Do students shop more in-store or online? Are there patterns of interest among students? How do we style in the winter season for comfort and necessity? With the help of talented photographer Bella Howard and the models I spoke to, I embarked on a journey of trying to make sense of student fashion and where it would lead us into the new year.
Since my departure from the valleys of South Wales into the incoherence of London, it has been a whirlwind of attempting to obtain a sense of community amongst a sea of strange factors to acclimate myself with. To combat this recent dilemma, I began to organise a meet-up of those like-minded students of King’s College London who hold a special interest regarding fashion, in conjunction with approaching other students on the streets of Shoreditch. It has always remained a common ground of interest with friends at home, we would organise photoshoots in our bedrooms wearing our best clothes, scribbling on coloured eyeliner and playing around with the tacky posters on our walls for the best backdrops. The creative process it entails is invigorating and fruitful, yet I was keen to gain insight into the mechanics of fashion to foreground it. I was particularly worried before the shoot that people would show up in tiny tops and skirts with no coat, and I would be responsible for their onset of hypothermia. Luckily, those who attended remained bundled up in style.
Hannah Tang is an undergraduate student studying English Literature. Raving about small vintage boutiques as the place to be, as well as citing websites such as Vinted, she believes searching well for particular items online along with in-store is the way to cultivate a personal style. They stated how their style is aided by TikTok, friends, and @nicolejolly on Instagram. The polarity of the black fishnet tights and chunky boots interspersed with an asymmetrical blush skirt is evident in how she revels in combining darker pieces such as cyber sigil and gothic looks, with lighter pieces. When taking photos in a shadowy tunnel of graffiti in Leake Street, Hannah seemed to be in her element, starting slightly nervous but eventually showing her confidence, moving dynamically as each shot was taken.
Bella Howard is a photographer and a business and French first-year student. Whilst snapping pictures of others, it was palpable that she should be in the focus of the camera as well as behind it. In-store shopping is her go-to quest for finding a piece she knows she can work with; the sensory experience of feeling the tactile nature of fabric and stitching makes looking for valuable clothing, which can seem disconnected online, become gratifying. After going through many phases, Bella has explored plentiful genres of style to acquire a subjective taste yet she will never say no to a Stevie Nicks-inspired look.
Approaching people on the street with Bella clutching a digital camera, hefty bags swung around my shoulder in the bitter air of December did not seem like something I could pull off. Nevertheless with avid encouragement from Bella, those I spoke to seemed a lot more willing than I anticipated, and seemed to be complimented by me stating how I liked their outfit and would like to ask them about it; I was stuttering while doing so, of course. Neve and Cal, a little bit taken aback by my awkward approach, politely agreed and expanded on how they recently graduated. Their motto is ‘wear whatever you like’ and they enjoy shopping in-store, however Aakriti believes that a lot of in-store curated vintage in particular can be extremely overpriced and untrue to their quality.
Speaking of fabrics, a common theme with those I spoke to was fur. Fur coats, fur hats, fur boots. It was unbeknownst to me whether it was my personal bias that sunk into my research or whether fur is timeless. Walking through the blizzard of London during the Christmas season, it is a no-brainer, particularly with students who need somewhere to be but want to look good while running errands. Kamran strolled effortlessly by, he removed his AirPods and commented how fashion was not a process for him, but rather a simple ‘I like it I buy it’ mentality. Sakshi joked how she was proud of dressing her partner for that day, so it seemed like the perfect time to take a picture. Sourcing Rowan Blanchard as an icon and worried that Sophia Richie was a basic answer, I reassured her it was not.
Hannah Breen, an undergraduate Liberal Arts student enjoys the in-store experience due to the ability of trying items on for the perfect fit. There is a worry that many do not shop in-store as much due to fast fashion remaining the most accessible and cheaper online. The most affordable and increasingly stylish options seem to derive from resellers, on Depop, and polyester-obsessed websites such as Shein and Pretty Little Thing. However, Hannah has not succumbed to this, arguing that there are a myriad of options online that become overwhelming to burden. They love Pinterest and developing boards with modes of inspiration, detailing the particular use of skirts over jeans, a widely debated style choice that has now found its way back onto our fashion radar, reminiscent of the Disney Channel Red Carpet. An inspiration for her and for many, is Enya Umanzor, an online influencer and co-creator of the podcast Emergency Intercom. Recently doing a brand deal alongside Drew Phillips for Marc Jacobs’ Heaven, both of their hold on students is apparent, performing their show recently at Washington State University.
Daria is an undergraduate English Literature student and, similar to Hannah Breen, believes trying things on as she is a petite size is obligatory for her, as a lot of clothes are not universally sized in many stores. After travelling to Copenhagen, she felt like she was in ‘paradise’ with their street style consisting of jorts and Adidas Sambas, an effortless look. Not feeling like she belongs within a genre, she focuses on what speaks to her. Baby tees, low-rise jeans and chunky boots are her go-to's. It seems as though the trend cycle of fashion remains hooked on the noughties and nineties. Another reference she adores is Anne Hathaway in The Princess Diaries with her chunky Doc Martens, alongside the coordinated outfits of Clueless.
Spencer Zhao, a psychology student, has paved her way already into modelling and is currently creating an arts-based project named ‘Prospect Visions’. Shopping more online, allows Spencer to think about the pieces she is spending her money on. After all, we are on a student budget. Further on, we discussed how branded stores such as Hollister love a low light and loud music combination. This seems to me, a clear manipulation tactic to get you stressed enough to buy something you are not sure about and leave. She stated that her one weakness is a car boot sale and she loves going to raves to examine unique styles people develop in line with their personalities and identities.
There seems to be an immersive element of student fashion. Within the midst of becoming ourselves, exiting teenagehood and developing a sense of who we are within the world, there is a palpable buzz of the new generation and their tastes. The practice I treated like a ritual, of painting my eyes and ripping tights will never not remain the mark of youth. The vivacious and eager voices of students seem ready to strut their way into the oncoming new year, in fur and all.
Edited by Fashion Editor, Megan Shears
For more fashion photography, follow Bella Howard’s Instagram to keep up: https://instagram.com/foggyysaturn
Keep your eyes on Spencer Zhao’s project on Instagram: https://instagram.com/prospectvisions