Normcore is a wayward trend that was rigorously set in by the year 2014 and was followed just as much. The ideology at its heart being an ‘anti-style’ or ‘anti-fashion’ movement, it swept the internet by two-fold and was able to stir up both positive and negative remarks from critics, experts and laypeople alike.
Coined by K-Hole, a New York-based trend forecasting agency, Normcore is all about sartorial blandness; it is about dressing in a mundane, anonymous way, particularly without frills. The trend essentially entails items of casual wear with a touch of individualism – think polos, anti-fit shirts, thrift-shopped jeans, plain tees or go a bit wilder and ponder along the lines of a ‘90’s parka jacket.
Naturally, the trend took centre stage owing to multiple reasons. One of the prime reasons is that it appealed largely to young urbanites, most of who are always on the look-out for experimentalism and edgy demeanors. The current of magazines and influencers perpetrating and hegemonizing mainstream fashion was becoming more than tangible, and quite honestly, in severe need of a break. Hence, another important reason is because the world witnessed a kind of fashion over-saturation where bow-ties, blouses and glitzy couture pieces could no longer cut it as sartorial necessities. However, above all, normcore, or the anti-fashion trend for that matter, is a trend of defiance. It boldly rejects the mainstream idea of what really defines fashion or style and ensures a kind of fashion revolution which is less stylized and more rebellious.
Therefore, along with being a trend that paddles against the definition of mainstream fashion, it is also a solid weapon of fashion which is quite political and in equal parts, democratic. The late Richard Nicoll who was known for his modernist classics and was the Creative Director of the British casual wear outfitter Jack Wills, had said to British Vogue,
I’ve been inspired recently by my idea of The Special Normal and The Perfect Boring. Trusty wardrobe staples that last but have something unique and personal. Wills says, ‘I have soul and intelligence. I’m unique and I don’t need to shout about it’.”
Of course, Normcore is anything but dressing lethargically or being unfashionable, because for every item of casual dressing, there exists a careful, precise selection.
When the world-renowned trend forecaster Ledwij Edelkoort declared fashion as ‘dead’, and that ‘it is a ridiculous, pathetic parody of what it has been’, she wasn’t saying it out of thin air. Her anti-fashion manifesto challenges everything, from marketing, advertising and retail cycles to manufacturing, the press and production processes, demanding a revival in what goes into fashion and how the fashion industry as a whole, is perceived. One of the key points she has touched upon in her manifesto is that for today’s consumers, fashion is secondary. She says,
Today, people are expressing themselves in a number of ways (hair colour, tattoos, jewellery) that are not traditionally thought of as fashion. There are also growing tribes of people who don’t care about fashion. For example, the tech crowd in Silicon Valley. Fashion is not a mission amongst these nerds and their degree of coolness is obtained by loose slogan T-shirts, smart objects, paleo foods and indie music. Fashion has lost these consumers over the last twenty years and will not be able to get them back”,
hence describing how fashion itself, has become old-fashioned.
Over the years, there have been numerous brands and retail chains indulging in the anti-fashion trend. Some of the most prominent ones selling clothing that fits the definition of normcore are GAP, Scotch & Soda, Marc O’Polo, Everlane, Levi’s, Banana Republic and the likes. Not only have these international biggies given normcore the much-needed push into the industry but they have also largely capitalised on it.
This is Normcore, where dressing like a misfit is the ultimate fashion statement.
However, what is worth observing is how exactly it has panned out for the Indian retail industry. Having fared well in the States, the same cannot be said about its effect in India, since the country houses an eclectic mix of consumers being lured towards bohemian styles, high-end designer pieces, startlingly embellished and embroidered couture pieces that vie for their attention every minute of the day. But, it is not to be forgotten that the trend has certainly caught pace in India, what with young shoppers increasingly wanting to indulge in minimalist, non-conformist clothing, as opposed to trendy, excessively showy pieces.
Normcore in India can be seen possibly everywhere. Take a look at the kind of dressing that celebrities sport as they go in and out of airports (Read: sweatpants, tracksuits, hoodies, oversized shirts, sports-luxe pieces). Divert your attention to designers like Dhruv Kapoor, Ujjawal Dubey and Wendell Rodricks showcasing normcore to the best of their abilities, hence dismissing the notion that apparels sported on the ramp are not ‘wearable’. This phenomenon, in more ways than one, also encourages retailers to brandish more and more casual clothing, as the number of consumers wanting to wear indistinguishable items of clothing increases by leaps and bounds.
With respect to the Indian fashion retail space, an article on Fibre2Fashion.com says,
For any garment retailer the core basics form the largest part of a collection. This is more so because apparel stores can repeat orders, provide discounts on such products, and also helps them manufacture a product ahead of its trend ranges”,
hence highlighting the fact that Normcore is a trend with tremendous potential casual wear retailers are banking on, of course, because of the vast string of benefits it brings along.
In the book ‘Brands: Interdisciplinary Perspectives’, Jonathan E. Schroeder throws an insightful question at the Indian retail sector. He asks,
Will the spectacle of a retail space still be able to awe consumers if they are simply interested in functionality or the ‘normalness’ of sportswear?”
To answer Schroeder’s question, the fashion retail market in India has to constantly evolve, learn and reinvent its retail processes due to the heterogeneity of the consumer base of the country. Indian retailers can grasp as much profits, monetary as well as developmental, from the normcore trend if they tap into the correct target consumer group and strategise keeping in mind the psych, potential and varied necessities of the eccentric Indian consumer.