Brands are playing games that not everyone can play.
It all started with the polo shirt, worn by the players of that super exclusive sport with very expensive horses. Later, the polo shirt became synonymous with a type of guy who says "it was just a joke," you get the idea.
This piece ended up becoming popular and, as with designs in general, you no longer need a breed horse to wear this shirt. But this doesn't always happen with collections inspired by rich people's hobbies, after all, exclusive is the opposite of inclusive.
For the masterclass in what this looks like in practice, check out the collab Gucci and Balenciaga called ARIA that we show you here. Gucci has a horse-riding heritage, bags inspired by saddles that were made for the Italian nobility, and obviously, leather riding boots, this is nothing new. But what role does Balenciaga play in the collection? The irreverence, the whips on the runway, the attraction to an almost subversive culture, which they even called fetish cosmogony. 🏇
The rehabilitation of an haut bourgeois also applies to Chanel's winter collection, but only for those who travel every year to ski, probably 3% of the Earth's population ⛷️. Leather gloves with applications, monogrammed quilted salopettes, but leather sandals on the feet with bare toes, because the brand wants you to go to the club, not the Alps. If hobbies involve sun, heat, and sea, the sailor style also comes at a high level, ⛵ like Miu Miu's SS '21 collection with leather sailing sneakers that came, obviously, with heels.
On the other hand, this same narrative can be used to subject tropes of social privilege to a kind of contradictory power play. Miuccia (Prada), for example, shows the collection exclusively on brown and black male bodies wearing leather riding boots, asking the audience why certain spaces and hobbies, like horse sports, are normally seen as more for white, rich people.
It's like playing code to prove a point, effective for opening discussions. Good, because style has always been a way of dressing up for something that you don't necessarily really are. But still, exclusive.
Shared style? Call your girls.