The Y2K fashion cycle is still here and its next era promises to reveal all our dystopian anxieties. Fire prints, puffed vests, camping-ready parkas, oversized cargo pockets and futuristic leather trench coats are some of the ways fashion is grappling with our reality, making clothes fit for a post-apocalyptic, cyber-first world.
Take, for example, the Miu Miu spring 2023 show, which opened with wind turbines in the background and featured clothing fit for The Hunger Games, from oversized cargo jackets to nylon raincoats and distressed leather details. Then, there was New York-based designer Elena Velez’s apocalyptic spring 2023 collection, where models adorned in heavy cut-outs, dark hues and brutalist silhouettes walked through fog. Balmain and Louis Vuitton also jumped on the dystopian commentary for their spring lineups: Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing opted for flame prints to close the show, while Louis Vuitton’s Nicolas Ghesquière put out inflated clothing with oversized zippers that could easily double as emergency gear.
It was all the result of heavy anxieties over climate change and societal collapse that have plagued our psyches for years now. Simultaneously, trends like “avant apocalypse” – a TikTok-born term that encompasses the end of the world approach Gen Z has taken on fashion – have infiltrated designer runways, concluding in lineups that look straight out of The Matrix or The Book of Eli.
“After everything that people have been through over the last couple years, it's all about moving into the future of what's going to happen with a slightly darker feel that is a little bit more rebellious,” says Swasti Sarna, Pinterest Global Director of Insights. According to the platform’s 2023 trend predictions report, searches for “dystopian outfits” have risen by 215% over the past year.
@flamielove Styling a full puffer outfit in the middle of july, bc why not? #puffer #pufferjacketoutfits #rave #pufferoutfit #bigpuffer #depop #sustainablefashion #secondhandoutfit #winterclothesinsummer ♬ Angel - Massive Attack
Simultaneously, the term “dystopian fashion” has grown over 330 million views on TikTok, where creators, like Paris-based creator and secondhand seller on Depop Flamie Love, are sharing their take on the apocalyptic trend. “I think it's interesting because if we are in the future right now, we should dress accordingly,” they tell Refinery29. “Personally, I'm having more of an optimistic perspective, more of a utopic future when we are saving the earth.” That includes wearing secondhand clothes exclusively, leading to fits that range from tank top dresses with bold graphic prints to utilitarian puffer sets. “I think the fact that I wear only secondhand clothes is something quite dystopian in a way,” the creator adds. “It’s like in movies or books, when resources are limited or disappearing, people do with what they have.”
This is not the first time that dystopian fashion has become a trend and for Sarna, it’s actually just another era of the Y2K phenomenon that has taken fashion by storm over the past two years. As digital fashion grows and the metaverse and gaming takes over people’s internet lives, the trend has been transforming people’s personal styles into cyber-ready, sci-fi fits that encompass many of the anxieties and curiosities of the Y2K era (you know, when people thought the world would collapse at midnight in 2000), featuring futuristic sunglasses, bold graphic prints, and streetwear that’s heavily inspired by the digital world. “I think this is just an expression of feeling a little bit unsure about the future,” says Sarna.
But as many of the futuristic predictions start to come true — think: climate change, economic downfalls, AI-powered art — Love says it’s key to dress like the future we feared is already here. “I think people are really realizing now that we are in the future [of] when many dystopian books and films and even fashion houses were creating the future of the 2000s,” says Love. “It’s like they are ready if the apocalypse were to happen tomorrow.”