For as long as there have been cameras, there have been people taking pictures of well-dressed people on the street.
Bill Cunningham’s street style pictures were published in The New York Times from 1978 until his death in 2016. The most inspiring thing about Cunningham’s photos was that they featured regular people who put together outfits themselves as they went about their business.
Street style has always been eclectic and often vintage with a mix of high street and luxury fashion labels. Back in the day, if you were an avid follower of fashion you would look to street style photographers like Scott Schuman (The Sartorialist), Garance Dore and Tommy Ton for inspiration on what to buy/wear/covet next.
(Photo: Scott Schuman, thesartorialist.com)
Street style went from the streets to naturally out the front of fashion weeks around the world. We looked to New York or Paris Fashion Week to see what Anna Dello Russo, Giovanna Battaglia and Taylor Tomasi Hill were wearing. At this time Tavi Gevinson was sitting front row as a 12-year-old fashion blogger (she’s only 20 now by the way). People were wearing outrageous, traffic stopping outfits – there were some silly outfits but it was without pretension.
Around this time we saw the blogger fashion week takeover – with PR, stylists, endorsements and multiple outfit changes. Street style looks were editorialised, shoots were staged – and everything has started to look the same. Where was the authenticity in a sea of paid-to-wear looks? What we’re seeing now of street style is that it’s very little of the ‘street’.
Blogger Hanneli Mustaparta shows off an outfit on the street
In a recent article on vogue.com reviewing Milan Fashion Week, Sally Singer, the creative digital director, remarked on the Gucci revolution defining Milan. “A collection was either all about the ateliers and craftsmen or the creation of streetwear stars and clothes made to stop traffic and paparazzi. It’s a schizophrenic moment, and that just can’t be good. (Note to bloggers who change head-to-toe, paid-to-wear outfits every hour: Please stop. Find another business. You are heralding the death of style.)”
Later in the article, Alessandra Codinha (vogue.com’s fashion news director) adds to Singer’s comment. “There’s not much I can add here beyond how funny it is that we even still call them ‘bloggers’, as so few of them even do that anymore. Rather than a celebration of any actual style, it seems to be all about turning up, looking ridiculous, posing, twitching in your seat as you check your social media feeds, fleeing, changing, repeating…”
(Photo: Alex Finch, vogue.com)
Like anything in the fashion world, these things evolve. Garance Dore has turned her street style blog into Atelier Doré and Tommy Ton shoots a number of editorials for brands and magazines. Not unlike the trends we see, those within must adapt and change to keep up with the ever-evolving fashion industry.
With runway fashion being so much more accessible than what it used to be, many designers are opting for the see-it-now, buy-it-now philosophy. This translates to what we see on the streets. Some of these Instagram ‘stars’ are walking advertising billboards for their designs. Everything needs to have that visual punch to make it to the blogs – or more so, Instagram (who blogs anymore, right?).
Of course authentic street style still exists – it’s still out there. It’s just harder to find those real people that wear inspiring outfits within the constraints of lifestyle and budget. Where’s Bill Cunningham when you need him?
Header photo: Alex Finch, vogue.com