Style through history: a timeline of Fashion

Yves Saint Laurent 1966 rtw 4 copy

Before the word fashion

Before the word fash­ion exist­ed, clothes were just use­ful, were just a means to do some­thing. They had to last, they have to be able to exe­cute that func­tion per­fect­ly. That was the most impor­tant thing.

But at the same time, since the ages start­ed, the gar­ments were a sym­bol­ic piece of some­one’s life. Spe­cial­ly since the Mid­dle Age, the peo­ple in pow­er have always used clothes as a sym­bol of pow­er, as a reflec­tion of who they are, of what they are rep­re­sent­ing. This sym­bol­ic notion starts get­ting clos­er to what we call today fash­ion.

Hand-crafted art pieces

Those spe­cial clothes were built like a piece of art, like a build­ing, like a per­ma­nent sculp­ture. And a lot of them have passed the test of time and are nowa­days exposed in many muse­ums around the world.

Those his­tor­i­cal pieces would cor­re­spond to the today’s equiv­a­lent of Haute Cou­ture. Arti­sanal pieces made by hand, on demand and adapt­ed exact­ly to the clien­t’s mea­sure­ments and desires.

Fashion is born

Today’s stan­dard was exe­cut­ed per­fect­ly by Charles Worth in the 19th cen­tu­ry, who is con­sid­ered the first cou­turi­er. He received clients from all over Europe and was the first to show­case his cre­ations on real mod­els instead of dolls.

How­ev­er, the indus­try took a new direc­tion in the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry with the intro­duc­tion of Prêt-a-porter or Ready-to-wear. Yves Saint Lau­rent start­ed pro­duc­ing gar­ments in stan­dard sizes start­ing in 1966, mak­ing high fash­ion pos­si­ble to a wider audi­ence.

Today’s industry

Today, the prêt-a-porter indus­try has large­ly diver­si­fied and offers a range of qual­i­ty options, from lux­u­ry to design­er brands. How­ev­er, the sus­tain­abil­i­ty of prêt-a-porter is not with­out chal­lenges. The pri­ma­ry mate­ri­als, the chem­i­cals used, and labor con­di­tions all play a role in deter­min­ing the over­all sus­tain­abil­i­ty of these gar­ments. All the brands we are talk­ing about in Par­a­digme Mode are prêt-a-porter, but not all prêt-a-porter is sus­tain­able.

To deter­mine it, it’s impor­tant to look at the mate­ri­als and the fab­ri­ca­tion meth­ods and coun­tries in the prod­uct. We will give you more tips about it soon.

And to end, it’s time to take a look at the most recent but also the least sus­tain­able form of fash­ion: fast fash­ion. With its big break­out in the 90s with the rise of Zara, its fast-paced pro­duc­tion process, which pri­ori­tis­es speed and prof­it over every­thing else, has had a sig­nif­i­cant impact on the envi­ron­ment and human rights. It has accom­plished in only 25 years to put the fash­ion indus­try as the sec­ond most pol­lut­ing in the world and gen­er­at­ed mil­lions of inequal­i­ties and waste, among addic­tion prob­lems in its con­sumers.

Further reading

Written by David Ferrero
February 24, 2023

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