Fashion has been propelling forward with inspiration from the Internet since households were filled with sounds of dial-up connection. The development and evolution of the web has taken all of the fringe groups, subcultures, obscure art and entertainment references, and every neckline and hemline of the last 400 years and put them in one instantly accessible place for any designer and brand. On an indirect level, there are designers researching everything from Ingmar Bergman movies to new laser-cut patterns. On a more direct level, you have dumb trends like “seapunk” that originated on platforms like Tumblr and even more idiotic “health goth” that started on Facebook.
But if you look through some of the designers standing out among the Etsy crowd or making waves within underground media or small e-commerce sites, there’s something a bit more overarching happening. Instead of the Internet serving as the connection between a designer and his or her inspiration, it’s the inspiration itself. And this isn’t that t-shirt with that Reddit phrase your roommate insists is funny. It’s beautifully cut dresses and buttery leather clutches, but printed with scenes from Instagram and Tumblr, celebrating the Internet for being the internet. Take it from the artists/designers behind Pamwear, Courtney Jaedke and Kindah Khalidy, who have a fan base increasing by the day with their modern-art-esque wares that are high-minded pieces nodding to the more base imagery of social media and online themes.
Who is the Pam of Pamwear, exactly? That would be Jaedke’s French bulldog, who has become an internet celebrity thanks to, what else, Jaedke’s Instagram account, Napkin Apocalypse, which is the name of Jaedke’s own line of handmade clothing and accessories sold on Etsy. Napkin Apocalypse’s wares range from watermelon tie-dyed denim jackets and transparent raincoats to backpacks printed with photos of Jaedke’s dogs and a bustier covered in Instagram shots. Pam was appearing on Napkin Apocalypse items but got her namesake line when Jaedke and Khalidy met through sewing discussions online and decided to collaborate.
Khalidy, a painter and designer, also has her own line. Her buzzed-about eponymous label consists of creations like collage and painting-print clutches, painted cropped tops, striped scarves—and you can purchase her artwork through her site. Jaedke says they both always have multiple projects going on at once, but Khalidy points out they “each have a different style that sort of easily blended together.” Jaedke and Khalidy have two strong, individualistic aesthetics, but you can see what Khalidy means and why Pamwear works: they both take an irreverent approach to rethinking essential clothing and accessories. And why can’t a beautifully cut dress be splashed with Instagram images of a French bulldog? They infuse their designs with offbeat prints as well as vivid splashes of color, DIY-cool details and abstract patterns that make you envision a gallery show.
Here, as it does for seemingly everything these days, the Internet brought two very different, talented people together for what would be a successful collaboration. Jaedke says the thought to base their line off of Pam “sort of snowballed. It started as a very small idea and grew with time. Pam had a smaller following at that point.”
Khalidy adds “I really admired Pam, she was the ultimate pop icon to work with.” Jaedke was putting Pam out there with Instagram, and people like Khalidy were noticing. Clearly, there was something there that could serve as the inspiration for the line and its overall aesthetic. It seemed natural for Khalidy and Jaedke to build their line around the ideas of Tumblr themes and Instagram celebrities. “We were already into Instagram and it was just kind of naturally a good way for us to show work,” Jaedke explains.
It also made sense for the two to apply those themes and motifs to everything from basics to more elevated items, since both had been working in so many mediums and silhouettes on their own, anyway. “I really like making wild fabrics and Courtney has a good eye for silhouettes,” Khalidy says. “So the two came together really well. We make basic tees but like being able to offer a special garment, as well.”
While Pamwear is one of the first lines to be really breaking out with a direct social media-based aesthetic, Jaedke and Khalidy see fashion revolving more and more around Internet themes, with memes, gifs, Instagram stars and Tumblr images pop up on clothing and accessories. “It’s already happening. I hope that all of the artists get credit for their work,” Khalidy says, bringing up a whole other side to Internet imagery becoming the basis for collection themes and prints. While it’s exciting to see a new direction in fashion, this trend complicates things when it comes to intellectual property.
Khalidy and Jaedke are using their own work to create their own line based on their own Instagram celebrity. But what about when other designers and brands simply pull images that strike a chord with them online?
“Yeah, things get complicated and credit [is] lost when so much is taken from the internet,” Jaedke explains. “The other day Shaun White posted a photo I took of Pam and gave his sister’s French bulldog a shout-out.”
The issue of properly sourcing work is one that is yet to be worked out, since this is such new territory. The effect of the Internet on fashion, in ways beyond designers’ research and journalists’ coverage, is, at this point, an obviously unstoppable force. But it’s a movement that can use its power for good, maybe The world of Internet and social media imagery opens up whole new realms for designers to call upon for their creations. The WWW also brings talent together, as it did with Khalidy and Jaedke, who work from separate cities in California, through online communication and mailing each other fabrics. And, of course, the net frees up the routes to success that a designer can take. Instead of the traditional climb to the top, a designer can make his or her own line and put it out there on Etsy or his or her own site, promote the line’s aesthetic through Tumblr and share images of items with a worldwide audience through Instagram and other social media platforms. This has broadened the scope of fashion, adding underground micro-trends to the mix of major runway-filtered stories and homegrown, innovative brands to the stock of traditional brands. Which means designers have that much more of a shot, and shoppers have that much more of a selection – as well as perhaps some more questionable lines to sort through when looking to buy.
“[The internet] definitely gives brands a broader reach, and a lot of times more personality,” Jaedke says. “I think it’s also helping fashion and trends move way more quickly, which can be bad as well as good.”