This month’s topic ‘Fashion’s Microchic Shake-Up’ pondered on the impact of the internet on the global fashion market we see today. Prior to the invention of the internet, cheapest origins of fashion trends could be pinpointed to say, dosage a specific youth culture, a political movement, or a new music trend. Times have changed; the way we see fashion has changed. The serge of information made accessible to us via the internet has created a new breed of consumer, a fashionista in his or her own right. Hello Microchic.
The term Microchic is used to describe fashion today – fashion derived from a variety of new, and inspirational sources. A style influenced by social networking sites, trend blogs and small cult labels adopted by highstreet clothing lines. A Microchic consumer knows about fashion and demands individuality, quality, innovation and fashion-forward appeal.
Ben Beaumont-Thomas began the evening with ‘The Great Microchic Shake-Up: A Primer’, in which he defined microchic as a ‘hyper-personal multi-faceted look’. The internet allows us to cherry pick fashions, it’s no longer about subcultures showcasing specific looks but about a consumer being able to choose a look for that day without the commitment. London’s fashion-forward hubs like Shoreditch accommodate many a microchic fashionista and, it seems what used to be ironic now just ‘is’. In order to track cult fashion movements on the streets of London, Paris, Milan, New York and Tokyo big brands subscribe to online global think tanks and trend forecasting services such as WGSN. These think tanks track fashion movements all over the world. Data is collected to give information on a global scale. Sales figures, market research, on-the-street trend spotters, and research into new manufacturing techniques all form a hub of information essential to any brand that wants to survive. It seems clear; the Internet has played a huge part in turning the way we think about fashion around.
So began the evenings debate; “Can the British High Street compete with Microchic?” The audience were able to upload thoughts in real-time via a live twitter feed which was displayed on stage for debate interaction. Guests Iris Ben David, CEO of Styleshake, Helen Brown, founder of Catwalk Genius and Ruth Marshall-Johnson, senior editor of WGSN Think Tank also shared their thoughts, prompting further debate. A particularly interesting point made by @cushefootwear via twitter was “Internet is to clothes what microwaves are to food”, prompting us to question the importance of ‘experience’ and ‘sensation’ when buying fashion.
Alterations in consumer shopping patterns have led to many interesting technological developments. Innovative systems are being designed to meet new sets of consumer demands.
Styleshake allows a user to build a look within an online interface. The idea is, the user can create the garment they have in their head (you know, that absolutely perfect dress you wonder if you’ll ever find) through the selection of various characteristics, such as fabrics, necklines, and detailing. After you’ve designed the garment you can have it made at very reasonable prices.
Catwalk Genius is an innovative creative platform in which unestablished and up-and-coming fashion designers can sell their ranges. It’s a great resource for those looking for something ‘not on the High Street’. Users can also invest in emerging talent by buying shares in a designer’s next collection.
Perhaps a more extreme example of innovation is Augmented-Reality Shopping in which tools such as 3D scanners are used to replicate the body shape and look of a user, allowing him or her to see what they would look like in any chosen garment.
Emerging trends are all about the involvement of the consumer. The consumer is part of the process. Innovative systems like these are designed to combat consumer frustrations such as differentiation in sizing between brands or inability to find a specific item or size, while offering an alternative consumer experience. Many consumers would be happy to do away with the days of long queues, sweaty changing rooms, rude salespeople and traipsing round shops all afternoon. By adopting an online shopping sphere, however, we lose out on the interactivity, the social nature and the tactility of shopping the High Street. Retail brands will need to facilitate technical developments such as 3D scanners (eliminating the need for changing rooms) to compete.
The competitive nature of the High Street has resulted in a cycle of mass production of fast-fashion garments and large amounts of waste. In contributing to our throw-away society the highstreet fails to represent the ethical edge that can be found in Microchic. However the High Street favourites H&M’s Garden Collection made up of organic cotton and recycled polyester represents a change in attitudes from big brands.
We Have Band could be the most interesting group I have ever interviewed for the sole reason that every question results in the three members talking over each other, rx telling jokes and generally launching into their own internal debate. This is hardly surprising when you consider that two of the members of the band are married to each other and the third member has unwittingly become part of that relationship. Regardless, the London-based three piece are always hilarious and charming in equal measure.
The group has already been tipped by numerous music critics as the band to watch in 2010 and have their songs have been remixed by Bloc Party, Carl Craig and DJ Mujava. It seems inevitable that We Have Band’s debut album, WHB, will thrust them into the limelight with the same feverish hysteria that surrounded Hot Chip’s The Warning, as their dance floor friendly electro pop is already getting some heavy rotation by some of the world’s biggest DJs.
Amelia’s sat down with Darren, Thomas and Dede to find out more about their debut album and the unlikely way the band came together.
Howdy, guys. How was the band formed?
Dede: Thomas was making music and he wasn’t feeling very inspired so I offered to make music with him. I came up with a concept name for the band and mentioned it to Darren. He liked the name and asked if he could join. He came round for dinner and then we formed the band.
Darren: Thomas and Dede are married so I am like the third member of the marriage. It’s quite weird because we don’t really know each other but we just experimented. On the first night we wrote WHB and that’s why we called the album WHB.
How long have you been together?
Dede: Just over two years. That first dinner was in late 2007 and then we spent about 6 or 7 months writing songs. Then everything just went crazy.
Why did you choose to work with producer Gareth Jones (Grizzly Bear, Interpol) on this album?
Thomas: He actually just did additional production and mixing. We had done most of the production ourselves so we just needed someone to help us take it to that next level. We didn’t want to stray too far from what we had originally done but we wanted to give it that shine. He understood that. We wanted someone who would tailor themselves to the band rather than try to change things. We basically tried to capture the energy of the live shows.
You seem very polite and welcoming on stage. How true is this in real life?
Darren: It’s all a huge lie!
Thomas: Dede gets excited.
Dede: If everyone is enjoying themselves then you start enjoying yourself and you start getting excited by the atmosphere. We are quite relaxed.
Thomas: We all have our quirks but we are quite happy in each other’s company. As Darren mentioned, Dede and I are married so there is always something bigger than the band.
Dede: We all just go and have a cup of tea and a bag of crisps after a show.
What are you noticing about each other as you tour together and immerse yourselves in each other’s company?
Thomas: Darren has a laptop addiction.
Dede: He is also addicted to eggs…
That can’t be very pleasant on a tour bus!
Darren: No, it isn’t! I tend to avoid Thomas and Dede until they have had a coffee in the morning.
Thomas: We can all be a bit short with each other but that’s fine. For the first hour of each day we just don’t speak and then after that we are fine!
You have been referred to as “part Hot Chip, part Talking Heads”. What do you think about this?
Thomas: Dede is banned from reading reviews but we’re fine with that.
Dede: That’s fine. It’s just not what we are.
Thomas: Yeah, it’s not what we are. Talking Heads were obviously an amazing band and we have only released a couple of singles so far but we will let them just say that and take it.
Piano is a very misleading first song on the album as it is nothing like the rest of the record. Did you have a theme or is the album just a bunch of songs that you were happy with?
Thomas: We were aware that they were quite stylistically diverse but they are all us. They are all produced in the same way with the same equipment. Plus, lots of bands have one, maybe two songwriters but all three of us contribute equally to the songs. We didn’t want to hide Piano at the end of the album just because it was a little different.
2010 salutes the return of the 60s, discount but forget the bubblegum pop of The Shangri-Las & co – I’m talking about the deeper and more sophisticated psychedelic sounds of Cream and The 13th Floor Elevators. If the noughties have been characterised by a great come back of punk, sildenafil post-punk and no wave sounds, then my personal forecasts for the new decade see a return to more psychedelic and drone-y atmospheres. The ‘nu-psychedelia’ I saw at SXSW, however, is intertwined with lots of different influences, from the rawness of garage rock and surf music, to the fuzziness of shoegaze-y guitars and 80’s synths, and the complexity of noise.
Turn on, tune in, drop out! Hopefully this will be a new Summer of Love.
Bet on these as real gold for 2010 and beyond:
These Are Powers – finally over the “ghost punk” definition they’ve dubbed themselves with, their hypercharged electro tunes, brightened up with sirens, samples and the best bassline I’ve heard in a while. They will make us dance all the summer.
Small Black – the East Coast is living the cosmic age. Small Black and fellow musicians Washed Out, Neon Indian, Memory Cassette among others take electropop to another dimension with fuzzy dreamy synth-y melodies and textured vocals. This band, in particular, is just great. And it’s making its way to the heart of the hipsters all over the world.
Pearl Harbor – the West Coast, on the contrary, is living the Summer of Love. And Pearl Harbor, together with extraordinaire Best Coast, are major exponents of the trend. Peace and love.
Male Bonding – despite coming from Dalston, Male Bonding don’t even sound British. They explosive mix of noise, shoegaze and rock and roll sounds closer to the Los Angeles bands gathered around The Smell than the anorexic depressed goths that meet at Catch. There’s some hope for British music. God save Male Bonding.
Best Coast – Bethany Cosentino & co are one of the most blogged about bands of the past few months and their broken-hearted twee gaze-y tunes will be pop anthems of the new decade. Someone compared them to the Ramones’ 45s played at 33 revolutions per minute. Listen to them and you’ll see why.
A Sunny Day In Glasgow – this 6-piece band from Philly has been one of the most underrated bands of the past few years. Hopefully this SXSW will help them to rise to the well-deserved heights of glory. Their haunting, dreamy, almost pastoral music reminds of Beach House and Grizzly Bear in a way, but they’re as unique as the former are.
Harlem – brilliant post-surf (if you can call it that way) with a Bowie-esque touch.
Tanlines – here’s another example of the new Brooklyn sound. Tanlines mix urban rhythms with tropical beats and space-y vocals. The mix of these elements seems weird but it’s actually a winner.
Once again, it seems like the American music scene is beating the UK for new, interesting production. People seem to want to dance, to dream, to trip into outer spaces – and US musicians, with their home productions and collective efforts, seem to give the best answer to these new needs. The thought process seems to be: The times have never been so shit. So what? Let’s drop acid and dance in the woods!
It’s a shame UK and European bands can’t keep up with the change, considering the great music tradition we’ve got here. The industry is stuck, 90% of British musicians are either on the dole or working 7 shifts a week in shitty pubs in order not to starve (or doing too much mephedrone so they don’t feel the hunger) and what suffers is the music.
Hopefully this wave of positivism will reach the Old World soon and we’ll see brilliant more UK bands at SXSW next year.
- Throwing Up, Male Bonding, Screaming Tea Party
- Album Review: Ringo Deathstarr – Colour Trip
- An interview with Japanese singer Cuushe about the making of Girl / You Know That I am Here / But the Dream
- The Deatchments and We Are Band
- Music Listings