In the late 90s / early 00s there were two electronic albums that helped me see beyond the indie pop and rock bands I was into at the time, like Weezer’s ‘Buddy Holly’ and ‘Disarm’ by Smashing Pumpkins. All of a sudden this new, for me at least, type of music appeared: no guitars to be seen. If you lived in London you just had to go to Trash at The End where masses of indie kids became fluent in electronics on Monday evenings, but I was still in rural Sweden (didn’t start going to Trash until 2001) and therefore I had to discover that music without Erol Alkan helping me. Essentially I was left with mail order catalogues and Woolworth-esque stores. Yes, I grew up in the Scandinavian equivalence of a suburb to Stoke-on-Trent.

My first two electronic albums, or at least non-guitar based, were ‘XTRMNTR’ by Primal Scream and ‘Surrender’ by The Chemical Brothers. Individual songs like ‘Swastika Eyes’ and ‘Keep your Dreams’ probably means Bobby Gillespie’s extraordinarily furious rant from 2000 comes out on top for me (it was the last decent Primal record as well) but for the sake of this piece, slogans like ‘Kill all Hippies’ might not be so easy to apply on a piece for Oki-ni.

Tom and Ed, on the other hand, are on to something. Or at least they were. ‘Surrender’ from 1999 had an impressive list of collaborators (before collaborations were a ‘thing’, mind you) with New Order’s Bernard Sumner, Hope Sandoval, Noel Gallagher and a choir cameo from Bobby G. Songs like ‘Let Forever Be’, super single ‘Hey Boy, Hey Girl’, ‘Out of Control’ and ‘Under the Influence’ meant this record got both critical acclaim and mainstream sales success. But, and this is where I finally make my point, it’s all about the first song on the record: ‘Music: Response’.

To be fair, it probably will never win an Ivor Novello award for its lyrics, but they are very still quite effective. Tom and Ed are, essentially, over and over talking about “Music that triggers some kind of response” and that they have “what ya want, what ya need.” And that’s why it makes for a better piece than ‘Kill all Hippies”—as the response, not dead hippies, is what it’s all about. Music should trigger some kind of response. And so should fashion, art, food and everything else we consume culturally. Fashion should, must even, trigger some kind of response within you. Love it, hate it—just feel something. The trick is, if you hate it, to not just dump those feelings on someone in an anonymous troll post on the Internet. Let’s go back to constructive criticism, folks, or forever be quiet.

Fashion should trigger a response from you. An emotional reaction to what you see, and then wear. But it isn’t just down to the consumer: too many brands, too many designers have stopped caring themselves, and if there’s no emotion from them, how can you expect the customer to conjure up an emotional response? Clothes, at their best, makes you feel a certain way, they bring back memories, or create new ones, as the millennial hashtag goes. The clothes might also merit reactions from people around you. Fine, but it’s not about them, it’s about you. Sounds like Glamour magazine advice, I know, but dress for yourself not the people around you, and don’t let lazy brands get away with making bland and impersonal clothes… Find designers who, like you, express themselves through clothes and then mix it all up so that what, eventually, comes together when you step out of that door is 100% you, a sartorial map of your mood for the day. Music: Response? Yes, but here’s to Fashion: Response.

Words: David Hellqvist

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