Fashion, and the culture around it, is about communicating a set of signs and signifiers. When you search for, bid on, and successfully acquire a pair of vintage Red Wing work boots from eBay, the likelihood is you’re not doing so to take up a new building hobby, or try your luck at some manual labour. More likely is the chance that you’ve seen Kanye’s recent uniform flood your social media feeds and news outlets over the last few months, are tapped into the Balenciaga-driven footwear trends of the season, and are eager to replicate the aesthetic in your own style.
So what happens when all the illusions, references and ‘need to knows’ are stripped away? Well, blatancy – the pillar on which some of today’s fastest-growing brands are operating on. Take Praying, for example. Their collections include prada-esque nylon handbags, but with the original Twilight promo pictures (Bella and Edward, blue hues, brooding stares) screen printed onto them. Or perhaps you’ve heard of the brand thanks to Charli XCX’s (literal) statement tee, which had ‘they don’t make statues of critics’ in an all-too familiar italic typeface across it, worn and perfectly timed to clap back against critical reviews of her latest album.
Worn by everyone from your favourite Depop seller to Megan Thee Stallion, Praying has become the go-to brand for people who are tapped in, but wanting to tap out: producing products which, unless you’re embroiled in the same algorithms and online references as them, would probably make no sense. Ugly, unless you get it – and that’s the whole point.
Similarly, OGBFF’s slogan baby tees are quickly rising in popularity, for their simple yet effective messaging. The words ‘FLOP ERA’, in bold lettering, adorns one of the brand’s most sought after designs, which tells you all you need to know, really. We’re in the midst of a slogan tee extravaganza – the messier the better. Brands like Sports Banger, OGBFF and Praying are all mining the web for niche pop culture and internet culture references – whacking them on a bag, tee or dress, and offering it up to the masses. And we, for one, couldn’t be more on board.
But as with everything in fashion – these brands seem to be the successors to the ‘e-girl / Charliexbarker / pink cyber tumblr’ aesthetic, which saw pioneering brands like Omighty dominate Instagram for a good few years. With a website that was barely functional due to the glitter dumps, sunglass-inducingly bright colours and pop-ups made to replicate older Windows software (we’re still not sure which were real or not), Omighty pumped out designs that would all but guarantee you 1000 notes if posted on your similarly-themed tumblr.
The holy trinity of Omighty internet girls (notably crossing over with American Apparel girls) were Joanna Kuchta, Elizabeth Jane Bishop and Charlie Barker. The aesthetic was pastel chokers, Hello Kitty palm tattoos and Bleach London. And they were seldom seen without wearing a slogan of some sort, e.g ‘IT’S NOT YOU IT’S YOUR DAMN BROWS’, thanks to Omighty’s sponsorship deals. It was maximalist, nostalgic and online – but it also inevitably burnt out.
While we can look back and cringe(? smile?) now, it’s hard not to notice the similarities between Omighty and new it-brands such as OGBFF. Obviously, there are some differences: halters have been ousted for baby tees, and colours dialled down to encompass the wider minimalist shift that fashion has been going through. However, perhaps the biggest difference is the stripped back nature of the messaging – for today’s brands, all pretences have been dropped. There’s no more effective way of suggesting you’re both bored of fashion’s pretences and tapped into the cultural zeitgeist than wearing a FLOP ERA tee – and at that point, it doesn’t really matter if people agree or not.
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