Two Extremes in Playing it Safe
As wildly different as they appear aesthetically, Gucci and The Row offer the fashionable woman a cocoon of immunity, guaranteeing approval from the label-conscious masses. To my mind, they are extreme sides of the same coin. They both scream "I know fashion, I know brands, and I'm above the fray!" Who's going to criticize a beaded striped sweater with an embroidered tiger and interlocked G's? Who could turn up their nose at a simple cream cashmere duster and matching scarf that reek of money and discretion?
Gucci was great when Alessandro Michele took over, as we know all too well. That wonderful feminine mash-up of granny and schoolgirl, debutante and nerd! It was just irresistible. I used to moan out loud at each new season's delights. It seemed so revolutionary. Now, with the latest batch of Gucci looks, I just feel battered. All that irony! All that Everything-But-the-Kitchen-Sink clutter of ideas!
No, Gucci! Step back. Lean out. It was fresh at first, but now it feels desperate. Still, however tiresome it's become, girls will buy as much Gucci as their incomes allow because it ensures admiration and approval. It doesn't take imagination to wear Gucci, but it impresses people on Instagram and at Starbucks.
The Row is the exact opposite stylistically but makes the same statement of being beyond reproach. I have to say that I don't get the brand's popularity. It is the essence of minimal nothingness. I'm not sure how the brand telegraphs itself when it looks so militantly minimalist. But it is fawned over by fashion editors, and lauded by everyone for its "easy elegance." Soft shapes, drab neutral hues, luxury fabrics, and BOOM, somehow the Olsen Twins became the arbiters of modern chic.
In the space between these extremes, women have to figure out their own style, and that can be daunting in the age of accumulating Likes to feel validated. It-girls touted as fashion influencers are now Brand Ambassadors. They don't find their own stuff and they don't seem eager to challenge the status quo.
Fashion websites from Topshop to Net-a-Porter offer curated looks to suit your category: Boho, Urban Chic, Androgynous, Romantic, etc. I never know which category to click on. I just know to avoid Boho. Athleisure is the biggest thing going at the moment, and while at least it’s available at all price-points, it's another escape from figuring out your own personal style. Valentino or Adidas, it's all about the same defining stripe.
If fashion is a way of expressing yourself, many of us are expressing a desire to look wealthy. If it's a way to broadcast your aspirations, many of us are aspiring to be relentless consumers of Youth Culture, and proud of it. The collaboration between Supreme and Louis Vuitton is the ultimate expression of blind status seeking. Hopefully, the only group it impresses are fellow collectors.
I remember when style icons were adored for their authenticity and risk-taking. Where are the Courtney Love's and Kate Mosses? They didn't rely on luxury brands as a short-cut to glamour. Maybe we can blame social media for the brand whoring and uniformity of what constitutes style? Let's go ahead and blame it, since it's the root of all evil in most sectors anyway.
Discovering a new brand, trying out different looks, getting your inspiration from old movies and other cultures, finding a cast-off gem in a charity shop, all the ways of exploring style that once brought joy are becoming obsolete. If your friends and followers can't identify your sweatshirt as Off-White or Vetements, you may as well wear a plastic trash-bag.
Has Demna Gvasalia made a plastic trash-bag yet? It would be soooo big. The Row would make theirs in a neutral color, cut to hang shapelessly over nondescript thousand dollar flats. How about Alessandro Michele? His would be studded with fake pearls, retro patches, snarling animal faces, and a tartan bondage strap (to hold up the kitchen sink.)
Images courtesy of Vogue.com