You must be thinking… hipsters? Those bearded, flannel-shirted, retro sunglass-wearing academics who covet cold-pressed coffees in mason jars? Didn’t they die out about a year ago? Well, according to a recent article by Business Of Fashion – not quite. Apparently, hipsters – the most bullied subculture of the decade – have been reincarnated into a more specific guise: the fashion hipster.
Fashion hipsters, as they are so creatively labelled, are young social-media-savvy bloggers, photographers and fashion influencers, who – with often little former connections to the elitist fashion industry – have organically built an online following of ‘normal people’. Fascinated by their unique qualities and how they are untouched by large sponsors or publishers, their lifestyles and insights of these fresh-faced influencers have a lot to offer.
It’s a giant leap toward democratising the almost impenetrable industry. For those without the golden Fashion Week ticket, the years of sifting through three month old news on trends, buzz-worthy designers and behind the scenes of fashion weeks in magazines seem to be drawing to a close, in favour of a digital and social media age that allows an instantaneous insider track into different styles, cultures, and a front row view live from the shows. Plus, the digital revolution has brought a renaissance of urgency and fascination toward fashion, as well as increased involvement by the ‘Average Joe’ in the fashion industry than ever before.
The introduction of ‘click to buy’ catwalks – a developing interactive catwalk experience, so viewers can buy pieces from fashion shows instantaneously online, without waiting for them to arrive in store – can only have blossomed from blogging, photographing and vlogging fashion influencers being invited to Fashion Week. Being able to see footage of shows, as well as brands knowing the influence certain bloggers like Sammi Maria have (nearly everything she wears sells out,) is bound to spur major labels like Burberry into trying new e-commerce experiences that create news around the brand, and opportunities for impulse purchases.
One may ask why bloggers and online personalities are replacing celebrities and models down Fashion Week red carpets – but isn’t it obvious? Fashion shows are about creating a news story, bringing ‘buzz’ around up and coming designers. Bloggers create, write and sell news – but not just via a same old front-page photo of Gigi Hadid in Telegraph Style. It’s news their followers can tap into on their phones, see from anywhere in the world, and purchase in less than 15 minutes… rather than three months later via a collage in Vogue. It’s a faster, more economical, and more inclusive way to experience fashion than ever before. Plus, because many bloggers share their lives and personalities with their audiences, Sali Hughes – a journalist specialising in beauty and fashion who has also accumulated a large online following – argues that people are more likely to be engaging and trusting when an audience can put a name to a face. Rather than anonymous fashion writers, bloggers treat their audience like they’re talking to their best friend over a cup of coffee, the insider experiences are more personal and intimate, and therefore more exciting.
The looks of ‘fashion hipsters’ are aspirational yet – to an extent – attainable. Though disparaged for buying into hot-at-the-moment designers like, famously, Demna Gvasalia’s working class-chic Vetements and Gosha Rubchinskiy’s post-Soviet inspired pieces, purely for their irony and humour value, these brands are a perfect example of why ‘fashion hipsters’ are vital in fashion today. The idea behind Vetements, or Gosha Rubchinskiy, is not about garish displays of wealth. It’s about having a dialogue with the world as we know it today – through clothes. Rather than the embarrassingly superficial displays a decade ago, of the Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie style socialites toting bespoke, but utterly garish, ‘luxury’ designer fashion, the new – and arguably more inspiring – age of fashion influencers are reaching the masses with clothes that try to send a message. The DHL shirt by Vetements that costs £185 could be an ironic joke, it could be telling a story (perhaps it was her uncle’s, or her boyfriend’s), or more loudly it’s saying “Hey! Working class is cool!” and that I’m wearing the same shirt as the guy who delivered my parcel this morning – welcoming in a whole new consumer class with open arms.
Fashion hipsters don’t allow themselves, and by extension their followers, to lose the sense of fun in fashion. Fashion shouldn’t just be about luxury, or owning something that others don’t, but wearing something that says something: whether that’s with humour, or a reflection of society at a moment in time. Plus, with street style photographers, their huge audiences get to glimpse how a famously talked-about piece or trend looks on the street, in everyday life – rather than just on a red carpet, or seated cross-legged at Mulberry S/S16. Everything that these ‘hipsters’ do is making fashion more tangible, wearable, and captivating.
So why the bullying?
At first it might seem like a classic chicken and egg story. Are they bullied because they’re hipsters and just so easy to hate? Or have they been called hipsters because then it’s easier to bully them?
In fact the issue’s core arguably delves deeper. As said, the fashion industry is a beautiful, powerful, yet almost impregnable bubble but it is becoming less exclusive by the minute. Like a 7:37pm Virgin Train out of Euston, the journalists, writers and magazine editors feel they no longer have a reserved seat on the Fashion Express. They’re now standing shoulder-to-shoulder, by the loos, to a fashion blogger they’ve never heard of but has 348,000 subscribers on YouTube. It thus arrives at the same old cliche. The threatened and insecure fashion veteran lashes out because they feel uncomfortable. They’re losing their grip on what they thought they knew. Unlike the celebrity and socialite-era of the mid-2000s, ‘fashion hipsters’ attending fashion shows actually pose a serious threat. This is probably due to them having the knowledge, passion and online expertise to engage huge online followings while knowing as much as, their now, contemporaries do. Thus the bullying continues, despite these old fashion fuddy-duddies having no clue or care about the exciting changes in the industry, and the self-inspired drive, work and passion that these ‘fashion hipsters’ have for creating an interest in clothes, trends, and culture that’s different, that’s interesting and that people actually want to read, talk about, and, most importantly, buy.
Words: Mimi Davies