‘Gorpcore’, Handmaid’s Tale-inspired fashion – all signs point to end of the world – The Sydney Morning Herald

Maybe Kanye West is to blame. For if he didn’t exactly pioneer what Hadley Freeman dubbed “dystopian sportswear” – that is, his line in tattered flesh-coloured lycra – he’s certainly been championing it. Other culprits conspiring to make us look like people at brunch who’ve had to run through a brush fire and a difficult obstacle course to get there include Alexander Wang and Vetements (the collective responsible for sweatshirts that cost $700).

We have arrived at a trend that could be described as “survivalist fashion-lite”. Or, perhaps it’s “end of the world as we know it but at least we have cold drip coffee”.

In addition to subverted activewear, this weekend there was a fashion line inspired by the adaption of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale, and last month The Cut introduced the world to the “gorpcore” fashion trend (“gorp” being a trail mix of nuts and seeds eaten by hikers). 

Gorpcore is the kind of practical outdoor garb that you wore to measure the pH levels in the forest pond on your school camp. You know, survival gear – like fleeces and windbreakers and shoes that you can hike in without getting blisters. 

It is all, of course, heroically ugly. It’s fashion only for those in on the joke – the kind who will wear this to sit front-row at fashion week, rather than, say, to hike Everest.

This rather unfairly rules out a lot of people who wear this kind of clothing in the way it was intended – for practicality and warmth and because they have serious things to be getting on with. 

As Jason Chen noted when describing the aesthetic:

“The look isn’t quite the ‘camping chic’ that designers such as Givenchy, Lanvin, and – most notably – Prada sent down the runway. It’s not a hyper-elevated, high-fashion take on hiking clothes.

“Much of it is rather defiantly ugly … practical, element-braving fleeces, ponchos, parkas and windbreakers from no-nonsense brands like Patagonia, the North Face, Teva, Columbia, and Birkenstock … the outfit isn’t designer, but it is fashion, in the way that any aesthetic executed with intentionality – ever insistent and dissonant – can become ‘a look’.”

Meanwhile, the arrival of a fashion line inspired by the oppressed women in Atwood’s disturbing – and disturbingly relevant to the world right now – dystopian novel makes for a rather interesting complementary idea to gorpcore and Yeezy.

Taking the idea of control that is enforced in the novel – women are forced to wear uniforms in monochromatic colours and relinquish their rights – Vaquera, an independent label designed by four friends (Patric DiCaprio, David Moses, Bryn Taubensee and Claire Sully) – was commissioned by Hulu for the task of a high-fashion take on the show’s costumes.

The collection explored the duality of oppression and freedom in dramatic swirling red capes, statement sleeves and an avant garde exploration of the infamous white caps worn on the show.

“We definitely wouldn’t partner with every corporation that would approach us,” Taubensee told The New York Times.

“But we found that this show aligned with our work, in that we also discuss discrimination.”

“And oppression and group mentality, and what makes someone an individual, and how we use clothing to construct our identity,” DiCaprio said.

All of which is interesting when we we think about fashion’s role in viewing the world, yes? Is it a dystopia of flesh-coloured sports gear and clothes made for toughing out the elements and oppression and control? Or is there also a certain kind of freedom that comes with choosing what to wear and expressing our beliefs and our taste in sensible footwear?

Or maybe it’s both. Our suggestion is to start stockpiling a few fleeces just in case. You never do know when you’ll need to brave the elements/create a fashion moment.

Perhaps the important thing is to be in on the joke … even when things get mighty serious.


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