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Sun, Dec 27, 2009
Urban, The Straits Times
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Style in the noughties
by Hong Xinyi

1 Tight is might 

Bodycon style, epitomised by Herve Leger bandage dresses, hugged every feminine curve – and then some.

Menswear shrank to child-sized second-skin proportions, thanks to influential designers like Hedi Slimane and Thom Browne. Jeans got skinny and then skinnier.

And many forsook pants in favour of the ubiquitous leggings, which came into full-flowered glory this decade with ripped, studded and knee-padded versions galore.

2 Raging retro revival

Perhaps it was the uncertainty of a new millenium that prompted the vintage-worshipping, thrift-store chic that caught fire at the start of the decade. 

From Amy Winehouse’s 1950s-style beehive (right) to TV show Mad Men’s love affair with 1960s silhouettes and Madonna’s 1970s-inspired leotard for Hung Up (which in turn launched the futuristic versions now worn by Beyonce, Lady Gaga and Rihanna), retro never went out of style.

The latest history lesson in fashion comes courtesy of the 1980s: Recent collections saw that decade’s neon hues and exaggerated shapes refracted through an apocalyptic aesthetic, creating a definitive noughties look of space-age nostalgia.

British supermodel Agyness Deyn, with her Boy George-meets-punk urchin style, is the perfect poster child for this last gasp of a decade-long backward glance.

3 Botoxed beauties

That tell-tale stretched look associated with an old-fashioned facelift is now a distant memory. 

Instead, it’s that tell-tale look of shiny immobility associated with Botox that now haunts the faces of countless male and female celebrities.

Some have admitted to getting it (American Idol judge Simon Cowell), while others stick to strenuous denials (Nicole Kidman).

One thing is clear though: Eternal youth was kind of achieved in the noughties and it had an unmistakeably taut, frozen quality about it.

4 All about accessories

For a while, seasonal It bags became must-have accessories for both It girls and regular gals-on-the-street aspiring for starter luxe.

The posh purse fervour has cooled somewhat, leaving us with potential classics like the Fendi Baguette and the Yves Saint Laurent Muse. 

This has also been a peculiarly shoe-obssessed decade. Designer shoe labels Jimmy Choo, Manolo Blahnik and Christian Louboutin became household names and many shoe fads – Uggs, Crocs, jellies, gladiator sandals and lattice boots – sizzled, then fizzled.

5 Fashion gets real

With the debut of America’s Next Top Model in 2003 and Project Runway in 2004, fashion would never be quite the same again.

These ongoing reality shows not only transformed Tyra Banks and Heidi Klum from almost-over-the-hill models into media moguls, but also offered riveting insider peeks into the world of modelling and fashion design respectively.

Never mind that actual top models and designers have yet to emerge from either series – it is much more interesting to watch diamonds in the rough.

6 Designer fast fashion

The pairing of luxe names and affordable brands began in 2004, when Swedish fast-fashion giant H&M launched a collection by Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld.

It was such a hit that H&M subsequently introduced cheap chic collections by Stella McCartney, Viktor & Rolf, Roberto Cavalli, Comme des Garcons, Matthew Williamson, Jimmy Choo and, most recently, Sonia Rykiel.

Numerous high-street brands have jumped on this bandwagon since: Uniqlo has a range by designer Jil Sander, Target just launched a Rodarte range and Topshop’s recent Christopher Kane collection flew off the shelves.

7 Fashion bloggers arrive

Former fashion marketing executive Scott Schuman took to the streets of New York City in 2005 to snap pictures of stylishly dressed folks and posted them on his blog The Sartorialist. 

It was not long before the site became a must-read for fashion industry bigwigs, making Schuman a bold-faced name.

Other fashion bloggers who have translated their Web clout into real-world influence include Filipino Bryan Boy, who got a Marc Jacobs bag named after him; StyleBubble’s Susie Bubble, who was appointed commissioning editor of British magazine Dazed & Confused’s e-zine; and Style Rookie’s Tavi Gevinson, who is all of 13 years old and has already scored front-row seats at exclusive fashion shows.

8 Celebrity couture

It all started when Jennifer Lopez launched casualwear line JLO by Jennifer Lopez in 2003 – and the more upscale line Sweetface in 2007.

Soon, every other celebrity seemed to think they could cut it as designers – how else does one explain the existence of a Jessica Simpson swimwear

Some tied up with established brands, like Kate Moss with Topshop and Madonna with H&M.

Of the lot, only a few star-helmed brands have managed to emerge with real fashion credibility, including rapper Sean John’s eponymous menswear line, Gwen Stefani’s L.A.M.B label and Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s well-regarded luxe basics line The Row.

9 Politics gets sexy

Fashion critics went gaga over Michelle Obama long before she became First Lady, as it became clear that her bold choices of Thakoon Panichgul frocks and Tom Binns jewellery during the 2008 presidential campaign signalled the arrival of a striking new take on political style.

Also making waves was new French First Lady Carla Bruni, a former supermodel who embarked on her new chapter in the spotlight clad demurely in Dior.

Earlier this year, kooky new Japanese First Lady Miyuki Hatoyama, a former troupe dancer, joined the pantheon of stylish political spouses we love to watch, a list that also includes the stunning Queen Rania of Jordan.

10 Luxe goes bust

It is too soon to tell what long-term impact the recent recession will have on the luxury business.

What we do know for sure is that several labels, including Christian Lacroix, Escada and Yohji Yamamoto, have filed for bankruptcy and Versace recently pulled out of the Japanese market.

To add more gloom to the prognosis, British newspaper The Telegraph reported recently that haute couture companies are bracing themselves for a potentially difficult generational change, as the likes of Ralph Lauren, 70, Oscar de la Renta, 77, and Karl Lagerfeld, 71, at Chanel in France prepare to step down.

What will luxury look like in the next decade?

Only time will tell.

This article was first published in Urban, The Straits Times.

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