Some people have it. Let’s take for instance, my aunt in the 80s who used to rock a kettle as a handbag, paired with her grandad’s moth eaten old argyle jumper. Swiftly enough perceptive fashionistas caught on to this, in addition to all the quirkiest retail stores who sought to reproduce the look for an extortionate price, authenticity not included.
Derek Ridgers ’78-87’ looks back on a time when style was sculpted on a much more individual level. It brings to mind customised army jackets, trademark studs and PVC synonymous with Vivienne Westwood’s revolutionary BOY. A time when scrawlings littered the walls of the city, in defiance of government censored self-expression. Even for those of us who missed the angry lyrics relating to the unpopular politics of the time, we can see that this time was saturated with individuality and creativity, and its returning with a vengeance. If there is oppression, there will be a reaction. The birth of the 80s gave rise to scenes like New Wave and New Romanticism which ebbed away into the technological revolution of the 90s, where pixelated consumerism took on a more insidious form: WORK.BUY.CONSUME.DIE. Poppy ads called to us through MTV droning hypnotically into our living rooms between episodes of soap drama. The world wide web became a reality, an invisible force.
20 years on, we cultivate Grunge, Punk, Streetwear, patching it together, Without going beyond the search bar. We are wiping clean the expression of originality through how we dress. Statement styles are dulled and commercialised, mass-produced by global brands for ever-hungry customers, delivered to doors at the click of a mouse. The internet has distorted the former concept of personal style; with relentless connection, striving to be unique has become the new mainstream. Social networking has caused the concept of vanity to become obsolete. The human need to be accepted was enhanced astronomically, strangers to judge a hazy ideal representing each of us through selfies and events attended. We think we are the customers, but we are the product.
So where is the line between influence and imitation? Influence is a basic necessity for movement and progression. But people want to live what they see online; caps and T-Shirts strewn with hashtags lifted from the virtual world. When Paper depicted Kim Kardashian naked, they simply used ‘Break The Internet’ as the headline. Society evolves online. Every world event is reduced to a hashtag - maybe its tragic, but more importantly, is it catchy? These are the grim priorities of our generation. If you want to know the definition of authenticity, just type it into Google.
However, with the rapid and drastic social and political shake-ups of the last year or two, there is something new in the air. We can feel it, buzzing through new collections from young designers, some referencing the militaristic ‘boring dystopia’ that our generation can’t get enough of. Others play on the zeitgeist by surpassing and rejecting it as a whole, escaping into worlds of phantastical whimsy. Vivenne Westwood once said ‘Buy less. Choose well.’ So perhaps time really is this cyclical, and even through this digital revolution so alien to humanity, we will always find a way to create that will reach people on a deeper level than the pressure to conform. In times of upheaval, people are more driven to reject and express what is going on around us.