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Jun 2011 23

by Secretary

The Webbies (the Oscars for all things internet) are particularly famous for their award-acceptance speeches. Perhaps mindful that they recognise contributions to the media that spawned such ADD-friendly abbreviations as ‘LOL’, they carefully avoid any embarrassing, Halle Berry-esque blabbering by enforcing a strict five-word speech policy.

The fashion world has always been oddly cool towards certain new and exciting technologies; whilst any fashiontasia worth their Prada would probably be touting the latest iPhone, it wasn’t until Alexander McQueen‘s 2010 ‘Atlantis’ catwalk show that anyone thought to stream any such thing live on the internet. It remains a closeted, secretive industry, and with good reason; what they sell is exclusivity, a chance to buy into their club. It’s what makes paying hundreds extra for a designer name seem like a good idea when you can pick up items of a similar quality at the pricier (but still not THAT pricey) end of the high street.

Once the designer name enters this arena, they can make millions from their new-found desirability by putting their name on make up, perfumes, accessories and other such bits that the dirty masses can get their grubby mitts on in department stores. Technology brings things to the masses; but the designer fashion world thrives on maintaining an air of mystery and exclusivity before they can start truly selling out.

So, when the website for the legendary Vogue magazine won a Webbie in the fashion category, its infamous editrix-in-chief, Anna ‘Nuclear’ Wintour accepted it with the customary five words. And how exactly did she chose to bless this unlikely wedding? “Sometimes,” she said in her tiny but deadly voice, “geek can be chic.”

And she quickly strode from the stage, looking annoyingly pleased with herself.

It’s always been an unlucky coincidence that the words “geek” and “chic” rhyme; some bright spark long ago cobbled them together in a sentence and volia! The “geek chic” revolution was spawned. A thousand lazy articles and a truly awful slice of ’90s pop later, and I, for one, am bored, bored, bored of it.

Allow me to explain. To be a geek is to be a part of alternative culture. I’ve heard many arguments about what alternative culture is exactly, but I think the most sensible option is to define it by what it is not; alternative culture is not mainstream or popular culture. It covers everything else. In this way, the straight edge kids must co-exist inside the alt culture category with the stoners; the punks must share this common ground with the hippies. And since the geeks have yet to inherit the earth, they too must lay their heads here.

And so to the crux of the matter. Fashion must change in order to keep fresh and current and generate sales. A designer will usually produce a Spring/Summer and a Fall/Winter collection, although the big fashion houses will have many more in the form of cruise and ski collections, diffusion lines, menswear, womanswear, childrenswear, couture and anything else that might prove profitable enough whilst keeping them on the pages of the fashion magazines. And where do they find the constant inspiration for this onslaught? Why, they borrow from alternative culture of course!

If you name a subculture, I could name a fashion collection based upon it. Goth? A thousand times over. Punk? Don’t make me laugh. Rave culture, drug culture, bohemian, S&M…Galliano while he was at Dior controversially even produced a collection based on homeless people, featuring tattered clothing and more than a dash of total shamelessness.

Geek culture doesn’t escape either. Stripped down and bastardized into a few defining symbols, you get your thick-framed glasses, braces, slogan T-shirts, blazers, Argyle jumper vests, bow ties, knitted beanies — I’ve seen them all artfully arranged on decidedly ungeeky models as they pose their gamine, geeked-up limbs across a suitably academic background in glossy editorials for a plethora of magazines including Vogue.

As if the wholesale plunder of the culture wasn’t enough, unsung geeks are also propping up the fashion industry. From the technical teams constructing fabulous garments that practically require a degree in engineering to create (I’m looking at you Gareth Pugh and Viktor & Rolf) to the technical teams who produce the runway shows, as with so much in life, the industry relies on geek power to make it magical and fantastical.

For a few years now, the geeks have also been infiltrating the fashion industry as designers. London-based Hussein Chalayan makes dresses that turn into coffee tables or transform into hats as the models wearing them walk the runway. He has made clothing so light it could be hung from a helium balloon, clothes that use fiberglass, LEDS and lasers, and he’s certainly been name-checked in Vogue.

I’m still waiting for geeks to inherit the earth, but in the meantime I’d like to be the one to break it to Anna Wintour that they already rule the fashion industry. Just don’t expect to see the headline ‘Geek Makes Chic’ in Vogue anytime soon.

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  1. […] to 1997, and Anna “Nuclear” Wintour (legendary editrix of American Vogue) was playing God again. It is something she is known for. The […]