The idea of authenticity and brand identity in fashion is something I consider quite a bit and its largely in the context of Lolita, the japanese youth subculture, that I find it so fascinating. Here is a counterculture that is so label conscious its progression in the East is largely supply over demand. That is to say that the rules for what is and is not authentic lolita are so strict that changes in the subculture don’t come from its subscribers and consumers but trickle down from the approved sources - Brands. This is what makes Lolita so interesting (and very Japanese) to me. There is such strict adherence to rules and controlled group mentality even in the name of cultural subversion that brand identity becomes srs bizness.
Lolita is littered with sub-genres Sweet Lolita, Gothic Lolita, Elegant Gothic Lolita, Kuro (black) Lolita, Country Lolita, etc. You swap out a color here, add/remove skirt length here and suddenly you are pushed into a different yet very specific subset of the style. Straying from the approved path means you are no longer (blank) Lolita, you are (otherblank) Lolita. You see this reflected in the prolific subdivision of clothing brands like Baby the Stars Shine Bright, which created a secondary line called Alice and the Pirates literally because they wanted to use “darker, bolder” colors that wouldn’t fit in with the pastels of their main line. Or h.Naoto whose list of lines I have lost count of with only subtle slight differences (The difference between h.Jelly and h.Anarchy? chains and corsets.)
What’s even more fascinating now is how the movement has changed with its rise in popularity in the West. But that is perhaps best saved for another time. Perhaps when I am not falling asleep at the keyboard.
I Like My Men Like I Like My Women, in Platform Heels.
(pretty sure I lifted this image from refinery29)
Men’s fashion right now utterly fascinates me. And I understand my tribe being what it is and having done a pretty good job of curating my world, what I am about to talk about might exist in this sort of bubble. But I feel like men’s fashion is having a lot of fun right now. It’s in its play mode while women’s fashion just kind of sits in a corner sulking about being bored because it’s played all these games already. For me, the most interesting shifts in fashion trends have been because someone was playing against perceptions/roles/etc that had been thrust upon them. Adversity breeds exploration.
Take for instance this men in heels trend, recently documented in the New York Times. I had noticed this gaining steam in the past year or two, more and more male fashion bloggers pairing casual masculine attire with platform wedges and heels. It was always clear that there was no interest in attempting to “pass”. It was not drag. It was merely a style choice, a battle cry of “Hey, don’t these pumps look awesome with these pants? Yes? Yes.” To quote a Mr. Wagner in the NY Times Article, “I’m not trying to portray an illusion to anybody […] As far as we’re concerned, this is just bringing a look to a club.” It is not about gender, and yet it makes you sit up and go, “oh! hrm. This says something about my understanding of gender and clothing, doesn’t it?” It becomes an accidental exploration of the meaning behind simple aesthetic choices.
What makes this particular look even more interesting is that it comes at a time in fashion where traditional ideals of masculine beauty are being played with. When you have androgyny poster-child Andrej Pejic in an international ad campaign for MANGO shirtless, wearing platform ankle boots, and a blazer with the tagline “Create Your Own Revolution” (p.s. shot by Eugenio Recuenco, if you didn’t know. It’s like he lives inside my head). You have lanky, gauged eared, heavily tattooed boys that look like they just came from the skate park walking for Balenciaga and on the cover of Italian Vogue (*cough*Ash Stymest*cough*). And how can we forget Rick Genest, a.k.a. Zombie Boy, Nicola Formichetti’s male muse. Ok, ok, ok, so my three examples are all skinny, white and pretty boys but when was the last time you saw a female agency represented model with a full sleeve walk down a major label’s runway that wasn’t seen as an intentional move/oddity.
We are seeing menswear designers playing with form, silhouette, color. Playing being the operative word here. For every boring suit put out at men’s fashion week I can show you a Walter van Beirendock, a Rei Kawakubo. Something that makes you take notice, that makes you question what a person could adorn themselves with aside from the banal questions and realizations of, “ah, fall’s colors are orange and brown… I see.” This is why men’s fashion interests me. Because it has no choice right now but to have something to say.
In Which the Sartorial Male Never Recovers from The Guillotine, a Dandy and Steam Power.
In my last post I talked about how the rise of the middle class changed the shape of fashion consumption to the dizzying machine it is now. And while it’s true we go through trends and silhouettes like… things we go through very quickly, you may say to yourself “ein minuten bitte, Numi! Why then the male uniform? The ol’ suit and tie?” Well you’ve got a point. What in our modern world has slowed the pace of change in men’s fashion to this supposed masculine ideal of modesty and uniformity. And while I’d love to walk through each period and discuss the particulars of gender identity and implications of virility in the turn of a hem or a bejeweled codpiece, I’m specifically concerned with the settling of masculine ideals in the three piece suit.