Sunday 30 April 2017

It's time festi-chic went out of fashion, isn't it?

The original hippie subculture of Woodstock has been trampled on by the high-street brands, writes Sophie Donaldson

Kendall Jenner and Kylie Jenner attend Winter Bumbleland - Day 1 on April 15, 2017 in Rancho Mirage, California. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images for FVA Productions)
Kendall Jenner and Kylie Jenner attend Winter Bumbleland - Day 1 on April 15, 2017 in Rancho Mirage, California. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images for FVA Productions)
WHOSE GENERATION? Revellers at Coachella. However, the original festival-goers at Woodstock set their style parameters with muddy eiderdowns
A couple at Woodstock in 1969

Sophie Donaldson

A pair of fluorescent wellies, comfy knickers and a smear of face paint was once all you needed for a music festival.

If you really wanted to up the ante, you could splash out on a roll-on deodorant and a two-man tent from the army surplus store cheap enough to be abandoned on Sunday night before you went home

Not anymore.

Expect a poof of feather and glitter and high-end fashion to erupt over the California sky this weekend as 100,000 daily festivalgoers descend on Coachella, the annual music, food, drink and visual art marathon where Lady Gaga, Radiohead and Kendrick Lamar are headlining.

WHOSE GENERATION? Revellers at Coachella. However, the original festival-goers at Woodstock set their style parameters with muddy eiderdowns
WHOSE GENERATION? Revellers at Coachella. However, the original festival-goers at Woodstock set their style parameters with muddy eiderdowns

The annual music festival is now more famous for the A-list clientele that pack into its VIP tents than the bands that will take to the various stages.

Probably due to the high quotient of celebrity attendees, the festival seems to be the most papped, Insta-ready of its ilk and has undoubtedly contributed to the meteoric rise of 'festival fashion'.

US retailers have their denim hot pants at the ready. Department stores such as Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdales are offering curated 'festival edits' with the latter dedicating its entire Lexington Avenue window display to the cause. Zara's US site has its own Festival Edition, as does e-tailer Asos.

H&M has gone one step further and collaborated directly with Coachella. There is a pop-up shop at the festival selling the H&M Loves Coachella collection. The hefty advertising campaign, seen on billboards in Times Square, features band of the moment The Atomics, which is made up of model siblings including Insta-famous brother Lucky Blue Smith.

A couple at Woodstock in 1969
A couple at Woodstock in 1969

With the much-anticipated Body and Soul in June, Dublin's Longitude in July and finally Electric Picnic in September, Irish festivalgoers have a little longer to get their wardrobes festival ready.

So, what does one need to become festi-chic, as Miss Selfridge so eloquently puts it? This year it's all about fishnets, band T-shirts, flouncy sleeves, metallic bombers, wicker bags and lots of ripped denim.

'Festival fashion' has been ruminating in the collective retail gut for years now, but I can't help feel that it has reached tipping point.

Despite now having such commercial clout, the festival 'look' is nearing satire. Brands are hurriedly disassociating themselves from last season's cringey must-haves while touting new items that are just as bad.

Festivalgoers attend day 2 of the 2017 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival Weekend 1 at the Empire Polo Club on April 15, 2017 in Indio, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Coachella)
Festivalgoers attend day 2 of the 2017 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival Weekend 1 at the Empire Polo Club on April 15, 2017 in Indio, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Coachella)

Neiman Marcus warns against donning "over-the-top headdresses" but suggests one of its subtler headbands, the model sporting it like a meek Brigitte Bardot. Asos implores us to "forget flower crowns", instead offering a fuzzy unicorn headband.

Accusations of cultural appropriation have also spurred the backlash. Native American-inspired feathered head pieces, henna tattoos, jewelled Bindis, cornrows on white girls and Nath nose rings, traditionally worn by brides in Indian wedding ceremonies but more recently by Kendall Jenner, have all been blacklisted.

Which is ironic, considering the whole concept of 'festival fashion' is a mass appropriation itself. It badly imitates the aesthetic of the original subculture of festivalgoers; the hippies, the Woodstock diehards and the Glastonbury originals.

It's an ugly amalgamation of underground cultures that were born on the fringes (no relation to those dreaded suede sandals) who used clothing as a form of revolt and music as a form of refuge. Punks slid into leather and punctured their skin with piercings, free-thinking young men wore florals and grew their hair long and truly bohemian music lovers probably wore denim because it was cheap, sturdy and doesn't need to be washed very often. All of this has been happily appropriated by the high street for a tidy profit.

Every generation has a fashion fail they'd rather forget - our parents succumbed to the flared cords of the 1970s and the ludicrous perms of the 1980s. My peers and I have fallen victim to ill-fitting denim cut-offs and flower crowns.

Although I have never frequented a high-street shop looking for my 'festival fashion fix', I am not immune to the seemingly irresistible allure of face glitter. In my (paltry) defence, all my festival looks have been decidedly DIY - even those hand-sewn elasticated headbands with the fluorescent feathers glued to them…

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and perhaps we are beginning to see the error of our ways.

This year I am attending my first Irish camping festival. It's in late August, and having been told there is a 99.9pc chance of pissing rain, my 'festival essentials' list is limited to a black bin bag with a hole cut out of it for my head. It is an intimate gathering of 500 or so souls in the sweeping grounds of a country manor. There will be no chart-topping headliners, no sponsors and, all going well, absolutely no feathered headdresses.

Sunday Independent

Promoted articles

Editors Choice

Also in this section