By Barbara Vinken

Although it is appealing to think that fashion has taken a sharp turn away from conventions established in the industry over the past century and more, is this really the case? Or are ‘pioneering’ designs simply part of a cyclical revival of forgotten fashions? Looking at some of the most influential designers of the twentieth century, Barbara Vinken considers the politics and philosophies that have been the driving forces directing their sense of style. She describes ‘Fashion Zeitgeist’ as a trend characterized by representations of traces of the past. She considers the key concepts behind designers such as Yamamoto, Gaultier and Lagerfeld. The originality of Yamamoto’s multi-layered look stems from his philosophy that it is the individual sum of experience that is important, not the collective consequences of history. Martin Margiela, although he himself refuses to be photographed or appear in the public eye, brings new individuality into fashion. Chanel, under the direction of Karl Lagerfeld, is viewed as the only fashion house to have remained fresh after 100 years, yet is this success essentially proof of the self-referential qualities fashion has adopted? What inspired the fetish for labels at the end of the twentieth century? Answering these questions and many more, this concise and thought-provoking book shows how beauty, gender, sexuality, commerce and dandyism have persisted in defining the fashion system.

Barbara Vinken (born 1960 in Hanover, Germany) is Professor of Romance Languages and Comparative Literature at Munich University. Her books include Die deutsche Mutter. Der lange Schatten eines Mythos (The German Mother: The Long Shadow of a Myth, 2011) and Eine Legende der Moderne. Flauberts einfaches Herz (A Legend of Modernity: Flaubert’s Simple Heart, 2009). Her latest book (Dressed: The Secret of Fashion) is published by Klett-Cotta Verlag in September 2013.