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after the mold, the roaches come to feast
fashion in the anthropocene, part 1
Mushrooms have been in for a while now. The widespread popularity of mushrooms in the food space have materialized in fashion as we’ve seen luxury back mushroom leather (see: Kering investing in Mylo), and the rise of companies producing mycelium based packaging materials. As the earth crumbles, fungus rules everything around us.
It’s trickled down into my feed in the form of psychedelic prints, quirky mushroom prints, DIY toadstool halloween costumes. The branding has been successful, i associate mushrooms with concepts like eco-futurism and environmental stewardship. In the fashion space, it helps that mushrooms feel less gendered than florals, so as a print it gives off more androgynous vibes. Mushrooms feel generally….progressive, whatever the cultural barometer for that is at the moment. A tiny spore of hope as we witness the apocalypse.
After the mold, the roaches come to feast.
It seems the doors have opened for the next stage of decay: pestilence.
I’m observing a surging cultural interest in insects, bugs, worms, vermin. Proverbial locusts. Creatures widely loathed and feared, we tend to maximize the distance between “us and them”, and that’s why it feels subversive to shrink that distance. Some examples from social media discourse that I keep thinking about:
Rats - the viral “rats don’t run this city, we do” audio on TikTok, clips of people picking up subway rats and putting them into their bags, rats exhibiting uncannily human behavior. This genre of rat content stokes the underlying anxiety of our proximity to pestilence, our coexistence with the shunned. They elicit shock and nervous laughter. The efforts of modern urban sanitation fall futile, the rats have been winning since the world started.
Worms - worms had several viral moments this year. See: Heidi Klum’s 7 ft tall worm outfit on the red carpet, and the “would you still love me if i was a worm” discourse.
Worms are as blank slate as animals get: fleshy, bland, no distinctive features. Why are we fantasizing about becoming worms? I think we’re exhausted from thinking - and want to be free from the burden of consciousness and comprehending our own existence. This ties into the rise of “no thoughts empty brain” culture. We crave the ignorance. And what is a greater ego death than becoming a worm? To be a bottom feeder, the ultimate reversal of our place in the food chain. We’re all decomposers in the end.
Cockroaches - roach cosplay has always been around, but I noticed many more cockroach Halloween costumes this year (as well as gastropods, moths, other insect-y things).
Also, see Maison Kitsune’s collab with Olympia Le Tan, which is centered on a print of a person, a fox, a rat, and a roach hanging out together. The collab copy reads, “even household pests like to party.”
Roaches have a reputation for being impossible to kill, evaders of death. I think the cultural interest in cockroaches (and insects more generally) is connected to the normalization of insect-based protein in our diets. I’m no food systems expert, but I’ve watched enough documentaries to know that we’ve farmed other protein sources to extinction and insects are about to be rebranded as the protein of the future (speaking from the POV of contemporary America - many societies have long incorporated insects in their diet). It makes sense that the capitalistic powers that be would be invested in a cultural attitude shift from phobia towards a comfort with insects.
Subscribe to read part 2, which will explore how bugs and insects have always been present in fashion.
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