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Which clothes define the decade?

Your white sneakers are about to get heritage-listed

By Felicity Robinson

Dressing for a 1970s-themed party is easy, which is one of the reasons there are so many of them (that, and having a legitimate reason to play Dancing Queen). You just pull on a pair of bell bottoms, a jumpsuit or some Elton-style sunnies and you’re ready to go. Same for an ’80s party – it’s shoulder pads, the wider the better, or ra-ra skirts and fluoro tees. Even the ’90s are pretty simple to recreate, given most of the key trends – high-waisted jeans, bum-bags – are already having a moment.

But if you’re unfortunate enough to be invited to a 2010s-themed party (as this year is, alarmingly, the end of the decade), you may find it a lot more difficult to choose an outfit. After all, this is the era when fashion truly went global – the first time in history when you could buy any item from anywhere in the world, and have it delivered within days to your front door.

“This decade has been so frenetic in terms of the pace of change delivered by digital,” says Dr Ricarda Bigolin, Associate Dean, Fashion & Textiles Design at RMIT. “Social media, online stores, big shopping sites have changed how we interact and engage with fashion. It’s really difficult to get a clear view.”

But we can try.



First up, in an early bid to sum up the last 10 years, London fashion editor Jess Cartner-Morley has declared the dominance of the white sneaker. “The white trainer unites sportswear giants with niche brands, crosses from menswear to womenswear,” she wrote last month. “It connects the young with school-run mums, first ladies with rap stars, style obsessives with utilitarian dressers. And it defies burnout: white sneaker sales are booming.”

She’s right: most women have a white sneaker (or two, or 10) in their wardrobe, because they go with pretty much anything. For Bigolin, the rise of the all-purpose sneaker also points to one of the key trends of the decade: the moment that street style became luxe. “Sneakers like the adidas Stan Smith were once worn by the hip-hop community, but now they have been reinvented to become high fashion. If you look at collections from Balenciaga, Gucci – they’re alluding to streetstyle genres, including the white sneaker.”

In fact, Gucci’s Spring/Summer Collection 2019 takes this streetstyle trend next-level with its new Screener sneaker, an old-school shoe that comes worn-in and stylishly grubby – just like those at the back of your closet.

Gucci's Screener - saving you the bother of scuffing it up yourself

But if sneakers are the shoe of the decade, what else will you be wearing at your 2010s party? “Athleisure,” says stylist Aileen Marr, along with every other stylist we interviewed. “It has become its own fashion category, whether luxe, worn for everyday wear, or even for working out in.” Interestingly, Bigolin suggests athleisure is the natural heir to the Herve Leger bandage dress so beloved of ‘It’ girls in the ’90s and Noughties. “It illustrates the importance of the body as a fashion accessory,” she says. “Social media stars, women like Kim Kardashian – they’re showing that clothing isn’t as important as their bodies.”

By extension, she argues, when women wear athleisure as daywear they in turn are signalling their affluence. “You are able to display wealth by maintaining an amazing body – you have the means to go to a pilates or yoga class, and you have the privilege to do that.” All while remaining warm and comfy, too.

Athleisure illustrates the importance of the body as a fashion accessory

Speaking of that, Bigolin’s chosen party outfit would have to include an over-sized coat, cashmere and very expensive. “In my dream scenario, I’d be wearing Celine,” she says. “Who wouldn’t? It’s timeless, beautiful clothing, and Phoebe Philo was really responsible for redefining luxury in that way.”

As the end of the decade nears, both Bigolin and Marr comment that while fast fashion, from brands like H&M and Topshop, burst on to the scene at the start of the 2010s, now the prevailing winds tend towards sustainability and considered purchasing.

“The millennial customer is keen on brands that are socially and ethically aware,” adds Bigolin. “The resale clothing market – through companies like Vestiaire and The RealReal – is seen to be a major trend that will continue. Our fashion design students are designing differently because of this, whether through reusable material or designing ways to reuse garments. They’re looking at fashion in a very different way.”

Fast fashion: the expert take on the 2010s

We asked three of our favourite fashion stylists – Tara Morris, Lill Jenner and Aileen Marr – for their view

What have been the key trends of the 2010s?

Tara: I feel like it was the decade of EVERYTHING, where you could find your groove in pretty much any trend because there were so many going around at the same time. Oh, and lots of man-repelling: ugly sneakers, big voluminous sleeves, logo mania.

Lill: Athleisure. ’90s revival. Sneakers with everything!!

Aileen: Jumpsuits and overalls as wardrobe staples. Athleisure. Multi-pierced ears. One-piece swimsuits. Bucket hats. Androgynous dressing – Hedi Slimane started it, and Gucci hit the mark.

Are there any designers who have captured the mood of the decade?

Tara: Celine. Until the very last year when Phoebe Philo left.

Lill: For me, it would have to be the old Celine. It showcased the best of the decade. Sophisticated and elevated yet wearable.

Aileen: Hands down, Phoebe Philo. The silhouette she introduced was ground-breaking; the style, timeless. Even if you couldn’t afford ready-to-wear, owning a Celine handbag, shoes or sunglasses always drew attention and made you feel ‘expensive’.

What will we be wearing next?

Aileen: More considered fashion. Consumers are becoming more conscious of how are clothes are made. Brands are also starting to really think about sustainability and better practices. It would be amazing if we could introduce a ‘standards’ logo that would help consumers identify brands that pursue better sustainability practices.

Tara: I think our sneakers won’t be so dad-like. We’ll be more refined and thoughtful about our choices. And hopefully we’ll understand less is more?

Lill: More clothing rental platforms; more sustainable brands as well as vintage stores becoming part of how we dress. We’ll be mixing high/low and vintage, which will make for more eclectic trends.



BY Felicity Robinson

Felicity is the co-founder of Primer and owns four pairs of white sneakers

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