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Fashion inspirations can be found on the street
Posted May 16, 2007

Rachel McCarthy-Moya is unhappy. She loved her kafia. It was a great fashion find and almost nobody was wearing it – at least not for the sake of fashion.

“I honestly thought it was a beautiful scarf,” Rachel McCarthy-Moya said. “ I saw it for the first time in NYLON magazine.”

A kafia is a scarf that represents a political statement of solidarity with Palestine, however it has recently exploded onto the fashion scene as a trendy accessory, sans political worth.

Ever since its boom onto scene, many of its early rockers, like Rachel McCarthy-Moya, feel as though people are blindly wearing these scarves without any inclination as to their meaning.

This is just one example of how fashion is influencing consumers from the bottom-up. Everyone is looking to the streets for newest and hippest trends.

Rachel is a college student in Los Angeles, who, like many fashionsitas nowadays, finds her inspiration from street style inspired magazines and other scenesters around her.

Many designers are taking this organic style from the concrete jungles of Los Angeles and New York and scattering it into their collections. Street style is not just for the streets, now it can be found all over the place. From Fifth Avenue to West Covina with stores like Urban Outfitters banking on these hip creations, like kafias, it seems as though this style has found a huge following among today’s fashion designers and publications.

“I really love that scarf and want to wear it, but everyone will assume I bought it at Urban Outfitters, but I didn’t,” Rachel said.

These early influential fashion artists can only sport their new creations for so long before a major company like Urban Outfitters comes along and mass-produces it. Then, it’s back to the drawing board for them.

Although Rachel discovered this style in NYLON magazine, nobody she knew was actually wearing a kafia until Urban Outfitters started selling them. NYLON is a magazine that looks to the streets for a lot of their inspiration, they have even published a book about street style from around the world called “NYLON Book of Global Style.” “Individuals are taking more of an interest in fashion,” Alexandra Gershman, art director of interactive at NYLONMAG.COM said. You could say NYLON is among the first to bring a virgin style across to the public. “We look and listen to our interns and readers for a response,” Gershman said. “They’re very much a part of this world and are influenced by kids they see on the street.” And, once people like Rachel begin to set the trend off, clothing companies and designers will begin to supply it.

“Street style is what inspires most designers for their collections so they’re ahead of the curve,” Raquel Medina-Cleghorn, a fashionista from San Diego.

Fashion websites and publications are devoting entire sections to style from the streets. Modern day hipsters grace the pages of NYLON and Glamour magazine with their homemade fashion creations and are inspiring everyone.

All of a sudden, people are eager to find the latest trends, not from Dolce & Gabanna, but from a random barista living in Lower Manhattan or a struggling artist in Los Angeles. These people are creative, spunky and full of catchy ideas that have many people, including designers, copying their mix and match outfits.

“Originality is something that’s unique and drives fashion,” Rachel said. “People are becoming more creative – we all take inspiration from what we see.”           

Although this is not a new concept, it is becoming more and more publicized thanks to technology. Websites like facehunter.blogspot.com take pictures of cool people they see on the streets and post them for the entire world to see.

“I think over the years designers have always found inspiration from the streets,” said Emily Herbert, the beauty and fashion editor for Alloy.com.

Alloy.com is one of many websites that posts pictures of fabulous fashionistas from the streets onto their websites. Anyone can just long on to see what people are wearing on the streets, whether good or bad.

In the past, designers took inspiration from those around them; however, that aspect was not as obvious to the public. Not everyone in the world knew what people in lower Manhattan were wearing in the eighties, but today, this information can be easily acquired through print and online publications devoted to the subject of fashion.

Technology has taken many things to new heights, including fashion. With one click of the mouse anyone with a computer can easily discover the underground fashion from the street of Tokyo on the website Style–arena.jp or a stylish hipster on the street in Stockholm on Style.com. Just like jobs today are being outsourced around the world, so too is fashion. But, in terms of fashion, this is positive and will only increase the popularity and variety of all aspects of design today.

There have always been creative people around for fashion designers to take influence from. In the fifties, beatniks were the rebel street kids who were the hipsters of their time, and who designers of that day took inspiration from. Those sharp graphic stripes, oval sunglasses and berets were all styles that generated from the youth culture of that time. Call them beatniks, call them rebels, but don’t call them dull.

In the seventies, who could forget the hippies that burned their bras and braided flowers in their hair? As comedian Dennis Leary put it, “Back in the seventies, you couldn’t buy anything except bell bottoms.” This is another clear example of how designers found their inspirations in the youth culture of the day.

And finally, in the eighties, Madonna danced to hear lucky stars in leather and lace and, not soon after that, kids all over the U.S began sporting this deadly combination.

Today, the same thing is happening all over again; however, what’s different is that these trends are boiling up form the streets and splashing into the clothing markets faster than ever before.

By the time Urban Outfitters has mass-produced kafia scarves, street kids have already discovered something newer and cooler to wear. Now, they wouldn’t be caught dead in one of those.

“I think right now, kids really want to be individual,” said Herbert. “Street fashion really influences that.”

Maybe its part of being young that makes these kids so fashionably creative and inspiring, but it’s interesting to note that most of these influential waves of fashion trends found inspiration from the 18-25 age group. This is the carefree age, the age of innocent experimentation both artistically and politically. And, for fashion designers, these are the people who will supply the adequate amount of PR for a collection to be a success, and they do this by just being themselves.

“People like to compare themselves to one another,” Nicki Vasquez, a graduate from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, said. “People just want to pick-up tips and get ideas.”

This is really the point of fashion, to find inspiration from those people and things around you. Fashion is not about hogging a trend to oneself, it’s about spreading an inspiration and a piece of art around for all to see.

Vazquez, who majored in product development, feels that people just want to find inspiration in each other, and designers know that. Designers have the ability to spread and inspire these small, street creations to everyone, so that everyone can experience a trend.

“The designers themselves are artsy street kids – just a little bit more grown-up,” Media-Cleghorn said. “It makes sense that they would appreciate the look of more artsy street kids.”

Maybe some of these street kids are the ones thinking-up these cool combinations, but designers are the ones that are sharing them with the world. That’s the difference between street fashion and designer fashion, the ability to spread the word.

Nobody owns a style or way of doing things; everyone has the right to fashion and fabulousness no matter whom they take their inspirations from. Yes, the kafia scarf does represent a political alliance; however, it’s also a beautiful scarf that gives a deeper dimension to ones stylistic creations.

It’s true that once Urban Outfitters decides to carry one of these trends, street kids will probably discard it, but that’s partly what keeps fashion going. People are always on a constant search for new influences in fashion and the technological age of the 21st century only fuels that search.

A hundred years ago, a particular style would last for decades because it took so long to catch on, but today it may only last a season. This, however, marks a high point in fashion. A point where creativity is constantly being sought and challenged and where anyone can have his or her own fashion combinations displayed on the pages of a magazine.

Katherine Hillier can be reached at khillier@ulv.edu.