Ah, 2018: A year that the majority of us would prefer to leave in the past or wipe from historical record completely. We’re not only talking about the current state of politics and international affairs, of course — but we’re also referring to the fashion that’s come out of the past twelve months. With a few exceptions, a lot of it has been forgettable at best and absurd at worst, thanks in no small part to clever designers who know that the best way to get (and remain) on consumers’ radars is through the almighty internet.
If a brand’s creation isn’t a hit among celebrities, influencers and editors who dominate the online space, chances are it will be deemed irrelevant — a kiss of death for those trying to succeed in a fickle, ever-changing market. On one side of the spectrum, you have the “It” items (Dior’s Saddle Bag, Off-White Nikes, a Gucci belt bag or “bootleg” logo sweatshirt, Balenciaga Triple S sneakers, literally anything by Supreme) that signify the wearer is well-connected, informed and either a dedicated hypebeast or a slave to the trend cycle. These pieces sell out instantly, and that scarcity drives consumer desire to a fever pitch.
On the other hand, a garment or accessory can achieve a similar level of popularity by going viral — a tactic that’s increasingly proven its worth. Puffer coats, a 2018 wardrobe staple, have become the subject of various meme formats; one account in particular, @itsmaysmemes, has a field day putting giant jackets on influential personalities, including Kendall Jenner, Luka Sabbat, Young Thug and A$AP Rocky. Another meme-able moment in 2018 involved none other than Kanye West, who wore ill-fitting Yeezy slides to Pusha T’s wedding in Virginia Beach. The internet couldn’t get enough of this insane sartorial choice, which launched a thousand memes in its wake.
It comes as no surprise, then, that according to Lyst’s new Year in Fashion report, “memes melted the fashion internet” in 2018. With Instagram being the premier breeding ground for new, online-first brands and consumer discovery, fashion went viral worldwide at unprecedented rates. Surely we have luxury designers like Demna Gvasalia, noted industry troll, to thank, but runways all over the globe put out collections teeming with potentially comical looks that any clever Twitter or Instagram user could quickly transform into an easily adaptable meme format. Need a refresher? Read on.
In the Balenciaga Fall 2018 collection, coats were layered on so thick that they recalled that episode of “Friends” in which Joey Tribbiani piles on the contents of his roommate Chandler Bing’s closet as an act of revenge. “Could I be wearing anymore clothes?!” Naturally, this went viral within seconds of the runway show.
Another too-cool luxury label Y/project decided to revive aughts-favorite footwear, Uggs, but in a way that could best be described as a very expensive troll.
Alessandro Michele, a true Renaissance man, manages to one-up himself every season at Gucci. His most internet-breaking idea for Fall 2018? Having a handful of models carry creepily lifelike replicas of their own heads down the runway. Not unsettling at all!
At the 2018 Parsons MFA runway show, designer Kota Okuda dressed a series of models in literal cash money. Late capitalism, baby!
Gvasalia made a killing with his impossible-to-get Triple S chunky sneakers at Balenciaga, so he took the ugly footwear thing to the next level at the Fall 2018 show for Vetements. The real kicker (pun intended, because this article is nothing if not completely unhinged) is that dozens of brands on both ends of the market have followed his lead, making the silhouette one of the year’s must-have items.
If you scrolled through Instagram even once this summer, you probably saw a laughably large straw hat being used as a prop for someone’s seaside content. You can thank Simon Porte Jacquemus for that, as his La Bomba hat (and its countless knockoffs) became more ubiquitous than flamingo pool floats in summer ’18. As a bonus: They’re great for all-over sun protection! Less so for actually being able to see, though.
And finally, the most polarizing viral fashion item of 2018 comes once again from Gvasalia, who collaborated with Crocs on a selection of platforms that debuted on the Balenciaga Spring 2018 runway. There’s no denying it, folks: Crocs are en vogue now. (Both Christopher Kane and Post Malone have partnered with the footwear brand, so whether your taste level is impeccable or highly questionable, you’re covered!)
As the year comes to a close and we look back on the sartorial moments that defined 2018, it might be best to put it this way: Every era gets the fashion it deserves, so we should all take a long, hard look in the mirror before ushering in 2019.
Homepage photo: Pietro D’aprano/Getty Images