Some days ago I was reading an interview with Ted Polhemus, a street style anthropologist, who has written some of the most influential works on fashion, style, and subcultural (or post-subcultural) expression. To me, street style is self-expression. I can’t give you a definition and a story because it’s actually kind of blurry and borders can’t be defined, like in a cocktail. While I was in the middle of my thoughts regarding the interview, it suddenly came up with a question about street style and the influence it has on luxury brands.
As every little or big fashionista knows, this influence it’s huge now. In the last few years, almost every brand in the presentation of their collection have shown to suffer the tremendous street style charm. Sometimes I even feel like there are no more “original” ideas and brands. Let’s, as always, start from the beginning of my stream of consciousness.
Once upon a time, because it actually feels like ages ago, brands would copy each other only in the moment of the so waited catwalk. Each designer looked at the others with attention, writing down what they could use for their collection too. Do you remember the famous scene of The Devil wears Prada? When Amanda tells Andrea that a blue sweater it’s not just a blue sweater explaining who copied who?
We can almost say that before it was easier to find out who launched what style, and who was the original mind beyond a trend. Can we really do it now? The fashion industry has been rolling like a hamster on a wheel and the turnover of collection is as fast as it has never been. No one is completely able to keep up with everything. Maybe this is one reason why designers sometimes seem to have no master idea at all. It seems like there is no time for anything, not to think, not to invent and create. Maybe this “not having so much time”, has pushed the high fashion culture to become “just” popular culture? Or has the internet, in particular social media, helped this continuous roller-coaster and exchange of ideas? To me, the answer is a crystal clear yes.
Social media are a powerful resource to fashion brands as they can look for every kind of style and get – or should I say stole – outfit and style ideas from well-known influencers or – even better – simple people, the unknown. The unknown are the best source of street style ideas, because no one can actually realize from whom the idea was born. Thanks to social media everyone can express and show off himself/herself, exactly like if he/she standing in a window shop. And there come luxury brands. They scroll and check hundreds and hundreds and millions and billions of profiles looking for new exotic material.
I’m not accusing brands to just scroll Instagram and, bam, idea found, no more effort. I just think that sometimes the borders are not defined anymore, and that the “street style material” is overcoming luxury brands. However, they are smart. The majority of luxury brands now seem more interested in getting almost the whole global population’s attention. How? The perfect example dates back to 2004: H&M. The brand had a great idea to collaborate with luxury brands, the first one was the beloved Karl Lagerfeld, and from that moment on loads of high brands accepted to work with H&M for a collection. Matter of money? Yes. Matter of visibility? Yes, again. I think the most important reason why high brands felt the need to get off the high horse was because they understood the world was changing. They knew they couldn’t be the unreachable imaginary anymore.
Indeed, the history of fashion teaches us that even better. In the ’60ies when miniskirts appeared “the girls in the street invented them” affirmed Mary Quant. And can’t we remember Karl Lagerfeld and Chanel? In the ’80ies, from the charming influence of street style Lagerfeld realized a collection with gold chains, big gold earrings and the so famous bicycle shorts.
So brands started to move down towards the real people, the ones that dress up or down every day, just because they are themselves. Luxury brands started to think and see outside of their gold little box, realizing they could make more profit from the street style agency than the simple rich pockets.
What do you think? Is it really happening or am I just polemical? Is street style THE style?