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FASHION ‘N’ CIRCUS


Index 1. When fashion ran into circus 2. The influence of circus on fashion designers 3. Circus on fashion styling 4. Circus streetstyle looks


1. When fashion ran into circus

Fashion shows of the 1990s based on the circus atmoshphere of melancholy and alienation. The celebrator aspect of the circus was represented in Julien Macdonald’s SS/2000 show, Frock & Roll, staged at London’s Roundhouse in September 1999. Lights were dimmed and the shadows of hanging acrobats from De La Guardia troupe played over the ceiling. What sounded like pattering rain was a cascade of balloons and confetti falling onto the canvas ceiling. The acrobats burst through the ceiling, bungee-jumping, smoke-bombing and trapeze-flying. A member of the audience was swooped on and snatched away into the air, never to return. The show consisted of bubblegum colours, glitter and sparkle, epitomised by Macdonald’s signature knitwear to which for the first time he added leather and suede, lattice-cut and silver-studded, in raimbow colours.

At the show’s finale, the canvas ceiling upon whick balloons, confetti and styroform balls had been resting burst open, showering the audience with its contents. By contrast, Alexander McQueen’s AW/2000-1 show articulated the darker side of the circus and fairground. Staging it on a merry-go-round in front of a Victorian toyshop, McQueen emphasised the sinister side of childhood toys, sampling the voice of the childcatcher from the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in the sound track. The model’s make-up was based on the white clown to produce a mournful and alienated image. In this show, the frightening and strange elements of the circus were made explicit, for example in black-clad model with a golden skeleton dragging at her feet.


Alexander McQueen AW/2000 ESHU Collection


2. The influence of circus on fashion designers

Elsa Schiaparelli, the flamboyant fashion designer of the Art Deco period, is renowned for her fabulous eccentricity and innovation. She changed fashion and people’s attitudes to it with her scandalous dresses and colourful personality. Her legacy of spectacular designs and an entirely innovative approach to fashion design has moulded contemporary fashion and inspired countless fashion designers, including Galliano, McQueen, Gaultier and Yves Saint Laurent.


Her collections and shows most often had themes. One collection was inspired by African iconography; another drew inspiration from sailors’ tattoos, and dresses bore snakes and anchors. Other collections included ‘Musical Instruments’, ‘Butterflies’, ‘The Pagan Collection’, ‘The Astrological Collection’ and ‘The Circus Collection’. Each collection of highly original and often eccentric clothes caused scandal and success - and Schiaparelli became famous.


Elsa Schiaparelli’s circus parade drawings


Gareth Pugh, Spring 09 RTW

Giles, Spring 011 RTW


Luella, Fall 08 RTW

Gareth Pugh, Spring 09 RTW


Jean Paul, AI/06-07


3. Circus on fashion styling


August Bradley Los Angeles, LA


4. Circus streetstyle looks

Tokyo fashion


FASHION ‘N’ CIRCUS


FASHION 'N' CIRCUS