Modern + luxury = a pretty broad-meets-vague equation that gets thrown around frequently in the fashion and design worlds to place a product or idea on somewhat of a pedestal, and connote a very particular strain of legitimacy. But those particulars are, as per usual, in the eye of the beholder–even if that gaze will never actually come near the items it chooses to define from afar.
Luxury too often goes hand in hand with a sense of exclusion–think wealthy older women with coiffed hair, wining and dining their way through the upper echelons of society, or perhaps a grad student at Oxford who spends his days drumming up revaluations of Kant, all whilst wearing cashmere socks cozied inside a pair of 100% leather Tod’s loafers. To these folk, I say: do you, but you are no longer the picture of e-l-e-g-a-n-c-e as refashioned by the aughts. While dabbling in vino, or German philosophy, or swaths of cashmere in unexpected places, is all well and good, a more all-inclusive strain of luxury has been rapidly forming–one that transcends taut definition and allows for an exciting melange of things high and low, textbook-right and textbook-wrong. Luxury has been Kanye West-ed, not least because of that man’s presence himself. It now allows that a kid hailing from the poorest parts of Southside Chicago can, and often will, look fresher than the khaki-coddled asses of the elite-born. Conformity, in that sense at least, has lost it’s once-overwhelming appeal: we’ve begun to roll our eyes at the lack of individualistic integrity that plays out amidst the Brooks-Brother’d set.
Instead, we seek out those style arbiters who play continuous flip-cup with the way they dress, hoping to catch a bit of their special spindrift–a potion that tends to result from their deft melding of fucks given with fucks spared. It’s been a while since I’ve seen this definition–my definition–of modern luxury depicted on the page in a way that isn’t trite or trying too hard, but this Vogue Australia spread starring Ajak Deng is right on the nonexistent nose.
This is a woman whose sex is secondary, in that it doesn’t define the way she dresses. Feminine touches pass through, as do pricey pieces borne from the hands of one Riccardo, but they are shaken up with overbearing sneakers, New Era hats, and the more accessible garments found at River Island. But those touches don’t seem gratuitous, as they often can in these spreads. They don’t appear solely to create disjunction, or to surprise. They blend really well, despite the technical weirdness of their pairing. They show us that a collage of yellow angora, Balenciaga neck-gilt, and sneakers that are the haughty older sister to humbler Jordans can really work–not in that cloying way which screams street-style-baiting-extraordinaire, but in a way that allows for real personality to reveal itself amidst the privileging of comfort.
Beauty doesn’t have to painful, or wholly artificial, it seems to say. It certainly isn’t relegated to what the biggest bucks will buy you, and in fact, it shouldn’t be.