With the rippling brims of Givenchy’s millinery and Moschino’s pearl charms, accessories took the spotlight of Fashion week 2020.
Beyond their obvious practical function, belts, bags, hats and scarves all have a power. With a few simple touches they can tie disparate pieces together, dress a simple look up or cut through sombre tones with a splash of colour.
Accessories are often depreciated, regarded as the “useful extra” of Fashion clothing. Yet, the industry tells us different; look on the runways, flick through the pages of any fashion publication and you will be surprised to see as many purses, jewellery, sunglasses as they are garments. Unbeknown to many, some of the country’s leading art schools, UAL included, offer undergraduate degrees solely in fashion accessory design.
The importance of accessorizing goes far beyond aesthetic enhancement and practicality. Accessories offer a window of expression amidst clothing restrictions and expectations, particularly in a working environment. In the sharply cut world of business dress, a pair of earrings and a necklace are means of self-adornment just as much as they allow for personal distinction. I remember (with some embarrassment) agonizing over different school bags every September before the start of each term. I was conscious that, amidst the bleak swathes of grey and white uniforms, this was my only chance for self-expression, my way to stand out.
Furthermore, accessorizing allows us to be allusive and subtly echo of different styles and epoch. A recent trend brought back the headband of the 60s, in the winter, Roman coin and Egyptian jewelry injected a hint of the glitter of decayed empires into our daily outfits. Because of its tempered nature, accessorizing offers a unique degree of creative freedom. With accessories, extravagance is bold and not wild and we take more risks than we would with a top or pair of trousers.
Moschino’s gorgeously opulent Autumn/ Winter 2020 show was among the most memorable of the Milan runways. It daringly featured a black leather jacket with paniers: think Marie Antoinette meets biker. More strikingly, a pearl belt which spelled out “Moschino” was draped around the model’s hips. On top, dangling earrings; one a peace sign and the other a capital M. Here, audacious accessories allowed to create a new level meaning.
In popular culture, brand signatures tend to be accessories rather than garments: Louis Vuitton’s flocked bags, Gucci’s adorned belts and Hermes’ Birkins are the most iconic examples. They have become a matter of status and lifestyle, featuring in rap music as much as they do on magazine covers. Indeed, accessories offer an accessible path to the lavish world of high fashion. Vivienne Westwood’s signature orb earrings is far more feasible than a garment and easily conjugates with a wardrobe of high-street brands.
Accessories bring fantasy into our daily lives, in a way that clothing cannot do so easily. On the 2020 runways the power of accessorizing was duly acknowledged.