Hedi Slimane is the only designer on earth who can make pants headline news. In his Spring 2022 “Cosmic Cruiser” collection for Celine, the man who put the world into skinny jeans abandoned his beloved silhouette for a newer, younger model: a pair of blousy denim trousers called the ELEPHANT. This was a big deal. And to understand how we got here, you have to look at how high fashion and TikTok’s strange, ambivalent relationship—a relationship Slimane seems to understand better than any of his peers.
How has TikTok changed fashion? For one thing, it’s made things more individual, more daring, more youthful. Compare the way that Instagram’s algorithm works with TikTok’s: Instagram wants you to look at what everyone else is looking at or engaging with, whereas TikTok serves you more of whatever you watch the most. TikTok is designed to reward individual passion, or at least obsession, whereas Instagram encourages collective myopia. The TikTok attitude seems to have moved beyond the bounds of the app to real life: in New York and online, the streets are crowded with people wearing insane, almost irrational outfits. The obsessive hunt for specific pieces, especially vintage, instead of one-thing-solves-all brands has led to something of a vintage market bubble: Etsy recently bought Depop, the resale platform where fashion trends are revised and remixed, for $1.6 billion.
On the other hand, though, TikTok’s real fashion influence has been…limited. The TikTok sensibility has filtered into fashion houses awkwardly, bringing us crop top suits and short-shorts: clothes for the young and fluid, inspired by those who can’t afford the stuff but are very clever about replicating online a look they see on a famous influencer or K-pop star. Outside of these overtures, TikTok presents something of an alternative fashion reality, a world with its own trends (bikini tops tied into evermore rococo stylings), its own star designers (John Galliano-era Dior and Jean-Paul Gaultier), and arbiters of taste. There are even different brands, which rarely break into mainstream fashion media, like Shein and Pretty Little Thing, except to be subjected to questioning about their pricing and labor ethics. The resulting TikTok aesthetic is fascinating in part because of its mish-mash quality—its premise, as I’ve written before, is that all trends, subcultures, and styles exist on a single plane with no history, presenting an equal-opportunity buffet of stuff from which to choose. What makes it even more interesting is that, unlike most style subcultures, its practitioners often care little for the source material behind a look. TikTok makes it almost impossible to figure out where a joke, song, image, or style came from. It can be difficult for a designer, or a brand, to get any kind of handle on how to design with the platform in mind—unlike Instagram, whose streaming services and neat ability to frame events and people made it a natural ally to designers and brands.
The only designer brave enough to bridge these two worlds is Slimane. Since last summer, when he released his collection “The Dancing Kid,” he’s been engaged in a project that filters TikTok “style” through the fashion system, recreating the platform’s trends and personalized novelties with the resources and values of a French fashion house operating at its zenith. Crucially, he debuts these collections with short films, not TikToks, but he utilizes the sensibility: look at the way the dirt bikers in “Cosmic Cruiser” fly into the air and land in tandem with Izzy Camina, who made the show’s looped soundtrack, singing, “We go up / and we go down.” Slimane knows that editing is what makes a TikTok user an auteur.
Originally posted 2021-07-28 19:30:32.