In the age of influencers, personal brands and Fashion Bloggers (not to be confused with plain old fashion bloggers), sharing one’s outfit has seemingly become the only way to reassure people one is not, in fact, running around in the nude.
By consequence, street style has ditched the street and upped the style — or, rather, styling. Call it the Vogue factor — the phenomenon that spawned camping’s cooler, albeit less sincere sibling, ‘glamping’. Fashion’s old guard is notoriously stubborn, but cunning enough to go with the zeitgeist on its own terms. Sleeping outdoors? Fine, as long as there’s a minibar. Photos of real people’s outfits? Sure, as long as they’re walking replicas of runway looks.
Perhaps my perspective is askew, and I’ve missed the point. Maybe street style was never about the clothes per se, and Tommy Ton is more Annie Leibovitz than Vivian Maier. That is, maybe the purpose of street style and fashion editorials is one and the same: to tell a story.
It’s not farfetched if you think about it. A picture says a thousand words, or so the adage goes, and if we’re to believe the culturati, an outfit speaks volumes about its wearer. Who’s to say Phil Oh isn’t asking, “Papa, can you hear me?” when he shares a photo of a bewildered looking Marina Larroude? How else could he justify repeatedly taking the same photo of someone on their phone? Photography is an art, you guys.
With this ethos of blind faith in the creative integrity of the fashion industry, I revisited Phil Oh’s Spring 2016 street style coverage for Vogue.
This is what I came up with.
Ece Sukan doesn't have time for anything, because she's engrossed in her long durational performance piece, 'Un-Real Housewife of the Interwebs'. It's a comment on the media's facile construction of femininity, at direct odds with Sukan's own complex sense of self. The Artist is Present, just give her a second to like this tweet.
By the same token, Edwina McCann and Christine Centenera are three years into their ongoing performance simply titled 'Kimye', with the duo playing Kanye and Kim respectively.
Ever the boundary pusher, Anna Dello Russo isn't just imagining what it would be like to have facial hair, she's inviting us to look beyond her signature style and seek the real Anna Dello Russo.
When we can simultaneously see and not see Anna Dello Russo, what constitutes reality?
While ADR asks us to really look at her, Caroline Vreeland and Shea Marie appeal to our own insecurities.
Who, me? Is she laughing at me? Maybe she's laughing with me. This is the first day of high school all over again, and quite possibly the inner monologue of every street style photographer.
That's actually the title of this piece.
Giovanna Battaglia isn't just a fashion editor, she's a pop art aficionado. Fittingly, her bag is a nod to the face that launched a thousand beauty tutorials, Kylie Jenner. Like Duchamp with his readymades, Battaglia's utilises un objet trouvé -- in this case, a bag by sister Sara -- to modify her visage, in the style of Orlan before her. This isn't street style, it's cacophonously referential pop art to rival Warhol himself.
That, or I've spent way too long looking at street style.
All images via Vogue.