want to get ahead in the fashion industry? then know your lingo

Fashion talk is a potential minefield, but thankfully i-D’s on hand to demystify the often-ambiguous words bandied-about within our topsy-turvy world. Read our A to Z of contemporary fashion terminology. Tear it out, pin it to your wall, memorise it by...

by James Anderson
01 May 2014, 2:10pm

Emma Summerton

A term occasionally applied to the challenging work of the latest 'enfant terrible' of fashion, whose radical design vision - a work of art to some, a dog's dinner to others - is unlikely to make them immediately rich, but will make them immediately infamous.

B is for BANG ON
As in, Bang On-Trend! Meaning, you are wearing something that is very 'now' and you are therefore amazing. (Is it bad to want to punch anyone who says, 'Bang on-trend!'?)

C is for CRISIS
As in, Fashion Crisis: the inability to decide what to wear; the manic trying-on of various combinations of clothing, while realising you are running late; the subsequent feeling that you made a bad sartorial decision at the outset of the day and now look like a wanker.

Designs that seek to overtake current trends by pointing boldly in a new direction might be gushingly cited as Directional. Paradoxically, this is often achieved by designers referencing something from the distant or not-so past...

E is for EDGY
An expression used by designers, stylists and journalists to sum up a fashion shoot, or collection, which might incorporate some aspect of rock 'n' roll cliche/drugs/booze/ciggies/too many late nights/council estates and graffiti/ambiguous sexuality/smudgily-applied make-up/nipples on show/models looking a bit peeved, and so on.

F is for FRONT ROW
People really get their knickers in a jealous twist about who is sitting in the front row of fashion shows. Assume it is anyone who has serious influence and financial clout within and beyond the fashion industry - editors, journalists and store buyers, for example - as well as some blagging mates of the show's make-up artist. And get over it!

G is for GREIGE
A subtle hue combining those stalwarts of dullness, grey and beige, generally favoured by people whom rarely laugh, get excited about anything, or have sex.

Up, down, short, long... yawn... who cares? This is something that should only ever be discussed by Daily Mail readers, to whom short skirts symbolise the breakdown of society.

The quest to express one's individuality lies at the heart of the consumption of fashion, yet - confusingly - buying the same stuff that other people are also likely to be wearing is unlikely to achieve any such admirable aim. This is why designers frequently express admiration for a muse's unique 'attitude' and 'personality', rather than the actual clothes worn by the muse.

An ugly word used to describe the stretchy fabric-fusion of jeans and leggings, beloved of those - teens in particular - for whom straightforward skinny denim jeans are not hardcore enough.

K is for KILLER
As in, Killer Heels: stillies with heels so tall that the wearer - a lady (or tranny) who aspires to skyscraper-like style statements - risks life and limb while teetering about on them. Additionally, they can be used as a deadly weapon, to poke the eye or impale in the brain of an assailant.

L is for LUXE
The past decade-or-so of fashion has played host to an obsession with notions of luxury, which has spread from an initial and understandable fondness for fine quality cashmere or beautifully crafted accessories, to more tacky territory traditionally associated with the 'nouveau riche'. Example? Is a high-grade hessian doormat emblazoned with a designer logo in some way luxurious, or just plain naff?

A popular preoccupation of prime time change-your-life TV shows, and of magazines full of readers' real-life tales of woe, in which some hapless frump is reinvented via copious amounts of Primark clothing (often provided by a 'top stylist' you've never heard of), and much frantic hair straightening (usually performed by a camp crimper from up North).

N is for NEWGEN
NEWGEN, i.e. New Generation, is the rather amazing form of formal sponsorship and patronage provided by the British Fashion Council to young designers based in the capital, enabling them to show their latest wares at London Fashion Week, gain media exposure and build up their brand. Yay!

O is for OVER
As in, 'So OVERRRRRR!', preferably intoned in the style of a jaded New York tranny from the mid 90s, while dismissing a too-popular fashion trend that now feels horrifically wrong but which, strangely, was highly desirable just a few weeks before.

P is for PRE-ORDER
Those in the know, and with the required cash, can pre-order pieces from a recently shown collection, at a discount, directly from the designer, before they hit the shops. And if the designer is ever-so accommodating, you can specify these pieces be made in different colours or fabrics from the original designs.

Q is for QUEEN
As in, Fashion Queen: an over-styled, in-your-face gay man who lives for fashion, honey! (And is quite irritating.)

R is for ROCK CHIC
Oh dear. This is a sort of shorthand for 'wearing a leather jacket and skinny jeans' and is nowadays applied to everyone from wrinkly guitarists from bands which have been around for decades - and who now wear massively expensive designer versions of stuff they used to buy from flea markets - to nice middle class girls from Surrey who wear brand new Ramones' logo T shirts, but are not familiar with any songs by them.

Not the seasons of ye olde poetic license - leaves falling from trees, sunsets dimming upon the horizon, and the like - but instead the fashion meaning of seasons: which freakin' winter coat to buy? And, with those knobbly knees and swollen ankles, can you get away with those ultra short shorts while on holiday this summer?

T is for TOILE
Imagine that intricately-cut shirt or coat or pair of trousers you are now wearing if, instead of being fashioned from the finest cotton, wool or silk, it was stitched, held together with a load of pins and made from scratchy calico fabric. Chances are that is how it looked when the designer who dreamt it up made the prototype, known as a toile.

A much-used and faintly reverent word when used in the context of fashion. It hints at a style statement that is quietly confident and low-key rather than trying to overtly grab one's attention, and is exemplified by the aesthetic of a designer such as Jil Sander.

V is for VICTIM
As in, Fashion Victim: a male or female compelled to spend all their money piling on any or every current or about-to-catch-on trend, in the belief that doing so will make them fabulous, rather than mildly foolish.

W is for Wintour
As in, Anna: one of the few international fashion industry figureheads whose name, iconic dark glasses-wearing appearance and tough cookie reputation has fully crossed over to achieve household name status. Even your Nan will have heard of this lady.

X is for XL
A size option that frightens or feels alien to many scarily thin people working in the fashion industry, to whom sniffing cake - rather than eating it - is relatively normal behaviour.

Y is for YOKE
Spotted on cowboy shirts and other garments, too, the yoke is a piece of fabric usually found on the shoulder area, or below the waistband of trousers or a skirt, which is cut separately and creates a nifty design feature in its own right.

Z is for ZEITGEIST      
A German word conjuring up a wave of nowness, which many fashion designers hope to surf, but only a precious few manage to remain at the crest of.


Text James Anderson
Photography Emma Summerton
Consultant Fashion Director Edward Enninful

Think Pieces
Edward Enninful
james anderson
emma summerton
fashion alphabet