London is alive. We are on the verge of political uncertainty, the job market is imploding under the pressure of high population growth and mass migration. Swells of educated youth are leaving university and not living the dream but instead still having to bunk at their parents house till further notice and in the midst of all this turbulence the ‘slashy’ vocational term is more prevalent than ever before.
Generation X, defined as being ‘Disaffected and directionless) see things through their rose tinted glasses. Generation Y (the generation I fall into) are known to be incredibly sophisticated, tech wise and immune to most traditional marketing and sales pitches; i.e they are less brand loyal than previous generation due to being reared on the internet. Generation Z are more individualistic in their choices with nearly 92% of Gen Z (according to Inc.com columnist Ryan Jenkins) having a digital footprint as a result of the brands or celebrities they follow. They are considered more likely to be entrepreneurial as a result of being affected by the impact of the 2008 global recession, Less likely to trust the career paths taken for granted by previous generations; and are more likely to shop bargains and think in a more savvy way, which has had a direct impact on the high-street. Many large retail store have bared the brunt of this more conscious and ethically minded generation, choosing to shop vintage and second-hand clothing and shun the repetitive, generic shopping customs of the past, which has seen company administration rise across the Western world like never before. Fashion is in flux.
With this in mind a new way of self expression has evolved. A non binary generation has been born. Non conformists who choose to be who they want from one day to the next, in a perpetual state of freedom of expression. The 90’s trend is in full swing with the same ‘identifiers’ as before; The grunge, goth, indie, pop, ravers, punks and hip-hop-heads but this new group all listen to dance or hip-hop. Their icons are more ethnically diverse and their choices in how to express themselves is more inclusive and increasingly provocative.
As I walk around Camden town this has never been more visible than back in the 90s when I first got here. Mass groups of girls have shaved their heads. Hair is a concoction of colours, a nod to unicorns, Katy Perry/ Nicki Minaj/ Manga and Harajuku, as fashion and tech collide. Everyone now boasts ‘…Oh I like to be androgynous! Boy meets girl meets boy. And the septum piercing is ‘a thing’. Chunky shoes have sparked the revival of Doctor Martens like never before and Mark Jacobs even had gazelles strut down the catwalk in achingly high platform. On the flip side logo-mania has fallen into two camps. Those who want everyone to know which brands they affiliate with and those who feel over exposure has become almost a little passe. I manage a vintage store in Camden and one girl recently asked me whether she could un-pick the Wrangler label on her jeans (‘Normcore’ gone mad?), while another shrilled with excitement at the thought of wearing a VOLVO emblazoned vintage denim jacket. I digress. Monogram is a thing. Dior, the John Galliano saddle bag and uber prints are big again, as well as Gucci’s creative director Alessandro Michele putting maximalism and excess back on the fashion map and don’t get me started on face tattoos?
Inside I secretly love the new era of the ego-dominant, passive aggressive sensibility which has allowed everyone to look within and shout about who they really are. This refreshing take on individualism has been a long time coming but I wonder whether the flip-side is a future more likened to a totalitarian existence, as every phase in history is marked by it’s opposite. Either way, as I sit here, a black women with pink hair down my back, multiple piercings in my ears and covered in microscopic tattoos, I feel a sense of excitement. Generation Z and Millenials have embraced themselves and flipped their middle finger up to old ways. They have been a catalyst for freedom of expression much like the anti-establishment punks of the 80s and lets hope this never changes. (Image taken on 13th September, Green Park, London)