THE PARADOX OF FASHION’S INDIVIDUAL

Over the past two weeks, we have travelled through the streets of London and Berlin with a particular thought at the forefront of our minds; who are the innovators and influencers that inspire us? and what are they doing to attract us to the trends they are wearing? In search of these answers, we visited fascinating and thought-provoking markets, museums, shops, events and galleries to seek out those individuals.

Both European capitals were speckled with lively characters whose unique choice of clothing served as an immediate indicator of the current fashion. Their style highlighted how being eccentric and appearing individual is a prevalent trend and therefore has become its own niche and ironically renders itself redundant. It appears that the larger the group of people that aspire to go against the grain and not conform to societies conventions, the quicker the group becomes the norm and not unique at all. This initially alternative style will eventually become the very thing that it once rebelled against.

In saying this, if we cast our attention towards the people who are embracing individualism, it is apparent that winter coats have become a key style item in attempting to assert this sense of difference and uniqueness.  Winter coats are one of the most ideal garments for exuding a certain persona and promoting a particular outward attitude. Bold, oversized coats elicit a feeling of power, professionalism, and confidence. Bomber or puffer jackets indicate an affinity to a more active lifestyle where comfort and sports luxe mould together to form an edgy, androgynous street style. On the other hand, fur coats, real or faux, tend to highlight a more chic aesthetic with their soft silhouette and somewhat flamboyant nature.

VIDEO: Statement Coat Trend A/W 16/17

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oversized-coat
European Oversized Coat Street Style Winter 2017

OVERSIZED

What better way to make a statement than with a coat that exudes a confident and relaxed nature with an additional ease of comfort? Oversized coats appear to be ever gaining momentum in the fashion sphere and this comes as no surprise with their boxy, androgynous structure allowing domination on the street and in the office. This shapeless silhouette appears to go hand in hand with other “ill-fitting” pieces such as culottes or straight dresses, thus reflecting the rebellious attitude of women in the 1920s, of whom were in a period of history not too dissimilar from the present in terms of political unrest. An article from 1925 found in The Saturday Review describes how the drastic change in women’s attire from restrictively feminine to purposefully androgynous was “the expression of a revolutionary change in the position of women in the world and in their own view of their position”.

1920s-oversized
1920s Oversized Fashion for Women

Clearly, this forms a stark parallel to this current trend of individualism and fearless self expression through fashion. It appears that oversized garments like the winter coat provide a platform upon which gender can become more fluid, erasing the key features of the body that differentiate the male and female form and therefore allowing the population to reach a more united front. Yet, the impending doom of conformity again springs to mind as this androgynous style strives to dismiss gender roles and thus, simultaneously diminishes the points of difference between men and women that aid in forming a sense of individuality in the first place.

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BOMBER

In contrast, the “bomber” is no longer confined by its military roots, but rather has become a fashion essential for Europeans who want to express their individual style through the latest reincarnation of the garment. Although the bomber originated with styles such as the A-2 and B-3 in the American military, luxury brands such as Gucci have revolutionised the jacket’s original masculine aesthetic with feminine, oriental, and floral embroidery motifs. This style of bomber has “trickled down” into the mass market and is now accessible to all. This means the masses can tackle the issue of gender right on their backs with masculine cuts juxtaposed against traditionally feminine handicrafts.

The bomber is not only making its comeback in heavily ornate styles, but moreover through simple plain silk or satin fabrications, often with no padding, to create a soft, relaxed and light version of a typically bulky jacket. These can be found predominantly amongst the mass market and despite providing little warmth in the cold of the winter; they are often seen layered under a heavier puffer or oversized jacket in order to counteract this issue and furthermore create a schism between the unadventurous formulaic mass market and the opposing daring individuals.

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PUFFER

Similarly, puffer jackets are ubiquitous at the moment. On the streets, a uniform of black puffer jackets has long been the norm. Coats “primarily provide warmth and security” in the winter time, thus puffer jackets have an upmost practical use as well as an aesthetic one. The puffer jacket was originally developed in 1936 by Eddie Bauer using quilting techniques, of which are still used in 2017 to create the printed, metallic and oversized puffers that we have observed dominating the retail space. Individualists are seeing the puffer jacket as a comfortable way to take on the mundane, utilising it to exude confidence and independence by styling them in various unusual ways.

harpers-bazaar-october-1938
Harper’s Bazaar, October 1938

Wearers are treating puffer jackets as an extension of the ath-leisure and nineties trends, often taking their utilitarian roots and pairing it with luxurious “demi-couture” pieces. They manage to also encapsulate the established androgynous mood by wearing bigger sizes and cuts, and pairing them with often heavy boots and masculine cigarette or straight leg trousers. The metallic styles allow one to wear an otherwise humdrum uniform of jeans and a jumper, and still successfully achieve the striking, idiosyncratic look that we cannot help but be drawn to.

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FUR

Fur is timeless, it is an inescapable fact at this point, however, a new wave of ludicrously coloured and clearly faux fur coats have recently sparked our trend radars. The first line of a 1929 Vogue feature states we should “go without jewels, pocket money, or every-day clothes, but never try to scrimp on fur. For the fur you wear will reveal to everyone the kind of woman you are and the kind of life you lead.” In the twenty-first century this is no longer the case. Fur is often worn with the soul intention of creating a specifically luxurious yet effortless aesthetic, which is ironic due to the style’s wide accessibility today.

fur-coats
European Fur Coat Street Style Winter 2017

Furthermore, the popularisation of faux fur is very much on par with the current vegan movement. In 2015, the Smithsonian Magazine featured an article on the history of faux fur claiming “if fur was historically fashion’s loudest signifier of identity and status, fake fur began to rival it, communicating its wearer’s progressive political beliefs”. This remains relevant on several levels. In terms of animal rights activism and veganism, faux fur in all it’s unnatural and boldly designed glory has become a symbol against animal cruelty. With the coats clearly not striving to replicate authentic fur, the wearer is making a political stance, whether consciously or not.

Similarly, through the striking patterns, colours, and textures, people are able to position themselves as the focal point in an otherwise mundane conformist landscape. While the majority of the population chooses to dress without much thought for how their style may be impacting their environment, those who choose to adorn an eye catching faux fur coat are making a statement about their right to think and act differently, their right to embrace individuality.

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Evidently, individuality, as seen here through various winter coats, is a “social theory” that allows each person to express their ideology through their clothing. One uses the building blocks of each item to develop their unique personality and project it to the world. However, in a society which now holds someone’s personality as a commodity, being an individual is a valuable trait.

London and Berlin have a vast amount of high street stores producing similar styles across the continent. Unlike Melbourne, their boutique and small designer industry have been made inaccessible by high rent and manufacturing prices. Thus, Europeans are left feeling constrained by mass consumption and looking for alternatives to make themselves stand out. Innovators and influencers at Brick Lane in London and at the trade show Seek in Berlin were seen pairing odd layers of unexpected coats and outerwear to create interesting texture and colour alternatives. However, amongst the fashion conscious there is a fear of this sense of spontaneity being lost to the repetition of fast fashion. In the current climate, the creativeness of fashion’s individualism is at risk, falling victim to the wise words of renowned German sociologist, philosopher, and critic, Georg Simmel, as he once said “As soon as a fashion has been universally adopted, we no longer characterise it as a fashion.”

In 2017, achieving individuality seems nearly impossible as we try to simultaneously pull away from the crowd whilst also staying in touch. The current popularity of the winter coat in its various forms is a perfect reflection of this phenomenon. While the innovators and early adopters of such trends may initially appear as extremely individual, confident, and courageous in their stylistic choices, taking fashion risks in order to repudiate the conventions of our society, they are in fact laying the groundworks for the majority to follow in their footsteps. The power of social media and mass production of large corporations means that soon enough what was once observed as very left field, will now become the convention itself. It is a never ending cycle, a paradox of individualism and conformity.

Yet, in striving to be different and finding this a kind of conformity in itself, we can actually find comfort as this signals to us that others share our values and opinions and we are no longer an outcast. We simply belong to an alternative group of like minded people.

– Jane Merrylees & Alexandra Morris

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REFERENCES

Adler, R. (2015) A runway trend to get really excited about: Individuality. Available at: http://stylecaster.com/beauty/individuality-as-a-trend/ (Accessed: 25 January 2017).

Hines, A (2015). The History of Faux Fur. [online] Smithsonian.com. Available at: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/history-faux-fur-180953984/ [Accessed: 21 January 2017]

Shanks, E (1925). The Revolution In Dress. [online] Old Magazine Articles. Available at: http://www.oldmagazinearticles.com/Twenties_fashion-rebellion_Article#.WIqz3LZ97ow [Accessed: 21 January 2017]

Bucci, J. (2016) Fashion archives: The history of the bomber jacket. Available at: https://startupfashion.com/fashion-archives-the-history-of-the-bomber-jacket/ (Accessed: 25 January 2017).

The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica (2014) ‘Individualism | politics and philosophy’, in Encyclopædia Britannica. Available at: https://www.britannica.com/topic/individualism (Accessed: 25 January 2017).

Marshall, S. and AnOther (2016) A brief history of the Puffer jacket. Available at: http://www.anothermag.com/fashion-beauty/8951/a-brief-history-of-the-puffer-jacket (Accessed: 25 January 2017).

N/A. (2012) Left behind- Georg Simmel on fashion. Available at: http://rachellaurensocialtheory.umwblogs.org/optional-items/quotables-georg-simmel-on-fashion/ (Accessed: 25 January 2017).

Simmel, G., 1957. Fashion. American journal of sociology, 62(6), pp.541-558.

WFCTVofficial (2016) Statement coat fall/winter 16-17 trend. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3m5N5FTOYr8 (Accessed: 25 January 2017).

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IMAGE REFERENCES

NOT, S. or (2014) Gucci 2016 SS:Silk floral embroidered bomber jacket Look×46. Available at: http://www.sameornot.cc/2016/06/Gucci-Bomber-46.html (Accessed: 25 January 2017).

38, B. (2016) PETITE Leo reversible bomber jacket. Available at: http://www.topshop.com/en/tsuk/product/petite-leo-reversible-bomber-jacket-5686845 (Accessed: 25 January 2017).

Wang, C. (2016) Layering heroes who’ve somehow cracked the magical formula. Available at: http://www.refinery29.com/winter-layering-tricks (Accessed: 25 January 2017).

Badger, M. (2016) Hot or Hmm…: Gigi Hadid’s NYC Tommy Hilfiger silver down Puffer jacket. Available at: http://fashionbombdaily.com/hot-or-hmm-gigi-hadids-nyc-tommy-hilfiger-silver-down-puffer-jacket/ (Accessed: 25 January 2017).

Cafaro, V. (2016) 9 trendy Puffer jackets for winter 2016-2017 to keep you warm. Available at: http://www.fashionisers.com/fashion-news/puffer-jackets-winter-2016-2017/ (Accessed: 25 January 2017).

Marshall, S. and AnOther (2016) A brief history of the Puffer jacket. Available at: http://www.anothermag.com/fashion-beauty/8951/a-brief-history-of-the-puffer-jacket (Accessed: 25 January 2017).

Shrimps. (2014) Shrimp Faux Fur Coat Details. [image] Available at: https://medium.com/@hlockley/having-a-moment-shrimps-faux-fur-coats-dc9a8b66deaf#.214hecu70 [Accessed: 25 January 2017]

Nasty Gal. (2016) Favorite Color Faux Fur Jacket. [image] Available at: http://www.nastygal.com/whats-new/favorite-color-faux-fur-jacket?utm_source=linkshare&utm_medium=affiliate&utm_campaign=gcdL/ATRVoE&utm_content=gcdL/ATRVoE&utm_term=10&siteID=gcdL_ATRVoE-9bNk8QCM6KnQC.Una_6k2Q [Accessed: 25 January 2017]

Österreichische Nationalbibliothek – Austrian National Library. (2015) Dame mit Mantel der “Wiener Werkstätte” | Madame d’Ora, Atelier. [image] Available at: http://www.europeana.eu/portal/en/record/92060/556D2B2D19E0B03656DB32B1ECFF16D776C864A4.html?start=122&query=Wiener+Werkst%C3%A4tte&startPage=97&rows=96 [Accessed: 25 January 2017]

Topical Press Agency/Getty Images (2015) Culottes and tweed jacket worn for the hunting season in 1922. [image] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2015/mar/24/culottes-spring-tricky-to-wear [Accessed: 25 January 2017]

(2014) A British fashion photograph of motoring and sports coats, 1924. [image] Available at: https://fascinationstreetvintage.wordpress.com/2015/06/09/1920s-womens-jackets-coats-pt-2/ [Accessed: 25 January 2017]

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