Back in the nineties and into the early aughts, at a time when it was proclaimed (again) that teens ruled, pop culture and popular fashion culture was on the rise. The outfits of choice included the chunky two toned Tommy Hilfiger logo, Ralph Lauren jockeys almost the size of an actual jockey, Calvin Klein emblazonings, and other markings from Fubu, Ecko, Guess, Starter, Airwalk, etc.: brands were names and you had to broadcast them across your torso.
These styles still exist (mostly within Ross and TJ Maxx stores) but are not in vogue. It is not cool to look like a miniature billboard. I rarely, rarely wear anything with anything else but an all-over-me print or abstraction of a print. If there is a logo, it’s a discrete (obnoxious) Comme Des Garçons heart or Kenzo imprint (IN MY DREAMS). I cannot think of any person I know who willingly wears a brand name on their chest either. Clothing design is on a need-to-know basis: if you like someone’s clothing, ask them about it—or you already know. (And, chances are if you have to ask, you won’t find out what the person is wearing.)
What makes this funnier is designers are moving toward nameless names, becoming brands that do not have an identity you can pin down: they are becoming anonymous. The New York Times wrote about this quite brilliantly recently. Here’s an excerpt on the idea, from one of the dudes behind Creatures Of The Wind.
“Being anonymous has a nice appeal to it,” Mr. Peters said. “There’s something really rad about it.”
Indeed, if there’s any conclusion that can be drawn from perusing the current crowded roster of shows (other than “this is madness”), it’s that anonymity and its fey cousin, abstraction, are all the rage.
They mention a few notables who are anonymous—Hood By Air, Creatures Of Comfort, Public School, etc.—as well as those who are going against this naming device, like Jason Wu and Alexander Wang. The most interesting part is an observation as to why this is happening, why there is a rebellion against names is happening and idea of everyone having a moment of fame.
“They’re really used to this idea of being famous for 15 minutes, of something going viral,” said Jennifer Minniti, the chairwoman of the fashion department at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. “They’re really not enamored of it.”
Huh. In an the age of the selfie, people are trying to get ahead by placing not themselves forward? Fascinating. You can definitely see this move as a reaction to the sad and nightmarish tale of Paul Frank, whose legacy now stands as a morality tale for fashionable types and entrepreneurs.
Taking it further, because this is the fashion world, we will (and have been) wearing this trickly down effect. Let us pray to the lords of Opening Ceremony that there will be an exit from needing me, me, me, to know my name, to know my face, to be on top. Maybe we’re moments away from collectively becoming anonymous bottoms?