The Search for Authenticity


by Nicole Anderson, Lien Tran and Mandar Nelson

Far from the summer heat of Melbourne, this past February we found ourselves in Paris with an odd sensation that we couldn’t figure out. Wandering around the streets for a week, and we were still perplexed by the lack of spark. Designer Filip Arickx nailed it with “It’s another energy here. Paris feels old and heavy.” (2016).

Bearing expectations of being sartorially inspired, we found that Paris has its own classic and inimitable style, yet surprisingly very little forward fashion to follow. French model Eleonore Toulin informs us, “In Paris, you feel ridiculous wearing some sorts of stuff. I love that in New York you can be more eccentric—I love more vintage things.” (Satenstein, 2015), whilst Carine Roitfeld, former Editor in Chief of French Vogue admits; ‘I go to London to get dressed when there is nothing in France. You’re one step in advance” (Macalister, 2016). Roitfield goes on to state that although the world likes to think of Paris as style leaders, French designers prefer to ignore the current bourgeois bohemians doing fashion a little differently and their inspiration hinges upon Catherine Deneuve in the 1960’s.


Like the women of Paris, every element of the city was perfectly in its place, new architecture was predominantly consistent with traditional style, advertising was minimal, and stores were all of a theme. In Paris Sylvian Le Hen has us figured out, ‘They (foreigners) forget the details, and the nuances within the details. The allure of the French women lies in simplicity, shown through a well-chosen handbag or a perfect pair of shoes’ (Thomas & Veysset, 2013). French women styled themselves in this traditional authentic simplicity of easy femininity, highlighting their natural beauty and adorning themselves with high quality key pieces.


Chloe and Anne, two French fashion students holidaying in London revealed that the voice of the youth was being lost in the city of Paris, which favoured traditional values and ways of life.

Essential things to know about Parisian Fashion;

  • Classic and conservative.
  • Style over trend- having personal confidence and not letting the clothes wear you.
  • Top down trends- fashion trends led by high end designers.

After a week in Paris, we travelled to London, where old buildings leant against new and cranes lifted material for a growing skyline that looked down on diverse inner city suburbs. Like Melbourne, bright street art celebrated a vibrant culture that was reflected in Londoners’ outfits swathed in winter layers. Exhibiting a multitude of colours, styles, and subcultures that have much stronger ties to fast fashion and consumerism compared to Paris.

The pervasive idea of authenticity was heavily present in both high street and boutique stores, flaunting a sense of uniqueness via heritage and vintage adornment, through wearables and treasures for the home and consumer lifestyle such as GoodHood  and Labour and Wait. High street chain stores, Topshop and Urban Outfitters in Shoreditch, strategically outfitted themselves in all mannerisms of nostalgia in order to feel real and authentic to the neighbourhood and their customers.


Essential things to know about London Fashion;

  • Bottom up trends – fashion takes its cue from the street.
  • Fun and experimental- taking a bit of everything and mashing it together.
  • High and low- vintage, high street and luxury brands in one outfit.
  • Subcultures- A little more grunge, rock n roll, ska, punk…

Throughout our travels, the early adopters we photographed and interviewed already combined contemporary, luxury, bargain basics and vintage, led purely by their own emotional compass. The consistent theme we found is that the interaction between the wearer and that which is worn must be an authentic and real experience, falling broadly into the below trends;



  • A connection and/or construction of their true selves; building upon their own identity through seeking out items from their past.
  • Building a deep relationship with the garment, wanting to know its history, concerned about its future, and willing to recycle and repair it for longevity.
  • Vintage or handmade item offers exclusivity that feels more honest and real.
  • Lots of tactile materials being used, primarily those with a sense of warmth to them: cork, leather, hides with the hair still on, aged denim, or with a treatment such as shibori or chenille tufting. Long pile (fur, faux fur, feather, loop pile, fluffy yarns) for predominantly outerwear, but also seen on trimmings, knitwear, accessories and even shoes.
  • Hand worked ceramics, bare or satin varnished wood, plants, copper (especially with a patina), hand made tiles, concrete, thick cotton canvas, rope, twine, woven baskets and carpets.






  • Wearing a garment that has been traditionally worn for a particular job or trade, to feel a connection to the history associated with it.
  • Dressing for comfort, and their own enjoyment without traditional constraints against gender specific garments.
  • Uniforms, jumpsuits/coveralls, camouflage print, khaki.
  • Oversized and boxy outer layers.
  • A big coat in khaki, black, shearling or fur.
  • Ankle boots with jeans.
  • Brogues, Doc Martins, or sneakers.
  • Backpacks.





  • Fun, bright and a counter against the earthy, dour colours of the hipster craftsman.
  • 90’s rave and party culture reimagined into an explosion of youthful joy and being present in the moment.
  • Bold and vibrant colours and patterns mixed together.





Sneakers or sports shoes are a look often linked with training and gym workouts, this trend was evident in windows and displays in retail stores for both high street and luxury labels. Whilst designer brands offered quality materials with hand stitching, unique leathers, and even sequins, Adidas invested in searching through their archives to create ‘Heritage Reborn’, where classic designs are reimagined with innovative materials, shapes and colours. Through clever marketing, “the advertisement implies that while human life is transient, adidas originals are eternally authentic.”Heike Jenß (2004)


Consumers are increasingly seeking engaging experiences with brands and lifestyle, and “Many retailers are prospering by providing new consumers with a chance to become involved with the products they are buying.” (Lewis et al, 2000). Nike delivers engagement through their Nike ID lab where a range of sneakers can be individually customised, and consumers can join the global Nike+ Run club. After work, Londoners cluster at Niketown Oxford Circus to do stretches in a myriad of vibrant, hyper coloured nike running shoes and athletic gear. Authenticity is found in the commitment to a healthier lifestyle where you ‘Just Do It’ while supported by Nike Run Club coaches.



It is through our first hand experience on the streets, from Premiere Vision, and Studio Edelkoort’s A/W 2017-18 forecast ‘Labour of Love’ in Paris, to London’s Future Laboratory visit, the Liberty in Fashion exhibition, learning from Jo McGinn from WGSN and discussion with her MA Fashion Communication students from Central Saint Martins, that we are able to conclude that the search for authenticity is a strong current trend. While at Studio Edelkoort we learned that trends are pre-existing phenomena and can ‘take on average ten years to work through the culture’ (Kim et al, 2011). From the evidence we have seen, this search for authenticity, uniqueness and realness is ongoing. As Li Edelkoort proposed ‘…consumers of today and tomorrow are going to choose for themselves, creating and designing their own wardrobes’ (cited in Faris, 2015).

Just last month, Carys Williams, editor of the WGSN Think Tank, suggested that the authenticity trend is moving on towards ‘being real’ as “perfect isn’t quite right (and doesn’t ring true or resonate with anyone). As consumers move into living a life that feels very real, they will demand the same from the brands they shop, invest in and are associated with” (Williams, 2016). WGSN has even included this realness in their Macro Trends report for  A/W 16/17 under the title of Artisan.

Although we can’t say exactly what we were expecting from our European Trend Safari, what we didn’t expect to find was that the people we talked to and photographed, have similar drives to the early adopters we spoke to in Melbourne. Opting for second hand choices which enables them to create a sense of ‘authenticity’ from their wardrobe, a concept that seems to be as unique as each of these individuals. Now could we say that they were looking for the ‘realness’ that Williams discusses, ‘consumers will want to engage with the upfront and honest truth only; nothing staged, it has to feel real’ (Williams, 2016). The question we are left with is: how will this evolve further?

We can speculate the evolution of realness will tire of looking to the past; rehashing a stereotype, or dredging nostalgia through fast fashion murk. The innovators and early adopters of our globalised world will turn away from has been done before, and instead look into the bright and unknown future that lies before them.




Amed, I. and Abnett, K. (2016). Burberry Aligns Runway and Retail Calendar in Game-Changing Shift. Viewed 22 Feb 2016  

Arickx, F. (2016). ‘The Margiela Effect’, London Fashion Week Daily, (4), 23 Feb 2016.

Blanks, T. (2016). How To Fix The Fashion System. Viewed 22 Feb, 2016.

Borrelli-Persson, L. (2015) Left bank vs. Right bank: A guide to Parisian style icons on Both sides of town. Viewed: 19 Febuary 2016

Fairs, M. (2015) “”It’s The End Of Fashion As We Know It” Says Li Edelkoort”. Dezeen. Viewed 4 Jan 2016.

Fury, A. (2016). London Fashion Week highlights a fashion industry in flux. The Independent. Viewed 28 Feb 2016

Heike, J. (2004). Dressed in History: Retro Styles and the Construction of Authenticity in Youth Culture. Fashion Theory The Journal of Dress, Body and Culture, 8(4), pp.387-403.

Huber, R. (2016). Experience v. authenticity: A brand storytelling trend for 2015. Linkedin. Viewed 29 Feb 2016.  

Kim, E., Fiore, A. and Kim, H. (2011). Fashion trends. Oxford: Berg.

Lewis, D. and Bridger, D. (2000). The soul of the new consumer. London: Nicholas Brealey Pub.

Macalister, T. (2016).‘Style? The Brits do it Better’, ES Magazine (February), pp. 81–83. In-line Citation: (Macalister, 2016)

Nike, (2016). Nike Run Club. Viewed: 29 Feb 2016

Satenstein, L. (2015) A french model-off-duty explains why Parisian style Isn’t all It’s cracked up to be. Viewed 19 Feb 2016  

Thomas, I. and Veysset, F. (2013). Paris street style. Abrams Image, New York. p. 10

Williams, C. (2016). Why 2016 is not about authenticity, it is about being real. Viewed 3 March 2016.  

WGSN Forecast team, (2016). Artisan. Macro Trends A/W 16/17. London: WGSN. Viewed: 29 Feb 2016.

Yeung, H. (2015). adidas Originals 2015 Winter “Heritage Reborn” Lookbook. Hypebeast. Viewed: 29 Feb 2016.




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