Tumblr Style: How URL Chic Spreads to the Runway

Julianne Escobedo Shepherd swan dives into a glittering pool of blog fashion

Ashish's Autumn/Winter 2012 show at London Fashion Week / Photo by Stuart Wilson/Getty
Ashish's Autumn/Winter 2012 show at London Fashion Week / Photo by Stuart Wilson/Getty

Two weeks ago, the brilliant fashion mavericks at Dis Magazine tweeted, "The @CHANEL #resort collection takes on tumblr style.#TheBattleforRelevance #tweedGargoPants #ACTUALLYwearable." Presumably they were referring to Tumblr's scads of tween GPOYs having pajama jammy jams and posting late-'90s Natasha Gregson Wagner fan flicks, but they hit on a big point: Tumblr culture, with its endless throwback visual reblogs, bled into young designers' collections in an even more overt way for a/w 2012. And with the advances made in digital printing (check venerable designer Risto Bimbiloski's galaxy prints from 2009 — here’s Santigold wearing a more recent fur-print piece from his 2011 collection), .jpg realism will be here long after the Tumblr teengirl fantasy moves on from PLUR styles.

But of course, the Tumblr influence hit with varying degrees of success for fall 2012 lines. Jeremy Scott, fave clothier of A$AP Rocky, Katy Perry, Danny Brown, 2NE1, Rihanna and more, seemed temporarily possessed by an overzealous pre-teen trying hard to fit in, and his stab at it ended up looking mostly clownish and corny. Defined by sweaters and pants with tiled Bart Simpson heads, actual emoticons and the Mac keyboard imbued on pants — and beauty elements like Molly Soda-inspired multicolored hair and ill-advised "fashion bindis" (my guess is that a bunch of Hindus are kind of not feeling you right now) — Scott's influence was hamfisted and writ large. He did get some elements right: a hologram'd pencil skirt and a conceptual rainbow cape constructed entirely of "hair extensions” showed the best of his whimsy, which in the past has been considerable. But the defining quality of a meme is that it’s temporary, and Scott’s reliance on images that were already played out on Tumblr — emoticons and Bart Simpsons are sooo 2010 — expose what feels like a fundamental lack of understanding of the culture. Or, in rap parlance: dickriding.

Faring far better with references to the youth-internet was Ashish, who drew back to the originals — ‘90s Goa trance-inspired holiday wear, as well as British street grunge — without an ounce of nostalgia. His internet update on slob couture: decorate baggy pants with rainbow topographic maps and yin-yangs and pair them with tie-dyed silks and Buddha-head printed dresses, all in Ashish’s signature sequin range, of course. He’s long been brilliant at incorporating recognizable elements of pop culture into his luxurious designs without being gimmicky — Ashish for Nike, never forget — but this is his best collection yet, incorporating his upbringing in New Delhi and London with the vibrancy and speed of the information culture. The brilliant styling didn’t hurt — leopard on batik on paisley on dots on rainbow-soled Poleclimbers should be a shitshow, but came off as inspired, and even his more obvious impulses were softened and unified by his refined sense of texture. A fluffy batik sweater with the word "Relax” emblazoned upon it, for example, as a shout out to '80s youth in cold climes. And whereas Jeremy Scott's attraction to flash and pomp was just garish, Ashish’s is glam, even in the sloppiest slob shapes. Dude! This is how you do PLUR: not as a .gif, but as URL.

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