The Self Expression Generation: How TEENS ARE using Social media as the declaration of them
By Sam Goodman
Editor in Chief
When Alessandro Michele sent a line of impassive, transhuman models down a fall 2018 ready-to-wear runway, some holding figures of their own heads, others stroking snakes, most adorned in Grand Budapest Hotel-style caftans and robes, Gucci began marketing to the shocking, the outrageous, and the offensive customer, rather than to the stuffy, uppity, and wealthy audience designer brands usually target. Michele, Gucci’s Creative Director, wove a true tapestry of cross-cultural references, his pieces a commentary on identity in the Digital Age, and transformed the way customers view off-the-rack fashion.
Although ready-to-wear shows are always somewhat over the top, brands are now shifting their focus and have begun take design risks, paving the way for a new era of fast fashion; the most shocking wins. This shift is tied to a much greater cultural movement, led by the next generation of Millennial/Gen Z creators.
Members of Generation Z (born 1998-2010) and Millennials (born 1981-1997), distinct due to an unmistakable passion for individualism and a mantra of embracing everything that makes you you, are beginning to pave the way in the Digital Age, making themselves known as the Self-Expression Generation. Up-and-coming creators have begun to create a new form of art in the modern era, aiming to please no one but themselves.
Across fashion, media, and entertainment, Millennial and Gen Z creators challenge the norm through creative DIY spaces, innovative fashion presentations, and online platforms.
DIY collective art spaces are an integral piece of this new self-expression movement. The Smell, an drug and alcohol-free performance space in Downtown LA, and Junior High, a community space in Hollywood which promotes marginalized artists through educational events and presentations, allow for the release of raw and uncontrolled expression. Volunteer-run, The Smell is a space that allows teens in the community to play shows and be enjoyed by fellow artists around the city. From yoga and meditation events on Sundays to comedy shows by feminist artists, Junior High is a space for teens to come together to learn, make art, and have fun.
In the fashion world, lesser-known designer brands like Gypsy Sport NY (GSNY) lead the way in this new avant-garde movement. In his Spring 2018 show, staged in the middle of Paris’s crowded Place De La République, GSNY’s Creative Director Rio Uribe, used a newspaper textile, sheer fabric, body jewelry, and urban traffic symbols to pay homage to the DIYer. Using a wide range of models of all race, gender, and size, Uribe somehow managed to introduce new culture to a 2070 year old city.
Social media influencers on platforms like YouTube and Patreon are being paid to create content tailored to specific niche audiences, with top creators being followed by up to 62 million people. Because of the freedom YouTube has provided since 2005, online communities have been able to flourish, allowing users to connect with others looking for similar content. Beauty tips, prank channels, vlogs, gaming streams, and comedy sketches are gaining more views than the most popular shows on ABC and E! This has allowed for the development of a self-expressionist generation that blurs the line between producer and consumer. For example, Poppy, a YouTube recording artist who amasses about 12 million views per music video, is an emerging leader in the movement that Gucci and GSNY have encouraged on the fashion front. Frankly, to the unexposed eye, Poppy’s brand is just plain weird, similar to the aesthetic of Lady Gaga— avant-garde, high fashion costuming mixed with bizarre content, topped with an alluring message. Poppy has taken advantage of YouTube and used it as a vehicle for unedited self-expression.
Through a self prescribed image, creators are able to unleash the raw, uncontrolled form of who they truly are.
Similar to the underground LGBTQ club culture of the 1990s, with strange figures in the world of art and fashion like Amanda Lepore and James St. James, the new so-called ‘selfie’ generation has been accused of being self-absorbed, caring too much about an online image. However, what critics fail to realize is that through this image, creators are able to unleash the raw, uncontrolled form of who they truly are.