Some of the choices for spring are a car coat and a loose pantsuit, which Simons recut in cotton twill “to give it a new and crisp touch.” Double-breasted jackets, three-button jackets and haberdashery pants are recurrent styles from the late Eighties and Nineties that Simons relates to, applying small modifications to cut and fabric, as he puts it, “to bring them into the 21st century, as we did not want to have a vintage feeling for the Iconic capsule.”
Observers credit the long-running vintage trend in fashion—which was amped up when Julia Roberts collected a best actress Oscar while wearing vintage Valentino in 2001—for the rash of re-editions from fashion and accessories firms. For Azzaro designer Vanessa Seward, reissuing a key but forgotten style by the late Loris Azzaro—the three-ring jersey dress with circular cutouts—was the springboard to rejuvenating the Paris house in 2004, which is a kind of French Halston. “I loved, loved, loved the dresses he had done in the Seventies,” says Seward, her dark glossy curls moving as she talks. “Now it’s practically a logo.” Seward herself has a closet loaded with choice vintage pieces by Yves Saint Laurent, Ossie Clark and Geoffrey Beene. “I think people like to have a story behind their clothes,” she says with a shrug, noting that Brigitte Bardot and Marisa Berenson are two of the famous women who have worn Azzaro in the past.
Ghesquière agrees that the red-carpet impact of yore must be reassuring for women today. “If it was already worn by Marlene Dietrich or Grace Kelly, it must be right,” he deadpans. “They have the feeling they’re buying something timeless.”
While it might seem that it would be simple to re-create designs from the past, realizing them can be a headache. “It seems very easy, but actually it’s an enormous challenge,” says Laudomia Pucci, image director at Emilio Pucci, which marked its 60th anniversary in 2007 and chose the milestone to launch its Vintage Classics collection. “There’s a lot of technical work that goes into it.”
Pucci contacted old fabric mills that once supplied the Florentine house and mimicked her late father’s techniques for placing his signature prints, then called in a retired seamstress to demonstrate how to position them. The reproductions also include the constricting armholes and narrow shoulders of yesteryear. Indeed, in 2001 when the firm reproduced a Marilyn Monroe look—a blouse and capris—“the pants were so tight around the calves, some clients couldn’t put their feet through,” the designer says. “But if it was different, it wouldn’t have been the real thing. I think that’s one of the reasons girls find it fashionable, because the proportions are a little distorted. The idea of having real vintage collections, not only vintage-inspired, makes it really unique. It gives you a taste of what you can’t find today.”