A new form of beauty: when ugly becomes trendy

13 March 2019 | Posted by Zackary

About three weeks ago, MOSCHINO presented its latest collection in Milan. In the midst of Barbie’s hairstyles and bling attire typical of the Italian brand, one piece attracts everyone’s attention: a TV-tray cape. Lined with silver leather reminiscent of the aluminium of your Kraft favorite, everything is there: vegetable-sleeve, butter-covered mashed potatoes shoulder and steak train.

A few months earlier, Gucci had models caressing dragons, holding a replica of their faces under their arms, and then launched a “Three Little Pigs” line just in time for Chinese New Year’s eve. Crocs clogs, until recently the prerogative of nurses and tourists, offered themselves a collaboration with VETEMENTS, sold-out on the very first day. At Y/ProjetUGG are turned into thigh-high boots, while Donatella Versace replaced Medusa with her dog for the duration of a capsule. And let’s not even talk about the reign of the Birkenstock as soon as the mercury exceeds 23°C….

While Demna Gvasalia even admits to being “flattered that people find [his] clothes ugly”, a question arises. How did ugliness become a trend?

(Gucci – FW 18 ; © Gucci)

From anti to ugly fashion

The appearance of the duality between beauty and ugliness, the desire to infuse a form of nobility, even a message, into what is traditionally rejected, is not new. No one illustrates this idea better than the creators of the anti-fashion movement who, from the 1980s, have been advancing against the flow of generalized opulence. The Chernobyl cloud still hovers, the shadow of AIDS destroys; Rei Kawakubo shoots in TbilisiYohji Yamamoto desexualizes the silhouette. Translated with

Yet, these designers tend to intellectualize their fashion, which is not so much intended to be popular. On the other hand, ugly fashion is omnipresent in our streets, with sneakers leading the way. Balenciaga‘s Triple S is one of the most sought-after luxury items of 2018, enabling the brand to record 40 % growth (source Fashion Network, ed.). It inaugurates the era of the “dad shoe”, which is copied from Zara to Michael Kors, when Louis Vuitton prefers a futuristic interpretation. In other words, how to pay tribute to your father’s Sunday wardrobe with style…

(Arclight sneakers by Louis Vuitton ; © Be China)

Under the Internet lens

At a time when fashion is more and more competitive, this kind of design has become a way to stand out. Rick Owens will rarely generate as many conversations as with his tunics revealing the penis of the wearer. What some will call bad taste is ultimately synonymous with buzz, likes, clicks… and banknotes.

A strategy that relies heavily on influencers and It-girls, who are the first to promote these pieces straight out of the backstages to maintain their status as precursors. Paradoxically, social networks are partly responsible for the multiplication of trends and the acceleration of mainstream, pushing to flirt a little more with the false ugliness of the avant-garde.

This form of “transgressive creation” then becomes a vector of desire. Luxury is no longer necessarily a matter of quality, but rather of identity. The style is a totem pole, one’s identity card to the world. Some pieces even seem to be designed to end up on our Instagram feed. We thus prefer to present ourselves under the audacity of the latest Moncler down jacket rather than the boring mink coat of our elders.

(Moncler 1 Pierpaolo Piccioli — FW19 ; © Moncler)

Towards a lighter fashion?

In this wake, fashion introduces a dose of irony and now learns to laugh at itself. At Gucci, the logos are deliberately printed with a Y, in a nod to the counterfeiting of which the company is a regular victim. History will also remember the Céline bag inspired by the TATI models. Some of the public deplores the fact that Avenue Montaigne is hanging out on Boulevard Rochechouart (considered one of the poorest neighborhoods in Paris, ed.), while others applaud the street’s rise on the podiums. All in all, it brings a form of second degree, more accessible than the conceptual and elitist repertoire of some labels.

The “camp” aesthetic, which is defined by its taste for exaggeration, is gaining more and more followers. Putting extravagance at the heart of its principles, it takes its name from the French verb “se camper”, or “to pose, to take a proud attitude”. It is an ode to fashion weirdness, elevated to the rank of a style in its own right. Somewhere between Elton John’s costumes and Bridget Jones’ boyfriend’s Christmas sweaters. A trend so important that the MET’s fashion department will dedicate its next exhibition to it.

“Fresh”, MOSCHINO’s Windex-shaped fragrance. (© MOSCHINO)

Still, if a fringe of ugly fashion is the clear result of a commercial approach surfing on a trend, it is nonetheless a stylistic manifesto for other designers. Beyond any prejudice, it inevitably leads us to question our notion of beauty and the degree of possible personalization of an outfit. Who knows, today’s ugly may become tomorrow’s classic… •

Hugh Hefner's and Donatella Versace's love child, I am the visible half of the duo behind ZACKARIUM. Addicted to fashion and to Lucky Strike, my mission is to guide you smoothly through the jungle of brands and catwalks.

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