Essays

Grunge?

I am bored. Today is the first time that I have left the house in almost a week and the only reason was to go to the supermarket. I’ve taken it upon myself to actually find a worthwhile way to fill my days (besides constant job hunting and life planning) in the meantime. The first step, I’ve decided, is to watch some classic fashion shows and really learn more about fashion history. I didn’t want to go too far back early on, like early 1900s or even before, so I decided to start with Marc Jacobs’ Perry Ellis grunge collection that caused much controversy back in 1992 – over 20 years ago, wow.

Perhaps I have become desensitized or perhaps times have just gotten wilder because when I watched the runway show I was not shocked at all. Now you may be thinking “how on earth has she gone this long without seeing the collection?”, which to be honest I am thinking the same. I have heard so much about it as it truly is an infamous collection.  I think I have seen images of it at some point in life and I have certainly heard about the impact that it made. However, shocking it was not.

Christy Turlington opening the show

Christy Turlington opening the show

I actually really enjoyed watching the show for the first time (which can be seen on the Marc Jacobs website) and seeing the impact that it made on me today. It was fun seeing all the legendary supermodels at work. The show was opened by Christy Turlington and seen appearances from pretty much all of the big models from that time. I smirked seeing Naomi exit the runway at the wrong side and almost cause a collision with the next model – she didn’t lose composure and sort of made me believe the other model was at fault. The soundtrack was superb. Also, it was also great to look in the crowd and spot Anna Wintour and Grace Coddington sitting front row and more so, the lack of socialites and Kim Kardashian types next to them. Furthermore, the show seemed like a much more intimate experience. Today they seem slightly overcrowded and, unless you’re sitting front row, I’m guessing you’d feel a little detached from the whole experience (and your view likely a little obscured). There wasn’t the whole bloggers and famous-for-being-famous types in amongst all the industry professionals. (Bloggers at fashion shows is something I don’t really get, don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t turn down a ticket but I wouldn’t feel like my presence would be vital to the show, designer or success of the collection – unlike buyers and editors who have the real power.)

Featured in American Vogue

Featured in American Vogue

In regards to power, in fashion I have very little. As a blogger, my opinion is just that. In that regard, my definition of grunge is a little different from what I seen in the show, well vaguely. It is difficult to put into words what grunge means to me, it’s a little ambiguous and probably all in my head. It’s a way of life that I can only imagine a rock-star understanding fully. Perhaps think Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love, check shirts, worn and torn clothes, ripped denim and some Doc Martens – everything looking a little slept in. It’s more a way of life in my eyes. It encompasses not only how you dress, but also the music you listen to, the way you carry yourself and just the overall look and feel of things. Grunge came about in a period of severe economic recession in the US. It wasn’t exactly a concious choice made by these people to look a certain way, more a necessity to keep warm and clothed. When I seen the collection, I was somewhat perplexed at how different it was to what I expected. It was tamer and had lots of florals. The collection was inspired by the Seattle grunge scene and paid homage to this whilst putting on a bit of a fashion twist. I’d call it more “hippie grunge”. I’d say the two styles seemed to overlap.I expected something dirtier, grittier, tougher – something a little bit different.

Same as before

The difference I’d say made the collection more fashion, less streets (although grunge intended to be anti-fashion, more-struggling-to- pay-bills-can’t-afford-any-better type thing unfortunately). I mean I can understand some of the shock: the models wore flat shoes for the most part (often Doc Martens style boots and I’m pretty sure I spotted some mules, chucks and Birkenstock style ones in there too), there were slits in the dresses and skirts high up the legs and slashes across the waist, hats which reminded me of those traditionally worn by Santa Claus (wrong colours of course and sadly minus the pom-pom), and lots of sheer fabrics. This was a big change from the ultra-glamorous super-sexy styles that were being shown elsewhere. The fact that a new kind of sexy was being presented was probably the biggest issue. Such a drastic change tends to make waves. I’m guessing that was what caused the fashion crowd shock anyhow.

naomi-campbell-credit-catwalking

Naomi Campbell in one of the beautiful floral dresses. The dress that preceded this in the show was one of my favourite pieces in the whole collection but I couldn’t find an image of it. If you watch the show you will see it.

The shock on the streets was also very real. Those who had been hit by the recession of the early 90s, and as a result were dressed this way, were less than happy about the collection. As it always is in fashion, the clothes were exorbitantly priced.  Dresses were made from expensive fabrics like silk when the real grunge kids wore polyester; their flannel shirts from second-hand stores whereas the ones shown on the runway made from pricey material imported from Italy. It just didn’t go down well. I think people failed to see the point of buying a highly priced item that you could easily get elsewhere for so much less. Fashion has a funny way of generally infuriating the masses.

They were not alone in these thoughts, the Perry Ellis company who didn’t even produce the collection. Kurt & Courtney, who were sent the collection, reportedly seen it as a bit of an insult and were most displeased – I read that they burned it. The collection was shocking? In the 90s I guess so; it got Marc Jacobs fired after all.

Kate Moss and Kristen McMenamy close the show

Kate Moss and Kristen McMenamy close the show

However, I enjoyed it; it still is refreshing. I don’t know if it was because the models were so beautiful that they could probably sell a belted potato sack or if it was a genuine love of the clothes but I liked it – a lot. I mean, some of it I hated obviously but how often do you see a collection and love every item? I adore the way that the dresses flowed behind the models as they walked. I just liked the overall vibe of the collection. It feel cool and very nonchalant. I was not even alive when this collection came out so obviously I can’t really gauge the impact that it had at the time. I don’t know how people truly felt, I am just going by whatever information I can gather on the topic. Upon watching it myself, I am sold. I think I finally get Marc Jacobs. If he presented this collection next season, I wouldn’t be disappointed. I’d say it has definitely stood the test of time.

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