THE FASHION EVOLUTION OF
Enduring in their eloquence, the phenomenon of the pearl can almost take your breath away. “Perfected by nature and requiring no art to enhance their beauty, pearls were the earliest gems known to prehistoric man.” (Kunz et al, ‘The Book of the Pearl’). Just to think of their iridescent nature, which allows for a natural luster (or an ‘Orient,’ exceeding all properties created by man), it’s difficult to think of them as anything less than God’s gift to the ocean. Whether admiring their splendor through a renaissance painting or rather having them adorn our skin, their aesthetic significance persists.
For so long, they have served as a symbol of decadence. The earliest pearl finding can be traced back to as far as 420, when a fragment was found in the sarcophagus belonging to Persian royalty. It wasn’t until 1893 that Japanese entrepreneur, Kokicho Mikimoto, discovered how to create cultured pearls, and so the stones were rendered as widely accessible. Ever since, we have seen an immersion of cultural images, where pearls would serve as an emblem of refinement and luxury. Just as Coco Chanel’s 1936 portrait saw strands of pearls draped over her shoulders, pearls were equally present as a vital plot-point in The Great Gatsby. Though, as with most elements within the fashion industry, their cultural significance would, it too, evolve. And we have Alber Elbaz to thank for it. During his 14-year tenure at the helm of French luxury house Lanvin, Elbaz reimagined the stone in lieu of his Fall/Winter 2013 runway. In garnishing layers of grosgrain ribbon with imitation pearls, he piled these over large chains and grand statement necklaces.
With time, the refined lady-like symbolism would soon begin to fade, giving way to new renditions that would embrace the new era. Glenn Martens (whose ethos lies on pushing designs to the extreme) adorned the lobes of his models with enormous pearl-studded spirals for his Y/PROJECT Fall/Winter 2017 show. For Spring/Summer 2018, it was ‘all about baroque pearls in all their irregularly shaped, imperfect glory’. Following this, Sarah Burton turned them into chokers and hung baroque pearls of varying sizes for Alexander McQueen. Phoebe Philo also lent her trademark minimalist touch, with simple mismatched drop earrings for Céline. This year, we feel as though the styling possibilities are endless in relation to the ever-evolving pearl trend. From iridescent ear-cuffs to face jewels, see below for our favorite pearl-inspired stylings, taking cues from vintage books, independent jewelry designers, and runway shows alike.