As squads form and collectives assemble, communities continue to come together to create on the basis of shared interest. Allowing their experiences of art, music and fashion to coalesce in culture. At this intersection clothes become subordinate to style, and style exists subtly, as a consequence of craft. Collectives like DIS ‘question what is good taste'(1), while vocalising their ‘total fascination with midtown and the middle’, and despite their apparent indifference to style, they have become tastemakers; making the cut as curators for this years Berlin Biennial. They put their craft before clothing, which gives them the space to produce work which is relevant, working ‘with fashion in a way that underscores how banal lifestyle changes mirror a larger, complex world in a state of rapid change’ and pursuing this practice with polyvalence. Seeking out hybrid forms of communication and stepping outside industry, into communities where research is curious and experimental.
Fashion takes inspiration from collectives like DIS, who sit comfortably outside disciplines, creating candour for their ideas to evolve beyond original formats. It is also no surprise that online fashion entities seek to emulate this kind of freeform creative practice, by generating a continuous feed of content affiliating brand and product. They create online communities based on a certain set of styles and assume a parental role for many brands. Establishing close connections with creatives who are often deified by users; placing them at the centre of a URL universe. This is not to say that innovative content doesn’t exist somewhere down the page, but their infinite-scroll formats eclipse any opportunity to discover this kind of content. Despite their downfalls, these sites still do what they do, and they do it well; spanning a global reach of followers who engage with them on a daily basis.
Their continued success will depend on their employees, people paid to ‘know whats up’(2). Malcolm Gladwell characterised a similar set of staff, employed by Tommy Hilfiger in the late 90’s, who were able to make Hilfiger ‘cool to black culture’, because they were ‘cool in both cultures simultaneously’. Art collective K-hole described this as a type of adaptability called Normcore(3), which encourages the ‘freedom to be with anyone’ rather than ‘the freedom to become someone’, and ’instead of appropriating an aestheticized version of the mainstream, it just cops to the situation at hand’. At the time, Normcore had the potential to flourish as a genuinely new and relevant concept, but it was taken out of context too soon. Making its way into the mainstream and marketed as a style of clothing that was adaptable, inconspicuous, discreet, easy to replicate and cheap to manufacture. The exploitation of Normcore was caution to the way content is manipulated to make money. Devaluing an original idea by turning it into a trend or branding a creative concept as a wearable style, deceiving consumers into thinking they can buy creativity. Mapping out a speedy segue to the bottom line, an overly mastered, monosyllabic hook; fashions answer to Soulja Boy’s ‘All Black Everything’(4)
Normcore brought awareness to the memetic nature of digital content and the pace at which it can multiply; pressurising kids to become cultured from all angles and conform to the standards of a spider diagram. Wearing Supreme, hanging out with Ian Connor, buying the latest drop from Kith, combined, is identity creation taken to its extreme; resulting in a foreboding fixation on the niche. When products, brands and behaviours become figments, our appreciation for other artists fragments, and snippets, chords, code and stills are pieced together in a bid for material to feel fresh. We pay homage to our influencers by extending research to our own experience; a form of fandom that can compromise our identity if our sense of self is not secure. Although this may sound cynical, there are ways to appropriate which preserve the craft of influencers; by infusing their style with our own.
Content that is appropriated in form, time, place or person, celebrates the work of others and builds on their ideas, which eventually confronts us with a choice; to continue depicting existing styles or develop our own. DIS develop their own by preserving the amateur in their work and reveal a pervasive sense of play in everything they make. This is endearing to anyone who appropriates and appreciates the amateur sensibility required to innovate. ‘As a node in a network of artists, a collective of many collectives…operating on several levels simultaneously’, DIS represent an emerging culture, committed to creating at the intersection, where style can’t be compromised by capital.