What? Retro space-age silhouettes from the 1960s art crowd combined with the jet-set minimalism of glam air stewardesses from the early 1970s. Think pop-art colour blocking, clean architectural lines, above-the-knee hemlines and metallic detailing. Think kinetic downtown art happenings and Jackie Onassis in Braniff International Airways’ first class with Andy Warhol.
Where? Francisco Costa showed collarless, minimalist pieces in black and red with stiff, rounded shoulders and dolman sleeves for Calvin Klein Collection, while Rei Kawakubo took the rigid silhouette to extremes for Comme des Garçons with a wilder, wider, more two-dimensional alien look. There were uncompromising architectural shapes in (International Klein) Blue and spacey pinks and greys at Balenciaga, where Nicolas Ghesquière conjured up a JG Ballard-like narrative of dystopian 1970s high-rise corporations – and threw in some sci-fi spy characters to boot. The A-line minidresses, worn over trousers at Miu Miu, looked like vintage airline uniforms, while Edie Sedgwick-style eye make-up placed the look firmly in the era of Pan Am’s glory days.
Why? Maybe we still want to believe in a better world – just as they did back in the early years of space exploration. Whatever the reason, it works to consumers’ advantage, as the best pieces straddle that thin line between restrained chic and directional flair. British designer David Koma’s sleek autumn collection included garments with rows of shiny metal oval holes reminiscent of classic Pierre Cardin and Paco Rabanne. “I’m obsessed with watching vintage [André] Courrèges fashion shows,” says Koma. “They were very ahead of their time; they will always be relevant.”
Should you invest? Go for the demure end of the retro spectrum: Antonio Berardi’s collarless grey virgin wool cloth coat (£1,634.90 at luisaviaroma.com) has a bold rectangular, flat shape, and looks more First Lady than futurist heroine. Hussein Chalayan’s Black Label silver trousers might be challenging but his emerald green woven jacket with cape-style back (£1,155) is wearable, space race genius. Outré pieces can have a short shelf life and can verge on B-movie Flash Gordon camp but, if you shop with reference to the rest of your wardrobe, the inherent simplicity of the silhouette and detail makes for something perennially modern and classic.
You can, of course, go down the vintage route, and look for 1960s and 1970s originals – Atelier-Mayer.com often has a good selection of quality pieces.
“Paco Rabanne, Pierre Cardin and André Courrèges as well as Thierry Mugler are all key labels,” says AtelierMayer.com founder Carmen Haid. “All of them were thinking about sci-fi movie characters and how we’d live in the year 2000. They created more linear, simple but drastic silhouettes. It was the first time that technology was integrated with fashion,” she says.
Edge into the look with accessories: chunky, graphic, metallic jewellery or chain-mail elements in silver and Perspex. Maison Martin Margiela’s set of two green-tone brass arm cuffs (£555), for example, bring a nicely considered colour twist to the aesthetic. Beam us up, Marty.