Amelia Oates & Claudia Vella
With a combination of excitement, jet lag and adrenaline we had little knowledge of what to expect driving from Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. The initial greeting of dirty, muddy streets left us questioning the romantic, Parisian vision so often hyped. Arriving at our very French hotel, looking over the cobble stone streets of Paris, the charm we had first anticipated began to expose itself. Throughout this exploration we endeavoured to investigate and determine current and emerging patterns found throughout Paris and London and immerse ourselves in the culture and ideologies that stand to be the propelling force behind these movements.
Once the initial awe of admiring the untouched rows of identical architecture and butter-filled pastries began to subside we started to notice subtle hints of a Parisian uniform. Cited as “the throne residence of fashion” (StatusMind 2016) we had high expectations as we ventured through the streets in the hopes of discovering this somewhat royal depiction. Our initial encounters with those we deemed a reflection of Parisian style were tainted with fear that the French would be unapproachable and unwilling. Instead we were greeted with an unusual sense of openness that we had difficulty characterising as enthusiasm or slight narcissism, this psychology informed our further findings.
From left to right: Paris’ buildings and a gentleman browsing in Comme de Garcon dressed in a Junya Watanabe suit, posed and willing to model in a photo, was a good example of our discussed ‘narcissism’.
We endeavoured to explore a broad scope of suburbs to establish an accurate definition of their uniform. As we intended to uncover trends found within the city’s streets, we took on a role similar to that of an archaeologist as we dug through the cobbled surface to reveal the bones of Parisian culture that form the foundation of their style today. Classic, muted, somber, timeless and sophisticated are terms we determined as characteristic of Paris’ style identity. This statement was affirmed by those we discovered whilst adventuring through the local streets where men and women, both young, old and in between were found to be wearing outfits of this kind. Patrick, a Stockholm based designer found waiting for a coffee in a tucked away cove of Madeleine, wore a head-to-toe black outfit. When asked about his inspiration as a designer, after checking approvingly of his reflection in a nearby shop window he then answered “I am inspired by myself.” We then asked about emerging and current trends seen within Paris and his answer was simply “black, always black.” An undeniably insightful and telling description, there was in fact sense found behind the humour as through further exploration the truth behind Patrick’s statement, discussing a particular sophistication through a sombre colour palette, became pressingly clear.
Patrick from ‘Hope’ fashion brand. Found admiring his reflection whilst waiting for a coffee in Madeline, Paris. Black was his key inspiration when dressing.
Another willing fashion opinion came from Ames, a retail assist at Moschino we stumbled across on his cigarette break. “I’m wearing my work uniform, I wouldn’t normally be wearing this but I’d still wear black”, Ames’ insight further supported both our own and Patrick’s observations. It also became evident how well groomed and fashion forward the men in Paris are. Unlike the uniform of tee shirts and jeans of most Australian men with side notes of hipster hair and lazy stubble shadows, the men in Paris are refined and present a sense of certainty in how they dress. As stylish and sophisticated in taste and fashion as the women.
Ames from Moschino having his ‘cigarette break’, Paris.
Thomas was found having a cigarette break outside Gallerie La Fayette. An excellent example for how well groomed we found the men in Paris.
Hyper-aware of our recently established findings, it became essential to consider the context in which these found trends were originating and evolving. An undeniable sense of superiority was emitted from the locals who strode with purpose through their streets. Fur coats worn shamelessly and that certain narcissistic demeanour evoked a hinting feeling of inferiority for those who spoke and dressed unlike the locals. As Melbournian’s we are accustomed to shamelessly wearing sport attire and sneakers in public, but this was not common nor approved of in the marble lined halls of Galleries La Fayette neither the local street-side cafe’s. Charles Frederick Worth was the first true Parisian couturier, and paved the way for the ever-evolving fashion industry as “[he] was the dominant force in western fashion, developing many of the fundamental components of the modern fashion system.” (Polan & Tredre 2009) Referring back to demonstrations of superiority through clothing and style seen in Paris, Worth “invented the fashion show and the fashion label as a status symbol.” (Whatparis.com 2016) The early 20th century saw the founding of Vogue in 1892 and both Madeleine Vionnet and Jacques Doucet established their first fashion houses in France. These innovators of the industry have successfully infiltrated this idea of “fashion…as a status symbol” amidst Parisian fashion culture today as city slickers are documented as dressing to be seen as they don mink coats, sleek silhouettes and of course, only black.
Our Parisian romance came to an end as quickly as it started as we moved across to London. We observed a stark difference in London’s stylistic aesthetic and cultural attributes. Unlike Paris, London was largely affected by World War II during the devastating ‘blitz’. The unscathed architecture of Paris was no where to be found as we were thrown into a mixed bag of colour, modern developments and open-minded attitudes.
From left to right: High St Shoreditch, Camden & Oxford St
Establishing a uniform for London proved reminiscent of concepts found at both Premiere Vision and Studio Edelkoort as bright sublimation prints, muted tweed woollens, utilitarian accents and certain stylistic juxtaposing features were discovered. Both Premiere Vision and Studio Edelkoort described opposing yet harmonious theories regarding emerging trends. “Fragility and strength…wonky lines and geometric shapes” were terms used at Premiere Vision to explain emerging patterns in textiles. Studio Edelkoort utilised phrases such as “hermetic and protective…frayed and smooth…colours and creams”, emphasising distinctions between each idea and creating a broad and faceted scope for potential trend patterns. With relevance to these findings, street goer Annabelle’s statement suggesting “in London anything goes”, informed our perspective on this city’s uniform, or, not-so uniform. The often dull climate seems to have little influence on the locals as their dress-code reflects an abundance of colour and vibrancy. We stumbled across an Australian who was dressed brightly in a printed floral jumpsuit. “Lots of things go, the U.K, I love that people aren’t afraid to go ugly, they hone who they are, it’s quite a beautiful oxymoron.” This statement sparked familiarity to designer Muccia Prada who explains “Ugly is attractive, ugly is exciting.”(Nisita 2016), where this idea posed relevant to London’s trend patterns. This opinion reflected our own as we went on to explore areas of Soho, Shoreditch, Dalston, Oxford street and Camden. Speaking of oxymorons, we have discovered that London parodies the concept of uniform as their “anything goes” attitude is reflected through their somewhat haphazard style of dress.
Annabelle dressed head to toe in her floral, bright jumpsuit was an excellent reflection of the ‘anything goes trend in the UK’.
Gaining an understanding of the cultural context which contributed to London’s rejection of a uniform came from a discussion with an ex Shoreditch local; Johnny. Having lived in Shoreditch 20 years prior when it was “derelict and daggy” (Johnny 2016) he had no choice but to move to a more upmarket suburb when the youth and hipsters came in and transformed the area into a trendy, alternative and similar representation of Melbourne’s Fitzroy. “It became a common occurrence to have to kick down our front door as a drunken, 20 something had passed out on my doorstep from a wild night at one of the new clubs.” This transformation of the Shoreditch area is reminiscent of the twentieth century fashion movement in London as the youth became the new pacemakers of the fashion scene with references to “bright young things of the 1920’s dancing the Charleston to hot Jazz; through to the punks of the 1970’s Po-going to the Dammed.” (20thcenturylondon.org.uk 2016) Shoreditch is known to be the hub for textiles as the East End is home to a countless variety of cultures. “16th century French Huguenot silk weavers, Irish immigrant silk weavers and the importation of vibrant Bangladeshi fabrics”, here the facets of Shoreditch’s textile culture is described by Jo, a trend forecaster at WGSN. “As the young assumed a new cultural importance in the 20th century” (20thcenturylondon.org.uk 2016) this ideology remains throughout modern London culture today. Culture plays an integral role in the story of London’s style identity where youth and multiculturalism attributes to the melting pot of trends seen in this city.
Johnny from Shoreditch here is standing in front of his old apartment on High St. He dresses based on the history of the area he travels in.
The innovators and early adopters of London were a plenty, dissimilar to those of Paris who seemed few and far between. Sam, a local working nearby the Borough markets, presented as a certain example of an innovator and gave thorough insight into both current and emerging trends within London. Wearing vibrant yellow and green checked hiking gear, seeming to be fit to withstand Antarctic terrain, we provoked with questions regarding his stylistic choices, he responded stating “I wear this because I hate the cold and this makes me hate it less, I hate hiking gear too and the same principle applies.” His innovative style identity derives from his ironic and humorous approach to fashion where he explores trends or outfits that appeal least to him, in order to acquire a broader attitude toward the vast scope of fashion terrain. Health Goth and Tech Ninja were terms Sam fed our intrigued minds as he described subcultures both him and his friends observe as both current and emerging. He explained his distaste for the “soulless mass production” of retail giants such as Top Shop and H&M and further discussed the idea of black becoming a more prominent theme in London’s more commercial fashion scene. Where subcultures earlier mentioned strive to incorporate more unique and alternative stylistic nuances, portraying innovation through fashion.
Sam – Borough Markets
As we compare Paris and London’s fashion scene we can draw similarities and of course differences. The loud, wild and fast paced culture of London would send shivers down the back of conservative and classical Paris. These apparent distinctions are between bright and muted pallets and both cultural and psychological attributes and distinctions found within both cities. The haphazard aesthetic of London and somewhat anticipated, timeless and sophisticated style of Paris can be summed up by G.K Chesterson as “London is a riddle. Paris an explanation.” (Chesterston 2007)
On the left: A women wishing to remain anonymous that we found in Comme de Garcon, Paris.
On the right: Van found shopping in Comme de Garcon, Paris. Very fashion forward at age 70. Inspired by classical and modern music as well as her self when sourcing trends in fashion.
Image 1: Woman inspired by ethnic cultures as well as what she feels comfortable in whilst remaining aesthetically pleasing.
Image 2: A family whom travelled into London for the day from their country property. Dressing for practicality rather than style was important for their country lifestyle. (taken aback that we appreciated their dress!)
Image 3: Bernard, owner of a Shoreditch antique store was very insightful with giving us information about the history of Shoreditch and Dalston, wears utilitarian influenced style of dress.
Image 4: Eddie, one of the key editors at Hyperbeast magazine found a much more diverse attitude towards the UK trends in comparison to the way people dress at home in New York.
Image 5: A trio of men colourfully dressed from the Borough markets enjoying their lunch break.
Image 6: A duo found on London Bridge. Students from Israel, studying in London. They both were inspired by street styles and had both constructed parts of their outfits shown in this photo.
References (Listed Alphabetically)
Chesterston, G 2007, An Essay On Two Cities, 1st edn, accessed February 21, 2016, from <http://www.ciudadseva.com/sevacity/stories/en/chesterton/an_essay_on_two_cities.htm>.
Nisita, L 2016, ‘Ugly Fashion, Feminism, & Prada’, Refinery 29, accessed February 24, 2016, from <http://www.refinery29.com/2013/08/52238/miuccia-prada-ugly-fashion>.
Polan, B & Tredre, R 2009, The great fashion designers, Berg Publishers, Oxford.
StatusMind, 2016, ‘Paris is the throne residence of fashion!’, accessed February 22, 2016, from <http://statusmind.com/great-facebook-statuses-446/>.