2017 has been a tumultuous one for the world, but when there is global uncertainty like we’ve experienced this past year, a greater level of certainty often develops inside each one of us. We become more certain of who we are, what defines us and what we wish to present and represent.
Our style is one such way to express ourselves, and this year it was hard to tell whether life was imitating fashion or fashion was imitating life.
Four years ago, Givenchy launched the infamous Pervert 17 line. The T-shirts sold out in a flash. Part shock, part statement, the collection became a bold proclamation about the perversion of paying an obscene amount of money for a black T-shirt, and also began a discussion about what defines a pervert (make no mistake that the 17 played up to this interpretation, given that 17 is the last legal year for a minor).
I happened to be gifted the Pervert 17 skater sneakers, with my left and right shoes displaying the numbers 1 and 7 respectively, and the back of both sneaks sporting the word “Pervert”. Living the gypsy life and often residing in remote parts of India, the shoes travelled with me, but never really left their dust bag. But now settled in Kerala and realising that sitting idle, the shoes were actually going to get destroyed by the humidity, I finally started wearing them this year.
It actually took me a while to realize this, but every time I wore those sneakers, they were defining me wherever I went, more so than my entire outfit. It didn’t matter where I was going or what I was doing – be it at an airport, an event or even at the supermarket, my shoes were leaving an imprint everywhere I stood. Somehow it didn’t click with me until springtime that the 1-7 actually matched the calendar year.
I recently realised that the `Pervert’ that I wore with pride ironically was actually indicative of the atmosphere we all were currently living in. From big name Hollywood producers and actors seeing their careers coming to abrupt ends as a result of their own perversions, to a president being celebrated for his social media tweets often tearing down individuals, especially women, in graphic perverted details — 2017 became the year when perversity became mainstream. Did Riccardo Tisci and Givenchy predict this at the time?
But the perversity has not just been sexual, it’s also been the extremism of thoughts and the unwillingness to compromise that has created an environment in which perversion actually breeds. From food and travel bans, tax reform chaos to the lack of vital medical equipment being responsible for the death of newborns — as a society we’ve witnessed challenging times.
Yet for me, 2017 did step up. One form of expression did rise to the occasion, or at least took the first grand step towards change — fashion. Art met fashion for a purpose. One of the most clever images of the year for me was Austin-based Mike Mitchell, who created the Anti-Trump 45/Swastika logo post the Charlottesville tragedy. Such expressions became graphic tees and sweaters often sported on red carpets across the globe. The clothing did more of the talking than the designer or the celebrity wearing it combined. Fashion trends were not set by who was wearing what but rather what was being expressed.
I was taken back ten years ago to 2007, when I was a first round cancer patient in New York. I found an amazing graphic cashmere sweater by Hickey for Hickey Freeman. The sweater had ‘I Leaf NY’ (the leaf obviously connoting a substance that was still illegal in the state at the time). While I was focussed on my own health, I wore that sweater with pride for many years. It allowed me to be seen as advocating for something I believed strongly in for my fellow patients. In 2014, the law in the state of NY finally changed, and by then both my sweater and my cancer had thankfully retired.
In a lot of ways for me, that’s the epitome of style. You must wear your clothes because you believe in them and they believe in you. Exuding confidence in our clothing was vital this year when we often felt disenfranchised and didn’t feel like we were being heard. Designers have stepped up and non-conformity seems to have seeped in more effectively into men’s fashion. While there’s always a place and room for traditional looks and trends, individual forms of self-expression matter just as much.
That’s what I particularly loved about 2017. You could don your tailored Tom Ford trousers with a bomber jacket, your custom-fit suit with Nike Komyuters, your linen mid length tunic with a Ksubi denim jacket, or your turtleneck sweater with Balenciaga fleece wide-leg pants. We could combine looks, stand out and say something too.
I’m so grateful we’ve reached an era where fashion risks are expressing more than just what it says about us. The greatest brand this year was us as individuals – and how it collectively made the most political and fashionable statement of the year.