Sunday, March 10, 2013

Retro Response

Dearest Third Cousin,

 This article began with the idea of questioning the term Retro and like all good things evolved and led to more questions about commercial fashion and style. While researching this article I watched Sofia Hedman’s (fashion curator and exhibition designer) closet interview on and was struck by this quote: “It’s not that I’m against the commercial side of Fashion it just that I like things that make me think a little bit more”. I realised that the term Retro had made me stop and think about fashion (admittedly I think about fashion a lot) but this term has really made me question the type of clothing I choose to wear and how this has influenced my personal style. For me trend based fashion rarely makes me think and I have to ask does it really make anybody question or develop their personal style?While we have become accustomed to mass consumption of mass production is this how we should shop? And are these clothing items adding to our personal style or taking away from it? While like Sofia I have no problem with commercial or trend based fashion; I need to feel like a trend fits with my personal style.

Trends are in my opinion indicative of our culture and our need to express ourselves through Fashion. I do not see this as a negative by any means; in fact if trends can feed into and enhance your personal style I think it’s a great thing. What can be negative is when fashion and personal taste are prescribed. Freedom of expression through personal style the motto of is a great way to curate your fashion/style choices. Another interview on Stylelikeu this time with Princess Julia (DJ, writer and artist) suggested that “When you have a personal style you don’t have to follow a trend” this statement again caused me to stop and think. I shop quite often in Vintage/ Charity shops, flea markets and independent boutiques, many of these establishments incorporate retro themes in their identity? How does the term Retro and perhaps by extension Vintage fed into trend based fashion?  Are retro and vintage mutually exclusive or do they complement each other? I approached some lovely people and asked their opinion on the issue of Retro and Vintage in today’s fashion climate and asked them to respond as it pertains to them.

Mary-Joe Murphy owner of Mercury Goes Retrograde Vintage store began her response by detailing her definition of retro:

” For me, the term retro refers to any item from the recent past (ie.the 60s to the 80s). I sell some items of furniture and it is most evident in furniture the difference between antique, vintage and retro. A Georgian table, for instance, is immediately known as an antique, coming from the early 1800s. There then was a dramatic shift in design before the Second World War, the art deco and art nouveau movements of the 20s and 30s, and here, for me, is the beginning of vintage. Retro, is then the simple lines and cheaper materials of the 1960s and 70s.”

Sinead Lally owner of Cotton Face Vintage explains her idea of retro and the popular visual icons that identify retro for her:”

“My vision of retro is funky colourful, playful loud and has its own collective music beats.
Yes it's another cleverly disguised trend in a market that is already over saturated with fads but it works if it's used correctly. I only like to see the word attached to certain things like flares,  60,s dresses  , floral curtains and wallpaper , V.W beetle vans , big sunglasses and things like that , retro used anywhere else or loosely on ones tongue just to actually clarify that they mean vintage doesn't work for me either."

Another aspect of the Retro/Vintage debate is that of “retro style” and “vintage-style” products, which are common in today’s fashion environment. Sinead explains:

“I think with vintage now a day’s people are far more aware of it and know the real deal - most people want the real deal rather than a vintage inspired "copy" from a high street store for nearly double the price!  Everything in the stores right now is vintage inspired and are total copies but really good copies! There are a couple of stores at the moment that have amazing pieces to offer but the price tags are a little high. I buy a lot of vintage being a vintage buyer and I look at their tare and wear before I buy and the craftsmanship that has gone into them is amazing.”

Mary-Joe explains further about this issue:

“My problem lies with the terms "retro style" and "vintage style". Vintage and retro clothing are not only examples of the fashions of particular eras, but they are, more often than not, made of better quality materials than modern clothing and finished better, often being lined and hand sewn. By dressing in vintage and retro clothing one is also not supporting modern day sweat factories or child labour or all of the other abuses that take place in both our social and physical environments in pursuit of money and the latest trends. "Retro Style" is merely an item with a similar neckline or hemline as an original, but with none of the integrity of the original.”
So when Vintage clothing offers so much integrity and quality why do we opt for “Vintage inspired” or “retro style clothing”?
Personal Shopper and Stylist Nastasha Crowley Offers this simple explanation that “ people can still be a bit funny about trying out vintage shops, I think its pre-loved but they just think its pre-worn!”

Sinead also describes how many of the Vintage styles she comes across “are amazing. They had sooo much fun making and designing clothes back then - I mean the stuff I come across is crazy and they used to wear it without a second thought with huge hair!!” Perhaps we just aren’t as adventurous are we used to be? Are we afraid to wear something too “out-there”?
 Natasha I think exemplifies how many women incorporate vintage into their wardrobes she “wouldn’t generally wear head to toe vintage, I might pair a dress from the 60's with a pair of boots from Topshop. I think everyone these days is striving for individuality in the era of fast fashion but then that vintage look can become a uniform. From a personal shopping aspect clients will tell me they like the 50's, 60’s etc. but will want me to recreate that for them on the high street.”
Again we are all striving for individuality but as Sinead describes many of us choose not buy the real deal “some choose not to buy actual vintage because they don't like the thought of wearing second hand or "smelly clothes" I heard this a lot and would opt for the high street version “vintage inspired” instead, that to me is fine and each to their own. I suppose that's where the high street have tapped into, maybe unbeknownst to themselves”
As Natasha said Vintage and high street clothing can be used to create an individual look where does retro fit into this conversation or should it have a place at all?
Freelance writer and Blogger ( Sarah Waldron explains that:” A retro something isn't a genuine artefact, it is bland, impersonal impersonation and pastiche. The word itself leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  It's the kind of word that, if used unironically, will cause the user to squirm with embarrassment at a later date, like reading back in a diary and realising that you really overused the word 'groovy'.  'Retro' and all the ersatz things that it implies will eventually be consigned to the dustbin of outdated buzzwords and, ironically, only then will it become vintage!”

So if retro will become the new vintage, what exactly will be the 2010’s defining style feature be? “Vintage has come in, in a huge way and brought back mostly every era imaginable I don't know if we can look back and think of what style we were wearing in 2010, I’ve often thought of that point, and I don't think 2010 will have an impact like the "retro" years”. I have to agree with Sinead owner of Cotton face vintage. I think our obsession with personal style has led to a break away from one prescribed design style and therefore we may not be able to associate the 2010’s with a particular dress cut (i.e 1950’s swing skirt) or trousers shape(i.e 1970’s flare).
Whichever side of the debate you find yourself on I think we are moving towards an era of conscious consumption and vintage and retro clothing are a part of this. Nastasha brilliantly explains the joy of discovering a great vintage piece “For me vintage is all about the excitement of the rummage, of never knowing what gems you might uncover I once found a stripey blazer in a vintage shop in London with two german pfennings in the pocket. It’s the loveliness of these little finds that attracts me to vintage”.  If rummaging isn't your thing don’t be put off as most vintage stores, in my experience, are small and very easy to navigate. Another great thing about the vintage shopping experience is how personal it is, Mary-Joe (Mercury Goes Retrograde can be found on Drawbridge St right at the back of Dunnes on Patrick street) is always on hand to offer advice to her novice and seasoned customers and online gems such as Cotton face Vintage which can be found on Facebook offer are never but a comment away and the delivery is super-fast too! Other Cork institutions include Miss Daisy Blue which by the time of print should have moved to a new and bigger unit right across the way from its old home and  Turquoise Flamingo always has loads of treats in it's new online store!


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  1. lovely article and well written - enjoyed reading this well done hun xxx


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