Sound like a familiar question? Then, why do people actually care about their clothing every single day? Aside from the functional aspect, hardly is the clothing indelible from the social context. Due to the visual information and connotation it delivers, the majority of people believe that clothes reflect oneself, and often act upon the widespread belief. If this proves to be true, then what identity do those in their 20s want to display? In order to discover the detailed reasons on what agonizes HUFSans every morning, The Argus embarked on the pursuit on fashion trends on campuses.
A Brief Tour on University Fashion- The Coexistence of Clashing Ideas
Minimalism and Big Logo Fashion
Around a decade ago, maximalism caught the eyes of youngsters and gained much popularity among them. Maximalism, a fashion genre emanating intense radiance by its colorful and glamorous design, is remembered as the predominant fashion trend in the late 2000s.
Minimalism, on the other hand, is nowadays preferred by a number of undergraduates. Minimalism in the language of fashion claims to deliver neat and sharp impressions through a rather understated outfit, and the new trend is the successor of its extravagant counterpart.
In addition to minimalism, another wave inundating campuses is the “big logo trend.” Only a couple of years ago, those shouty logos fell out of sartorial favor, and were sneered as tacky and counterfeited style. Those hoodies and sweatshirts emblazoned with big logos, however, have recently renewed their love affair with the youth. Despite the criticism on the genre hitherto the near past, today’s many trendy youngsters no longer seem hesitant to wear their bold logos from head to toe.
Notable, indeed, is the ambivalence of the two trends whose identities clash with one another. As there is a chasm between the two in terms of their identities, the abundance and moderation, the ironical popularity seems more interesting.
High-end Street Brands
Street brands, which represent the spirit of the youth culture, are especially beloved by those in their 20s. What is unique about the recent trend is the unwithering fever by the youth who have much lighter wallets than older generations, despite the price spikes of those brands.
Considering the fact that the street style literally originated from “the street,” the corresponding images and high prices seem rather exorbitant. Despite the paradoxical pricing of those outfits, the popularity of street brands never seems to recede. One of the examples that displays the craze is a one-day popup, named as the “Garage Sale,” which opened in Korea on Oct. 17, 2016, by Vetements, a French high-end street label. Seven hundred goods by the brand had been sold out in an hour since the opening. Even a rule, only one product by each customer, could not stop all the rage of young devouts for high-end street brands.
Liu Zeming, a student at Hongik University and also a street-brand lover, explained, “The reason why I love those labels is that I enjoy the ideas they convey, such as freedom. “And for the same reason, I think many young people love those brands as well,” he answered.
Loose jackets and broad trousers flapping about the feet. These outfits would have been “resting in peace” in grandpa’s wardrobe a few years ago. After years of being relegated to the shadows, these “retro” style garments have been revived among the young, and recovered their glory of the past.
The huge comeback of the style from 1970s has another unusual trait, as it is consumed by not those in mid-life, but young adults. Notable is the recent trend that those in their 20s, who seem like much more familiar with the songs of Ariana Grande and Maroon 5, are fans of outfits that are reminiscent of The Beatles and Led Zeppelin.
Following the Traces of the Trends
Normal Crush, a buzzword for the 20s’ psyche of today, can provide a clue to the rise of minimalism as a mainstream fashion genre. The term, a compound word of “normal” and “crush,” bespeaks the attitude that thinks highly of humble and simple pleasure, rather than stimulating subjects. For the young generation of the 21st century, whose lives are pronounced by everyday survival, the sumptuousness is another stimulus as the source of fatigue; the ordinariness, instead, is the consolation, thus the happiness. Such an essence of Normal Crush has permeated into their mindset, which also influenced the way they dress. “I used to wear some clothes with catchy designs. But as I grow up, I started to feel more attracted to clothes that are simple and with plain colors. So I started to wear those, and at some point,” claimed Park Su-jae, majoring in Business Administration.
The Millennials: The drivers of change
Compared to the older generations, the Millennials, synonymous to innovate spirits, are the major contributors to the emergence of the high-end street style. The fashion genre took shape from the streets of Harlem in the 1990s, which hardly shunned derision from the renowned designers who wryly downplayed it as inferior. In recent days, however, the new generation who does not deign to defy the old mentality is tearing down the hierarchy of fashion. Enforced by the extraordinary innovativeness by nature, they topple down the division that attached a certain image to construct a new rule of fashion.
In the same vein, all the rage of the retro style can also be attributed to the very same reason. As the term, “old-fashioned,” harbors a rather negative connotation, a fashion genre from the distant past was often neglected as an obsolete and outmoded concept. The Millennials, meanwhile, do not necessarily interpret the old as inferior, but are rephrasing the concept into a noble idea.
A survey, conducted by Tillion Pro in 2017, sheds light on a striking contrast toward the notions on the retro style between generations. Among the 71 percent of the old-school lovers, respondents in their 50s stated their reasons behind their affection as, “reminiscence” and “recollection;” meanwhile their counterparts in their 20s mentioned, ”curious” and “modern.” The result implies that the convention, the correlation between a fashion genre and a certain image, has been eroded, which enabled diverse fashion themes to coexist.
The Strengthened Role as Self-Expression
By poring over the fashion trend on campuses, the role of clothing as self-expression is becoming no less important than ever before. the rebirth of big logos is one of the indicators of the phenomenon.
A brand does not restrict its role as distinguishing itself from others, but also is a medium that transmits the identity and viewpoint the organization pursues. Consumer behavior is often affected by the intangible values that the brand harbors, in addition to the functional aspects of a certain product or service. A sportswear label, Nike, can be an example, as a number of people are ensnared by the vibrancy and initiative the company suggests, such as the slogan, “Just Do It.”
Taking the psychology into account, the popularity of the logos among those in their 20s can be understood as their underlying intention as a response to align oneself to a brand’s image with which the one wants to identify. “I enjoy wearing clothes from the brand, KANKO, since I fancy the joyful image of it. And I also feel myself as a more vibrant character when I wear them,” said Lee Seung-hyun, a junior of Chung-Ang University.
As much as clothing surfaces one’s own character, the retro style can also be understood in the same vein. A fashion trend which dominated a certain era usually represents the mainstream sentiment, such as the “Hippies fashion” accompanied by peace and freedom. The preference of a certain genre can also be understood as projecting intrinsic values or the ethos of the era that the one intends to project.
Deciphering Messages from Campus Fashion
The Young Momentum of the Deconstructionist Wave
Deconstruction is one of the strands of the postmodernist movement in the mid-20th century, which runs counter to the intended and surrounding meaning or structural unity of a particular concept. The approach also manifests itself in the mode of recognition by the Millennials, and is having a colossal impact on the fashion industry.
By pondering the essence of “ripped jeans” and the impression of the “the underdog,” both are by no means subject to any correlation attached between them except for their origin, the urban street culture. As the Millennials imbibe the mindset as such, they are also unshackling other fashion genres from the hierarchy, veering away from the fixed structure of tacit implication.
The new attitude on fashion is also inviting unprecedented innovation within the fashion industry. As the youth arise as powerful demographics with considerable buying power, they are swaying the market by forming a novel trend according to their taste. Their influence can be perceived through the strategic alliances among twofold labels which had been strictly defined as either “studio” or “street” brands. One of the notable instances can be a collaboration between Louis Vuitton and Supreme in 2017, which distinguished themselves as the leaders of the luxury and the sub-culture respectively. In addition to the two maestros, there are an array of cases including Burberry with Gosha Rubchinsky and Fendi with Fila.
Taste Eclecticism in the Youth Fashion
Since an outfit hardly circumvents the social context, many are conscious of the eyes around them regarding what they put on, delegating the choice to the society. Today’s consumerism on fashion by the Millennials, however, is not governed by external influence. The collective purchasing behavior displayed by the demographic, instead, is shifting its focal point to their inner selves, based on individual preference and character. The change can be explained by the theory of “taste eclecticism,” the inconsistent form of people’s tastes which manifest a variety of patterns.
It seems that the tendency for actively choosing based on one’s taste and propensity prevails among the young. The phenomenon further forebodes its comprehensive impact on society beyond a certain generation and realm.
Nowadays, the prevalence of traditional value-seeking behavior, which prioritizes monetary value, has been substituted by satisfaction. Considering the recent fashion trend of those in their 20s, the proportion of the price, the key factor of one’s purchase behavior in the decision-making process, has diminished. Satisfaction, on the other hand, is becoming a new key factor on the process, which is widely observable among the youth. According to a report in 2018 by Tmon, a social commerce website, the sales of designer shoes, such as Alexander McQueen and Golden Goose, by those young consumers soared up 106 percent compared to last years’ figures.
The shift in focal points, from price to satisfaction, also manifests in purchase behavior not necessarily in those high-end products, but for the entire fashion realm. According to a survey conducted by The International Textile Fashion News in 2018, consumers between 19 and 29 have spent more money on buying clothes compared to the previous year, while the frequency and the number have decreased. The result also implies that the Specialty Retailer of Private Label Apparel (SPA) brands, including Uniqlo and Zara, are losing their leadership in the market in which those brands enable customers to choose quantity over quality with their humble pricing. Respondents in addition, named a few online shopping platforms as their favorites, such as Musinsa and Wconcept, which provide an array of options in fashion genres to customers, and it suggests that the shift in their core value in purchasing clothes is not solely limited to high-end brands.
Integrating the results suggests that the priority has been resettled from price to one’s own satisfaction. In fact, Seoul National University Research Institute of Human Ecology selected one of the buzzwords that would have a huge impact in 2018 as the “Gashimbi,” a psychology which pursues inner satisfaction by purchasing goods. Considering the fact that those in their 20s have recently engaged in jobs or are students, making a decision on a purchase focusing on one’s inner needs has eroded the long-existing barrier of price, which has always been the greatest impediment of the demographic.
“Ne te quaesiveris extra” - Do Not Find an Answer Beyond Yourself
Now the long journey on the youth fashion trends arrives at its conclusion, and only awaits the answer for the question that has been repeated every morning. Hopefully, the ideas on fashion scattered along the path may give a slight glimpse to the answer.
All the concepts ranging from deconstructionism to the shift to satisfaction share a point of tangency, of which the viewpoint on the fashion has been much tilted to the eye of the beholder, being attentive and sincere to their individual identity. Possibly, the change may provide an insight into the very question.
Still, remaining sincere to oneself calls for the courage to be indifferent to what others say; the composure to turn a blind eye to a derisive sneer. Rather than choosing to be beset by the outer “sounds and fury,” is not life richer in pleasure as being attentive to one’s own voice echoing from the deepest self? The answer resides in thyself, and always did.
By An Kwan-ho
Staff Reporter of Campus Section