The Smart Issue, 1993 was a very important issue of i-D. Not only was it Kate Moss’s first ever cover of i-D – tinted blue and wearing a jumper five times too big for her tiny frame, it also published this quote from Helmut Lang: “Fashion is about attitude, not hemlines.” Helmut’s view on fashion was that it should reflect contemporary culture, and the resurgence of the ‘everyman’ material – denim - on today’s catwalks, muses on a time when democracy is pushed to the extreme.
Whether it was the heroin chic pull of a nineteen-year-old Kate or the contents inside, it was not chance that Marques’Almeida, the spearheads of this movement, picked up The Smart Issue and made that quote their motto. Ever since one of our coolest interns turned up in an almost ripped to shreds, bleached denim dress in 2012, Marta Marques and Paolo Almeida, a pair of Central Saint Martins graduates, have stuck in my mind as two of the most relevant contemporary designers, simply because they made exactly what me and my friends wanted most. Their frayed edges could unravel at any second and everything was at least five sizes too big, but what teen/ early twenty-something today would rather look like a stuffy, bunched up fashion obsessive than Kate Moss in the 90s?
That decade is bigger now than it ever was then - as fashion’s rules and regulations became more political than ever, luxury became a bore and people began yearning for it’s raw and undone attitude. “It made sense with our quest for reality and attitude that the 90s served as an inspiration, being that it is, after all, a generation we grew up with,” Marta says. And of choosing to work primarily in denim for their graduate collection; “It comes from our design approach that revolves a lot around understanding street wear and urban references, but reconstructing them in a completely different context. We thought a lot about this notion of ‘youth code’ and we wanted to be very restrictive with our use of colour. We wanted it to be very raw and pure in that sense.”
And they aren’t the only ones breaking the rules. In the same way Chanel and Dior sent trainers down their couture runways, from Marc Jacobs’ final show for Louis Vuitton including boyfriend jeans to provide the only colour in a black on black showdown to Olivier Rousteing’s deluxe denim – quilted and layered with gold chain – for spring/summer 14 and more recently Kris Van Assche’s completely unconstructed suit in washed denim for Dior Homme spring/summer 15, all the fashion powerhouses are reintroducing casual wear to the catwalk to appeal to the masses. The influence of the street is slowly but surely invading the lap of luxury.
It’s no coincidence that two out of eight of NEWGEN’s prize winners this season (Marques’Almeida and Faustine Steinmetz) are famous for their affinity to the blue stuff. Faustine Steinmetz graduated from Central Saint Martins in the same year as Marta and Paolo, with a collection poking fun at “rich people’s clothing.” Now, from her East London studio she hand spins, dyes and weaves all her own fabrics to remake classic urban garments like Levi’s 501 jeans, Eastpak backpacks and Burberry check shirts with an haute couture feel. “We are living in a time where the mass is in a position of power, vulgarity does not rhyme with popularity anymore. This is why designers want to work around pieces which really represent people instead of designing for a handful of privileged customers,” Faustine explains of denim’s comeback.
No longer the uniform for factory workers and miners, builders and labourers, even the stuffy, bunched up fashion obsessive will own a pair of jeans. It’s a universal material that transcends class, race, age, gender and geography, as Giorgio Armani once said, "Jeans represent democracy in fashion." Faustine goes on to explain, “Everybody has a piece of denim in their wardrobe, it is the one garment which touches everybody, no matter where they live, what background they are from or what lifestyle they live.” So this season, shed your glossy coat, embrace the denim deities and let your blood run indigo.