At theTUNDRA, we're hosting our first virtual style event. Join us your favorite influencers & brands to discover LA & UK Style all-day August 19th. We'll have live breakouts, interesting giveaways & much more. Reserve Your Space Now!
By Emily Zemler
Contributing Writer at theTUNDRA
We know that style is so much more than the clothes you wear. It’s a mood, an attitude and a lifestyle – it’s how we reveal our inner me’s to the world. Over the past five decades, Los Angeles and the U.K. have become style destinations in large part because of the transformative cultural and political events of both the 1960s and today. Each has its own unique perspective and history, but the two places are connected by an underlying desire for open-minded self-expression, often using fashion as a way to make unheard voices heard.
There’s no more important time than 2020 to consider the ways in which we showcase our beliefs. The cracks in the essential foundation have been revealed by the COVID-19 pandemic and it’s time to knock the building down to rubble and rebuild. Clothes help us speak up about how we want to see that building reconstructed. They offer a glimpse into who we are and what we hold dear. A tee-shirt isn’t just a tee-shirt when worn during a protest or when emblazoned with an important message. A mask keeps us safe by covering our mouths, but it can also help us to communicate something. Like the 1960s, 2020 is a year defined by revolution, by society standing up and asking for serious change. It’s a reminder that we all get a voice and what matters is how we use it.
The Mods Vs. California Cool
The ‘60s were a time of revolution, extending into nearly every aspect of people’s lives and manifesting physically in the clothes worn during this turbulent and defining socio-political moment in time.
Outside of fashion, the world itself was being rattled. The Civil Rights Movement was sweeping the United States and that too was reflected by fashion trends and the styling of magazine photoshoots. People marched constantly, supporting everything from the anti-Vietnam War movement to the women’s rights movement to the gay rights movement. At the time is was seen as part of the counterculture, a rebel behavior of the young, but looking back it was an era of transformation and of people deciding to stand up for what was right. It didn’t matter whether you were in England or California, the connective thread was being whoever you wanted to be – and proudly showcasing that in your attire.
In the U.K., women tossed off traditional frocks and clothes became tighter, shorter and edgier. London’s style set led the way with the miniskirt, heralded by British designer Mary Quant, who summarized the movement stating: “A miniskirt was a way of rebelling.” Supermodel Twiggy became synonymous with the look and women around world began to free their legs, undercutting classic perceptions of femininity. The clothes were youthful with bright textiles, often influenced by the U.K.’s thriving music scene. The Kings Road in Chelsea was the fashion district of the decade, boasting boutiques and designers beloved around the world. This so-called “youthquake” movement rippled, encouraging a sense of wild self-expression that felt new.
Across the pond, Los Angeles was experiencing a similar shake-up. If the decade started with Americans emulating the elegance of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, it climaxed with the free love hippy culture of the late ‘60s. Hollywood and the LA music scene pursued an aesthetic defined by long, flowing skirts and dresses, suede and vintage ornamentation, with big jewelry. Tie-dye and paisley prints were everywhere, and many women trashed their bras as a statement against the patriarchy. These LA fashion choices, too, were about freedom, represented by the likes of Janis Joplin and Cher, and this Bohemian street style allowed women to reflect their feminist beliefs outward.
What connected both places was an undercutting of high fashion and pricy designers. The trends became more and more dictated by the consumer, rather than the designer. The youth of both the U.K. and LA gave themselves the freedom to wear whatever they wanted and to express themselves more personally through their apparel. Fashion author Jane Mulvagh noted, writing about the decade’s evolution, that “1962 to 1968 were crucial years in which the allure and originality of street style challenged, and finally broke, the hegemony of high fashion.”
Model: Kenika Gumbs // Photographer: Anastasija Poluektova
The Revolution of 2020
2020 has been a year of chaos and tragedy, but from disorder often comes change. After the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world, killing hundreds of thousands of people and leaving many without jobs, the tension was palpable. Something had to snap and the death of George Floyd sent everyone reeling. People around the globe took to the streets, calling for equality and supporting Black Lives Matter. From Los Angeles to Manchester to Sydney, the world was galvanized – and these protests have had a ripple effect on fashion itself.
With the industry woken up to systemic racism and constant injustice, designers have become even more vocal than usual. In the past decade we’ve seen designers like Dior unveil shirts with slogans like “We Should All Be Feminists” during global fashion weeks and many brands, including Asos and Levi’s, have released special edition pieces in support of Gay Pride. But now it’s not just about the occasional message; it’s about practicing what you preach all the time.
Los Angeles brand Cherry LA, beloved by celebs like Kaia Gerber and Hailey Baldwin, recently introduced a call-to-action black tee-shirt with the words “Enough” across its front, with 100 percent of the proceeds donated to The United Negro College Fund and Black Lives Matter Los Angeles. It’s a fitting accompaniment to the brand’s “Together We Stand” capsule collection, which makes an unabashed statement about divisiveness in America.
In London, Scottish designer Dylan Joel, founder of Dylan Joel Studio, sees this current social movement as an extension of his ongoing approach to fashion, which is to use his pieces to as a comment on various issues. Joel has started selling a chic Black Lives Matter mask that raises money for Race Equality First, and he’s gratified that the industry is becoming more open to BIPOC designers and models – something he’s pushed for throughout his career.
“There’s always something we’re looking to speak out against and that does inform the design process,” Joel says. “I’m always involved – or the people in my life are involved – in those situations. That’s something that’s in my brand, to always have something that’s political and always trying to have a statement to make people think when they’re looking at my pieces to have a commentary along with it… That’s just something I’ve done without thinking about it.”
It’s not just the designers who are embracing the changing fashion world. The role of the fashion influencer, too, is shifting. You can’t just pose in front of an ornate wall in a designer outfit or show off the latest handbag when there is so much strife in the world. These days influencers feel more at liberty – and more of a responsibility – to have a stance on issues of social justice.
“I’ve been talking about it on my platform and using my platform to bring across such a powerful message,” Kenika Gumbs, a fashion influencer based in Manchester, says of the Black Lives Matter movement. “There’s not as much protesting at the moment and I know I have a big platform and I can use that to remind people that ‘Hey these are matters that are still going on. There are still things that need fixing.’”
She adds, “I always want to be 100 percent authentic with my audience. Everything I promote on my platform, everything I touch base on – I always want to be open and real because that’s the best way to use this platform, to spread positivity.”
This turning point offers an opportunity for the fashion industry, and for those who engage in it. We can shop more Black designers, look for more sustainable brands and ensure that it’s not just one type of person who gets the spotlight.
“I don’t think the industry is going to look the same,” Washington Post fashion critic Robin Givhan recently told High Snobiety. “I don’t think it should look the same. None of the issues people or activists are bringing up now are new.”
Fashion Comes Full Circle
Interestingly, one of 2020 biggest’s fashion trends has been tie-dye – a style statement with origins rooted in the 60’s, with its distinctive, vibrant print seen on everything from flowing dresses to chic crop tops to masks and accessories. There’s also a desire for less restrictive pieces and a more casual look, another throwback reflecting late ‘60s style. The pandemic has meant a shift from more formal office attire and going-out looks to less conformity with traditional fashion norms. We have permission to be ourselves, whatever that might entail. Off with the bras! On with the leggings!
“The trend for LA right now is really athleisure,” explains Kinya Claiborne, a style influencer and the editor-in-chief of STYLE & SOCIETY Magazine. “Sweats, comfy, cozy materials and fabrics. All of the events have been canceled. A lot of travel has been canceled with the current travel ban. So I think a lot of people are looking at fashion that is comfortable.”
She adds, “I think people are feeling more confident in their own skin and not necessarily wearing a lot of makeup. They’re not necessarily doing the maintenance they were once doing in terms of doing their hair and going to the salon every week. This has forced everyone to go back to basics, which I don’t think is a bad thing.”
In the U.K., a less involved look is also in vogue. London-based personal stylist and image consultant Deni Kiro is seeing two primary trends right: ‘90s-inspired minimalism and strong, bold colors, which feel inspired by the color-blocking of the ‘60s mod crowd. “Certain looks from fashion always come back again and again,” she notes. “The bright colors reflect the ‘60s, and some of the cuts of the clothes and the prints.”
Kiro has found that her client base is interested in going back to basics with their wardrobes, in part thanks to the national lockdown and less time spent going out. That’s not to say that people in the U.K. aren’t wearing leggings on a daily basis, but athleisure hasn’t quite caught on in the same way as it has in LA.
“The important way things have changed – and I think it’s going to be long term – is that when life gets complex, fashion gets stripped back to the bare minimum,” Kiro explains. “People have pared down their looks. Obviously we went through a major shift with the lockdown and everything happening in the world and I think that made people ditch their old stuff and do a big wardrobe cleanse. They’ve simplified and streamlined the way they get dressed.”
Gumbs agrees, noting that one of the best street style looks of the moment is a blazer paired with jeans – something she’s noticing both in the U.K. and in America. It’s a casual chic vibe that works on the street or at (socially distanced) gathering, but also on Zoom. “A lot of people now are just being themselves and making their own sense of fashion speak out,” she says. “They’re making sure their look has a very chic touch to it.”
Joel has noticed more upcycling, with designers repurposing vintage items and fabrics to create sustainable pieces that reflect the consumer with a conscience.
“I try to reuse old clothes, or pair new with old,” Joel says, confirming another possible connection between the 1960s and today. “I’ve seen people trying to use less, and more brands are trying to use vintage. People are trying to be more ethical in the way they purchase fashion and that’s inspiring how people are buying and producing fashion, especially within the U.K.”
Passion Is the Fashion
The truth is that it’s not the clothes we wear that give us style, it’s the passion with which we wear them. And across the globe, from Los Angeles to the U.K., that’s what connects us all.
While recent protests have embraced their own sort of style aesthetic, similarly to the protests of the 1960s. Black Lives Matter marches, in both LA and the U.K., are increasingly an open venue for self-expression, including fashion as defined by in part by graphic tee-shirts, stark black and white shorts and heavy shoes. It’s an extension of what’s been happening over the past few years, with celebrities stepping up to join marches as a means of increasing visibility of the messages imparted at those protests with the media covering functional yet fashionable attire that’s as much a part of the event as showing up.
The modern world surrounds us with messages about how to be, what to believe, ways to dress and how we should look. It can be hard to know how to find yourself in the onslaught of social media and advertising and media. But part of the great shake-up of 2020 has been emphasizing that we should listen to what’s inside rather than what’s outside. We should speak our minds, share our knowledge and learn from others. It’s through authentic expression that real change will come. It’s not just how you dress; it’s what you say.
Who: LA and UK based Influencers and Fashionistas from all over.
What: We're taking you to two global style destinations this summer. Style is so much more than what you wear, so jump in and explore all the fibers of style through the lens of LA and UK based tastemakers. Join your favorite influencers and brands to discover LA and UK Style on theTUNDRA.
Our diverse influencer community will explore a wealth of topics. Ever wonder about the challenges of the fashion industry in the UK or how Hollywood films choose what to dress their actors in? We have a live breakout to explore these topics and more. Be sure to check out the live breakout section on the event page to check out all the different breakouts and their times.
When: August 19th, 9am-5pm Pacific