The winds of change are blowing and fashion’s glossy veneer has cracked. After several seasons’ worth of luxe sportswear and sleek minimalism, ‘high-fashion’ is being redefined as something altogether more anarchic.
As fashion publishers and brands embrace social media and other online spaces, they are closer than ever before to their audience through constant streams of ‘behind the scenes’ content. In keeping with this popularist spirit, the newest avant-garde brands are storming the industry from the bottom up, mining street-style and popular culture to create clothing that is eclectic, eccentric and deliciously vulgar.
No doubt, you will be aware of the design-collective Vêtements who, despite only making their debut at A/W 2014, have been featured in Vogue and are stocked everywhere from Net-a-Porter to Selfridges. Their aesthetic can be defined as everyday urban wear which has been turned on its head — think experiments with proportion and textures, unexpected pairings and an ambivalence towards the differentiation of ‘menswear’ and ‘womenswear’.
So what do these clothes look like? The label’s signatures are perhaps its oversized hoodies and over-the-knee boots, but branded-tees, strong-shouldered jackets and varying types of workwear deserve a mention. These clothes pick up on the noughties revival which has been rearing its head and reference metal, rap and goth subcultures.
In a move which mirrors the ‘sampling’ methods of electronic music producers, and the growing tendencies towards curating the information and images available online, their S/S 17 collection at Paris Couture Week featured collaborations with a host of brands including Levis, Eastpack and, controversially, Juicy Couture. The fashion world was repulsed and titillated in equal measure at Vêtements’ decision to show the fluorescent velour tracksuits which serve as a cultural relic capturing the exuberant excess of the noughties. By bringing anti-fashion sensibility into the hallowed realm of Couture Week, the brand demonstrated their clout, supervening industry etiquette and the rules of good taste to show that they had enough of a following to make even the most widely-reviled of items covetable once more.
Vêtements and their ilk are perhaps the most disruptive force that the fashion industry has faced since the blogging explosion, which rejigged power hierarchies and front-row invites in one-fell-swoop. And while a Hood by Air t-shirt comes in at £190 and Vêtements’ prices can easily tip the £1000 mark, the aesthetic is easily replicated in real-life, particularly given these labels’ widespread exposure. This is a fashion-house which is fed by the street-style movement while simultaneously feeding into it, and which is about reviving and reworking looks that have been widely-disregarded.
The brand’s critics have been quick to stress that anything which sets out to be subversive will inevitably cease to be so once they have become popularised and accepted by the masses. However, the beauty of this label is that popularity seems to be the aim: despite astronomical prices, they are setting out to empower the masses to have fun with fashion and to destroy the air of elitism which surrounds it. To witness the Vêtements effect, you need merely look to the hordes of young people sporting ripped jeans over fishnets and fetish-wear chokers with oversized bomber jackets.