It is only right that a fashion house which would become synonymous with the thoroughbred glamour of the supermodel age should have been named after a race horse. Founded in 1978 in Munich by husband and wife team Wolfgang Ley and Ex model Swede Margaretha Ley, the vintage Escada lines are built on strong foundations and a strong fan base throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s. In fact, by Margaretha’s early death in 1992, they had built an empire of 140 boutiques worldwide and were sold in over 1,200 department stores. Escada calls the Ley’s founding principles the ‘democratization’ of elite Haute Couture.’ Today, the brand still captures attention and immediately calls to mind femininity and elegance, both in its contemporary pieces and delving back into the rich archive of vintage Escada.
It was Margaretha’s design vision which captured their customer’s attention. The company stood out with its distinctive use of colour featuring unusual combinations of patterns, exclusive embroidery, and elaborately designed knitwear. From skirts and jackets to leather goods, the brand perfectly aligned themselves with optimistic 80s cocktail glamour. Ley didn’t rely on gimmicks or signature traits in her designs but rather moved with her customer with unfailing vision for what real women wanted to wear. With a natural affinity with colour and pattern, her designs were celebrated in the 1980s, and still are today for their exuberance and joie de vivre but also for their elegance. Her clothes were utterly wearable. She took a practical approach to her designs, often using the same or complimentary colours and prints (like animal print) in a coordinate system across many seasons to allow her customers to come back and mix and match with previously purchased pieces with accessories like belts and scarves to match. Today, with less inclination to match, these vintage Escada pieces stand by their strength of design alone.
Moving into the 1990s, the glamour and elegance of Escada’s clothes in their catalogues and campaigns perfectly encapsulated the imagined lives of the supermodels who wore them from Cindy Crawford and Christy Turlington to Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelista. The 1990s brought a period of a simple, pared down aesthetic. By the end of the 1990s, Escada’s new found sophistication was reflected in the highly lauded pale pistachio green gown worn by Kim Bassinger to receive her Oscar for her role in L.A. Confidential in 1998. Today the enduring femininity and elegance of Escada’s clothes make them as appealing as when they first graced a boutique rail, whether it is for their mad designs, knock out shape, or their undoubtable quality.
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