Individualist Fashion: Liberating Serebrennikov and Wedding Rag’n’Bone Man

“You got your... freshmen, ROTC guys, preps, J.V. jocks, Asian nerds, Cool Asians, Varsity jocks, Unfriendly black hotties, Girls who eat their feelings, Girls who don't eat anything, Desperate wannabes, Burnouts, Sexually active band geeks, the greatest people you will ever meet and the worst: Beware of plastics.”

Who can forget the 2004 classic that managed to single-handedly re-popularise the word ‘fetch’, introduce us to the psychology of a dictator and plague years of parental scourging as a result of our sudden ‘sassy attitude’?- ‘Mean Girls’ shaped our generation. Like so many of its 80s and 90s predecessors, ‘Mean Girls’ seemed to ‘get it’. The film encapsulated our meaningless rebellion, our unrequited love frustrations and established the status quo of the high school experience. This scene, like so many others (think '10 Things I Hate About You’, ‘John Tucker Must Die’ and, of course, ‘The Breakfast Club’) clearly defined the parameters of adolescent society. If you didn’t find yourself comfortably situated in one of the aforementioned groups, your unfortunate fate was that of…well…who are you?

“Where goes the Irish firecracker with a predilection for tweed skirts, over-sized jumpers and gargantuan sliders?”

Pondering upon the classic high school stereotype scene which seems to permeate into each and every teen movie script, I began to question my own position in the fledgeling food chain. Where goes the Irish firecracker with a predilection for tweed skirts, over-sized jumpers and gargantuan sliders? Maybe my love of Ella Fitzgerald and The Kinks could clear up any ambiguities? And what about Hannah? A close friend and course mate, she managed to strike a conversation with a collection supervisor who had all the personality of a decapitated supermarket salmon with her feisty, fearless ‘Free Serebrennikov’ T-shirt. What of all those mutineers whose personalities and fashion senses are too vast to precisely fit social convention’s two-dimensional boxes? I guess that, on a grand scale, I’m accusing Hollywood of gross generalisation because, ultimately, I just want to be me minus the categorisation.

Late to the party but, nevertheless, making the endeavour to change, the fashion world is welcoming individualism, the ultimate trend. Back in 2004, luminary fashion icon, Alexander McQueen, kicked it all off. Rejecting the job of designer at Yves Saint Laurent, McQueen also precluded expectations of a pyrotechnic, theatrical Autumn/Winter 2004 catwalk. Instead, he opted to focus entirely upon the distinction of his work, shunning the melodramatic fashion ploys of the era. McQueen repudiated anticipation of the complex, accommodating the simple. In the same way, fifteen years later, contemporary fashion is catching up on his catwalk. 

Style is gradually reinventing itself to transcend the social constraints historically imposed by those afraid of change. John Fairchild, previous publisher and editor of Women’s Wear Daily, once remarked, “Style is an expression of individualism mixed with charisma. Fashion is something that comes after style.” In the wake of McQueen’s naked courage comes the rest of the fashion world. A persistent, mellifluous countercurrent to social media influences is brewing. We’re getting ready to shun the pyrotechnics and welcome the person beneath. Valiant and proud, individualism is rearing from the ashes of unspoken stigmas and unforgiving prejudices. Where previously the white-washed catwalk was dominated by the delicate step of models as thin as the pencils with which designers depicted them, a flood of change has engulfed this archaic line of thinking.

 “To the forefront, it unashamedly bares that which has too often been bippity boppity booed out of existence by the merciful Photoshop wands.”

Lorde Inc, a street casting modelling agency established in 2013 by art history graduate, Nafisa Kaptownwala, is providing fashion with a lifeboat. Instead of secluding, Lorde Inc salutes the ‘imperfections’ that slash modelling careers faster than the rise and fall of centurion footwear. To the forefront, it unashamedly bares that which has too often been bippity boppity booed out of existence by Photoshop wands. Cue the acne, the scars, the thighs that have a circumference exceeding that of the eye of a needle. Sick of the tick box approach to diversity in fashion, Kaptownwala sees fashion as ‘integral to reaching out to the masses’. She agrees with Coco Chanel that,

“Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.”

However, Kaptownwala believes that fashion provides relief from the often overwhelming influences of the news and political climates, perhaps resulting in a more quietly evolutionary undercurrent. With a gentle nudge here and a confident thrust there, Kaptownwala envisions fashion as having a wholesome self-believing revolution in Generation Z.

With models increasingly being scouted via their Instagram uploads or Tumblr feeds, never has there been a greater time to be alive and an individualist. Take the Egyptian-born American model, Anok Yai, for example. Eradicating the need for validation by chasing the tail of modelling agencies, the teenage star was first ‘discovered’ through a photo of her at a festival being shared on Instagram by a street-style photographer. Unabashed, with her bountiful curls tumbling down in coordination with her sheer black top and unassuming denim shorts, Yai depends not upon what’s perceived to be fashionable or assumed to be ‘model-like’ but upon her unadulterated beauty. The second black woman to open the Prada show since Naomi Campbell in 1997, Yai is faultlessly paving the way to a more diverse fashion industry with all to bare and nothing to hide.

In being oneself, one is emulating McQueen’s abandonment of the predicted, and casting elevator glances of disgust at the Mean Girls' sense of superiority. Hari Nef, 25-year-old Jewish actress, model, and writer, has effectively obliterated the plastics’ impingement on self-expression. First posting on Instagram in March 2013, Nef has been dubbed ‘the trans fashion muse of our generation’ by Dazed in 2015, subsequently being profiled by Vogue and played a recurring role in Netflix thriller hit, ‘You’. Embracing individualism as a transgender woman, Nef does not, however, wish to be defined in one axis, insisting in an interview with The Guardian that: “My identity will always inform my experience and shape my perception. But I am an unremarkable person. The more we fixate on it, the less we, as a community, [will] feel normal and safe in our day-to-day lives. I just want to grab a meal and, you know, go on a date.” Thus, individualism isn’t about enforcing your differences upon the population or even drawing attention to them, it’s about accepting who you are and who you want to be.

In a time when plus-size Instagram accounts are becoming larger than life, when rainbow flags hang resplendent from 700-year-old colleges and when all religions and none are debated beneath Oxford’s dreaming spires, it’s time fashion started adding fuel to the fire. Forgoing the traditional white dress, three-piece suit wedding apparel, singer Rag’n’Bone Man did just that. Although not quite to my less audacious tastes, the singer married his fiancée Beth Rouy in a tracksuit themed wedding, exhibiting an individualism rather extreme but, nevertheless, admirable in its heroism. Bridging the abyss between increasingly putative varied body forms and assorted gender roles, fashion is just about to take the leap of faith and should take inspiration from the bridegroom’s daring.

When we see Harry Styles donning a pearl earring to the Met Gala or Patrick Starrr’s golden turban at the Billboard Music Awards, let’s not read about it in the news with a raised eyebrow or even a sense of the slightest shock. Shrug off the Mean Girls shock of non-conformity and let’s clasp the opportunity to take for granted that fashion is no longer about dressing how your boyfriend/girlfriend likes, whether your parents would approve, or if you feel like you’re exposing sufficient flesh to blend with the rest of the crew’s. Next time you strut to the RadCam with your Disney Princess-emblazoned black leather jacket or the hoodie from your favourite band’s merchandise tour, rock that look. Oh, and don’t be surprised when the tourists direct their lens to the new event that eclipses even the indisputable beauty of the 300-year-old Rad Cam: you.

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