Trend Watch: Things (Namely, the Economy and Your Denim) Fall Apart


There is an age-old adage that, in times of economic turmoil, hemlines rise as GDP falls. Whilst we disagree with this on a fundamental level (short is ALWAYS in), we’ve also noticed a new style trend that mirrors the world financial crisis: ripped up clothing.

To crudely bowlderise WB Yeats, when things fall apart, so, apparently, do our clothes — certainly if this image (below) from Mark Fast‘s S/S 09 runway show in London is anything to go by. Fast is the new darling of British Vogue and its scruffier weekly counterpart Grazia , and his work is characterized by spiderwebs of brightly colored knitwear that look as though they got caught up in a nearby wind machine on a Madonna video shoot from 1984. Yes, there is definitely a hint of the ’80s about this ripped-up, deconstructed look: another sign of fashion history and economic history repeating in sync.

Another fan of cut-up catwalk style is Christophe Decarnin, head designer at Balmain, whose S/S09 collection showcased these astonishingly-priced jeans (above), retailing at over $1,000. With Decarnin at the helm, and with distressed denim and futuristic pointed shoulders as its trademark silhouette, Balmain has become the hot label du jour amongst the fashion crowd and celebrities alike.

Ironically, it is here that the fashion/economy relationship breaks down: only those unaffected by the credit crunch (i.e. celebrities and fashion editors with their clothes allowance) are able to afford Fast and Balmain’s distressed duds. In fact, this plays into a larger trend that the economic downturn has propelled — secret spending. Along with the unmarked carrier bags now available from Hermes and net-a-porter , it seems the hippest way to sport your fashion credentials is by deliberately hiding them, or ripping them to shreds.

If Fast’s and Balmain’s creations are slightly beyond your budget, New York Mag has some more reasonably-priced jeans suggestions, from the likes of Diesel, Madewell and Cheap Mondays. Alternatively, check out the back of your own closet — you’re sure to find some pre-frayed, comfortably old denims from the first time round. Now THAT’s recession-chic.

But before you set to work on an old pair of Levi’s with a home-dye kit and some garden shears, take a moment to reflect on the psychological meaning of this look. These clothes are messed up, frayed, worn-out, ripped-up, distressed and falling apart. You decide to adorn your body in these terms. What would Freud say?