The spirit of the Lower East Side of Manhattan is embodied in the different nationalities and cultures that reside there, coming together in the same locale to seek new opportunities. People from all over the world have been arriving there since the 19th century, which has deeply affected the area, and imbued the streets with a special aura. Traditionally an immigrant, working-class neighbourhood, the LES developed into an area of creative freedom and open-mindedness. The area has an inspirational and memorable history as the result of a magnificent art scene and all the different cultures coming together, which you can feel when exploring the streets, architecture and society of the people living in the LES.
In the early 1940s the residents of the LES benefitted from the newly expanded public subway system in NYC. Multiple train companies gathered and made the subway resemble what it is today, an unrivalled offering of a greater mobility to New Yorkers. During the 1940s, New York City con- tinued its development into becoming a culturally international city, with boroughs like the LES acting as hubs for the intellectual, musical and artistic European refugees that started arriving in the late Thirties.
Even on the subways of NYC, a mix of utility wear and glamorous attire could be seen on travellers. Bright and colourful suits, ties and hats were commonplace in public spaces. Even though a more practical aesthetic dominated, there was still room for sleeker, elegant cuts of clothing and expensive suits to be worn in the office. There was an honest freedom quite separate from the traditionalist style of Paris, that older icon of fashion, and a less cautious style of clothing. The NYC look could be reduced down to a great simplicity, one that was partly demanded by wartime fabric shortages and the work available at that time.
Until the 1960s, the Lower East Side and the East Village were one and the same neighbourhood, but when the hippies, musicians and artists moved into the East Village, the demographic difference became so large that they were very quickly considered separate neighbourhoods. This caused a huge cultural diffusion in the world’s capital city. 1960s fashion was a contrast to the conservative ‘50s, which despite innovations in colours and styles, still retained the classic designs of previous decades. A new beginning was established in the Sixties with fashion offering more alternative and arresting styles, often executed in a blend of bright, swirling colours.
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Later, in the 1980s, the Lower East Side began to attract students, musicians and artists who transformed Lower Manhattan into a hub of experimental art. These young people were enticed by the opportunities to express themselves through art and music. The LES had entered a period of new energy, giving birth to several cultural phenomena including hip hop, punk, graffiti and disco and the avantgarde ‘no wave’ scene.
The styles of clothing were also innovative, combining unconventional designs with subdued colours and blocky shapes. Eighties fashion was a blend of multiple different styles, either borrowed from history or resembling some imagined future. A snug and comfortable fit made out of soft fabrics was popular, where clothes were tight compared to today, although not as skin-tight as those of the Seventies. In the Eighties more technical materials also appeared on the fashion scene, which opened up whole new worlds of design possibilities.
In the ‘90s the LES experienced another significantly transformation, with new initiatives to gentrify and clean up the area establishing taller buildings, subways, parks and highways. It began when New York University started to buy up properties and artists took a liking to the new, improved area. This marked a return to the more minimalistic fashion that came to widely define the 1990s style, embodied in a looser, more relaxed fit, tapered pants and a simple combination of muted colours. Grunge and hip-hop style dominated the streets of NYC in the early ‘90s, however later in the decade a more glamorous and over-the-top look ruled as a result of rave culture. Interestingly enough, clothing styles from the late ‘90s are not drastically different from those of today.
One of the significant trends of the 90s was an intentional lack of fit and tailoring, people wearing wrong sizes or shapes not designed the person wearing it. This can especially be seen in the trend for the ill-fitting vertical block stripe shirt. They were usually in bold colours and would be acceptable today if they were a bit more tailored. Almost every brand had their own interpretation of the striped shirt, which substantiated and authenticated the great trending success of the clothing item.
In this collection we have picked some of the LES trends described here from the 1940s, ‘60s, ‘80s, and ended up in the ‘90s where the main inspira- tion comes from. This has made it possible for us to create a unique collection where we have used the creative way of picking trends that is characteristic of that area of New York.