Sunday, August 19News That Matters

Fashion Is Uglier Than Ever, And It Has To Stop


“I’m as mad as hell and I’m not gonna take this anymore.”

Not words that usually kick off a style column, I know, but I saw Bryan Cranston in Network at the National Theatre. Based on the 1976 Sidney Lumet movie, the play is about TV anchor Howard Beale who, depressed by falling ratings and cynical network owners, has a nervous breakdown on air. Sick of all the “bullshit”, his “mad” mantra is soon taken up by his show’s now growing audience.

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I mention this because this month I’m quite furious, too. I’ve become an unhappy concoction of Howard Beale, Larry David, Victor Meldrew and those two old guys in the box in The Muppet Show. This is mostly down to spending 10 days on a no-carbs, no-booze, no-fun health regime. I hated it.

This lack of everything I enjoy has caused me to vent my (purified) spleen on some of the absurd items currently all the rage this spring. It’s normal for the fashion world to present downright ridiculous clothes occasionally — it would be letting us down if it didn’t — but every few years it throws up a torrent of silliness that makes you question your sanity, as well as your age.

Until recently, if someone said you looked like a joke, you’d be rather indignant. Yet today that may well be a compliment as some of the world’s most influential fashion houses charge a lot of money for clothing that takes irony a tad too far.

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Of course, this is all part of a subversive take on fashion by a new breed of designers questioning traditional style codes beloved of the establishment and who are playing around with elevating the humdrum into something covetable (long the case with many art forms, such as Duchamp and his urinal), but this an expensive joke to wear for one season or two.

Vetements, for example, offers its take on a certain delivery company’s uniform with a “DHL” logo’ed T-shirt first shown in 2016 that will set you back £485 in 2018. DHL is so thrilled by its unexpected arrival on the fashion scene it has offered customers the chance to win one.

Vetements designer Demna Gvasalia is also behind the commercial success of French brand Balenciaga. From it you can purchase humorous items for less amusing prices: sock trainers (as you might guess, an unsettling hybrid of sock and trainer) for £495; massively over-sized cotton-poplin shirts, designed to drown the wearer and featuring a giant green dragon print, for £875; and a leather tote bag modelled to look like a plastic supermarket carrier, for £855.

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Other irony comebacks this year include the bumbag — or fanny pack, as they call it in the US (*sniggers quietly*) — which to give it a point of difference to last time it was in fashion is now worn like a gun holster between shoulder and waist rather than just around the waist. To see how not to do it: Google pictures of ex-One Direction’s Liam Payne wearing his. Payne’s current guise is absurd: he is trying to look Straight Outta Compton when in reality he’s straight out of The X Factor. Bad-ass(hole).

I know it’s not just me who’s a little bemused by the current bonkers-ness. I came across a recent menswear shoot in The Guardian. Shot in a dreary airport, the very miserable-looking model was made to parade in a striped bowling jacket and shirt teamed with tiny satin shorts (basically exaggerated underpants) and white sports socks worn under black leather sandals.

Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t long before it popped up on someone’s Instagram feed, soon joined by lots of crying-with-laughter emojis. As well as the following witty comment from the writer Caitlin Moran: “This is how you dress if you’ve had all your clothes stolen by bullies and Miss gets you something out of the lost property basket.” To look that silly and unhappy would cost you nearly £3,000.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, fashion brands are again emblazoning logos on their products. The logo, last embraced so heartily in the Nineties, is big, brash and bold again. Today, it seems you can either dress as a joke, or a billboard. Maybe it’s everyone else who is as mad as hell, not me.

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