Having spent part of my childhood in Seattle, I should be a downpour of information regarding all things Grunge. Sadly, the rain only drizzles in the Emerald City and so does my knowledge of this “state of being covered in unclean things;” at least that is how The Free Dictionary defines it. Fortunately or unfortunately, I was too young to understand the musical movement. At the time, I was preoccupied with Super Mario Kart and a different bleached blonde, Zack Morris, and his sweaters. I also worshiped shampoo and conditioner — Salon Selectives were a ritual like bedtime prayer. Maybe those were reasons I could have cared less for Grunge; I did not “Smell(s) Like Teen Spirit” since I was still a kid, and I believed in showers. But despite over-conditioned hair, Grunge has re-bloomed during the 2013 fashion season like the florals on a granny dress (could be Bottega Veneta or perhaps Salvation Army,) so an education on fashion’s Courtney Love/hate relationship with the trend is in session. A double shot of espresso please!
In its very humble thrift-store beginning, Grunge was not a fashion statement. Music aside, it was more like a depression that plagued the youth stemming from feelings of helplessness. Grunge feared the future and in a way, it was a type of dissonant chord in the ascending socioeconomic melody of the late 80’s and early 90’s. The movement rejected materialism and gave the big “FU” to commercialism and corporations. Sorry Starbucks, but you sold out. There was a desire for freedom from the greed and glamour that had corrupted the moral and creative playgrounds — the music preceding Grunge was not about the dialogue between the artist and the audience but about the glam and pyrotechnics; just as coffee was no longer about the beans or the roast but about turning it into a frappuccino.
And so an attitude of not making a statement in itself became a statement, and being pissed off and depressed paved way for a culture that forfeited wealth and embraced an angst-induced sound. Think Pearl Jam or maybe Soundgarden. No, I am not talking about types of Comme des Garçons prints, but bands such as Nirvana that shot to celebrity-icon status like an intense rush of heroin. And like an addiction to caffeine, the stripped-down fashion of the stripped-down music became the fashion world’s drug of choice in the early 90’s. Thus, the so-called anti-capitalist movement permeated into the mainstream and found commercial success. Goodwill out. Marc Jacobs in.
Grunge aesthetes revolved around an “unkempt” look, and a subculture of flannel, ripped jeans, grandpa sweaters and granny frocks was brought to a mass culture by the fashion industry. I find it contradictory how obtaining a thrift-store vibe became sooooo costly, well, at least it was dry-cleaned! What I admire most about Grunge is its effortless, I don’t give a sh*t silhouette. I could literally layer mismatched prints, a hoodie, and Chuck Taylors and still be snapped by a Scott Schuman or a Phil Oh. (I have to admit that sometimes you have to move mountains to look effortless, at least for me since my interpretation involves a shower, a comb, and half a can of hairspray.) Pursed lips aside, I am excited how the trend has received a mature update for the SS13 and FW13-14 seasons. No more smelling like teen spirit, but smelling like Chanel N°5 or some other expensive l’eau de parfum. Now, the scent of Grunge has diffused into fashion industry nostrils with Dries Van Noten and Saint Laurent as this year’s Kurt and Courtney. Wake up and smell the florals!
Hands down Dries Van Noten’s SS13 collection is like the “Miss World” track off Hole’s Live Through This album. Mr. Van Noten has glamorized the so-called antithesis to glamour with a collection that reconceptualized dishevelment into effortless beauty. He brought the working-class flannel into the upper-class by applying the print onto luxurious fabrics like taffeta and organza. The collection was ultimately a romanticized vision of Kurt Cobain in a floral dress, but I believe his clothing extends beyond the bleached hair and dark roots — the show was a revelation of beauty. His pairing of plaids with embroidered florals and herringbone brought a freshness to mismatching and layering; perhaps it made some Vogue editors reconsider their hate for the trend back in the early 90’s. Van Noten took Grunge, gave it a shower, and brought it to a grown-up center stage. On the other hand, Hedi Slimane of Saint Laurent targeted a youthful audience with his take on the Pacific Northwest aesthetic.
Truth be told that Hedi Slimane’s FW13-14 collection has somewhat of an Urban Outfitters vibe to it. I wonder if he has full artistic control of his designs at Saint Laurent — that is not an insult! After all, his collection favors the more safe and sellable as opposed to being a creative risk. There was just no OMFG factor when the models walked onto the runway. In my opinion, Mr. Slimane’s collection is a resurrection (not a revival) of the Grunge trend. He has infused the collection with the essence of Courtney Love constructing impeccable attire with a price tag to match. Perhaps Hedi’s feelings toward the fashion industry runs parallel to that of Grunge youth: does he fear the future of fashion and in turn reacted with a collection that was more nostalgic of the past instead of innovated for the future such as a Margiela or a Kawakubo? I mean he does socially alienate himself from Suzy Menkes which is characteristic of the Grunge persona, right? Although said Ms. Menkes was not allowed to see the show consisting of baby doll and floral dresses, slips and oversized cardigans, the collection became commercially successful nonetheless — a direct contradiction to the Grunge philosophy. But it comes to no surprise that fashion is a business and turns lemons into lemonade, or in this case a Jamba Juice franchise.
Lately, as I look out from my Hell’s Kitchen window, I see nothing but grey skies. Maybe the Seattle overcast has followed me — but I swear it rains more in New York than in Kurt Cobain’s hometown. By the way, television always depicts pouring rain in Seattle-set shows, I would like to go on record as to having no memory of ever using an umbrella in Seattle. Sorry Grey’s Anatomy, but your show is obviously fiction. And though I never considered myself Grunge (the closest I ever got was watching Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged concert,) my closet is like a venti, triple-shot, red eye of plaid, flannel, check, gingham, and tartan. I just need to add a floral dress and a pair of combat boots. Goodwill, Here. I. Come!
One of the many attributes of Grunge style is layering. The mismatched, the better. Take some of your favorite SS13 prints and wear them with ease. Just make sure you take a shower!! Can you assign a designer to each print?