A Student Designer's Take on The Summer of Love Experience

The Summer of Love Experience: Art, Fashion, and Rock & Roll highlights the iconic clothing styles of 1967. Styles rarely stand the test of time, but with there has been a resurgence of flower crowns and flowy silhouettes recently, perhaps fashionistas are calling up the past in order to voice similar expressions from half a century ago.

We spoke to young fashion designer at UC Berkeley about her response to the Summer of Love. Grace Jung, 21, is a junior at Cal. When she’s not doing her Economics homework, she’s sewing. Grace is an Assistant Design Director for a fashion design club called Fashion and Student Trends, or FAST, and her four-piece collection, “A Seasonal Bloom,” walked down the runway to an audience of hundreds on Sunday, April 30. The overall theme of the show was: Liberation.

We asked Grace about her thoughts on The Summer of Love Experience, and how she sees the trends of the past coming back today.

Helene Robertson jacket and pants
Helene Robertson, customized “Farah of Texas” jacket, ca. 1960s. Denim jacket with cotton patches and metal studs. Collection of the artist. Pants, ca. 1960s. Silkscreened Levi’s denim jeans. Collection of Helene Robertson

“Being aware of people’s love for nostalgia and romanticizing the past, I wasn’t surprised to see the styles and silhouettes displayed. Bell sleeves, mega flares, patches, landscape inspired pieces, suede, velvet, boho, all things we have picked up and reinvented from the time period,” Grace said.

“I was, however, surprised to see the level of detail and craftsmanship that was put into each piece, something that I strongly believe should be brought back in this age of efficiency and fast fashion. Attention to detail is not our current society’s strong point, but in the 70’s that is something that they mastered. For instance, the embroidery going up the back seam of these jeans, the patchwork and hand sewing on this onesie, the color coordination it took to make this tunic, the stitching details on these flares, the time it must have taken to perfectly knit this sky-inspired maxi dress! Let’s bring it all back!”

Echoes from the Summer of Love are still visible in current trends, Grace said. According to her, the “full out self-expression and maximalism…are driving forces in the fashion world today.” Minimalism still has its moments, she says, but “today’s trends gear towards uniqueness and personal flair, what with the DIY movement and customizable options.”

Embroidered hospital scrub
Embroidered hospital scrub top, ca. 1968. Cotton plain weave with cotton embroidery (billion knots, encroaching satin, fly, running, and satin stitches). Collection of Arthur Leeper and Cynthia Shaver

Grace’s own collection was inspired by the coming of springtime, and how the season positively affects her outlook on life. In her words, the collection is a “celebration of the most full-of-life time of the year.” Using the theme of liberation as a springboard, Grace incorporated silhouettes and styles from the ‘60s and ‘70s into her collection, such flare pants, halter necklines, and floral motifs.

Grace was particularly struck by the shift in 1967 youth culture to return to nature. In her eyes, the artistic and spiritual appeal of the natural world is both timeless and timely. “‘Greenery’ is the pantone color of the year, and I’m expecting to see a lot of nature-inspired fashion to bolster the fight against climate change and encourage people to get off their devices and into the trees,” she said. “Nature is an incredible liberating force of the highest degree– free of preconceptions and judgment – just stripping it down to yourself and the earth you inhabit.”

While 2017 is no 1967, the lasting impact of the Summer of Love on aesthetic, fashion, cultural, and on social change are important to recognize. “Although there is a veil of superficiality within fashion, if done the right way, it can be a powerful agent for changing perspectives and facilitating paradigm shifts,” Grace said. “A great outfit simply can’t be ignored. And it is fact that when you can’t be ignored, people will pay attention and your voice will be heard.”

To see the not-to-be-ignored styles from 1967, visit The Summer of Love Experience: Art, Fashion, and Rock & Roll, at the de Young through August 20.

By Sarah Goldwasser, Spring 2017 Content Development Intern at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.