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BOHEMIANISM: A STYLISH LEGACY

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Bohemian style, with its free-flowing, breezy and eclectic aesthetic, has long been more than just a fashion choice. Though popularised by many designers throughout history, cementing its place in the fashion hall of fame and making it a recurring trend throughout the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries, its meaningful roots in political rebellion and a poetic outlook on life are what has made it a point of inspiration.

This season is no exception, with the likes of Alberta Ferretti, Coach, Roberto Cavalli and Temperley London embracing gypsy dresses, folk prints, ponchos, patchwork and waistcoats in their spring/summer 2017 collections. While we progress through turbulent times, it’s no wonder that some of our favourite labels are reviving the look, which places importance on living the simple life.

Apr 1st 2017
Fashion

The original ‘bohemians’ were a post-French Revolution subculture, largely made up of artists, musicians and poets, who rejected the bourgeois ways of their peers who had worked for the court. Choosing instead to dress in threadbare ‘peasant’ clothing and outdated medieval styles, they also launched the Romantic art movement that favoured freedom of expression over technical accuracy. Many compared their look to that of the Roma travelling community, who were believed at one time to have come from Bohemia (in the present-day Czech Republic), giving rise to their name.

THE INFLUENCE OF KLIMT & FLÖGE
The bohemian style was kept alive by the artist community over the next century, most notably the Pre-Raphaelites of the mid-19th century – whose romantic and often tragic female muses remain icons for the movement – and later artist Gustav Klimt through his relationship with Austrian fashion designer Emilie Flöge.

Flöge owned a haute couture salon that was well known among Vienna’s society circles. However, her personal style was much more diverse, focusing on the new feminist ideals of comfortable clothing that offered more movement than the rigid corsetry of the time. While the designs she made for herself weren’t commercially successful, she became one of the first designers to create clothing in the bohemian aesthetic. These were beautifully captured in the work of Klimt, her lifelong companion and rumoured lover. Klimt’s 1902 Portrait of Emilie Flöge depicts her in a full-length blue dress with an exotic repeat pattern, and she is thought to have dressed Adele Bloch-Bauer for Klimt’s now famous Woman in Gold painting. Some also believe that his magnum opus, The Kiss, is a self-portrait of the artist with Flöge, wrapped in swathes of patchwork fabric.

THE RISE OF BOHO CHIC
Meanwhile, in Paris, Paul Poiret was revolutionising the stiff and constricting dresses women wore in favour of Grecian drapes, exotic kimonos and his influential ‘jupe cullote’ (harem skirt). His designs had a resounding impact on women who loved the relaxed shape that emancipated them from restrictive dressing and lifestyles. As well as Poiret’s impact on popularising the bohemian silhouette, he also favoured bright colours and patterns inspired by the Fauvism art movement, another signature of the style, which was noticeably present at Temperley London’s SS17 show.
Though Poiret furthered a more free-spirited fashion, two world wars called for plainer, less fabric-demanding dressing, and it wasn’t until the late 1960s that the boho trend would take off again.

This time, though, it was with more vigour than ever before. The hippy movement, embracing ideals of feminism, nonconformity and arts and crafts, drew style inspiration from the original French bohemian misfits to embody its philosophy. Though a grassroots movement, many designers and celebrities embraced these ideals too, and incorporated them into their work, giving the boho trend widespread appeal. Embracing Eastern cultures was a way for people to reject the capitalist ideology of the West and sympathise with a more spiritual way of life. Both Ossie Clark and Yves Saint Laurent spent time in Morocco and created collections that drew on the culture’s loose-fitting robes and decorative interiors. The Beatles’ trips to India sparked the trend for yoga and kurtas, and London’s Portobello Road became a magnet for design houses looking to source exotic antiques and textiles to use as inspiration.

THE NEW BOHEMIANS
No one embraced this more than fashion designer Thea Porter, the ‘queen of boho chic’. Having spent her childhood in Jerusalem, Damascus and Syria before heading to Beirut in the late 1950s, she incorporated Middle Eastern motifs into her designs to create original pieces, and is credited with bringing the kaftan into popular wear. She dressed many of the most famous stars of her day, including Elizabeth Taylor, Faye Dunaway and Barbra Streisand, which made boho styles one of the biggest trends of the 1970s. The new bohemians were also concerned about the rise of mass-manufactured clothing, synthetic materials and the death of artisanal crafts.

Designer Bill Gibb, the son of a Scottish farmer, turned his passion for his homeland’s native skills into a much-celebrated business that resonated with the industry. Fair Isle knits using Scottish wool were his signature, layered over floating maxi dresses with medieval-inspired lacing and rope cords. His commitment to British history won him many awards, including Vogue Designer of the Year in 1970. In the cycle of economics, politics and fashion, it’s no wonder that boho style is back in vogue.

Following the excess of the early Noughties’ ‘logo mania’ and the over-production of cheap, ‘Made in China’ fashion, we are looking once more to la vie bohème. We’re embracing the artisanal over the mass-produced, the poetry of nature over the destruction of our surroundings, and the revival of the traditional over the constant demand for the new. Peter Dundas, the former creative director of Roberto Cavalli, described his spring/summer 2017 woman as “a rock goddess and a summer traveller” – a modern-day Janis Joplin, if you will. Meanwhile, Charlotte Olympia’s wicker bags embraced nature and heritage craft, while Coach put the subversive origins back into boho this season by pairing sheer, floral prairie dresses with fringed leather waistcoats. Though appearing in many eras, many places and for many reasons, the bohemian way of life has always resonated for its love of art, travel, handcraft and music, and embracing beauty as a way of life.

www.albertaferretti.comuk.coach.com 
www.robertocavalli.com | www.temperleylondon.com
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