The rise of "craftcore": The homespun movement that's set to become fashion's latest subculture
I've been guilty of indulging in a little feckless introspection from time to time. I know that makes me the textbook definition of navel-gazing, but the amount of alone time that has slipped into my agenda is like catnip for my overactive brain — hence, cue the verbose brainwork!
One of the subjects that's been running itself in my head like a tireless hamster on a wheel popped up one day when I was scrolling on Instagram. After realising that the algorithm for my home feed had completely changed from say, a month ago, I figured out that it had something to do with my recent fascination with a new subculture of fashion that's poles apart from my personal style pre-isolation.
Which leads me to said subject of concern: Have I outgrown my style?
My style has remained unwaveringly consistent since my early adulthood. If I were to describe it, I'd call it "intentionally unintentional"; otherwise, "a fear of appearing overdressed". My pair of heavily distressed Doc Martens' boots can bear testament to that. My "uniform" consisted of a pair of wide-leg tailored trousers, anchored by a cropped top or a loose-fitted white shirt for a touch of nonchalance. It's my way of telling the world, "Hey! I want to look stylish but I'm afraid of looking too extra."
An inclination to look pared back with ease has always been a tenet of my style.
When I ask myself why that is, what comes up is that a small part of my social anxiety is to be written off as a try-hard. My love for fashion and self-expression feels like it's always at heads with my desire to look effortless — which gives rise to my specific (not to mention stagnating) breed of don't-care-fashion. Sometimes I'd wear a zebra-printed slip dress but decide it'd look too dressy with my favourite crystal-buckle mary-janes, so I'd opt for a pair of worn-out Nike sneakers. If I had a new lilac tulle skirt I was excited to wear, I'd have to team it with a purposefully ironic band tee and a messy bun.Even when I'm trying to look dressy, I would try to mix in at least one element to feel more casual: combat boots, a loose ribbed knit jersey dress or pared-back slides.
If that sounds pathetic to you, it's because it is! But dressing down the way I have has been a great source of comfort (both internally and texturally) for me, so in a way, I guess it hasn't been that much of a personal loss.
I'm not sure if it's a part of growing up and maturing, or having the luxury to consider my tastes and preference without the interference of other people's judgements during self-isolation, but as I've mentioned in my titular prompt, my personal style has been going through changes. More specifically, it's shifting towards a more homespun, handcrafted type of couture revolving around the likes of quirky colourful knits, crochet and unabashedly playful beaded purses.
Perhaps it could be due to the increased interest in home crafts — what with everyone under lockdown these days — but I've definitely been seeing a lot more of "traditional" methods of handicraft emerge as a subculture of fashion to be reckoned with. After doing some digging, the term "craftcore" came up. Coined by Nylon US, the genre of style is currently gaining ubiquity, and it emerged even before COVID-19 struck. Back in the spring/summer 2020 fashion month, Jonathan Simkhai, Eckhaus Latta and Ulla Johnson had already shifted their gears to "crafty" textiles such as knits and crochet when conceptualising the spring dresses of the moment.
One of the brands I'm currently obsessed with is the one-woman footwear label Westernaffair. The up-and-coming Instagram brand was founded and operated by Olivia Pudelko, a Polish graduate of fine arts who now resides in London. Pudelko upcycles bridal shoes from the early '2000s and hand applies to them deconstructed and ethically sourced sheepskin that resemble a tuft of feathers. One of Westernaffair's signatures is its "Carpet Mules", a series of heels sporting textiles with delightful florals in soft pastels, cut up from vintage rugs.
I also really like Hope Macaulay's "Colossal Knits". I stumbled upon this brand on Instagram, and its uber-chunky merino wool are made-to-order, constructed using a kaleidoscope of vibrant rainbow colours. I would probably have no use for such insulation in Singapore, but that didn't stop me from hitting the "checkout" button in a fraction of a second. There's something uplifting about its childlike wistfulness, a sartorial escape into simpler times that I very much welcome right now.
Speaking of nostalgia, there's also Susan Alexandra, the cult-favourite accessory brand known for its cherry-printed or colourful bags crafted from crystalline plastic beads. If there's anything that can inspire a spur of joy, it's one of Susan Alexandra's tongue-in-cheek, handmade beaded purses. Something about this bucket bag emblazoned with 3D pearl clouds makes me want to regress back into my ten-year-old, YES-to-anything-with-a-semblance-of-girliness self.
Experimenting with pieces that are considerably more "out there" while under quarantine has pretty much been the pinnacle of self-expression in my entire adult life so far.
I find my ripened attraction to craftcore peeking out in little ways during WFH. I'd put on an outrageously brilliant bracelet strung with miniature beaded grapes next to ridiculous multicoloured knit pants, and feel unstoppable when I catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror. This whimsical approach to dressing, however, requires thoughtfulness when it comes to styling to avoid the risk of looking like a haphazard salad bowl of clashing items competing for attention.
It's without a doubt a complete contrast from my initial poignantly described style. It makes me wonder if I would abandon my newfound style once quarantine is over. I doubt it though — the course of self-realisation has led me to a place where I can sit with myself and be okay with it. I feel like I've arrived at a point where broadcasting who I am to the world through the things I deliberately don is not only less scary, but an act of triumph.
It feels transformative to dress in a way that feels more authentic to me. Just the other day, I broke out those "extra" mary-janes of mine and wore them alongside an equally extra tangerine print sweater on a grocery run. Realising that I didn't need to fade into the background to feel like "me" felt like a seal that solidified the craftcore influence in my personal style. To that point, I'm eager to see where my style will take me, and what it may then reveal about myself, as I trudge further into adulthood.
To shop the craftcore movement, check out these brands below: