The Rise of Style

In the past couple decades, personal style has become more popular than ever. Instagram accounts, street style blogs, and Etsy pages are now significant peaks in the fashion industry landscape, marking the rise of individual fashion consciousness, as fixation on name brands declines. Let’s discuss this.

Change in the Meaning of Luxury

Depending on your age and proclivities regarding 90s teen rom-coms, you may be familiar with this meditation on agape vs. eros from the 1999 movie 10 Things I Hate About You:

“There’s a difference between like and love, because I like my
Sketchers, but I love my Prada backpack.”
You may also acknowledge it as an epigrammatic summary of ‘90s style. As a young teenager in the late ‘90s, this statement was all too familiar to me. No one at my city public school could afford Prada, but I could easily see the popular kids waxing poetic about the difference between their affection for Tommy Hilfiger and Abercrombie.
Twenty years ago, luxury meant having something that was name-brand, and luxury for high-schoolers meant Sketchers. Now, the height of luxury is personalization. Owning name brands is not nearly as powerful as having an individual, curated style. Even better: wearing rare pieces that no one else will have. In 2014, vintage and handmade clothes are much more intriguing than a cluster of recognized brands in the same outfit.

The Street Style Influence

The rise of street style, publicized by blogs and social media, has changed the fashion industry so much that even the most powerful publications have shifted their focus to the clothes of commoners. The industry cannot ignore the influence of street photographers like the wildly popular Sartorialist, and the fact that photos of attendees taken outside the fashion shows are often more popular than the photos of the runway models inside. Street style is now a fixture in most fashion magazines, which regularly feature street style stars like Miroslava Duma—famous for showing up at shows in killer outfits.

The fashion industry, which has long been considered a realm only for the very rich and elite, is now accessible thanks to social media and street photography. These days, buying a ticket to Coachella will give you as good a chance to make the pages of Vogue as being a movie star. Quickly, personal style has become as significant as fashion.

The Difference Between Fashion and Style

Yves Saint Laurent famously said “Fashion fades, style is eternal.” Whereas fashion is an art that is notoriously difficult to keep up with because trends change seasonally, style is impacted by much longer-lasting factors. Style is affected by religion, politics, culture and subculture, weather, body type, profession, upbringing, I could go on and on and on.
Think about fashion vs. style in comparison to food consumption. You eat every day; you wear clothes every day. There are some days and some occasions when you put more thought to your outfit and meal than you do others. There are some people, cloyingly called “foodies” and “fashionistas” for whom eating and wearing are a special hobby.
We can compare high fashion to 5-star restaurant dishes that show innovation, creativity, and expertise. A plate of soft-boiled quail eggs with a side of liquid nitrogen ice cream will look exquisite and show a great deal of culinary competence, just as so many gowns and suits on the runway look like moving works of art. However, there is something to be said for hot dog vendors, deli owners, and grandma’s kitchen. They may not make particularly progressive dishes, but their food is still delicious and meaningful. Their food may not be fashionable, but it has style. It is unique to them, and it is recognized as something special.

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