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A hype beast, fashion addict and online shopper on life without the Internet

Digital dystopia

A hype beast, fashion addict and online shopper on life without the Internet
Will fashion return to a time before the millennium? And if it does, will it be for the better or worse? Three personalities share their perspectives

It's hard to recall the days before the Internet ironed out the "kinks" of our lives. How many of us found out about the Manchester bombing merely hours after it took place? Checked in with friends across the pond to discover they're safe within the next? As we millennials like to sum it up, how we 'do life in general' is predominately contingent on the benefits of the World Wide Web. But we're also aware of its shortcomings. Or rather, our shortcomings in life on this fast lane. Most of us will find a hard time remembering the last time we gave 100% of our attention to the person seated across from us at dinner. Just last week, a colleague threw a minor fit when Deliveroo told her "it can't take any orders due to weather conditions".

Like the world at large, the fashion domain too, acknowleges both the merits and unsavoury social demands strung from such interconnectedness. The launch of Amazon's 'one click ordering' saw newfound ease for online shoppers and a spike in orders, but the critic in us wonder if it's mass consumerism masquerading as convenience. You can learn more about the 'one click' phenomenon here with well, just one click.

Is craft, tradition and provenence getting the exposure it deserves with such ready channels to educate the curious, or is it increasingly taking the backseat because of how the internet has changed the way we appreciate fashion? We know for a fact that news on Louis Vuitton's collaboration with Fragment generated more reads, likes and a higher average time spent on page than an insider glimpse to how Chanel is preserving centuries-old craftsmanship. For the designers, it's a battle between orchestrating a show that'll gain virality on social media, and protecting the sanctity and values these historical houses were founded and built upon.

"Celebrity FROW, guest performances, laser lights and monster trucks (practically any Philipp Plein show) would have to be rethought and scaled down due to lack of global exposure." — Norman Tan, editor-in-chief of Buro 24/7 Singapore

Speed, needless to say, is no longer a premium. It's neccessity. As Buro 24/7 correspondent Silvia Bombardini discussed in an interview with Christopher Kane, "Social media comes as a double-edged sword... our attention span gets a lot shorter. We get bored a lot faster," she argued, to which he responded: "Yes. It's weird because as soon as I've done a collection, people are asking me about the next one. But I've just done one. Give me a break, why not? I'm not a robot and I'm not a machine." Commenting on the cons of Instagram, he remarked, "I believe that it's always nice to have books to look at, to do your research the way it used to be done [in libraries], and not just look at your Instagram feed. That's other people's stuff and you should make your own." And of course, the 'see now, buy now' movement — a whole other conundrum that's weighed out here.  

"Creativity and originality come second in a bid to be the first." — Rohaizatul Azhar, part-time lecturer at Lasalle College of the Arts

As we appreciate the convenience and knowledge the Internet affords us today, we also question the integrity of the loaded word that is "fashion", what with the considerable saturation of street style "icons" on Instagram, whose every purchase and every style move is documented, distributed and filed on new (and traditional) media. The other kind of saturation, the retail kind, poses a query of its own as well. When there is doubt if your new Vetements sweatshirt would be able to stand on its own merit without the online hype that snowballs its desirability, the ease of consumption cannot be disincluded when weighing the influences that coax our purchase decisions.

Here, a hypebeast, fashion addict and online shopper reflect on the virtue and snags of life without the internet, at the same time raising key factors in consuming, appropriating and digesting more discerningly in this digital day.


ROHAIZATUL AZHAR, PART-TIME LECTURER AT LASALLE COLLEGE OF THE ARTS AND AVID ONLINE SHOPPER

Rohaizatul Azhar, @ryanstarr lecturer lasalle college of the arts

With the convenience of online shopping, how has the rapid influx of products affected your fashion consumption?
I think the abundance of new products constantly being introduced in the market is great for the consumer. We get to pick and choose what we really like and, thanks to online shopping, we get to purchase pieces that are not necessarily available in Singapore. That's good, no?

But because of the increasing demands from consumers for new products (and the designers/brands having to meet these demands in order to stay relevant), sometimes we are given ridiculous things priced at luxury brand prices. I think that's due to the fact that the designers aren't given the time to really think about their creations. So, creativity and originality come second in a bid to be the first. I mean, come on, an Ikea bag passing off as a leather tote in Balenciaga? Or the Chatuchak market bag. And let's not forget the many other "auntie" or "uncle" things that Balenciaga (and other labels) have come up with recently — passing those off as "luxury". It's an insult to my intelligence and purchasing power. And yet, people buy them. Like bricks at Supreme. I remember thinking to myself that the world has gone mad.

 

Is there a difference in your decision process when it comes to purchasing online versus offline?
Not really. In terms of clothing and shoes, I still look out for fit and how it looks on me. When shopping online, the "return and refund" policy is very important to me. I want to be able to buy something from across the globe, get it shpped to my house, try it on and, if it doesn't fit right, be able to return it and get refunded. Hassle-free, no questions asked. I'm also looking for things not readily available in Singapore. Nothing is more horrifying than spending thousands of dollars on something only to walk into a party and find every Tom, Dick, and Mary having the same thing as well. Exclusivity is important to me. I'm not a hypebeast — I don't need everyone to know what I'm wearing the moment they see it. 

Where do you go to get your shopping done offline?
I shop my own closet and try to come up with different looks from what I already have. Or, I'll head down to Capitol Piazza to check out local label Reckless Ericka and multi-label store Manifesto. I'll go to Uniqlo and H&M, but maybe not as often.

How will having to shop in-store only affect your life?
Standing at 6'3", I don't have the typical asian build. Basically, I'm Khloe Kardashian before her current reincarnation — I'm taller than most, with hips as big as my personality. Clothes that fit me are usually better available in Europe or America, so no online shopping means I've to actually fly to these places to shop. By the time I purchase my air ticket, get an Airbnb and all that jazz, I'm left with enough money to shop at... I don't know, Primark. Not amazing.

How will smaller brands be affected given that online marketing via social media platforms is no longer an option? What impact does this then have on consumers?
If online and social media is now not an option, it'll be very hard for smaller brands and labels to sustain themselves. Rent in Singapore is crazy and it'll be impossible for independent labels to get a brick-and-mortar. As consumers, everyone worth their GQ, Vogue and i:D magazine will be clamoring for the same thing. We'll just be shopping from the big brands — both high street and luxury — and we'll wear the same things. That's not to say that we're not already starting to look the same in our dressing. But I blame the hypebeasts for this.

Has the Internet affected your appreciation for craft and design? 
Not really. Not all of us can visit an atelier and watch artisans or master tailors at work. The internet allows brands to put up behind-the-scenes videos or pictures to show the work that goes into a certain product. For instance, Chanel and Dior puts up behind-the-scenes videos on their Facebook page or Instagram account that showcase ateliers and craftsmen working on a product. For those who care, we get to learn the story and the history. We get to see why we're paying three months worth of salary for a bag or a suit.Lemarie Chanel atelier

Without the internet, life will be... like shopping at Fairprice, and not even Fairprice Finest. Boring and ubiquitous, but hopefully cheap.

ADAM CHOONG, TABITHA NAUSER'S CREATIVE DIRECTOR AND HYPEBEAST 
Adam Choong, creative director of Tabitha Nauser

Will newer brands (such as Off-White and Vetements) enjoying hype now experience the same attention and success, sans internet? 
No. I believe they will see success but I credit how fast and big these brands have become to the internet. Apart from design and quality, people buy into the story and soul of the brand or the designer, which is accessible through social media. 

Why is there frenzy surrounding collaborations and limited edition products? 
I think we like a good "deal". I love a good deal, therefore the idea of owning a product with two or more labels on it — or just being snobbish about having something not everyone can have, is appealing... though sometimes, some of these collaborations and limited editions are just trash. Extensive coverage online is definitely a catalyst to the rapid consumerism of these releases. Everyone wants to fit in. "He's rocking it, I gotta have it. She's showing it off, I gotta stunt too."

 

Do these products have the merit to now stand alone without the online hype?
I think some will still be able to sustain without the online hype. Going back to the days before social media, brands like Stussy did it. It was mostly word of mouth.

Is there an upcoming release that you think will "break the internet"?
There are so many that will be massive but the one that will "break the internet", will definitely have to be Louis Vuitton x Supreme. There's going to be snaking queues, riots maybe. News stations are going to be on it, people are going to flaunt it, others gonna hate on it, again.

If you didn't spend much time on the internet, what would you foresee yourself doing?
I spend probably about four to five hours a week online, and if I wasn't doing that, I'll probably be creating something. Doing something creative.

Was there a time you almost fell into the trap of purchasing something because of the hype surrounding it?
I almost fell for the Travis Scott x Helmut Lang collection because within two to three weeks of launch, it was everywhere. Thank God, I didn't. I haven't regret anything I bought so far, at least not the pieces themselves, just sizes.

Without the internet, life will be... calmer.

NORMAN TAN, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF OF BURO 24/7 SINGAPORE AND FASHION ADDICT
Norman Tan Buro 24/7 Singapore @musingmutley

Should the internet cease to exist, how do you intend on keeping up-to-date on the latest fashion collections and news from brands?
Just check Instagram. Oh hang on. Just Whatsapp the brand managers. Wait a minute. No Internet? Life is over. It's quite scary to think about how much we rely on the internet to stay up-to-date with the latest collections and trends shown on international runways. Without the world wide web, I imagine that my personal relationship with designers and PR managers will be even more crucial; securing me access to shows and disseminating information about latest looks to me via... fax? Is that how they used to do it? Fashion would probably retreat to its uber exclusive past, but on the plus side, I would be forced to really pay attention to the clothes on the runway rather than worrying about getting the right shot for Instagram.

How important is the internet when it comes to strategising and planning fashion content?
I'm always online. Period. It's my constant source of inspiration. An Instagram account from Marrakech might inspire me to chase down an interview with an emerging designer; a YouTube clip could trigger an idea for a fashion shoot; or the popularity of a particular Tumblr post could direct ideas for fashion coverage. If the Internet went down, global information would be less readily available. I would definitely have to work my networks, and scour through art and photography books more often, to draw inspiration and ideas.    

What do you think will change on the runways at fashion week if the Internet no longer exists?
Forget fancy set designs. I'm sure it will still be striking and beautiful — because designers are still crafting a world for their creations to inhabit — but so much of what is created today for a 20-minute fashion show is to fuel social media exposure. Celebrity FROW, guest performances, laser lights and monster trucks (practically any Philipp Plein show) would have to be rethought and scaled down due to lack of global exposure.

Philipp Plein SS16

Some say that street style coverage has made fashion week a circus. Where do you stand on this? Do you think it has influenced the integrity of style?
I remember picking up a GQ when I was in junior high and thinking, "What is this? I didn't know guys could wear a suit and look this smart." But it was discovering Tommy Ton's street style coverage online that had me obsessing over every detail of his subjects' outfits. I just loved how people on the streets were interpreting runway trends and looks in their own unique way. Unfortunately, you're right, it's now a circus and the legitimacy or authenticity of what people wear outside the shows is questionable. Many, if not all, street style stars are seeded clothes and some just rock up to shows to be photographed; they don't even have a ticket to the show itself! True style is working with what you've got. It's easy to look good when you have access to gorgeous pieces. It's a strange world we live in. 

Have there been times when you dress a certain way to be shot at fashion week, or purchased items purely for the 'gram?
100 percent. The beauty and irony of fashion week is that you have this licence to just go a bit #cray. As a fashion editor once told me, "There's no such thing as being over-dressed at fashion week." To a certain extent this is true, but only if you stay within the ballpark of your own style. Once you start wearing two hats at once or start painting your body (believe it!), you're just playing dress up. It's no longer personal style. Being a lover of street style, I've definitely been inspired by what Nick Wooster or Simone Marchetti might pull off, or just generally pick up on a trend that I might want to experiment with. However, it still takes your own discerning eye to determine what will work for you, and what will make you look like you're headed for Comic Con. Always ask yourself if you'll still love what you're wearing, even if it doesn't end up being documented. 

Do you think you will be doing something different if it wasn't for the internet?
I would read more books. I have all these novels and fashion tomes sitting around my room — all bought with the intention of reading — but are just collecting dust. That, or play more tennis.

Without the Internet, life will be... boring and insular. Like people who have no interest in other cultures besides their own. 

Read the digital millennial's guide on how to survive without the Internet.

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  • Image: Instagram | @thaartist, @musingmutley
  • Image: Rohaizatul Azhar

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