When describing how she and her friends dress, 13-year-old Calgarian Tala Mottahed uses the word “basic”. Over the past decade, this term has most often been used as an insult to describe a common, predictable, and non-exceptional look. But this has no negative connotations for Mottahed. “It’s just comfy stuff – leggings and baggy jeans and cropped tops and shirts,” she says. “Just basic.”
This example of the evolution of the increasingly nuanced ways we speak of personal aesthetics is the stuff of trend forecasters’ nightmares. The days when fashion and beauty brands carefully dictated seasonal colors, hem lengths and silhouettes through their runways and advertising campaigns are long gone. Consumers no longer rush to the mall to blindly carry what they are told. Instead, we choose pieces that express the story we want to tell about ourselves and mix up style tribes of like-minded people.
The attribution of an aesthetic is nothing new. Mods of the 1960s were distinguished by their Chelsea boots and military parkas worn to keep their slim-cut suits clean on their Vespas, while punks of the 1970s preferred ripped clothes, combat boots and hairpin piercings to nanny who signified their rebellion against the Status Quo. In today’s information age, however, these tribes are becoming more and more fractured and specific. The meaning of the word ‘aesthetic’ has gone beyond the philosophy of beauty and taste to describe how we categorize our own identities, with the goal of aligning all visuals into a cohesive style that works both online and offline. line.
In his book, The Generation Myth: Why When You Are Born Matters Less Than You ThinkAuthor Bobby Duffy refutes outdated modes of categorizing people by focusing on generational clichés, such as the idea that baby boomers are selfish and millennials more narcissistic. “Much of the talk on the subject is based on stereotypes and lazy thinking, which makes it unnecessary or dangerous,” he writes, explaining that more systemic thinking is needed. “We need to carefully analyze the forces that shape us as individuals and as societies. “
Unboxing the aesthetic of style today can be as complicated as researching a family tree that stretches back several generations, with ramifications appearing with every step threatening to take you on an endless tangent. Amanda Brennan, senior director of trends at marketing agency XX Artists (whose work has earned her the nickname “meme librarian”) uses the “cottagecore” aesthetic as an example of how contemporary trends can emerge and coalesce. spread. The look exploded online through cute Pinterest images of young women wearing ruffled dresses in pastoral landscapes before delving into popular culture through moments such as Taylor Swift’s 2020 album, Folklore. Whether you’ve heard of cottagecore or not, it’s probably prompted you to buy something with a more artisanal look lately.
Brennan says today’s aesthetic is constantly evolving, a process that began when millennials took the seeds of the Gen X subcultures of the 1980s and 90s and put them online. “Millennials have really driven the adoption of aesthetics with the internet. The internet is where millennials find out about this stuff, ”she says. Now those aesthetics – with names like Y2K (a nostalgic late 1990s / early 2000s riff immortalized in paparazzi snaps of celebrities like Britney Spears and Paris Hilton), goblincore (an earthy reference to forests gnarled and to creatures like worms and snails) and Old Money (a country-club look positioned as a backlash against the airbrushed California-influenced style) – are readily available for anyone to experiment with, something the young people today have adopted. “With Gen Z, they see all of these options on the table. They have a lot more freedom in what they can try and explore, ”says Brennan.
Maddy Buxton, head of culture and trends at YouTube Canada, has seen videos about these more precise aesthetics garner millions of views on the platform. Beyond evolving meaning and merging independent aesthetics to create new ones, she says what’s interesting is how an aesthetic has moved beyond clothing and accessories to them. same to encompass broader themes, including self-improvement and personal growth.
“Some of the first aesthetics we saw were really about the things you can buy that will help you project that aesthetic,” she says. “While that’s still a part of it, another element that develops is: what is the vibe you embody when you embrace this aesthetic? What do you think of yourself? What are you projecting to the world? What do you want people to see in you beyond material possessions? “
As a result of this change, style brands are rethinking old-fashioned strategies to position themselves with consumers. “It has worked for fashion companies to place themselves in a specific part of the market and to define their business and branding strategy based on where they compete,” says Ana Andjelic, who worked as head of the brand at Banana Republic and Rebecca Minkoff and is the author of The company of aspiration. “None of this is relevant to the consumer – and it never has been. She says now, more than ever, consumers buy based on their own style, mood, sources of influence, what they want to project and how they want to organize their own look.
Gucci, a designer brand that has reinvented itself countless times over its 100-year history, is handling this disruption well. The name of the fashion house has even changed from a name to an adjective that classifies a certain type of cool.
Under the creative leadership of Alessandro Michele – who received the British Fashion Council’s Trailblazer Award in November for positioning Gucci at the intersection of culture, art, music and film – the brand has remained loyal to its shady brand DNA while focusing on an eclectic model. and inclusive style.
With consumers constantly remixing and mixing the aesthetic before quickly moving on, the only way forward for fashion is to challenge categorization.
“Post-genre fashion is ‘one size fits all’,” explains Andjelic. “It’s up to the consumer to decide what to buy and how to put it together. “
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