November 2010

Isms: Understanding Fashion

Universe Publishing (A Division of Rizzoli)

  • 300 Park Avenue South
  • New York , NY


Trend research is an important aspect of many fashion-related careers, from designer, visual merchandiser, and product developer, to magazine editor, trend forecaster, and stylist. For a deeper understanding of a trend’s origin, it is helpful to survey art movements (e.g. Surrealism), historical events, and popular culture, including television, movies, books, and music.

abc …Isms: Understanding Fashion xyz , written by Mairi Mackenzie, provides brief but detailed summaries of broad cultural trends (Exoticism, The Internet), trends within fashion (The New Look, Deconstructionism, Vintage), and notable trends that Mackenzie has coined herself, such as Yuppieism. These enable a researcher to view a fashion trend in its broader context and perhaps understand its emergence (or re-emergence) on todays runways, considering the current economic, political, and social climate.

The Spring 2011 trends seen on the New York runways include midi skirts, snake skin, 1970s’ glam, minimalism, color blocking, handcrafted knits, and sheer fabrics. Many of these can be traced back to a specific art movement, musical genre, or design aesthetic, succinctly defined in abc …Isms xyz .

For example:

•  The handcrafted knitwear trend can be traced back to the Arts and Crafts movement’s “revival of domestic traditions.” Loose, openwork styles were seen on the Spring 2011 runways of Tse and Rag&Bone.
•  The glamorous seventies trend can be traced back to the Glam music scene, where “androgyny, glitter, metallic lamé, cropped satin bomber jackets, jumpsuits, and platform boots…were all staple (fashion) elements.” David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust epitomized this look. Marc Jacobs cited the New York Dolls, rockers in the U.S. Glam scene, as one of his influences for his Spring 2011 collection.
•  The minimalism trend seen on the runways at Alexander Wang, Derek Lam, and Narciso Rodriguez can be traced back to 1990s’ Minimalism, popularized by Calvin Klein and Helmut Lang, in which clothing “colors were neutral or subdued so as not to distract from the cut (or the wearer); and unnecessary embellishments were dispensed with.” Narciso Rodriguez told, regarding his Spring 2011 collection’s inspiration, “I was looking at old pictures from the nineties, you know, Carolyn (Bessette Kennedy), Kate (Moss).”

abc …Isms: Understanding Fashion xyz is not likely to gather dust on the trend researcher’s book shelf because its compact size, concise entries, and photo-rich pages make it so accessible and appealing. While a visit to a good library is still the best research strategy, abc …Isms: Understanding Fashion xyz is a wonderful book to have on hand.

Reviewer: Kirstie Harless, FIDM Library Staff Member