Bringing back the 1980's for Autumn 2018 [NSTTV]

March 7, 2018 @ 8:01AM
By Aznim Ruhana Md Yusup

The looks from Autumn 2018 are both strange and familiar, writes Aznim Ruhana Md Yusup.

I WAS born in the early years of the 1980s, and my memories of that decade were mostly of playtime and fairy tales. I do remember eating ice-cream messily, ruining my kindergarten uniform, and falling off a stationary motorcycle and needing stitches at the clinic.

I don’t have particular memories of outfits, probably because I was too young to care and very likely had no choice over the clothes I wore then. So in terms of how people dress, I mostly remember the decade through photos, films and TV shows, coming to the conclusion that I’m glad we’re not dressing like that anymore.

Still, nowadays, you can fill in the gaps in your memories thanks to the Internet, YouTube in particular. On TV you find channels dedicated to shows from the ’80s. I remember watching a local cooking show from that decade in a 3am daze, featuring a host with big hair and wearing a floral top with huge, wide shoulders.

It’s the kind of top — worn as a very short dress — that appeared in Saint Laurent’s Fall 2018 show in Paris recently. Kaia Gerber, daughter of iconic ’80s supermodel Cindy Crawford, walked the runway wearing a red and black floral number. Gerber wasn’t even born when that style came into fashion.

Anthony Vaccarello, creative director and mastermind of the skinny legs and big shoulders silhouette at Saint Laurent, wasn’t the only one chanelling the ’80s. In Milan, Moschino showed a series of bedazzled dresses that would not look out of place on Ramlah Ram and Zaiton Sameon at Anugerah Juara Lagu.


Meanwhile, in New York, Alexander Wang presented his collection in the former headquarters of the Conde Nast magazine company. In an office cubicle setting, complete with ugly carpeting and dim fluorescent lighting, he showed magenta powersuits and black leather mini skirts accessorised with small frame sunglasses.

Tom Ford also has fond memories of 1980s excesses, with sparkly leggings and outfits in brightly-coloured animal print. Versace showed schoolgirl-style suits in bright plaid, styled with big buckle belts. Jackets were cut with wide sleeves, just like at Isabel Marant, who paired them with loose jeans that were so ubiquitous in that decade.

An ’80s reference that is perhaps unique to Muslims in Malaysia were the headcovers at Gucci. A friend remarked with amusement that the square scarf folded into a triangle and fastened with a pin under the chin is very much like the look of her ustazah (female religious teacher) back in the day.

But not everyone was charmed. Gucci was at the end of some stinging criticism over its headwear choices at the show, particularly from the Sikh community.

“The way to bridge gaps is to put daily turban-wearing Sikhs with beards on stage, not put a loose and BACKWARDS turban on a silly-looking white guy and turn it into a fashion statement. Where it doesn't matter how/what respect is given. Misdirection, regardless how noble the intention,” writes Twitter user NihangAjitSingh.


Gucci might seem insensitive in that regard, but overall, headwear seems to be a trend for Autumn 2018.

Giorgio Armani showed fur hats and oversized berets, Maison Margiela’s headwear looked like an astronaut’s helmet in plastic while Nina Ricci’s collection was styled with sombre veiled hats.

Defying the season, Jacquemus had fanciful straw hats that were longer at the back. Designer Simon Porte Jacquemus, who announced he was starting a menswear line, says he was inspired by Morocco and so directed his creative energy towards a warm winter collection.

But is it strange to notice the many covered heads on the runway? Or is that just a reflection of who I am and where I live?

Lanvin and Marni showed looks that fashionable hijabis can copy straight off the runway, the lace cap at Elie Saab make for a trendy hijab inner while the knit headwear at Calvin Klein makes for an interesting look for hijabis in winter.

Hijabs are a huge part of the fashion scene in Malaysia, hence the cult surrounding Vivy Yusof and Neelofa, and the recent backlash over the latter’s “Zoukgate”. That said, the head covering on Halima Aden at Max Mara was not a look, but I’m fairly certain she’s unique in her standing as a hijabi model.

So in regards to Gucci, some people are rightly raising the question of whether it’s all right for fashion brands to appropriate religious articles of clothing to promote irreligious garments in the name of style and diversity.

The short answer is no. But there are nuances to the issue with different reactions from different people. I guess it depends on how you feel about your standing in the world. My friend and I might be amused at the Gucci tudung, but a minority Muslim woman living in fear of being attacked because of her hijab will probably not find it funny.


To dispel the feelings of gloom, many design houses were sending out creations in loud bright colours. Neon chartreuse or yellow green was seen at Prada, Balmain and Balenciaga while the aforementioned Alexander Wang showed magenta, as did Oscar de la Renta and Moschino.

As if colours on clothes weren’t enough, Moschino’s creative director Jeremy Scott even had his models painted in shades of yellow, turquoise, green and pink. They were supposed to represent aliens and the subtext here, according to Vogue, is Scott’s opposition to United States President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant stance.

There were plenty of foil outfits from Balmain and Off-white. Tom Ford had silver leggings and Mary Katrantzou also had a structured silver top with tassels.

Meanwhile, deep, brilliant red appeared to be a popular colour for Fall 2018, appearing in dreamy, floaty dresses at Christian Siriano, Dolce & Gabbana and Valentino.

Hermes showed a selection of red leather coats while Carolina Herrera sent out taffeta ball skirts in red (and other colours) paired with a simple white shirt, symbolising Herrera’s departure from her namesake label after 37 years.

Many designers showed plaid and checked patterns, such as the blazer sets at Christian Dior and Versace. Calvin Klein turned pastel plaids into peasant-style dresses while Missoni used the pattern to highlight its 65-year knit heritage.

Balenciaga used plaid shirts as part of the theme of layering clothes. As more looks were shown on the runway, the more clothes the models appeared to wear, and they ended up looking like one particular scene shoiwng Joey from the TV sitcom Friends. But these clothes were fused together as one outerwear, not separates.

Being in a tropical country, it’s fun to imagine the cosiness of snow and winter, especially with warm looks from The Row and Lemaire. Rick Owens appeared to have wrapped duvet blankets into sausage-like skirts and jackets. And despite officially showing for Spring 2018, Burberry’s collection was also snug and ready for the cold.

A selection of red dresses from Valentino.
A shiny outfit from Maison Margiela.
Balmain brings on the sheen.
A plaid pastel dress from Calvin Klein.
Jeremy Scott’s “aliens” at Moschino.
Orange is the New Black star Danielle Brooks strutting for Christian Siriano.
Hijabi-ready looks straight off the runway from Marni.
Hijabi-ready looks straight off the runway from Lanvin.
What your 1980’s teacher would look like in Gucci.
1980’s fashion revival from Alexander Wang.
1980’s fashion revival from Saint Laurent.
A cosy Spring look from Burberry.