Fanny packs, prairie dresses, lux­ury shower shoes: Is fash­ion trolling us or what?

The Borneo Post - Nature and health - - Style & Grooming - by Robin Givhan

FASH­ION is trolling the masses. Of course it is. In re­cent sea­sons, against all the rules of con­tem­po­rary taste, fash­ion has as­serted that once-de­rided styles such as fanny packs, Crocs, prairie dresses and chunky or­thopaedic sneak­ers are de­sir­able. This is an aes­thetic provo­ca­tion. A poke. The point is to ag­i­tate ca­sual ob­servers and leave them scratch­ing their heads. But it’s not ex­actly a joke. De­sign­ers are not mak­ing these prod­ucts for their amuse­ment. Not com­pletely. The ul­ti­mate goal is to make a sale.

The gate­way to ugly - an ad­jec­tive used here with af­fec­tion - was the Birken­stock. Known for its in­el­e­gantly moulded footbed and its crunchy-gra­nola his­tory, the clas­sic Ger­man san­dal was reimag­ined in a hy­per-lux­u­ri­ous way for spring 2013 by the in­flu­en­tial de­signer Phoebe Philo. For her run­way show, she lined her ver­sion of Ari­zona san­dals in mink. She be­daz­zled them. They re­tailed for about $900 (RM3,600).

“This one model comes clomp­ing down the run­way (in Birken­stocks) and all the fash­ion in­sid­ers are lick­ing their chops be­cause they’re see­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent,” says Susie Sh­eff­man, a Toronto-based fash­ion con­sul­tant and stylist. “It’s al­most like a re­verse snob­bism.”

Not long af­ter that show, Sh­eff­man saw a pic­ture of ac­tress Mila Jovovich on the cover of the De­cem­ber is­sue of Net-a-Porter’s mag­a­zine, the Edit. “She was wear­ing a man­nish white shirt and white trousers and black Birken­stocks,” Sh­eff­man wist­fully re­calls. “It hit me at a cel­lu­lar level: That’s the girl I want to be.”

Who could re­sist? It was not long be­fore Birken­stock, whose orig­i­nal suede Ari­zona san­dals sell for about $125, part­nered with Bar­neys New York to cre­ate a $270 ver­sion lined with blue shear­ling. A Rick Owens col­lab­o­ra­tion fol­lowed in 2018, reimag­ined as furry, cow-hair slides sell­ing for $420. “Yes, they’re ugly,” says Mag­gioni. “But it’s a fa­mil­iar sil­hou­ette. It’s not scary or fright­en­ing.”

The same can­not nec­es­sar­ily be said for clunky For­rest Gump sneak­ers, rub­ber Crocs or long, flow­ing Dust Bowl dresses. The gi­ant sneak­ers, which have been ad­vo­cated by brands such as Ba­len­ci­aga ($895) and Mai­son Margiela ($1,645), are an as­sem­blage of suede, leather and mesh, of­ten in a col­lage of clash­ing colours. The soles - plat­forms stacked atop plat­forms - are like a par­fait of molded rub­ber.

The prairie dress, equally jar­ring to the eye, was in­ter- preted in mul­ti­ple vari­a­tions by Raf Si­mons for Calvin Klein 205W39NYC for fall 2018. One ver­sion of the an­kle-length style comes with pin-tuck­ing and a wide, ruf­fle-trimmed col­lar. Only its deep V-neck pre­vents it from look­ing Amish. Cost: $3,900. At Calvin Klein, the look is part of a col­lec­tion that ex­am­ines a broad swath of Amer­i­cana that also in­cludes fire­fighter jack­ets, cadet shirts and heir­loom quilt­ing.

“It’s not just about tak­ing what your grand­mother had in her wardrobe,” Mag­gioni says. “It gets adapted to taste nowa­days.” The brand Bat­sheva is fully com­mit­ted to the prairie: Laura Ashley meets Gunne Sax meets grunge. Its $420 flo­ral cot­ton dresses have puffed shoul­ders and a ruf­fled Peter Pan col­lar. Some have ruf­fle-trimmed patch pock­ets. They are some­times paired with co­or­di­nat­ing bon­nets for max­i­mum fash­ion ef­fect. Vogue de­lights in them. Match­esFash­ion.com sells them right along­side Prada and Saint Lau­rent.

Wear­ing these styles with aplomb is like ex­e­cut­ing the triple axel of fash­ion: high level of dif­fi­culty, sig­nif­i­cant risk of fail­ure, tremen­dous brag­ging rights if ac­com­plished. But why? Why would Bat­sheva Hay - who grew up in Queens and not on some windswept Ne­braska prairie, who is a Georgetown-ed­u­cated lawyer, not a goat farmer - cre­ate an en­tire line of pioneer dresses that look like they should come with their own lean-to? “I al­ways wore vin­tage,” she ex­plains. “But when I started work­ing as a lawyer 10 years ago, I couldn’t wear all the clothes I’d col­lected.

Then I quit and had kids and thought, ‘I can do what I want.’ “She’d moved to the Up­per West Side of Man­hat­tan. She no­ticed that many of older peo­ple were tool­ing around the neigh­bour­hood in Laura Ashley-style dresses, sneak­ers and fanny packs. Her mother was a hip­pie in the 1960s. Her fa­ther is Is­raeli. She was named af­ter a fig­ure from the Old Tes­ta­ment who is some­times equated with fem­i­nism. Af­ter hav­ing a baby girl, she be­came ob­sessed with mother-daugh­ter dress­ing.

This tor­nado of in­flu­ences led her to cre­ate a retro, Old World, earthy col­lec­tion that re­fuses to sex­u­alise the fe­male form while also play­ing on tra­di­tional fem­i­nin­ity. The prairie dress “is a style that crosses all these cul­tures. Peo­ple wear them in Eastern Europe and down South. I loved the colours and the pat­terns,” says Hay, 37. “I started mak­ing them from per­sonal de­sire and need, and I wore the crap out of them. “– The Wash­ing­ton Post.

Pho­tos for The Wash­ing­ton Post by Jonas Gus­tavs­son-MCV /Alexei Hay/Ray­mond Chan-MCV Photo

A fanny pack on Ba­len­ci­aga’s Fall Win­ter 2018 run­way; logo’d shower shoes from Gucci’s Dap­per Dan col­lec­tion; a prairie dress by Bat­sheva Hay; clunky sneak­ers from the Mai­son Margiela Fall Win­ter 2018 col­lec­tion.-

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