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