There have been countless moments throughout history when fashion has been a signifier of change: From the eradication of the corset and the sexual liberation of the minidress to the power suits of the 1980s, it has a unique power to speak to both the political and cultural shifts that are occurring at any given moment.
The Roaring Twenties has got to be up there in the fashion hall of fame when it comes to clothing's symbolic power. Broadly considered a period of economic prosperity that spread after the desolation of World War One, it was a decade that saw an explosion of innovation within the world of art, culture and style. Hemlines rose, waistlines were relaxed and hair was bobbed; the flapper was even a symbol of women's liberation from traditional Victorian ideals.
Phil Taylor for Who What Wear
Jump forward 100 years, and the fashion industry is experiencing a second Roaring Twenties of sorts. While a global pandemic is a totally different historical event to a world war, it can't be denied that life as we knew it was turned on its head over the course of 2020, and now, as rules are finally eased, there is a definite sense of optimism that can be seen in the work of up-and-coming fashion designers. Plus, if the streets of Soho are anything to go by, for many people fashion has become a way to usher in the start of their post-lockdown lives.
"Historically there has always been a trend for embracing fashion following times of uncertainty. We see fashion and self-expression as a way of bringing joy and this has been reflected in the trend for bright colourful pieces that has come through from the runway," says Liane Wiggins, Head of Womenswear Buying at MatchesFashion.
"We saw an explosion of colour and print from hot pink Thebe Magugu suits and eye-catching patterned sets from Lisa Folawiyo as designers look to bring joy through their collections. We know our customer is excited to dress up and have fun with fashion again and we continue to see traction towards emotive pieces which can lift your mood. There is a strong sense of optimism which is a welcome contrast to how we have been living during the pandemic."
It's the optimism of young design talent that is leading the way in the Roaring Twenties 2.0, introducing pieces to the fashion market that is full life communicated via rich colour, unexpected prints, decadent fabrics and, in many cases, a distinctive acknowledgement of cultural heritage. So, who should we be looking out for in the 2020s? I've hand-picked five brands that epitomise that particular sense of joie de vivre that we all need right now. From 16Arlington to Bea Bongiasca, scroll down to see and shop the names to know now.
Phil Taylor for Who What Wear
Founded in 2017 by Federica Cavenati and Marco Capaldo, 16Arlington was named after the brand's first studio in London, and it has since become a byword for fashion girl party-wear. Mixing Cavenati's love for Scandi-inspired minimalism and Capaldo's penchant for Italianesque exuberance, the resulting designs are feather-trimmed tailoring and decadent fabrics that have enticed the likes of Kendall Jenner and Chrissy Teigen.
Winner of the 2012 Africa Fashion Award and included in the Business of Fashion’s 2015 Business of Fashion 500 list, Lisa Folawiyo is certainly a fashion designer to watch. Launching her brand in 2005, Nigerian-born Folawiyo fuses traditional African aesthetics and Ankara (a batik-inspired wax-resist West African fabric) with contemporary silhouettes to create dresses, shirts, skirts and more than are truly distinctive.
Based in Johannesburg, Thebe Magugu is one of the names included in MatchesFashion's coveted Innovators Programme, which supports pioneering talent. Inspired by Magugu's South African heritage, the brand creates its collections in collaboration with local suppliers, artisans and factories and are packed full of vibrant prints and dramatic silhouettes. If that wasn't enough, the brand was also awarded the prestigious LVMH prize in 2019 and has recently been spotted on pop royalty Miley Cyrus. Casual.
If you're looking for partywear with plenty of old school Hollywood glamour, allow me to point you in the direction of Taller Marmo. Fusing luxurious fabric with a '70-inspired spirit, the brand is all about updating the traditional kaftan silhouette with decadent draping and statement-making trims, which mirror the styles worn by the likes of Elizabeth Taylor and Sophia Loren.
In a market dominated by less-is-less minimalist jewellery, Bea Bongiasca is a breath of fresh air. Immediately recognisable by its rainbow hues, organic shapes and enamel finishes, this is a collection that is bringing personality back to the world of fine jewellery. Describing her work as 'wearable art', Bongiasca showed her first collection at Milan Fashion Week in 2014 followed by a showcase Art Basel in Miami and has since been worn by names such as Gemma Chan, Megan Fox and Kim Kardashian.