When we look at fashion, often at first glance we categorise it into two main ways — glamorous or cool. On a superficial level, this is why we dress up right?
Some brands, like Hermès, Christian Louboutin and Chanel, are brands that embody glamour, so much so they’ve become a part of mainstream pop culture thanks to connections to shows like Sex and the City, or even more recently, Gossip Girl. It’s easy to idolise these maisons when they’re seen sashaying down the streets of New York. In much the same way, “cool brands,” like Rick Owens, Saint Laurent and Ann Demeulemeester are all about edginess and “rock star chic.” While different from the aforementioned brands, they still have their own cult following.
But hardly anyone dresses up with the intention to be ugly — or is that really the case?
Lately, there’s been a move away from the conventional “dress to impress” — be it clients, bosses or partners — and more towards the idea of ugly as alluring. After all it was Miuccia Prada herself who once told The Telegraph in 2013, “Ugly is attractive, ugly is exciting. . .the investigation of ugliness to me is more interesting than the bourgeois idea of beauty. Ugly is human.”
And indeed these days, there is something exciting about the idea of unattractiveness. What was once a negative connotation in mainstream dialogue has become fascinating instead. Ugly seems to be the next big thing. Some of fashion’s hottest brands are making ugly a fresh topic to engage in, in much the same way androngyny was once the hottest thing a few seasons ago.
For us, ugly fashion is about creating garments that are designed in a way to not enhance our body. They hinder our natural curves and/or enhance our flaws, in order to present an awkward, maybe even jarring appearance.
A great example of this is Vetements and their oversized shoulder padding à la eighties that’s recently become the talk of the town. A look that was popular among working women back in the day is certainly not relevant, or even considered attractive today, and yet, Demna Gvasalia, creative director of Vetements, has proudly proclaimed that “[it’s] ugly, and that’s why we like it.”
Even before Vetements bounded on to the scene, there was Celine and their eye-catching fur-lined slippers. That in turn lead to a rise in popularity for the Birkenstock — not what you’d typically consider a fashionable piece of footwear. These functional slip-ons experienced a major resurgence thanks to the luxury brand.
One of the reasons we think ugly is in these days, is the idea of rebellion. In many ways, Gvasalia’s Vetements is the epitome of just that. French fashion is all about the glamour, the sparkle, the couture, the embroidery and the history. But French label Vetements eschews all that — what culture is there to have in its much coveted DHL t-shirt (for a whopping USD$285) after all? But everyone still wants it.
Perhaps in this way, ugly is our way of taking control — both how we look and how we buy. It’s part of a desire to break free from the boundaries of traditional fashion and be different. Not everyone will go for this look that’s for sure, but that’s one way to guarantee standing out in a crowd…and isn’t that what it’s all about?