Anti-Fashion isn’t just the prudence about mainstream fashion trends that most people feel from time to time, but an alternative to fashion and a voice within fashion’s discourse, and a philosophy that wants to know what fashion is and should understand its available alternatives. In the context of contemporary fashion, which has seen various hybridizations between art and fashion, style and design, mainstream and avant-garde, fast-fashion and slow-fashion, where’s the line between ‘official’ mainstream common fashion and its opposite? What makes something ‘Anti-Fashion’, and what’s just plain normal ‘fashion’?
What does it mean to be Anti-Fashion? In theory, the concept of Anti-Fashion tends to be linked to the avant-garde, especially that of the 1990s, but it also arose in the 1990s when young people would wear simple clothes without a visible brand name. Another period of anti-fashion has taken place in the 1950s, with the advent of rock and roll, especially with young adolescent women who wore this androgynous style of clothing in rebellion with the gender roles and societal norms at that time. So, in general terms, Anti-Fashion a style of clothing that clearly and deliberately challenges the fashion of the day.
FROM PUNK TO GRUNGE, FROM WEARABLE PIECES OF ART TO CONCEPTUAL FASHION AND CRAZY BODY ADORNMENTS, ‘ANTI-FASHION’ DESCRIBES THE WAYS IN WHICH DESIGNERS AND THE FASHION-AWARE EXPRESS THEIR OPPOSITION TO THE FASHION ESTABLISHMENT.
Today, Anti-Fashion seems to be more mainstream than ever before. With designers trying to stay ahead of the ever-changing business landscape, one must stand out in order to be remembered. Demna Gvasalia’s Balenciaga Triple S Sneaker for Balenciaga, Martin Margiela’s Tabi Boot, Birkenstock’s Arizona Sandals all differ from societal fashion standards but have become trends and are worn by the masses. What is it that has allowed designers’ — and consumers’ — eyes to adjust toward the “ugly” in fashion? Why is “ugly” the latest trend?
“Through social media, younger generations are very in tune with sarcasm, meme fashion, and some of these ugly fashions speak to that,” says Brian Trunzo, senior consultant and forecaster for trend forecasting service WGSN. With the reach of social platforms “it’s easier for something like a pair of Crocs at Balenciaga to go viral. There is a certain level of inception that happens when you see something so often you start to accept it as aesthetically pleasing. When one trend reaches the extreme, it then reaches in the other direction. Certain ‘ugly’ styles can become fashionable because of that.”
However, Anti-Fashion is not only seen as a fad movement you join in on to differ from societal norms. It is highly appreciated and regarded by the uppermost individuals in fashion, who have seen the rise of designers like Martin Margiela, Yohji Yamamoto, Rick Owens and Ann Demeulemeester who helped shaped fashion into what it is today. This is why the New York Metropolitan Museum featured an exhibit entitled Fashion / Anti-fashion: The Art of the In-Between in 2017 which showcased the work of alternative Japanese brand Comme des Garcons under the direction of Rei Kawakubo. It featured 140 examples of Kawakubo's womenswear for Comme des Garçons dating from the early 1980s to her most recent collection, and the audience were treated to a tightly curated edit of Kawakubo’s career at the fashion house broken into categories like Then/Now, Model/Multiple, and Self/Other.