Last year the blogger Venkatesh Rao coined the term “premium mediocre.” He was referring to a segment of economic activity largely dreamed up by marketers to give the consumerist masses an illusion that they are consuming luxury, when they were doing nothing of the sort.
This year amidst the usual barrage of “news” about collaborations, must-cop listicles, and the importance of Dad sneakers, a few articles in the press aimed at fashion and streetwear actually tried to address something worthwhile, namely, what’s happening to today’s youth, specifically in the cultural space, and even more specifically as it relates to style.
When Supreme started making clothes in 1994, its ethos was crystal clear. It was a downtown skate brand for downtown skaters.
Interviewing the founder of a grooming brand, now that’s something I would have never thought I would do.
I have a beautiful Undercover perfecto jacket in my closet. It’s made from silky jet-black lambskin and lined in tartan. The genius of its design is the doubling up of every pocket that a usual perfecto has.
The new fashion exhibit Manus x Machina at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York explores the relationship between fashion made by hand and by machine. One of its sub themes is the marriage of the most traditional handwork couture methods and the most advanced technological methods of clothes-making. Amongst its selection are seven dresses by the Dutch designer Iris van Herpen, who stands peerless in doing just that.
There is a depth to her work that results in garments that are often called “otherworldly” or “futuristic,” though van Herpen will be the first to tell you that she sees them firmly rooted in reality. Another misconception, perpetuated by the fashion media that runs after trendy stories and by the general media that runs after sensationalist ones, is that van Herpen’s work centers on 3D printing. In reality, her work traverses a wide variety of techniques and materials in service only to two things; to give free reign to van Herpen’s imagination, and to transcend fashion itself.
This past Paris fashion week the young label Vetements headed by Demna Gvasalia was the talk of the town, and their instantly recognizable logoed raincoats and sweatshirts were seemingly everywhere. They were mostly worn by the young, self-conscious, well-informed fashion insiders and were instant fodder for the street-style photographers, who themselves tend to be young, self-conscious, and well-informed.
As the singer P.J. Harvey prepares to record her new album, we decided to publish this slightly abridged version of the article about Harvey’s last album, Let England Shake, and about her friendship with Ann Demeulemeester and Patrick Robyn.
This weekend The New York Times published an Op-Ed article by Vanessa Freedman, the paper’s fashion director, in which she bemoaned the contemporary culture phenomenon called the “new mediocre.” She gave instance after instance, beginning with fashion and extending it to other areas, of mediocrity as the new normal. This, she said, is the marker of the zeitgeist. As far as fashion goes, she wrote, “The reason for that feeling of déjà vu I had as I sat through fashion show after fashion show during the last ready-to-wear season and saw yet more ‘reinventions’ and ‘homages’ to 1960s rock chick dresses and 1970s flared trousers, 1980s power jackets and 1920s flapper frocks, and wondered, ‘How do I explain this lack of new ideas among so many extremely talented designers?’ The new mediocre.”
We have never shared an article that appeared in our print edition, but today is a specially dark day. The photographer Deborah Turbeville has passed away after succumbing to lung cancer. I initially approached Turbeville for a profile for our second volume two years ago. After, she became a dear friend. It is sad to see anyone go before their time, but especially her. Rest in peace, Deborah, wherever you may be.