Fashion

Barbiecore & More: Western ‘Core-Aesthetics’ Shaping South Asian Fashion


“Halston, Lagerfeld, de la Renta. And what they did, what they created was greater than art because you live your life in it,” said the iconic Nigel (Stanley Tucci) in ‘The Devil Wears Prada’. Referencing three iconic designers, Nigel is talking about the phenomenon that we are now seeing every day, ie the fact that almost everything we wear has been influenced by a handful of ateliers.

In the infamous Cerulean monologue from the same movie, Meryl Streep’s Miranda Priestly (the devil) explains the cyclical nature of fashion — the launch of designer collections at seasonal fashion weeks that then find designs being replicated by other creators, eventually trickling down to department stores and nowadays to online fast fashion retailers. History repeats itself over and over again. However in 2006 when the movie was released, this phenomenon was slow and not as visible.

Nowadays, those with even a slight inclination toward haute couture have second-by-second access to the runways at fashion week with just a smartphone and an internet connection. However, that access does not always translate to monetary means. One of the perks of fashion these days is that fast fashion retail giants like H&M and Zara know their audience. You can get a ‘dupe’ of a YSL outfit within a few weeks of its debut on the runway, at a fraction of the price.

That, plus all the content that we consume on a daily basis has changed the way people shop and style themselves. With the advent of TikTok (and reels, for most of us), a number of fashion ‘cores’ have grown. ‘Cores ‘ refer to the sub-genre of niche aesthetics in fashion, for example, #cottagecore or #normcore. These cores have their resurgence in youth culture and have an almost nebulous aura of various escapist trends.

These trends find themselves on our screens in the form of shows, movies, or real-life events like red carpets or celebrity weddings, first in the west, and then making their way over here to our side of the world. When a heavy chunk of content that we consume comes from the UK or the USA, it’s a thrill of pleasure when we realise that Indian audiences are finally coming around to these trends as well.

Here we explore some of the trends or ‘cores’ that are slowly gaining steam in India and delve into a brief history of each.

Image Courtesy: lifestyleasia.com; @masoomminawala

I. Barbiecore
Possibly the most popular one currently, it is a girly aesthetic inspired by Mattel fashion doll Barbie. With the attention on two main things — Greta Gerwig’s upcoming Barbie movie starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, and Maison Valentino’s PP Pink Collection at the forefront, Barbiecore has taken over everyone’s Instagram feeds. With everyone from Dua Lipa to Anne Hathaway wearing the colour created by Valentino’s creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli, Indian celebrities have not been spared. Both Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and influencer Masoom Minawala (@masoomminala) wore pieces from the collection at the Cannes Film Festival.

Personally, there is a PP Pink crop top from Zara sitting in my wardrobe right now, as well as a pair of PP Pink pumps on my wishlist.

Image Courtesy: beautifulhomes.com; vogue.in

II. That Girl Aesthetic / Coastal Grandmother
Borne from the exhaustion surrounding hustle culture and a need to live a slower life, the That Girl Aesthetic and Coastal Grandmother are two sides of the same coin. Where one is afternoon gardening/chardonnay chic, and the other is journaling/green smoothie chic, both concentrate on living a slow life, one that many of us cannot in practice afford to do. TikToker Lex Nicoletta, who coined the term ‘Coastal Grandmother’ says, “It’s really just focusing on romanticizing your life and cultivating little moments of happiness. ” The people who embody these lifestyles are passionate and full of life and reject the archaic and backwards idea that as women age we should wither away into nothingness. In India, we can see this aesthetic come alive in Neena Gupta’s character in the Netflix show Masaba MasabaDeepika Padukone’s Alisha in the movie Gehraiyaanas well as Dame Judi Dench’s Evelyn Greenslade in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel franchise.

Image Courtesy: @antorvingomes; @hamelpatel_

III. Dark Academia / #oldmoneycore
Driven from a slightly more literary genre of sub-culture, the dark academic and old money aesthetic is inspired by a higher education form of culture and style, most predominantly from the American East Coast Ivy League schools. This is a sub-genre that has actually sprouted a sub-genre of its own, the ‘Desi Dark Academia’ style. It’s largely characterised by the writings of Rumi and Manto, knowing exactly what to do with six yards of fabric, plus an addiction to chai and mehendi. Influencers Hamel Patel (@hamelpatel_) and Anthony Gomes (@antorvingomes) are perfect inspirations for this style.

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