Where is the experimentation? The shoulder pads, sequins, metallics, the everyday couture? Sure there’s some 70s magic brought upon by the Kendall Jenner era through her flared pants and high neck crop tops, but honestly, how many mortals can really pull that off?
Everyday, technology attempts to reduce human effort and maximize efficiency to new heights. The idea of multipurpose clothing, minimalism, and everything endorsed by Uniqlo and Nike has reinforced one idea: “Less is More”. Although millennials are extremely trend conscious, maximalism, in its truest sense, layering and heavy accessorizing, exists only on the runways: leave that stuff to the Hadid clans of the world. And the Sonam Kapoors of course. But needless to say not all of us have high-limit credit cards and an undeniable love for Dior.
Some may still enjoy the thrill of browsing a store: flipping through rows and racks, flexing your eyes for a 360 degree view, feeling the increasing weight of the piles on your arm. But lately, on the rare occasion that we would actually enter a store rather than its website, we go in thinking of a specific colour, style, cut or “that shirt I saw on pinterest when I was procrastinating to write my psych paper”. The physical vastness of an actual store has been reduced (or perhaps extended) to the unlimited vastness of the internet. The thrill now lies in adding items to your bag. Clicking “buy now” and “check out” has replaced the rush of handing your credit card to a salesperson and receiving a fresh paper bag in return which now belongs completely to you. But online, don’t have to carry heavy piles, or take your clothes off (not in a good way) or even worry about interacting with anyone. You don’t need to think about why you’re still in your pyjamas past noon, or put on a happy face when you’re just a little grumpy or hungover.
An article on the effect of social media on millennials talks about how without face to face interaction, we are becoming much less sensitive and empathetic. Online communication has created a “nonverbal disabled context” where body language, facial expression, and even the smallest kinds of vocal reactions are invisible.
Similarly without traditional shopping, we’ve also eliminated from our lives the discussion of ideas and outfits, inspiration from fellow shoppers, and the spark of instantly connecting with something that you never even knew you needed. The excitement and and the feeling of being on Cloud 9, as described so aptly by Rebecca Bloomwood in “Confessions of Shopaholic” (the scene which, admit it, makes you grin like an idiot every single time) is slowly dwindling. After all, the “smell of Italian leather shoes” can not be experienced through a computer. Maybe in a few hundred years, but not at the moment.
Rather, now the thought has shifted to how useful or comfortable that something would be, or how much wear you’d get it. Besides the obvious “mom” questions in the back of our heads, the question in our heads is whether it fits the current trend to the dot, whether it would help us fit into the everyday basicness and look as close as possible to that popular girl who’s always looks “chill”. As it becomes easier to recognize styles and reproduce them, we all know that this is better done online. So why even enter a store? Why stand out from the sea of lululemons, adidas superstars and black chokers?
Maybe there isn’t really a logical answer to that, besides the Bloomwood like fleeting excitement. Today, I can find a midi empire waist crochet dress on my way back from work, something that I probably wouldn’t find even after spending hours at the mall, or multiple malls for that matter. If it doesn’t fit or I think I look fat in it, I can return it! Without having to step foot in a store. At the rate at which Artificial Intelligence search tools are going, we can literally find ANYTHING online. Visual recognition is soon going to reproduce even vintage pieces like your mother’s sari from the 70s. Perhaps, in the not too distant future, it’ll make the in-store experience with salespersons and other shoppers virtual. Picture a Skype-Sims combo with a seamless interface that will allow one to just open a tab and be transported into an actual store, without turning high-end shopping into a violent video game of course. You wouldn’t have to go to Delhi or Bombay to shop at Zara and you could take your sister to that really cute boutique you discovered in Barcelona without actually planning a trip there.