A trip to Zara feels like a trip to H&M feels like a trip to Mango – which all feels like a trip down Saint Laurent’s fall 2013 runway. It all brings you back to a simpler time when pagers were a luxury and the sound of dial up was so progressive. It feels as if the only difference now is that we are listening to a house remix of “Smells like Teen Spirit” and Courtney Love has been replaced by Miley Cyrus. We may not be experiencing temporary amnesia despite the obvious indicators, e.g. the overabundance of flannel shirts, plaid skirts, and studded boots, but rather the direct effect of digital photography and online archives on fashion. High end and high street designers embraced the ‘90s grunge trend with such ardent enthusiasm that it is hard to tell whether some of the lines were vaguely reimagined or just copy pasted.
Yes, the world of fashion is nostalgic, but where past spring’s runways merely evoked the sentiment of the 1920s with flapper dresses reinterpreted in newer cuts and fresh materials, the grunge trend feels far too similar to its origins. It’s hard to imagine Louise Brooks feeling at home in one of Gucci’s variations of the flapper dress, but it’s easy to see Courtney Love in any one of the plaid dresses in Saint Laurent’s windows (actually she looked right at home starring in the campaign.)
Fashion has always been cyclical in nature (a myriad of parliament members called, they want last seasons ruffles back) but have we just become the ‘90s younger sister who took the hand me downs straight from the closet? It seems that the ease in which we can take and share photos has in some ways stunted creative and artistic freedom. Rather than having to reinvent a trend due to an absence of details, designers can pull up high-resolution photo archives of entire collections with a click and just work from there. Knowing exactly how something was made, how it looked and felt, eliminates any need for interpretation or imagination. As the gap between creation and its inspiration becomes smaller, the need for assiduous reinvention becomes greater. Will we be living in big sis’s shadow for now on (Stephanie Tanner, anyone?)
So what next? A renaissance in the creative process? A call to glean inspiration from beyond the fashion archives? I would like to think that as the effect of technology become more and more apparent that designers will find new and innovative ways to create. Throw out the hand me downs and look for something that is our own. Maybe a revolution in the infamous cycle of fashion? Next fall we’ll probably be in fun fur and crop tops, fondly remembering the days around Y2K.