Wearing shades

We plebs aren’t supposed to buy designer-influenced fast fashion anymore


This article is taken from the April 2024 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issues for just £10.

“What’s the colour we should be wearing?” absolutely no one is asking. Once this was the kind of question wimmin and haute homosexuals were wont to inquire of gurus such as myself, only they now consider themselves too self-determining for it. Well, maybe they should revert, this kind of thing being the only means by which the likes of you and I will be able to afford a slice of fashion action.

You know matters have reached an economic extreme when even fashion journalists — aka receivers of free “fits” — start taking note. In a Washington Post article entitled “The Reality and Delusion of Milan Fashion Week”, Rachel Tashjian riffed on the unaffordability of garb produced by socialist Miuccia Prada, amongst others.

“The clothes have gotten outrageously, laughably expensive … These clothes are uniformly out of reach of everyone.” Yet, of late, all designers can talk about is the profundity of their engagement with reality. LOLs.

Gucci biker jacket

Over on substack, where commentators don’t need to be as aligned with the industry, this issue is bubbling, bordering on broil. Jess Graves in her “Love List” discusses how obsessed designers are with targeting the top three per cent of EIPs (Extremely Important People). It’s not just that Chanel, Dior and The Row are beyond us; there’s no longer a sense that a civilian might save up for some element of a designer collection.

See Emilia Petrarca in her “Shop Rat” Substack: “Fashion feels so disconnected from real life right now. And insane prices don’t help. Sure, Bottega Veneta looked nice. But will I ever spend $11,000 on a top? Nope.”

We plebs aren’t supposed to buy designer-influenced fast fashion anymore. The mid-market is much talked about, but has a tendency to hurtle ever upward, stalwarts such as Reiss suddenly going after the £895 coat market, or crash down (farewell Jigsaw, opting to plummet after firing designer Jo Sykes).

Meanwhile, vintage buying is no longer niche, but mainstream enough to be an Oscar flex. Prices appear to be polarising accordingly: try to buy something spenny and it’s still too spenny; endeavour to sell off one of your less exorbitant “investments” and reap almost nil.

Which brings me back to my earlier point: donning the colour of the moment to semaphore that one is sentient, au courant, alive — and as the only affordable method of participating in this shit.

As to which colour, beige is still dragging on a bit as that supposedly high-net-worth hue that reads naff-as-fuck. Turd brown muddied winter wardrobes but, desirable it is not.

A flash of red has been the street-up obsession du jour, meaning it must now be considered over. Outliers are making a case for mustard. Olive and bottle green are looking ubiquitous for autumn. However, for the bona-fide pop hits of spring/summer ’24, we’re talking burgundy and cobalt.

Wait, I mean Ancora red (Rosso ancora) and Knight blue, for Gucci and Burberry are taking the punchy step of endeavouring to make a move on said shades.

Obviously, there’s a long tradition of colours being associated with brands. Witness Schiaparelli pink; Hérmes’ (accidental) orange (other packaging ran short during wartime); Chanel’s black, white, red and, er, beige, but basically black and white thangs.

Gucci horsebit platform loafers

The tradition was revitalised first in 2021 when Daniel Lee made Parakeet green “Bottega green”; next in 2022, when Pierpaolo Piccioli took over at Valentino, the formerly scarlet in-house hue “Pink PP” was added to Pantone’s official scale.

Lee, now at Burberry, is co-opting colour again. And so the brand took over Harrods — exterior included — with Klein, sorry, Knight blue. Whilst Gucci’s new creative director, Sabato De Sarno, wielded Ancora red to signal the brand’s return to understated elegance after the carnival years of Alessandro Michele, “ancora” meaning “still” or “again” in Italian.

All of which is to say, one might want to dig out one’s existing garments in these shades. Cobalt, in particular, has been kicking about for a while. Apart from a slight Nineties’ nod, burgundy hasn’t flourished since the New Romantics. (Still, New Romanticism is back too, more of which anon.)

Brilliant blue is a great freshener-upper as the light brightens into spring; burgundy fits the preppy, neo-posh boy vibe so many of us are working during the recession. They also look good together. Ensure any gestures you succumb to are returnable when purchasing online as burgundy, in particular, can be more brown IRL than it appears on, say, piss-poor eBay images. Do I speak from bitter experience? Always.

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