Supporting your friend’s bad decision with a screencap of Kris Jenner’s ‘You’re doing great sweetie’ is the reassurance we all need. Responding to a contradictory statement with an image of Spiderman pointing at Spiderman will never get old. This is how we communicate in the digital age. As you’re reading this, you’ve probably already seen ten different memes on your feed today. Once upon a time, memes were an eccentric branch of early internet humour which took form in Trollface, Chuck Norris, and Rickrolling videos. But a lot has changed since we were young tweens scrolling through Facebook, quibbling over the pronunciation of the term, and there’s certainly no confusion today. Memes have permeated every facet of pop culture and become a vital part of social interaction, it’s a tool of communication, universally understood by the digital generation.
The fashion industry, a vital component of pop culture, has easily found its footing within the world of memes. In 2017, Gucci meme-ified themselves, with their ‘#TFW (that feeling when)’ campaign to promote their new watch line. The luxury powerhouse recruited Instagram accounts @cabbagecatmemes, @champagneemojis, and @youvegotnomale, to create viral content, one of which recreated the viral Arthur’s clenched fist meme. Gucci’s attempt to adopt a new brand strategy paid off—according to their annual earnings report, the millennial demographic accounted for 68% of their sales that same year. The Italian fashion label isn’t the only brand in the business of memes, Demna Gvasalia, founder of Vetements and current creative director of Balenciaga, has often been the subject of speculation over ‘meme-baiting’, the process of pushing products to extreme heights, with the intention to generate buzz and provoke a reaction online.
Remember the pink Balenciaga platform crocs that generated multiple memes? The model sold out before they were even released. In the very same collection, almost every single piece sparked debate. The doubled layered shirt and Ikea bag made headlines, and a certain seven-layered parka drew countless comparisons to a memorable Joey Tribianni’s outfit—when he wore all of Chandler’s clothes.
It’s not the first time Gvasalia has tangled with the medium of memes. In 2016, his label, Vetements engaged in a high-profile entanglement with its parodic counterpart, Vetememes. The latter was founded by Grailed employee Davil Tran and true to its name, has since branched off into a fully-fledged fashion meme account. Vetememes initially rose to attention after replicating a raincoat from the brand, and Gvasalia welcomed the attention, creating his own rendition—a parody of a parody. Tran is just one of many mastermind creators behind the viral sensation of memes. Herald as the ultimate fashion exposé, @dietprada is a revered (and feared) account, specialising in throwing shade and spilling tea, using memes as their vehicle. What initially began as a hobby between colleagues has grown to become an unstoppable voice within the industry, whose words hold a major influence over their dedicated followers. Scaling down the fashion-hierarchy, the @fashionassistants Instagram page shares real-life Devil Wears Prada stories from young creatives and pokes fun at the woes of those starting out in the industry. Sometimes, a little self-deprecation is necessary, and in many cases, laughing off a bad situation, or at the very least, finding strength in numbers is what gets us through it.
With social media being such a prevalent theme in so many people’s lives, memes have become the perfect vehicle for sharing information, humour and opinions. In just a matter of years, it has evolved to become one of the most important means of communication between friends, colleagues, and even brands with customers today. Despite fashion being an industry traditionally thought of to take itself seriously, memes have cut through the noise to make fashion more accessible by creating communities that reflect on the absurdity, creativity and craftsmanship with a little light-hearted humour. Who knows, one day we might even find a HEAT starter pack meme while scrolling through our newsfeed.