In September, Business of Fashion published an article analyzing the gothic subculture’s integration with the mainstream of the fashion world in recent times (http://www.businessoffashion.com/2013/09/gucci-prada-roberto-cavalli.html). There’s no denying how easily adaptable goth’s core elements are. Drama and romanticism come in all colors and varieties—black is surely the most captivating of them all. The article was not without merit.
But there is a dose of cynicism that is not necessary. The author, Eugene Rabkin, laments the subculture’s fall from outcast grace and into the clutches of greedy corporate slimes who are exploiting it for all its worth. Even worse, the article uses weasel words like “hipster” in an attempt to discredit companies like Skingraft and All Saints, companies who took the subdued coloration and incorporated it into a look that’s less scary. Givenchy and Gucci’s clothing lines were also slammed for “defanging” the subculture’s roots to appeal to a more squeamish audience.
It is true that these clothing lines have let the “edge” factor of goth mellow out to the point of being ready for the mass market. But I must have missed the memo informing us all of goth’s copyright on the color black or the baroque image. The subculture didn’t rise from the grime of bat droppings and hairspray. It had clear roots in punk rock, the Victorian era, and the Baroque era—all of which have their own roots, and so on. There are plenty of stores specifically marketed toward the subculture, offering clothing and accessories with defined traits, but not a single one has copyrighted the look, let alone the entire subculture. Show me one goth shop that has successfully done so, or one goth club that only allows entrance if you are wearing a particular brand, and I’ll eat my words. But as it stands, you do not own the scene no matter how often you strap on your Demonia boots or slip into your black military jacket.
The idea that major brands will defile the subculture is absurd. Goth is a hugely storied scene with plenty of bands, images, and, yes, fashion aesthetics. That simply does not disappear in the blink of a clueless fashion designer’s eye. This kind of arrogance and elitism sucks the life out of a scene; a subculture cannot survive in firmly established barriers, recycling the same resources over and over again while pretending to be open-mined and nonjudgmental. Isolationism of any sort is dysfunctional, toxic, and unnecessary.
Goths can be such pains. What is so admirable about being stuck in the past? What good does it do to romanticize what came before and grimace at what is now? What will a little evolution harm? You don’t have to like it, but goth is not on the protected species list, and it is just as guilty of stealing as any of the aforementioned companies are.
Personally, I welcome the color black and a darker style of clothing being welcomed into the mainstream. It’s refreshing to see designers high on the food chain thinking that maybe people who aren’t exactly like them aren’t such monsters after all. Maybe we could learn a thing or two from them. And besides, if you only ever delved into this subculture to piss a few people off, then you might want to reevaluate why you’re saving for that Shrine of Hollywood coat.