They’re everywhere: on the streets of New York, in the alleyways of London, along the boulevards of Paris. And on catwalks. You recognize them without a word, from their aesthetics, made of a code that doesn’t follow any rules but that dictates them, conscious of being the alphas of the pack, right now. Their rules are made for the bold, for those who have no fear of consequences. For those who don’t care about being judged, pointed at, and condemned, because they know they will be the winning ones. It’s the urban tribe that walked the runways of the Ville Lumière, where it surfaced so obviously for the first time, demonstrating that the coolest young generation is united under the same flag of style. And most of all, it showed everyone that it is so powerful it can not only create new brands that become everyone’s object of desire in the bat of an eyelid, it can also influence big luxury names, who, knowingly or not, find themselves looking at this audience as the most important target for its products, and end up acquiring their codes and their language — among other reasons, because young talents work as their creative directors, more and more often.
Just think of Fenty, Rihanna + Puma‘s brand: until a few years ago, it would have just been filed under next celebrity’s try to make it into fashion. In 2017, their show was possibly, rightfully considered among the most representative of the current trend, without even being too subservient to the idea of “designing whatever sells easily.” Colorful down jackets with extralong sleeves, fisherman rubber boots, sweatshirts that can be super short or extra large, with a hood and initials: typical college and preppy outfits, revisited under a new light, with a touch of grit and hardly any traces of the model student left in them, especially when redefined in a total black, slightly gothic version. These are strong designs that stay that way when taken out of the extreme styling of the fashion show, but still, when we look at them we also recognize what we see on the street and most of all on Instagram, on celebrities that are nowadays style icons par excellence, from the Jenner sisters to, well, Rihanna, obviously.
This style steals ideas from many different decades and proceeds to create its own space, making itself immediately comprehensible to Millennials who love traditional luxury brands but who are also strong supporters of whatever is new, as long as it is in line with their taste, of course. Almost all the brands of the new cool had shows in Paris, from Unravel to Off-White, from Y/Project to Vêtements, whose creative director Demna Gvasalia is also the currently at the helm of Balenciaga. What they have in common is a new approach to creating a look, playing with items like a kid would in front of a mirror, with a naif attitude that makes anything possible, creating results that would seem odd to common sense. This same naif attitude is also what gives fashion back that sense of playfulness that occasionally gets lost: that is how a sweatshirt turns into a dress (Y/Project), a denim jacket is worn as a cape, buttoned up under the neck only, (A.P.C.), and should it get cold, all we need to do is bring a blanket from home, because we’ll have a huge back to chuck it into anyway (Céline). Jackets are worn back to front, with the buttons on the back (Acne Studios) and coats are buttoned up unevenly, to create a new silhouette (Balenciaga).
Styling is an essential element, because it plays with layering different items in a spontaneous manner, without any limitations dictated by logic or circumstance. A long, ethereal robe are worn with combat boots and ethnic necklaces, as well as rather bold make up (Valentino), 1960s style ski jackets look perfect with large fur necks and velvet shoes with precious buckles (Miu Miu), the vintage T-shirt with a wolf will be every TV addict’s new fetish clothing item — remember the sweatshirt that Hope wears in The OA? — inspiring an urban rework of a native American-inspired look.
If you sit down and think about it, rather than a new style, this is an entirely new approach to fashion. In a way, it is also liberating, since its driving principle seems to be “I will wear whatever I want, however I want to”: this might be the main revelation of the latest Paris shows. They delivered the message that the game has shifted form, and whether we like that or not, we are dancing to a new beat.