One of the strangest issues about residing in a time of supposedly limitless client choices is the shortage of real selection. There’s a whole lot of stuff, and it is vitally straightforward to entry, however a lot of it’s basically the identical factor offered by a number of totally different retailers – or a detailed copy of one thing that was common inside the previous couple of a long time, years, and even months. A client panorama of blandness and countless repetition is offered 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. Due to the fixed, freakishly speedy copying of designer manufacturers, the cross-pollination of developments between risk-averse, competing retailers 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 vogue has been by-product and uninspiring for years. However returning to outlets not too long ago, for the primary time because the pandemic began, the sheer blandness of every part appeared extra noticeable than it did earlier than.
I’m not saying designer outlets are any higher – I don’t frequent these retailers 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 similar, however some gadgets is perhaps tie-dye or neon. In the meantime, Zara, & Different Tales and Cos (the latter two of those manufacturers are additionally owned by H&M) promote the workwear-oriented model of this, with plain wrap attire, shift attire, cropped trousers and blazers, virtually all the time in muted tones and really acquainted boxy shapes and cuts. I name this model of clothes “the Scandinavian workwear-thing” – and I keep in mind when it was new and contemporary, and when individuals would joke about eager to be “the Cos girl”. That was greater than a decade in the past now.
Style has all the time been repetitive: historic developments are recycled, however common gadgets are additionally replicated throughout manufacturers (that’s basically what a pattern is); however the price at which issues are copied has accelerated over the previous few a long time and, on the similar time, issues appear to have stopped shifting ahead. Black skinny denims, which look dangerous on virtually everybody (they make even very skinny individuals seem like bloated storks) have been stocked and worn extensively for greater than 20 years. They by no means went away and got here again once more, however as an alternative lingered for that total time.
And it’s not simply skinny denims. Different gadgets that appear to have been offered throughout each high-street store constantly for years now embody swishy trousers (virtually all the time in black, gray, pale peach or taupe) with a excessive waist and a large material 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 (usually black) normally worn with an opaque vest beneath for modesty; work shirts with a spherical collar; lengthy belted beige cardigans; stretchy denims with a fake fade; smock attire and tabard shirts.
What high-street outlets supply now could be basically a lumpen common of too many individuals’s tastes and existence. That is the results of a client tradition by which everyone seems to be being catered to all the time. And newness (as in a relentless stream of recent merchandise) is handled as akin to innovation: no person is basically being catered to, and nothing is basically new. Dean Kissick put it properly in a current Spike Art column, saying: “There’s simply an excessive amount of of every part. There are too many various Oreos. 65 flavours in eight years is just too many.”
A “vogue lover” on this panorama just isn’t an individual with any specific style, however fairly an individual who enjoys consistently purchasing for new issues which can be basically the identical because the outdated issues. An individual who thinks that purchasing gadgets from closely marketed, occasional designer/high-street collaborations is a mark of discernment or model, fairly than excessive susceptibility. Is it any marvel that so many younger girls have turned to secondhand buying as an alternative? Apparently, one third of all millennial and Gen Z girls within the UK use secondhand shopping platform Depop. Anecdotally, all the well-dressed individuals I do know communicate of the excessive avenue with a way of dread, a spot the place you “should 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 be now completely bland and joyless. The businesses that dominate our excessive streets are risk-averse and put themselves below stress to make too many issues. And I feel it says one thing concerning the world now we have organised for ourselves that an business accountable for so much exploitation, destruction and garbage, can be so miserably drab and boring.