Younger generations are marked by their pessimistic outlook toward the future, and we can see this reflected on the runway with the advent of dystopian dressing. This trend, also referred to as avant apocalypse, mirrors our bleak view of what's to come by combining stylistic elements from science fiction movies with utilitarian maximalism to create an aesthetic that's ready to take on a post-apocalyptic world.
Dystopian dressing is heavily influenced by the revival of gothic and grunge fashion, serving as a counter-trend to the exuberant and optimistic dopamine dressing. This trend is characterized by a heavy use of neutral and dark colors, subversive basics, maximalist layering, and the resurgence of trench coats and shield sunglasses. All in all, the goal is to dress like someone stole your outfit off of the set of Mad Max.
Nailing dystopian dressing isn't about practicality, it's about breaking conventions and channeling your inner sci-fi main character. Sustainability plays a major role in capturing this aesthetic as our portrayal of futuristic fashions shifted from an optimistic sleekness to the thrown-together look we see now.
The cornerstone of dystopian dressing is the use of subversive basics, deconstructing classic closet staples with design elements like asymmetry and carefully placed rips. New silhouettes are created from typically conventional pieces by heavy-handed layering, mixing textures, and a cohesive neutral color palette. Militaristic-inspired pieces such as oversized cargo pants and utility vests fit right in with dystopian dressing, conveying rebellious power.
Fashion in this case isn't just a statement, it's our personal armor against an uncertain future. The outfit should look like it was thrown together out of necessity, but the intentionality is key when diving into a maximalist trend like dystopian dressing. The line between nailing the trend and overdoing it is quite thin, meaning that every layering piece must serve a specific purpose instead of being a haphazard add-on.
Rick Owens and Maison Margiela are prime examples of dystopian dressing at the high fashion level, although we saw many brands incorporate this aesthetic in recent collections. Rick Owens showcased his Spring 2023 menswear line, embodying dystopian dressing by wearing traditional pieces the "wrong" way and utilizing precise layering in the same neutral color story.
His collection was inspired by historical design elements with a grunge twist, complete with his signature platform footwear made for stomping through a rebellion.
Source: Vogue Runway
As for Maison Margiela, the design house's Fall/Winter 2023 collection showed a different interpretation of dystopian dressing at Paris Fashion Week. We see a deviation from the trend's traditional color range with the introduction of pops of color and a blending of patterns. Referencing the early days of the punk subculture with the unconventional layering associated with dystopian dressing.
Margiela provides an alternative version of the trend while still showcasing its crucial elements. The brand is already known for their avant-garde styling for both mens and womenswear, channeling their deconstructed visuals into more subversive pieces.
Source: The Impression
According to TikTok creator @camdebe, "Dune meets Mad Max meets Xena Warrior Princess" in Ib Kamara's first menswear collection as Virgil Abloh's successor for Off-White. The brand's Fall/Winter 2023 collection highlighted the dystopian dressing trend by fusing it with their signature streetwear style.
Metal hardware attached to models by skilled makeup artist Isamaya Ffrench (hello Collina Strada!) reminded us of Capitol citizens from The Hunger Games. Kamara blended style elements from his West African culture with futuristic details that the TikTokker described best. This collection was both artistic and functional, and highlighted a more street style way to channel dystopian dressing.
Pessimistic outlook aside, dystopian dressing is a unique spin on revitalized trends while getting us all in touch with our inner Katniss Everdeen. There might be a lot of doom and gloom looking toward the future, but we're ready to face it with dystopian dressing!