Now Trending: The Safety Pin

June 24, 2011 § 1 Comment

I get the impression that critics don’t take Balmain seriously. And I get why. It seems that for them, fashion isn’t about concept so much as offering wealthy people cute clothes to wear clubbing.

But despite Balmain’s questionable sophistication and often astronomical prices, there’s no doubt that women love it. This summer, on the street and in the blogosphere I’ve seen quite a number of looks from their S/S 11 collection, which offered a selection of leather jackets, skirts, and shirts covered in safety pins. The overall aesthetic was hip and downtown, and it brought to mind club-happy teens smoking French cigarettes.

Balmain S/S 11 (via Style.com)

I’ve seen one jacket in particular on several street style blogs, as well as on CL in 2NE1’s video for “Lonely.” The detailing on the back is insanely intricate.

Balmain jacket on the street (via littlejimmysgirl)

Balmain jacket on the street again

CL in 2NE1's "Lonely" video

And whenever a hit designer item comes along, knockoffs are not too far behind. For whatever reason, Britney Spears wore a Balmain-inspired jacket for her video “I Wanna Go.” Notice the safety pins dangling around the collar of her jacket, as well as in rows on the right shoulder. It definitely encapsulates the Balmain look but the brightness of the white makes it look cheap.

Britney in "I Wanna Go"

I’ve also seen a number of large safety pins used as accessories on street style blogs, such as this one on FaceHunter.

Large safety pin accessory (via FaceHunter)

The safety pin phenomenon has clear roots in punk subculture – I’m sure legions of punk scenesters once used safety pins to hold together rips they acquired at concerts or riots. But Balmain’s appropriation of the punk aesthetic goes against certain core values of punk subculture, most obviously anti-consumerism.  This brings to mind the question of what the punk aesthetic means today. Do safety pins and studs still communicate rebellion and anarchy as they did in the 70s, for example? I don’t think so. At least in the fashion world, the only thing these details symbolize today is simply indulgence.

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