Flower Power

  The late 60’s/early 70’s must have been a wonderful time to be alive. If not just for the bell bottoms and copious amounts of fringe (both of which are having a moment on the Summer runway), for the social and political movements that were happening across the world. Flower power was the term used to describe the peaceful protests against the Vietnam War, in which Flower Children handed out flowers, balloons, toys or even candy to policemen, press and politicians. Allen Ginsberg originated the idea and used it to change war protests into peaceful street theater in contrast to the violent actions of the Hells Angels gang, who supported the war. Embroidered with florals and peace signs the flower children became symbols of the counterculture and “hippy” movement, unrestrained by societal norms and expectations. 

  The way the flower children dressed defined their ideals and beliefs, and cemented their status in pop culture history, but can fashion truly be used to make political and social statements? We’ve been experiencing a resurgence in such matters, in line with current events, with feminist protests staged on the runway at Chanel, consumerism commentary at Christopher Shannon, and marriage freedom at Betsey Johnson. Vivienne Westwood is another designer who frequently uses her shows to convey her humanitarian and eco-friendly values. The use of fashion as a symbol of protest can’t be disputed, from the Chanel use of jersey to free women of literal restraints, to trousers becoming one of the primary symbols of the women’s rights movement. What is interesting is the use of fashion to protest itself; Prada regularly mocks the ideas of traditional beauty set by her contemporaries and prefers an ugly chic aesthetic. The unrealistic beauty and youth standards set by Vogue Covers and Victoria’s Secret models were even commented on just last week, at the Undercover show in Paris, where models wore plastic face masks emulating those who had had extensive plastic surgery. The best fashions shows, in my opinion, are those that go beyond the clothing and use imagination and art to provoke thought and emotion. 

  In fact, it is difficult to see any movement without its associated sense of style, the most apparent being punk. Punk politics aside, the movement is mostly associated with individual freedom and anti-establishment rules (in some ways, much like Flower Power). Herein lies an example where the industry was inspired by a movement while also defining it. Originally, punk was all about the DIY aesthetic, the safety pins holding together ripped jeans and spray-painted leather jackets, but from it sprang thousands of collections ranging from McQueen to Westwood, who lauded the style and frequently incorporated it. Even the Metropolitan Museum of Art hosted an exhibit inspired by punk titled “PUNK: Chaos to Couture” that examined the hardware, destruction and re-purposing of clothing. Punk is a defining social movement, but it wouldn’t have had as much of an impression without the clothing, in my opinion. Clothing can be used to define our personalities and opinions, which is what makes it so interesting, and a spectacle within itself. It doesn’t matter if you’re a flower child or a punk rocker, use your style to shout out who you are and you’ll always be on trend. 

Shirt from Uniqlo
Trousers from Topman
Boots from Dr Martens
Sunglasses from Ebay