BEYOND TREND TERROR

...a siege upon the masses

by Crystal Kruger
London plays host to some of the most unconventional fashion ideas. The capital counts quirky style as part of its cultural heritage; no wonder perhaps, with the legacies left behind by generations of mainstream-defying fashion designers. But what exactly is alternative fashion?

Alternative fashion – a liberating deviance from the reign of trend terror that rules our aesthetically homogeneous society.

Since the beginning of time, human kind has sought acceptance among their peers, on all kinds of levels, and fashion is no exception. What you wear has long stood for who you are, and your station in life. It was a statement of an elitist class system, and only the richest of rich had any choice or influence over fashion. Until the 20th century that is, when, for a percentage of the population, that just no longer cut it.

Alternative fashion has always been a statement of values, both stylistically and culturally, offering the aesthetically aware a choice and a sense of freedom. It can be seen as defining the times in which we live, rejecting the norms and mores of a geographical area, a political philosophy, of a status quo. Previously frequently associated with youth culture and social movements, it has represented the hopes and dreams of entire generations for change, sending messages of deviance and dissatisfaction to the rest of the world.

With the dawn of the new millennium, alternative fashion has taken on a new role, a different facet, where point of difference is king, and high fashion comes up to embrace it. It seeks to do what it always has – to shock and awe, but now it has also become innovative and cutting edge, without carrying the burden of a political stand point. Rather it seeks to provide and express a desperate burning desire for diversity in an overtly commercial world.

With innovation at its heart, alternative fashion seeks to challenge our preconceived perceptions and asks questions of us that we have long taken for granted – what is beauty? What is a shoe? What should a dress do, how should clothes be constructed, why can’t non-traditional mediums be used? What about the environment? Sustainability? Ethical practice? Why can’t it be art? What is function? What are we communicating in what we are wearing, and why aren’t we more aware of this? It is on the outer fringe of acceptance, but that is what allows it to translate so very easily into high fashion - because of the drama, the kookiness, the utter androgyny, or whatever it is that challenges our idea of fashion.

Fashion (as opposed to clothing) left function behind long ago, making it completely OK to create something way out and totally left field. In fact it has become one of the most inspiring and refreshing things to see on the catwalks, and the streets. We have become sick of always looking for the new black, because black will always be fabulous, it will always be reinvented, and the more it leaves behind tradition, the better. The way design is being looked at now, means form can be distorted and challenged as the very idea of fashion and beauty is changing in front of our eyes. It seeks to elicit an emotional response, from whimsical nostalgia, hated, bleak nihilism to artistic pretence. And we, the public eat it up, love it or hate it; just like the fashion set.

Perversely, alternative fashion and mainstream fashion are an inextricably interlinked, despite the cries from left field that say otherwise. Without trends, without designer fashion and without the trickle down effect to the high street, there is no alternative. An alternative to what? Alternative fashion ultimately reigns from the streets, from the people. It is about creation and thrift and art. Rejecting commercial aspirations. It is all about energy and vision, and about being the lifeblood that keeps mainstream fashion evolving.

But just how do you set design apart, in an industry that has already become so diverse? It is a challenge that many designers rise to; the young avant-garde designers are doing it all over the world, challenging conventions every day without commercial motives of profit or mass-consent.

Alternative fashion will always be exciting, a direct by-product and rejection of mainstream fashion. It innovates and creates, and in turn inspires the mainstream, in an inescapable catch-22. It sparks controversy, and makes us better people. It provides us with choice and freedom, it forces us to open our minds, and most importantly it takes us beyond the trend terror regime being sieged upon the masses.