In a way, through its soaring price points and innate elitism, high fashion will always be exclusive. Yet, forces like the ongoing feminist revolution, moves to abolish gender altogether, the political climate, and the social media-inspired Age of Identity are all converging, reshaping our views of the new beauty from the prescriptive — think airbrushed, feminine, flawless — to the descriptive, with an emphasis on authenticity and personality. There is, simply put, a new definition of beauty. Though fashion has always been obsessed with the idea of “ugly” — as Miuccia Prada puts it, ugliness is more interesting and more human than beauty is — never before has realness been pushed so far to the forefront.
Back in the 90s, Hard Candy — a then-cutting edge, high-end beauty brand — debuted the first blue nail polish, aptly called “Sky.” Soon after, they released a line of polish called Candyman, specifically marketed toward male customers. While any man who wanted to could readily buy regular nail polish, it was the first step by the beauty industry into inclusivity, into the “I see you” movement. Nowadays, gender in beauty advertising is on its way out, with brands blurring the lines between the traditionally masculine and feminine and increasingly using trans* models for their product lines. With the rise of gender fluid cosmetics and louder voices in the conversation — from MAC's collaboration with Refinery29 on Trans102, a series of videos opening up the dialogue and debunking misconceptions attached to the gender spectrum; to Illamasqua speaking out about inequality by promoting the notion that gender boundaries do not exist; to Jecca Makeup's range of unisex cosmetics designed to meet the needs of transgender women — cosmetics and skincare companies are putting more effort into promoting the use of their products by all people, of all identities.
The push from consumers on social media has influenced brands to be more inclusive in their representation, with beauty brands now using models of color as the new standard, and making sure a wide range of shapes, body types, and sizes are represented. On the revolutionary heels of plus-size supermodel Ashley Graham, fashion is now capitalizing on what it used to exclude. With more beauty brands shifting away from retouched photos, such as Glossier and European beauty brand Babor, the focus is on authenticity, not perfection. Milk Makeup uses both men and women in their campaigns, as Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics has done for some time. Alongside this comes an emphasis on the easy, carefree, roughed-up version of beauty, designed not to perfect but to make the wearer look more like themselves. This year, in an ode to the anti-beauty movement, Kat Von D unveiled her Basketcase “anti-precision” eyeliner as an antidote to the cut crease and the perfect wing, bringing a messy punk rock element back into a beauty landscape that has become too one-dimensional.
As Vice observes: “From Instagram #foodporn to advertising that swells with perfectly airbrushed human beings and immaculate stock photos smiles, our visual field is overwhelmed with aesthetically pleasing images. Ikea has transformed student flats around the globe into budget-friendly showrooms for Scandinavian minimalism. The Internet, by democratizing information, has also made aesthetic sensibility infinitely more accessible.”
Like the concept of black and white, beauty and ugliness are intertwined and cannot exist without each other. Given the current social and political climate, we expect to see a more intense interplay between both in the coming seasons — and we can't wait to see what happens.