Kirstie Clements: Fashion’s next wave recaptures that practical Eighties magic

The star-studded Donna Karan relaunch harkens back to the designer's glory days.

The star-studded Donna Karan relaunch harkens back to the designer's glory days. Photo: Donna Karen New York/Annie Leibovitz

I have started to cast an eye over the ‘Fall 2024’ ready-to-wear shows in New York and it appears that there might be a little bit of an ’80s vibe happening.

There are oversize camel cashmere coats at Altuzarra, lots of very ladies-who-lunch taffeta at Caroline Herrera and even a Donna Karan relaunch.

Karan became famous in the 1990s with her idea of a capsule wardrobe for working women, one which was based around the bodysuit.

This stretchy basic was put back with pencil skirts, tailored pants and jackets, city smart coats and silk evening blouses, a foolproof recipe for busy professional women who also had to juggle the demands of a family.

It seemed revolutionary back then – a fashion designer acknowledging that women lived complex lives and needed big, roomy, useful handbags and clothes that went from day to night, and made them feel pulled together and powerful.

 Sensible chic

German designer jil Sander had a similar philosophy, one which acknowledged that women’s lives could be made easier if they were offered fashionable options like chic, unfussy, streamlined pantsuits, lace up brogues and crisp shirts – what the men were wearing really.

Ditto feminist-leaning designers like Giorgio Armani, Helmut Lang and Ann Demeulemeester.


It may not be new, but relaxed, trousers, sweaters and casual coats are welcome. Photo: Tommy Hilfiger

Here in Australia, we had designers such as the late, great Carla Zampatti, who walked that talk, delivering solutions to her loyal customer base – fashion for the office, for the boardroom, for travel, for black tie events.

We had practical options my friends. Now we maybe have too many offerings. There seems to be such a huge amount of fashion around today and so many new designers – a great deal of it designed to go viral on social media rather than serve a useful purpose.

The runways are also not particularly helpful to those of us not trained to ruthlessly edit 70 or 80 different designer exits in order to find wearable, beautiful clothing.

I think a lot of women also got their clues from magazine advertising campaigns in the past. In those big thick editions of the glossy magazines that were at least 45 per cent ads, but gave a great indication of what was going into stores. That doesn’t really exist anymore.

Fashion, it’s more than skin

The scant print advertising that is left is mostly promoting the bread-and-butter stuff – seasonal gimmicky handbags and too-expensive jewellery.

The red carpets are also not giving the general public much help, as the current trend with celebrities and actresses is to show as much skin as possible, from Zendaya to Nicole Kidman.

Beyoncé launched her recent album by dropping a new portrait where she chose not to wear pants.  

I suppose if you are going to take all that Ozempic, you may as well expose maximum skin or more to the point, minimum body fat.

But those really good, pivotal wardrobe pieces are still out there and they are being shown – we just have to look a bit harder.

The recent Tommy Hilfiger Fall 2024 show in New York was a case in point because while it may not break the Internet with its newness, there were some fabulous, relaxed, tailored trousers, sweaters and casual coats that every single one of us would be happy to reach for if they were in our wardrobes.

For those of us who still wish to wear pants, it looks like 2024 might just be our season.

Topics: Fashion
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