Sixties Fashion Returns: The Agelessness of Aquarius

As the Youthquake look swings back into play with fall's most influential (and timeless) collections, the question is: Did the '60s ever really go away?

ANTICIPATION HUNG THICK as 40-ply cashmere just before the Louis Vuitton fall fashion show in March. It was the debut collection from Nicolas Ghesquière, one of the industry's most innovative and influential designers, who had been absent from the runway for over a year since leaving his post at Balenciaga. The show space—serenely minimal and gray with metal-shuttered glass walls—betrayed few clues.
But as the shutters smoothly opened to let in the Parisian morning sunlight and the first look appeared, the tone was immediately set. You could almost hear an audible click in the fashion hive mind. Aha. The '60s.
The reference was clear. Wearing a wide-collared leather coat over a swingy cream minidress and black knee-high boots, model Freja Beha could have been French singer and style icon Françoise Hardy reborn. (Ms. Beha's Hardy-esque brown hair and bangs nicely completed the vision.) And though Mr. Ghesquière's well-received show was far from a straight-up retro redux—surely an A-line knit dress circa 1967 was never embellished with a swirl of feather-like paillettes—his nod in that direction was unmistakable.
A 1960s storm has been brewing of late in fashion. Early signs appeared in the nip-waisted minidresses and high-necked gowns that Valentino's been showing for the past few seasons. This fall, Gucci designer Frida Giannini recast the British dolly-bird look with an Italian eye for luxury and a refreshed millennial color palette. Think a double-breasted mint-green angora martingale coat over sky-blue leather pegged pants and matching python Chelsea boots. Meanwhile, Saint Laurent designer Hedi Slimane, ever a maestro of making retro relevant, mined Carnaby Street for his fall collection, resulting in leggy, rocker-chick dresses and cool school-girlish capes. The collection would have made an ideal wardrobe for Edie Sedgwick, Marianne Faithfull and Nico—and is now fit for modern-day counterparts like platinum-maned Slimane muse Sky Ferreira.