Fashion, by it's very nature has always been steeped in a form of meme culture. From the it bags of the 90s to the return of highly recognisable logos and brands on street style stars at fashion week, fashion is all about virility. It lives and dies by the ability of the trend to spread. So #TFWGucci – Gucci's latest digital marketing campaign for their new line of watches, doesn't feel completely jarring and more like a natural progression of fashions continual appropriation of subcultures.
Meme, in the traditional sense of the word was coined by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book, The Selfish Gene as “an idea, behaviour of style that spreads from person to person within a culture.” It has since been taken by the internet, while at it's core, still true to Dawkins original meaning and changed into something more subversive, creative and fast paced. Instead based in genetics and the mutation of random change within Darwinism, modern memes are more about the individuals direct influence on it. Here everything is intentional and tied and transformed by human creativity. Which of course, is what Gucci are playing with here.
Gucci have collaborated with a diverse range of artists who have each created their own memes, that pay tribute to an identifiable part of internet culture, while also being tied to each artists manifesto. From John Yuyi's take on digital aestheticism and desire to @gothshakira's ode to queer culture and feminism, the art (because that is what it is, art) is wry, subversive and playful. They aren't always funny (probably the most offensive thing about them) but it's self aware and blends a mix of original new photography and found art work to create an innovative and unique marketing campaign.
Yes, Gucci are using digital art to sell premium products, and one of the main appeals to digital media is that is created within a community. This is being re-appropriated through advertising and transfigured into something that questions it's authenticity- though with anything created and consumed online, there is a level of artifice and presentation. Post modernism at it's best right? Really though, this is just the most overt use of digital pop art by a luxury brand. Fashion has always had a trickle up/trickle down effect, we're just seeing it becoming faster than ever. What can seem like empty cultural osmosis instead is inviting creation and innovation, examining how we consume fashion and culture.
This is just the next step in fashion's love affair with the absurd and surrealism. The rise of digital collage artists - @siduations and @benjaminseidler combining contemporary fashion with pop culture and high art- and gif creators – from Jeanette Hayes Proenza Schouler Gifs using found art to inset products - this is just a more popular use of a digital art form to sell a product. It's irreverent and smart, and okay it might not always hit the mark, but if nothing else it's interesting.
Dawkins compared memes to a virus, and that's no different from how fashion trends work today, and if this kind of creativity is a symptom, it's one I'm quite happy to catch.