Grunge and Faux Grunge: Designers and High Street

Over time a lot of designers have drawn influence from Grunge.. whether glaringly obvious or  subtle inspirations and Marc  Jacob’s collection for Perry Ellis was a series of landmark designs that shocked and thrilled alike, but what exactly what is that got tongues wagging and Jacobs fired? The collection was heavily inspired by the Grunge movement of the late 80’s/early 90’s, around the time the collection itself was brought out, and featured flannel shirts,  Doc Martens and other items which made a very obvious visual link to the grunge movement. Jacob’s himself described the collection as “a little fucked-up” (which was probably the reasoning Perry Ellis had when they fired him) and many would have agreed that bringing a dressed down, thrift store look to the catwalk and then trying to charge hundreds of pounds for women to wear it was slightly ludicrous – but at least the critics loved it. Jacob’s collection drew so heavily on grunge that a lot of it was basically just replication of items of clothing from the grunge movement with a slightly high end twist, for example thermals but made out of cashmere, and i think this is what worried a lot of people including the powers at Perry Ellis – that the collection was TOO similar to the original movement, making it easier to achieve on a lower budget.

Other, newer, designers are also using a grunge influence in a more modern context – picking at certain areas for inspiration but not committing to it as much as Marc Jacobs did, and there is a reason for this. Real, original grunge died out in the 90’s with the death of Kurt Cobain but it’s influences have stretched out over time to create a modern ‘faux grunge’ – girls who like to dress down and wear a casual ‘thrift store’ look but are willing to spend a lot of money to do so – which takes inspiration from the original movement but with a lot of dark, sheer fabrics as well as a use of leather. A great example of a designer who embodies these things is Nicholas K in his Fall 2010 ready-to-wear collection – he exhibits a wide range of sheer tops, leather detailed leggings, heavy boots and versatile flannel shirt/skirts. The darker look is sure to appeal to the younger faux grunge audience but the ties back to the original movement are clear to see.

Finally, faux grunge has become to commercial and desirable as a subculture that high street brands such as Topshop, H&M, Religion and All Saints have catered to the needs of a lot of faux grungers out there by making it more widely accessible to those who don’t have to cash to throw at designer brands.  All Saints in particular is embracing the faux grunge feel with a lot of clothes sporting a ripped/torn or deconstructed look, as well as the expected sheer materials and various leather items. But what makes All Saints interesting is the fact that they cater to such a wide audience in the way that JLS, a group who would never be associated with faux grunge in anyway, are often sighted dressed head to toe in All Saints clothing. Which begs the question – is faux grunge only truly accessible to those with the money to spend on designers who are committed to it, as opposed to high street stores which are just going along with it to keep the masses happy?