The Globalization of Style

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    What’s worse? A fanny pack or that H&M winter coat that you and about 1000 shoppers just purchased in the same day? True fashion “don’ts” don’t threaten to burn through our corneas, causing us to die from humiliation. They threaten to wreak havoc on the most beautiful element of fashion: no, not the runway shows, models or designer swag–the individuality of it all. In its most recent addition to Room for Debate, The New York Times tapped five fashion pundits to sound off on whether or not globalization has ruined street style.

    Globalization refers to transnational circulation of ideas, or in this case, style. Internet and social media have broken the once restricting barriers of culture, societies and regional economies and providing instant access to communication between the most foreign of foreigners. This translates to a fluid, influential relationship between regional and international ideas, which once only operated in a once way direction. Street style even has one up on other digital forms because of the heavy reliance on photos, a universal language. There are many scholars, experts, critics, and yes, consumers who herald the spreading of cultural diversity and lightening speed of news that comes with globalization; others fear that globalization will ultimately result in an ubiquitous cultural assimilation that supplants local cultures, or even worse, the obliteration of culture as a whole.

    We’ve taken verbal snap shots of the five pundits’ responses to the question at hand, but please make sure to head HERE to read each of their responses in their entirety.

    Kim Hastreiter, co-publisher and editor of PAPER Magazine, believes that street style defies globalization and comes from within the individual, no matter what “street” or neighborhood they’ve come from: “The most innovative street style tends to be created in the absence of wealth, rarely from wearing fashion labels bought off racks. When money is not available, resourcefulness and creativity are required, often resulting in the greatest imagination and originality. Brilliant ideas don’t cost a cent.”

    Will Welch, senior editor at GQ, begs to differ, insisting that fashion trends were born from globalization, although he cringes at the effect that globalization has had on street style in particular: “Street style has become so popular that “real people” are now dressing for the cameras, vying to get photographed [...] The streets are now less “Who, me?” and more “Look at me!” and, as I see it, the fickle fashion world has already moved on in search of the next big thing.”

    Tommy Ton, street fashion photographer,  explained the symbiotic–albeit progressive–relationship shared between street style and globalization: “globalization is the reason street style is as prominent and relevant as it is today.”

    Adriano Sack, a publisher at I Like My Style Quarterly, addressed the question through a lens of privilege and relativity: “The idea that globalization might hurt street style is the fear of a saturated elite [...] yes, globalization has had an equalizing effect on street style. But that effect looks dramatically different depending on the street.”

    Valerie Steele, director and chief curator at the Museum of FIT, broke her argument down by specific cities, praising cities such as Tokyo and Berlin, that have managed to maintain a unique sense of individuality–and avoid the homogenization brought on by international “fast fashion emporia,” such as Forever 21: “Despite the homogenization created by fast fashion, young people around the world remain concerned with individual self-expression. “

    So, is it finally time for the Sartorialist to put away his roaming cam for the sake of fashion or has the globalization of street style–like leg warmers and velour suits–simply contributed to the natural order and transformation of fashion?

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