Giacomo Balla’s 1914 anti-neutral suit, based on the Italian tri-coloured flag, urged men to get out of the mediocrity and boredom of their traditional grey suits, but was also meant to be interpreted as an aggressive invitation to join the war.
Between the two World Wars, Elsa Schiaparelli brought some peace when she ironically borrowed the symbols of the Vatican flag in her collection inspired by heaven, embroidering Saint Peter’s keys on an evening suit (1939) and, a year later, launched a collection inspired by the flags of navy regiments.
After the Second World War broke out, clothes, but also accessories such as scarves and shoes, emblazoned with flags of specific nations involved in the war, were used as patriotic, radical, revolutionary or propaganda symbols.
Emilio Pucci created an iconic collection for the Spring/Summer 1957 season that featured vivid prints of the Palio flags.
A few years later, in the 60s, the Union Jack was transformed into an iconic symbol also thanks to rock musicians, such as John Entwistle and Pete Townshend often portrayed wearing their infamous Union Jack jackets.
Ripped and desecrated by the punk movement, or mixed with other political logos borrowed from different countries that included also symbols of extremist terrorist groups like the Italian Brigate Rosse (Red Brigades), the Union Jack continued to be a fashionable symbol throughout the '70s.
In more recent years, Viktor & Rolf launched instead a ready-to-wear collection (their first one in fact, entitled "Stars & Stripes" - Autumn/Winter 2000-2001), entirely based on the American flag, with stars and stripe designs dedicated to fashionably modern Wonder Women, inspired by their own desire to become one day a big global brand.
Sportswear obviously contributed to reinforce the flag trend: a while back Nike launched the S.P.L.I.T., a flag jacket with a zipper that ran down the front and back and allowed to split the item in two, exchanging the panels of the jacket.
The trick allowed to create hybrid flags and re-launched in this way the concept of a fashionable brotherhood characterised by no boundaries and a mix of colourful flags à la United Colours of Benetton (circa 1985).
Flags from real countries, nations in political turmoil or fantastic and unreal places continue to be popular in fashion as it was also proved by last week’s catwalk show by Tokuko Maeda at Tokyo Fashion Week.
The Japanese designer, founder of the Tokuko 1erVol (Premier Vol – meaning ‘The first mail from Tokuko’) brand, who is currently living and working in France, is famous for creating clothes that, thanks to their vivid clash of prints and colours, bring a positive and happy smile to people’s faces.
At the Ebisu Garden
Place, Tokuko sent down the runway, decorated for the occasion with a collage of brightly coloured fictitious flags, a series of designs inspired by flags and by the countries she travelled through.
So, while there were some traditional and almost folk inspirations behind the Pinocchio prints, the crocheted elements, lace inserts, appliquéd flowers and embroideries that seemed to mix Russian doll inspirations with Parisian elegance, the emphasis was definitely on fictitious flags.
Pucci’s Palio collection reappeared in the geometrical quilt-like elements that formed fabric hexagons in black, white, grey, electric blue and aqua and petroleum green on tops and dresses.
Coat of arms were used to decorate bi-coloured tunics and dresses that called to mind the flag-wavers’ costumes, while figures that looked like crossovers between Medieval minstrels carrying flags and flag-wavers populated the prints used for leggings, skirts and tops.
Even the catwalk finale with the models carrying colourful flags seemed to be a vision out of Emilio Pucci’s Palio collection, and reconfirmed that, in contemporary fashion, the joyful colours of flags - especially fictitious ones - are often used to erase differences between nations, spreading an optimistic vision of a radiantly happy and blissfully peaceful world.
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