Through history, wearing black has signified power, rebellion, death, sex and more. Deborah Nicholls-Lee explores the inky depths of fashion’s most timeless colour – and how Cristóbal Balenciaga made it iconic.
The colour is also a symbol of subversion. Subcultures such as rockers, punks and goths donned black to rebel against social conventions, playing their “youthful vivacity”, says Harvey, against sombre and sinister clothing choices. But popular culture also sees black associated with protest. When A-listers showed their support for the anti-sexual harassment movement Time’s Up at the Golden Globes in 2018, it was black they elected to wear.
A couple of months ago, we questioned whether Balenciaga’s next It bag would actually just be… a grab bag of crisps, having spotted Demna sat front row at a graduate fashion show in Antwerp with a packet of Lays perched on his lap or otherwise hooked under his arm as if it were a gorgeous pochette. Cut to the designer’s SS23 show – which took place this morning – and the greasy accessoire was reimagined as a lime-flavoured, calfskin clutch. In Demna’s mind, just about anything can be read as fashion, with the ugliest and most normal of items often engendering the most desire.
To American ears, this approach might sound callous. But according to Morris-Glennon, the British class system has a staggering influence on the country’s work attire. What you wear offers insight into where you are in life and where you used to be. As Morris-Glennon puts it, “In England especially, the more money you have, the less you care about clothing. The old money sometimes, you wouldn’t be able to pull them out of a crowd.” She narrows her eyes and says slowly, “The last person you’d think was a billionaire is the billionaire.”
When did daily life come to feel so much like a competition? In “You’ve Been Played,” Adrian Hon traces how and why gamification — the application of video-game principles like experience points, streaks, leader boards, badges and special challenges — has come to suffuse nearly every aspect of human existence in the digital era. Examples range from exercise (Nike, Strava), housework (Chore Wars) and brushing your teeth (Pokémon Smile), to — more disturbingly — going to school (ClassDojo) or work (Amazon warehouses’ PicksInSpace).
Hon slips easily between the perspectives of expert, enthusiast and critic. An education in neuroscience informs his explanation of the behaviorist underpinnings of gamification. And in his capacity leading the games company behind the popular running app Zombies, Run!, much of his working life is spent tussling with these issues. Some of the book’s most insightful moments come when Hon discusses how his team considers ethics and user experience when deciding how much to use gamification tricks in their own work.
Recently, bartenders and drink professionals across the U.S. have started using mushrooms to add rich, savory flavors to cocktails made with and without alcohol. Some highlight the sweet taste of candy cap mushrooms in their drinks. Others prefer the smooth, deep flavor of creminis. With more than 10,000 varieties to choose from, mushrooms’ drinks potential is vast.
“As cocktail culture continues to progress I think that more and more people are looking for something creative and unexpected. Something they haven’t seen before or tasted in a cocktail,” says Nathan McCullough, the bar director at The Wolves DTLA.
We are living in a time of global uncertainty. The world has changed irrevocably since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic and current news cycles detail the effects of climate change, the cost-of-living crisis, energy shortages, the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the Russo-Ukrainian war. Fashion trends respond to our environment and consequently runways in recent years have been awash with bright waves of nostalgia, reflected in the recent resurgence of the Y2K aesthetic. In an age of social unrest, the allure of a more carefree time is understandable. Low-rise jeans, Von Dutch caps, bandanna crop tops and micro skirts have made a comeback. Gen-Z have heralded the return of ‘indie sleaze’, a chaotic, dishevelled era which developed in reaction to the slick celebrity culture of the early 2000s, when American Apparel disco pants, rosary beads, backcombed hair and smudged eyeliner were the norm.
“It is undeniable and inescapable,” she said recently. “It is a mirror image of what is happening with clothing now and who the clothing is going to…There are whole cultures existing off of our used things. It’s even more complicated now. Now there are so many different people who are oppressed. Fast fashion goes right into a ditch and into another bale.”2 In the physical act of gathering colorful found materials for her work, Smith enfolds layers of dark history into beautiful untidiness, conjuring pasts and presents of labor and toil.