As new fashion capitals rise to prestige, Adam Lawler considers whether this represents a move away from the comfort of the mainstream.
THIS month, Nashville Fashion Week takes place, and if you see a dozen Google results of thinkpieces asking whether Nashville is the new fashion capital, you know it has gone beyond a scrappy, local event. It’s like your school fashion show, except with every camera in the industry trained on it, with all the pressure that entails.
The exposure is not without cause. People are calling it a breath of fresh air, but also a return to roots. The designs and concepts are fresh and new, but steeped in the history and culture of the area. It is also inclusive, featuring curvy and transgender models. Marcia Masulla, co-founder of Nashville Fashion Week, told Bustle, diversity is “nothing new for us.” What began as an originally ‘outlandish’ concept has exploded into something different entirely.
“As Nashville is becoming an alternative to New York in the US, Zurich is becoming the same for Europe.”
This begs the question: why do new fashion capitals seem to be springing up everywhere? Is this because the mainstream is stagnating? New York, Milan, and especially Paris have always been the giants of fashion. Paris, in particular, is considered the world’s fashion capital by default, and with so much history and every major fashion HQ taking residence there, that is never going to change.
However, while they were once new, the Paris fashion houses are now institutions. This is hardly their fault; any city with their track record and global influence will be at risk of stagnation. This doesn’t mean the glitterati can’t turn their heads to the new kid making waves.
Vetements have become an unwitting symbol of rebirth; after just three years in business, the avant-garde house are upping and leaving Paris for Zurich, and the heads’ condemnation of Paris as ‘over’ and ‘destructive’ to creativity is telling. As Nashville is becoming an alternative to New York in the US, Zurich is becoming the same for Europe, with Zurich West becoming a sort of cultural hub of warehouses and art galleries. In a sense it is perfect for the edgy image Vetements is trying to cultivate with their brand, even though no one outside of Zurich could tell you why.
“The mainstream has always looked to the alternative for inspiration, co-opting style for the mass market.”
This new attention doesn’t necessarily signify a sea change. It comes across more as a brief change of scenery for fashion tourists. As original ideas can only come from innovators, and most innovators can only be found underground, the mainstream has always looked to the alternative for inspiration, co-opting style for the mass market.
From tattoos to DIY, by the time we hear of ‘alternative’ fashion it is usually bang in the middle of the mainstream and on its way out of style. This one-way dynamic of centres and peripheries has always been in place. It is when those peripheries themselves slowly become centres that the industry becomes transfixed, and although the nature of being a capital will inevitably see the young upstart settle down and plant roots, sawing some of the edge off, it is this transitional period that is most fascinating to watch.
For now, all eyes are on Nashville, and with the highest concentration of fashion companies per capita after New York and LA, it has come a long way from rhinestoned jumpsuits. Long may it slay.