Written by Lauren Farnoosh
Photographer: Sean Martin @theeseanmartin
Stylist: Lauren Farnoosh @laurenfarn__sh
Model: Natalie Zucchero @nataliezucchero
Makeup and Hair: Kristine Shinn @_kashinn
Up until the last few years, the words ‘fashion’ and ‘luxury’ were almost always synonymous with one another. When you think fashion, do Chanel’s tweed suits, Dior’s “New Look”, or Givenchy’s little black dress immediately come to your mind? Do you think of the intricate and laborious handwork that goes into one piece of haute couture? Are images of chiffon, beading, satin, and lace spinning around in your head? Well, I hate to wake you up from your fabulous daydream but that isn’t the world of fashion anymore. The last few years have seen an increasing emphasis on functionality, comfort and the meaning of our clothing. It’s no longer about the poor wanting to be like the rich and fabulous; the new luxury of fashion is more focused on standing for something greater than superficiality for superficiality’s sake. People want to buy into belonging to a “tribe” and have clothing that suits a utilitarian purpose in their everyday life. The significance of what my wardrobe represents and how it’s helping me get through the fast-paced lifestyle of living in the “future” is more fashionable than wearing designer labels or extravagant garb as a status symbol.
This isn’t the first time a shift towards an emphasis on anti-fashion and the democratization of fashion has happened in history. Around the time of the French Revolution, the common people became fed up with the greed and misuse of power by its rulers. A revulsion towards lavish high-fashion subsequently took place as it represented the wastefulness and self-centeredness of the French royalty and aristocracy. Even though the consumer revolution during this time made it ever more possible for common folk to dress similarly to that of their elite rulers, many people actually began intentionally dressing more simple and drab. Does this sound eerily familiar to what’s happening today? The masses have only become increasingly unhappy and untrusting in their government and political leaders over the last few decades and especially within this last year. Also, the fashion industry has never had a faster turn-around and wider accessibility. Fast fashion has completely taken over the market, with stores like Zara and H&M (while very controversial with their unsustainable and unethical means of production) making clothing that looks similar (if not completely replicating) to the high-fashion on the catwalk. And yet, while the everyday person can now spend $200 and create the same look as someone who spent $2,000, the rise of basic t-shirts, sneakers, and sweatpants of streetwear are what’s become the fashion zeitgeist of the moment.
The increasing sentiment of disdain towards those in power has made being rich less cool than ever. In addition, now with the accessibility of being able to dress just as well, if not better, than those with money, the sheer novelty of dressing posh is gone. So what have we replaced it with? Smart and functional anti-fashion. Undeniably, three of the most influential designers of the moment are Raf Simons, Gosha Rubchinskiy, and Demna Gvasalia; all whose designs and collections look like cousins of one another. The chunky sneakers, the emphasis on streetwear, and gender-neutral fashion are all central themes and elements of each designers’ recent aesthetic.
Secondly, each of them has infiltrated and are leaving their marks on some of the most distinguished fashion houses in history. Gosha, who has built his prominence and influence by creating politically charged fashion inspired by the youth of a newly Post-Soviet Russia, is an unlikely designer and collaborator for Burberry; a brand whose DNA has up until recently been built on classic British tradition and military influence. Demna, who made his namesake as the lead designer for anti-fashion and streetwear-inspired label Vetements, is now creative director for Balenciaga. Raf, who has had the longest and most influential career of the three, designing for his own label as well as Jil Sander and Christian Dior is now at the all-American Calvin Klein.
Even couture, the most ostentatious, artisanal and flamboyant level of fashion has not been able to escape the grasp of this new shift in sentiment. The latest couture spring collection for Maison Margiela was made up of plastic sporty holographic clothing and seemed more focused on creating a memorable and shareable Instagram moment than actually selling to couture buyers. Only time will tell if this will be a growing trend for other couture designers to follow or a simple “flash in the pan” moment that will hold its own unique place in fashion history.
In the era of the self-proclaimed “woke” individual and progressive society the fashion industry and it’s consumer are trying to figure out how to adapt and find a fulfilling balance in this new world. Flaunting your economic or social status in an era where a sentiment of disillusion for the social and political climate of our time is inescapable throughout the context of everyday life is not only tasteless, cheesy, and out of touch, but possibly even slightly offensive. Today’s consumer seems more enthralled and interested in the philosophical viewpoint and innovativeness of a brand and its designer. People want to buy Vetements, Yohji Yamamoto, Rick Owens, and Raf Simons because of the ingenuity of design, freedom of expression and meaning of these brands. At its core, fashion will always be about buying and wearing something you think is pretty, however, I think today’s consumer yearns for a sort of intellectualism and purpose, rather than just frivolous self-ornamentation. For many, this is a time of serious analysis and reconsideration of our society’s values and future. While fashion is inherently superficial, that doesn’t mean the industry and its consumer wish to indulge in a vapid lifestyle and existence. Luxury and fashion will always coincide with one another, however, it’s exciting to see the ways in which these terms are being given depth and function in our modern society.