decade came to a close, it became apparent that the fashion industry was no longer sustainable, either economically or environmentally. Textile production is the world’s second most polluting industry after oil and only remains profitable because of over-consumption. A growing trend to buy less, choose quality over quantity, wear what you already own, and recycle everything else is beginning to change the fashion industry and will have a larger impact in the 2020’s. 

Extinction Rebellion at London fashion week, 2019

Some companies like Levi Strauss and Prada are working towards zero carbon footprints in the near future, others like Eileen Fisher and Patagonia are buying back their own used clothes from customers for upcycling. Some designers create collections in a patchwork chic that uses up textile off-cuts otherwise destined for the garbage.

There has been a seismic shift in retailing in the 2010s as a third of all sales are now direct to consumer online purchases. Brick and mortar shops are becoming more like showrooms as streets and malls, previously crowded with retailers, empty out. 

Parisian couturiers and New York fashion editors are no longer the leading fashion influencers. Today’s fashions are influenced by computer-generated algorithms, duck-faced Instagram selfies, bloggers, Facebook ‘likes’, and YouTube instructional videos. Get ready for the 20’s because everything is changing… 

We lost a lot of fashion history in the 2010s: Vidal Sassoon, Nolan Miller, Gloria Vanderbilt, Terry de Havilland, Max Azria, Karl Lagereld, Isabel Toledo, Ottavio Missoni, Hubert Givenchy, Judith Leiber, Kate Spade, Alexander McQueen, Michael Vollbracht, Emmanuelle Khanh, Gina Fratini, Laura Biagiotti, Kenneth Jay Lane, Pierre Berge, Herve Leger, Azzedine Alaia, Andre Courreges, Sonia Rykiel, James Galanos, Bill Cunningham, Oscar de la Renta, Koos Van den Akker, Jean Louis Scherrer, Arnold Scaasi, Elio Fiorucci, Madame Carven, John Fairchild, Lilly Pulitzer, Emanuel Ungaro, and Glamour magazine.

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.


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.


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…


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

2012 Emmy’s stand-out gowns…

I honestly don’t care who makes the best or worst dressed lists at celebrity events. However, I do like to see interesting designs and well-styled presentations that I think will stand the test of time, or represent their era in history. With that in mind, I think these nine fashions from the Emmy awards last Sunday are stand-outs worthy of remembering.

12.12.12 – Life in Three Centuries Opens Sept 22

View of dresses from 1812

Yesterday we installed our exhibition 12.12.12 at the Markham Museum. 12.12.12 compares life in 1812, 1912, and 2012 through social and pop history – fashion, transportation, and music. The show debuted in March in Guelph, but has been substantially changed for its current venue. This time the installation features a fashion show of clothes from 2012, a Model T Ford built in the fall of 2012, a coach built in 1810 that plied the route between Pembroke and Ottawa for half a century, and a contemporary electric bicycle.

The featured dresses from 1812 include a Dutch dress made of French fabric (Napoleon required Dutch citizens to buy French fabric), a wedding dress from Quebec, and an American silk plaid dress.

Motoring in fall 1912

Fashions on display from 1912 feature a Parisian pink silk evening gown, a cotton dress embroidered in India, and a black faux fur coat from Northway’s – a popular Toronto clothier at the time. Aside from the parade of 2012 fashions, other features from the current year include a hat designed for Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee by Toronto milliner David Dunkley.

The exhibition text recounts the popular culture and news of the day: Every Canadian knows 1812 as the year America invaded Canada but it was also a year of killer earthquakes in Venezuela and Missouri, and when Napoleon began to lose his European empire. 1812 was also the year the Waltz became the latest popular dance, and when ice cream cones, soda-pop, and ketchup became popular.

2012 fashion parade with clothes by Material Girl, Jason Wu, Desigual, Papillon, Joe Fresh, and others

1912 is best remembered as the year the Titanic sank, but it was also the year the last Emperor of China abdicated, Hollywood became a movie-making mecca, Calgary held its first Stampede, and when a new kind of music called ‘Blues’ appeared.

12.12.12 opens at Markham Museum this coming Saturday, September 22, and closes April 30, 2013.

12.12.12 – Life in Three Centuries

The Fashion History Museum’s exhibition ‘12.12.12: Life in Three Centuries’ will open January 21 at the newly renovated Guelph Civic Museum. The exhibition looks at life in 1812, 1912, and 2012 through news headlines, social history, and pop culture: In 1812, U.S. president James Madison was waging an unpopular war, soda-pop was a new drink, and the sexiest man alive was Lord Byron. In 1912, Oreo cookies first appeared on store shelves, the Titanic struck an iceberg, and everyone was keeping up with the Castles — on the dance floor.

A special evening will be held at the museum on Friday, February 24, when we will be on hand for a special tour of the exhibition. 12.12.12. will be at the Guelph Civic Museum until March 10. Its next confirmed booking will be at the Markham Museum starting September 20, 2012.

The Shape of Things to Come? I need your thoughts…

The Fashion History Museum will soon be launching “12.12.12: Life in Three Centuries” An exhibition that will explore the history of 1812, 1912, and 2012 through contemporary styles of social media journalism: top ten lists, what’s hot – what’s not, who wore it better, etc.

Capitalizing on two major historic events: the bicentennial of the War of 1812, and the centennial of the sinking of the Titanic, this exhibition will look at the similarities and differences of living in three different centuries through pop and high culture, current events, and everyday life.

In 1812, Lord Byron was a hottie, Pride and Prejudice was a best seller, and ice cream cones were the summer treat. In 1912, you could buy Oreos and Life Savers for the first time, Ragtime and cubism were new, and the hobble skirt debuted. But what about 2012?

Tell me your predictions for the fashion, fads and famous people of 2012. Does your vision of next year include Lady Gaga, Goji berries, Justin Beiber, longer hemlines, a pregnant Duchess of Cambridge? Tell me what you think!