Where Were You for the Big Bang? The Palais Galliera Considers the Pivotal Fashion Year of 1997
In 1995 and 1996, everyone said that haute couture was finished. It annoyed everyone because many of the collections were only for clients. There were no more exciting proposals. It was very classic. Saint Laurent was producing, but it was very boring for people and for the young generation in the fashion industry. They wanted excitement, a renewal. But that spring/summer season is also very important in history because we witnessed a 30% increase in press accreditations, which is exceptional. This was the beginning of fashion in pop culture. It was shown on CNN, on the news.
There’s the notion of the exception proving the rule. Did you also expect things that were contrasting or that were exceptions?
Plenty! What is interesting is to compare the journalists’ feelings at the time. We are not fortune tellers. We comment on fashion. Sometimes people miss something. We didn’t understand the extent; we didn’t feel it. It’s funny to see the lack of understanding by journalists, and on the contrary it’s very intriguing to see those who underlined that something very, very serious, very important was happening. For example, a journalist with The Guardian at the time of the Versace assassination marked 1997 as the fashion turning point for the 21st century. And when I read that, it gave credit to my theory.
We take for granted that Louis Vuitton is a ready-to-wear house. But this wasn’t the case until 1997.
On January 7, 1997, Marc Jacobs was appointed to Louis Vuitton. The parallel is interesting. Tom Ford had arrived at Gucci, an American in an Italian house, relaunching everything from scratch. Here an American is appointed to a leather-goods company that does not make clothes. As Marc Jacobs will have his first show in March 1998, the idea is to show the steps, the creative processes, the drawings of the first looks he will present in 1998, and the first bag, which will be the only bag in the show. He does something very minimalist, and it’s interesting to look at it today with hindsight.
There’s a side gallery that groups together Colette—essentially the birth of the concept store—the iMac, and the Fendi Baguette. What is the significance here?
Colette opened on March 18. The iMac was developed in 1997, released in 1998. The fashion industry is the first to fully embrace the internet. There was no e-commerce yet, even if you see signs of e-commerce development. But Colette had its own website from the beginning, which it kept developing. Here we include the modem ringtone, which might be a discovery for the younger generations. March 1997 also marked the release of the Baguette, which went completely unnoticed at the fashion show. And it’s really something that takes shape afterwards. But it is considered the first It bag in history. Its marketing strategy will be copied by all the brands. It was available at Colette, and there was a waiting list. Even if there were waiting lists for the Hermès Kelly, a phenomenon like this had never happened before. Girls of all ages wanted a Baguette. Sex and the City was shot in June 1997, and it was in the earliest episodes. You see the stars are aligning. It’s still one of the best-selling bags in the world.
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