One of the strangest issues about residing in a time of supposedly limitless client choices is the dearth of real selection. There may be a number of stuff, and it is extremely simple to entry, however a lot of it’s basically the identical factor bought by a number of completely different retailers – or an in depth copy of one thing that was well-liked inside the previous few many years, years, and even months. A client panorama of blandness and infinite repetition is bought to us as a world of infinite chance; and I’m by no means extra conscious of this than after I go to high-street garments outlets.
This isn’t new. Because of the fixed, freakishly speedy copying of designer manufacturers, the cross-pollination of traits between risk-averse, competing shops and the tendency for umbrella corporations to open sister outlets which have an virtually indistinguishable ethos to the unique outlet, the world of high-street style has been by-product and uninspiring for years. However returning to outlets just lately, for the primary time for the reason that pandemic began, the sheer blandness of every thing appeared extra noticeable than it did earlier than.
I’m not saying designer outlets are any higher – I don’t frequent these shops sufficient to remark. However the likes of Weekday, Monki, H&M and Uniqlo all inventory plain, sporty fundamentals (T-shirts and denims) which can be principally interchangeable. City Outfitters is identical, however some gadgets is likely to be tie-dye or neon. In the meantime, Zara, & Different Tales and Cos (too many of those manufacturers are owned by H&M) promote the workwear-oriented model of this, with plain wrap attire, shift attire, cropped trousers and blazers, virtually at all times in muted tones and really acquainted boxy shapes and cuts. I name this type of clothes “the Scandinavian workwear-thing” – and I bear in mind when it was new and recent, and when individuals would joke about eager to be “the Cos lady”. That was greater than a decade in the past now.
Style has at all times been repetitive: historic traits are recycled, however well-liked gadgets are additionally replicated throughout manufacturers (that’s basically what a development is); however the price at which issues are copied has accelerated over the previous few many years and, on the similar time, issues appear to have stopped shifting ahead. Black skinny denims, which look unhealthy on virtually everybody (they make even very skinny individuals seem like bloated storks) have been stocked and worn broadly for greater than 20 years. They by no means went away and got here again once more, however as an alternative lingered for that complete time.
And it’s not simply skinny denims. Different gadgets that appear to have been bought throughout each high-street store repeatedly for years now embrace swishy trousers (virtually at all times in black, gray, pale peach or taupe) with a excessive waist and a large fabric belt; cropped trousers in an office-friendly materials; cropped denim trousers; straight-legged denim trousers; stretchy flares; scoop-neck T-shirts with a cap sleeve (possibly essentially the most unflattering merchandise ever designed); muted-tone wrap attire; lengthy attire product of wool; sheer blouses (typically black) often worn with an opaque vest beneath for modesty; work shirts with a spherical collar; lengthy belted beige cardigans; stretchy denims with a faux fade; smock attire and tabard shirts.
What high-street outlets supply now’s basically a lumpen common of too many individuals’s tastes and life. That is the results of a client tradition wherein everyone seems to be being catered to the entire time. And newness (as in a continuing stream of recent merchandise) is handled as akin to innovation: no person is de facto being catered to, and nothing is de facto new. Dean Kissick put it effectively in a current Spike Art column, saying: “There’s simply an excessive amount of of every thing. There are too many alternative Oreos. 65 flavours in eight years is simply too many.”
A “style lover” on this panorama just isn’t an individual with any explicit style, however relatively an individual who enjoys always looking for new issues which can be basically the identical because the previous issues. An individual who thinks that purchasing gadgets from closely marketed, occasional designer/high-street collaborations is a mark of discernment or type, relatively than excessive susceptibility. Is it any surprise that so many younger girls have turned to secondhand procuring as an alternative? Apparently, one third of all millennial and Gen Z girls within the UK use secondhand shopping platform Depop. Anecdotally, the entire well-dressed individuals I do know converse of the excessive avenue with a way of dread, a spot the place you “must go to get black trousers for work”.
There’s a means of speaking about anti-consumerism as whether it is bland and joyless. This ignores the truth that consumerism itself can also be now completely bland and joyless. The businesses that dominate our excessive streets are risk-averse and put themselves beneath stress to make too many issues. And I feel it says one thing in regards to the world we have now organised for ourselves that an business answerable for so much exploitation, destruction and garbage, can also be so miserably drab and boring.