THE SANTA CLARA
May 1, 2014
The attire at outdoor concerts is taking over both the music and fashion industries. Festivals are becoming less about music and more about brand marketing and cultural appropriation.
That’s a problem.
Case in point: Coachella, an ode to Woodstock, is set in the heart of Coachella Valley where music and non-music fans alike come together to get as many likes as possible on their strategically-planned Instagram photos.
The celebrity-studded scene is a 21st-century version of hippie style, where nearly everyone rocks a bohemian chic outfit. Festival fashion has become its own culture, typically including some variation of cut-off shorts, motorcycle boots, crop tops, fringe and lace – all complete with a flower headband.
Unfortunately, Coachella’s 2014 season also saw a rise in culturally-insensitive attire, ranging from subtle to borderline offensive. Celebrity Kendall Jenner was spotted wearing a clip-on nose ring that she borrowed to imitate a piece of jewelry traditionally worn by Indian women at their weddings.
Many attendees also sported “Fashion bindis,” a ceremonial Hindu forehead decoration. These included the Jenner sisters, Sarah Hyland and Selena Gomez – none of whom are presumably practicing Hindus. They’re joined by many non-celebrity fashionistas, taking a new spin on another traditional Hindu accessory that is intended to signify wisdom. Turbans and hijabs, traditional headwraps for men and women, are apparently in this season as well.
Last but not least, the Native American headdress was also a popular fashion item at Coachella this year and has dramatically increased in popularity in the last few years.
There is a line between expressing oneself through fashion and objectifying culturally or religiously significant articles of clothing simply to be trendy enough to get featured on a fashion blog.
Self-expression or not, the music lovers are playing right into corporate hands. Clothing lines and fashion houses seem to have relied heavily on festival-goers for marketing this season. Companies such as Nordstrom and Wildfox Couture populated their Instagram accounts promising festival-ready outfits in stores. There is nothing consumers love more than wearing the same clothes as their favorite celebrities. With social media, this has become easier than ever.
For example, “#kylieonthehunt” is a post-Coachella marketing strategy that relies on Kylie Jenner to promote an app called The Hunt, marketed as “the cure for outfit envy,” which aids shoppers in the search of outfits they see on the street. With already 544 posts on Instagram, “#kylieonthehunt” indicates that this marketing strategy is clearly working.
The focus on festival fashion detracts from the appreciation of what the festival is actually about — music. Fans are talking more about outfits and celebrities than they are about music, with some people neglecting music altogether in their recollections of Coachella — at least what is indicated on Instagram and Twitter accounts of major celebrities.
The sad result of all this is that these music festivals are so heavily focused on attire, rather than music appreciation. This makes the fans who enjoy going become little more than shills for ads.
Events such as Coachella run the same risk as all popular events, brands and people by becoming about something other than its core principles. Woodstock wasn’t about the clothes people were wearing; it was about giving a voice to the ideas and spirit of an up-and-coming generation.
Are the ideas and spirit of our generation that of consumer zombies and insensitive appropriators? I’d like to think not.
Alexandra Armas is a senior communication major.