if it happens to cost hundreds…
“Why Everyone Is Into Ugly Fashion: An Explainer”, “6 Ugly Chic Trends Are Back in Fashion in the Instagram Age” and “Ugly clothes are the coolest thing in fashion right now.” are the first three results to come up when you google “ugly fashion”.
It’s clear that lately the fashion crowd have been excited by the unappealing, but it’s striking unclear why, which suggests the need for articles about it.
One of the first things people could say about brands like Gucci, Vetements and Balenciaga. Is that they’re producing ugly clothes. (The platform Crocs, shaggy fur mules, and double-sided cowboy boots come to mind and that’s just the shoes.) But you could also say that they’re immensely successful.
While the financial reports of Vetements aren’t publicly available, for whatever reason you may infer, the parent company of both Gucci and Balenciaga has figures posted on their website with both the brands fetching millions in revenue. But whether this phenomenon is about money or not is a separate conversation to be had with Demna Gvasalia (designer for both Vetements and Balenciaga) who’s admitted that he wouldn’t buy his own clothes for retail. He has also admitted that the Vetements brand exists to make money above any other motivation.
To explore what ugly fashion really means, you first need to define ‘pretty’ fashion. Is it something traditional, tailored and fitted. Is it haute couture? Is it ‘normal’? Would it guarantee a ‘that’s hot’ from Paris Hilton? I don’t think so.
Looking back in centuries, beauty standards have changed without question, and of course dress sense has changed too. Fashion has always been about the next thing. It doesn’t stop, and go with the flow because it’s too busy inventing a new way to flow.
Christian Dior’s 1947 New look collection was the opposite of current events, in a post-war Europe he brought back the idea of feminine decadence, lost throughout years of rationing. Dior was even banned from British Vogue in an attempt to stop people from seeing the new look. It was both loved and hated because it was almost unnecessarily wasteful. Dior wanted to change things, and he did such, with the collection now being regarded as historically ground-breaking. Fast forward to Westwood covering up with only Perspex fig leaves, McQueen releasing his bumster trousers, Marc Jacobs even being fired from Perry Ellis for his “ghastly” grunge.
All of these things have received negative media attention, and honestly, the designs are impractical as anything. But since when has fashion been about practicality? There’s something oddly attractive about being unable to do things, about being ‘too good’ for something. This idea unfortunately could be traced back to Chinese foot binding, a display of status; they didn’t have to use their feet. Even that is ugly, the grotesque images are probably left in your mind from the last time you read about it.
With the turn of the millennium, the world turned digital. After Y2K didn’t happen, all of our confidence went directly to computers again. Every industry has quickly made its way onto the web, and fashion was no exception.
The 00s however are often brought up as a bad example of fashion choices, and this could be due to increasing levels of fast-fashion consumability combined with the extreme introduction of celebrity culture. But even though we all hated it for a while, we’re bringing 00s style back, in the continuous recycling of fashion. If you’d like proof, read 9 reasons the 00s are back on High Snobiety.
It appears that so called ugly clothes are a common idea in fashion, so what makes it different in 2017? Well James Dickinson of Varsity puts it quite well;
“We are now so inundated with images of beauty in magazines and on social media that ugly fashion seems an easy way to break the mould”
In a hyper-sensitive age where fashion is faster than it’s ever been and trends can last two minutes or two years for no distinct reasons. ‘Pretty’ fashion, makeup and general aesthetics are everywhere, they’re cheap and quick to maintain, but something ugly is going to stand out irregardless. This concept has been taken on board by a host of internet influencers, who will go out of their way to be ‘ugly’ and sometimes grotesque. But ugly fashion isn’t grotesque.
Ugly fashion is intended to look boring and basic and ‘wrong’. It challenges what everybody expects to appear on a runway. But there’s something enticing about it being expensive, it takes paying for the label literally. For instance, ugly fashion can be way for designers to mock fast fashion. In 2016, Vetements released a DHL t-shirt almost identical to the official uniform already available for cheap and priced it at almost £200. It sold out in weeks. The designer essentially stole a design and sold it for more money. An antonym to the fast fashion business, (which steals designs and sells them for cheap).
Let’s take a moment to see the examples of ugly fashion you can find in 2017.
Crocs at Balenciaga and Christopher Kane, Socks and sandals at Marc Jacobs, Sleeping bags worth of puffer jackets and more.
Ugly fashion simultaneously causes a wide-spread distaste and an unparalleled hype for itself. But what is next? Inevitably people will want to move on from this idea as it becomes the norm, with high street stores already catching onto the trends, and releasing ‘marketable’ options that appeal to people who know about the higher fashions, and those who don’t.
When everything is ugly, maybe we’ll have to go back to pretty things again? Or maybe we’ll all live a Lana-Del-Rey-style-Hollywood-glamour life? Or maybe designers will take us all the way back to the Victorian era, thinking of traditional styles.
It’s almost impossible to tell what will be next, until it’s now, and then it’s been. All we cans say for sure, is that maybe the insult about dressing in the dark is a compliment now.