Long gone are the days of elite, closed-off couturiers and runway shows with a handful of VIP guests, since the digital revolution and widespread globalisation, the fashion industry has opened up in a huge way. And with this new democratisation of fashion, the clothes themselves have stopped taking themselves so seriously. For the first time since the whimsical prints and tourist skirts of the 1950's, novelty fashion has entered into the mainstream.
I believe that a huge part of our obsession with novelty garments and accessories is a penchant for nostalgia. Collaborations that bring our collective childhood favourites into the current it-brands roster are becoming more common and more popular than ever.
London fashion designer Katie Eary, who gained a cult following for her skatewear inspired menswear, launched her inaugural womenswear collection this season with a hotly anticipated collaboration with the Powerpuff Girls. Walking through the presentation of cowgirl denim embroidered with Bubbles, Blossom and Buttercup filled me with all the warm and fuzzies, leaving me reminiscing about long school holidays with my eyes glued to Cartoon Network.
Other new novelty collaborations include Fila x Pokemon and Opening Ceremony x Disney, and old favourites include Skinnydip's Simpsons accessories collection and Supreme's Mickey Mouse adorned garms, as well as the legendary Stüssy collections starring Beavis & Butthead, Looney Toons and Marvel.
High street stalwarts and online newcomers alike have been producing playful products for a while now. As well as the usual suspects, like Lazy Oaf and Illustrated People, brands like Topshop and Urban Outfitters are consistently churning out clothing adorned with avocados, donuts, pugs, unicorns and all things glittery and cartoon-ified.
My concern here is that these otherwise joyful and harmless novelty co-labs is not that they aren't fun (Who doesn't want Pikachu sneakers and a Moe Syslak clutch bag?), or clever (Want to make quick bucks? Slap a familiar cartoon face on a designer t-shirt!), but that they are wasteful as hell. Sure, novelty- but luxury- items, like the infamous Chanel milk carton handbag or Fendi's fur monsters, are extremely covetable at the time, but are you still going to be wearing it once the street style circus of fashion month is over, or after its Instagram 'like' appeal has grown tired? Novelty fashion may be supremely refreshing in the wake of normcore, power dressing and minimalism, but it has no lasting power, and therefore sustainability level 0.
The latest novelty fashion developments have come in the form of street style at Tokyo and Seoul fashion weeks. Photographers like Emily Molan and Alex Finch have captured hundreds of looks featuring everything from cuddly toys attached onto jumpsuits, to sci-fi headwear, fluffy dog handbags and speech bubble dresses. It is clear that the line between fashion and costume is becoming increasingly blurred, but away from the mainstream Western fashion industry, it is in the most cool and creative of ways.
The world of online influencers has feverishly embraced the novelty fashion trend, but also unlike many of the mass produced collections, Instagrammers like @besta_hesta, @afashionnerd and our very own @pieandfash are mixing and matching luxury designers, indie brands, vintage, second-hand and handmade to create truly unique and inspiring looks that again, never take themselves too seriously. To play us out from this brief discussion on the merits of all things whimsical in fashion, here are some of our favourite looks! Let us know what you think in the comments!