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http _s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com_fthtsi-assets-production_ez_images_0_1_2_1_511210-1-eng-GB_main_5a8779b9-4b91-42d7-87bb-75a38d64cb40I see a great return of activism in the fashion industry. I think fashion has the power to communicate important things in a moment where everybody is worried. Fashion has a unifying power. But this has to be done with a light hand, without arrogance.

Silvia Venturini Fendi, Italian designer for the men’s collection, Fendi.

I was just reading about the German occupation of France during WWII and how young French citizens used fashion to communicate their resistance.

They called themselves Zazous (after a song by American jazz musician Cab Calloway) and were considered a subculture of mostly young people, 17-20 years old.

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Cab Calloway in a Zoot Suit.

The Zazou man sported long suit jackets with extra wide pants often in check patterns. This was an affront to the strict fabric restrictions and inspired by the American Zoot Suit, a style at the time popular among Blacks and Latinos who had their own resistance to communicate. Zazous favored thick soled shoes, jazz music, and swing dancing. Women wore very short flared skirts with tight sweaters, and tailored jackets. Accessories included large dark sunglasses, red lipstick, and striped tights. Both the guys and gals grew their hair long in defiance of the 1942 French government decree for barbershops to donate cut hair to the war effort – to make sweaters and slippers.

The possible current trend for Resistance Style (am I coining a new phrase?) so far has been limited to the statement t-shirt and the occasional safety pin. But I suspect that in the near future we will see more communication from individuals and designers.

This could be very interesting.

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409full-rei-kawakuboIf you have total freedom to design, you won’t get anything interesting. So I give myself restraints in order to kind of push myself through, to create something new. It’s the torture that I give myself, the pain and the struggle that I go through. So it’s self-given, but that’s the only way, I think, to make a strong, good new creation.

– Rei Kawakubo, renowned fashion designer for Comme des Garcons.

Ms. Kawakubo is known for her experimental construction and unconventional silhouettes. One can sense her self-torture looking at her designs, which to my mind are interesting soft sculpture but not at all wearable. Her work reminds me of Leigh Bowery concoctions.

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Rei Kawakubo designs for Comme des Garcons spring/summer 2016.

But I do like her ready-to-wear … like this one:

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Ready-to-wear spring/summer 2016.

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Tres chic Ines de la Fressange. Photo: Reuters

Former French model and now author Ines de la Fressange is the perfect example of a chic older woman. At 53 she’s recently returned to the catwalk and she’s been nominated Most Stylish Woman in Paris.  Way to go, Ines.

Fashion for women-of-a-certain-age is tricky. One doesn’t want to look like a teenager, but the matronly look middle-aged women tended toward 50 or even 30 years ago, isn’t going to cut it for the boomers.

What’s a women to do? Well, Ines says the French lady has it right:

  • for starters she’s not worried about getting older, she does so gracefully
  • she sticks to the classics and adds trends in accessories
  • she sports the right attitude, which would be one of confidence
  • she keeps fashion fun  

In the 1980s Ines was the CHANEL house model and muse of Karl Lagerfeld. In her book, Parisian Chic: A Style Guide (Flammarion, 2011) Ines shows readers how to build a complete chic look based on seven “brilliant basics.”  

  1. men’s blazer
  2. trench coat
  3. navy blue sweater
  4. tank top
  5. LBD
  6. jeans
  7. leather coat (I don’t agree with this one.)

She suggests not fretting about height and weight, “… everything is a question of proportion and attitude,” Ines recently told BBC Radio Four’s Woman’s Hour. “It’s nice to be tiny, it’s sweet and feminine.” (You said it.)

Vive Ines!

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