Y2k is dead! Long live the 2000s!
On Saint Laurent's invocation of the indie-disco
Haven’t you heard? Electroclash is back. Not so much in music, but in fashion, where it has migrated from the dancefloors of TRASH circa 2004 to the latest Saint Laurent collection, courtesy of creative director Anthony Vaccarello. So much of this is familiar to me: silver lamé bodysuits, neon-on-neon, black sequin skinny tux jackets, aviator sunglasses. The only thing more disconcerting than seeing the fashions of your teenage years being recycled as ‘vintage’ is seeing them paraded by catwalk models approximately 20% taller and 70% thinner than even your most neurotic teenage self.
Of course, this is Saint Laurent, so 2005 is given a chic (read: expensive) update. There are sumptuous fur pillbox hats and lush fur trims on miniskirts, decadent brocades and embellishments, long stretches of leather boots. Soundtracking this show with House of Jealous Lovers would be far too on the nose, and so although mid-00s French electro guy Sebastian has been enlisted for the musical score, the result is dramatic, orchestral; the setting ominous, barren – windy heaths, ice-strewn beaches, martian-looking sand dunes. It all feels at odds with the visual iconography of the collection. But high fashion is bourne of juxtaposition and so, aesthetically at least, it works. It’s just a little… humourless?
I was too young and/or too uncool to ever make it to TRASH, the Erol Alkan clubnight that ran from 1997–2007 and defined a generation of club culture. I did, however, own a knock-off version of its once-ubiquitous ‘Keeps Kids Dancing’ t-shirt (which, unnervingly, I keep seeing worn by TikTokers young enough to have been conceived at TRASH) and I was a regular at copycat clubnights in Leeds, Sheffield and even my cultural-backwater hometown of Wakefield (RIP the Escobar). If I miss anything about the club culture of that era (apart from being 16 – which I’m not even sure I miss), it’s the sense of chaotic fun, eclecticism and abandon. The indie discos I used to go to were frequented by a raucous, expressive, sociable bunch. Making an absolute tit out of yourself, as they say up Norf, was part of the fun. They danced badly, made friends indiscriminately, drank excessively (Jack and coke, shudder), burned playlists for each other on CDs with oddball tracks they’d found. The appeal of the indie disco was its refusal to stick to any one musical niche, mixing alt rock, electro and grime with anachronistic classics – “the Stooges and Salt-N-Pepa on at the same time”, as TRASH was described in a Guardian article a couple of years ago.
I don’t especially miss these early club outings, but the atmosphere was definitely different to the more pious techno club experience I tended to have before lockdown put an end to it. In these spaces, clubbing was talked up as an almost religious experience: something serious, spiritual, to be enjoyed solitarily even when you’re in the company of friends. Playing something too populist, or switching up genres, was a huge faux pas. It made pretentions about ‘inclusivity’ while being extremely elitist. Scan the line for Berghain – which much of 2010s club culture tried to emulate, with varying success – and you’ll see all-black clothing, minimalism, septum piercings, harnesses, more black clothing. It’s the antithesis of TRASH and its day-glo eclecticism.
With its desolate landscape and sullen waifish models, it’s this more recent, self-serious attitude to club culture that the Saint Laurent collection is closer to capturing, despite the frivolity of its clothes. A lamé bodysuit can only do so much to lighten the mood. Does Saint Laurent’s clientele care though? Probably not. These are, after all, just clothes for sale: garments on a rack, waiting for someone to pull them on and bestow them new meaning. This is the fascinating thing about fashion. No matter what signifier the designer tries to transmit in the runway presentation, the ‘sign’ can only ever be completed in the hands of the consumer. The wearer, for better or for worse, has the last word.
When Autumn/Winter 2021 rolls around, Bad Taste wonders whether newly-vaxxed clubbers will be inspired to bring a new sense of 2000s-era mischief and irreverence to the club, invoking a pre-crash aesthetic of eclectism and excess, or whether we’ll continue the sombre, isolated dancing of the Age of Austerity. Perhaps it’s already been put best by one band I used to listen to as the 2000s drew to a close: “I’m bored of cheap and cheerful, I want expensive sadness.”
~ Rosa xo
TIME FOR AN AMARO?
A series of quick-fire recommendations to help you digest
📺 At this stage, Drag Race is like the ouroboros of television. As soon as one season ends, another begins, creating one never-ending, self-consuming loop of meaty tucks and thirsty wigs – I’m loving it. I’m very happy about who won the US edition (I adore her) and am watching the newly-launched RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under with mixed repulsion and fascination. So much plastic! So many 50s housewives! They sent the indigenous queen home in the first episode! Suffice to say, I will nevertheless continue watching
👁 I’ve already recommended Richard Porter’s delicate and beautiful paean to lost queer elders on my Instagram (see it at Amanda Wilkinson Gallery). So here’s another rec: Andrew Pierre Hart, The Listening Sweet at Tiwani Contemporary. Gloomy, ambient paintings inspired by sound and sonic registers
🎶 John Carroll Kirby’s new track ‘Rainmaker’ is a strong offering with an even stronger vibe in the video: a sort of tongue-in-cheek take on those 1980s recording studio video tropes (think: Womack & Womack, or my personal fave, Eddie Murphy and Rick James)
📚 I’m ploughing through Olivia Laing’s latest offering, Everybody, and will probably report back next week. Also just landed on my desk: 100 Boyfriends, by Brontez Purnell, described as “a filthy, unforgettable, and brutally profound ode to queer love in its most messy of variations”. I can’t wait to get stuck in!
As always, leave your own culture recs in the comments. Ciao! xo